Sunday, January 18, 2015

O W L S progress

I've made lots of progress with my O W L S jumper - chunky is SO fast to knit with, plus it's a very easy pattern to pick up and take along to knitting group. It is also fine for knitting whilst watching TV with subtitles (The Legacy, I'm looking at you), although I decided not to risk doing the actual owl cables like that! I've got as far as the yoke now and the owls are almost finished.


These are some owl feet. I had to make some modifications to the pattern as I went along - I'd read on Ravelry that some people had had problems with the back being a bit baggy, so I moved the back waist decreases to the side, which should hopefully solve the problem. I also found the sleeves (knitted in the round on DPNs) too small for my arms, a problem several people had encountered, so I increased until they were comfortable. That meant I had more stitches at the yoke than I should have for the second size, so I've decided to finish off using the pattern for size 3, which will make this an 18 owl jumper!

I've also found time to do a bit of sewing. This is an envelope cushion cover from the Learn to sew with Lauren book. Again, I wanted to test out a few more things with my new sewing machine, so this involved sewing with thicker fabric and using the zigzag stitch function. Both were a piece of cake - it really is so much easier than my old machine, which would have really struggled with this fabric. The fabric is  made by Textiles Vilber and shows bits of the London map (it's not totally geographically correct!). If I'd had enough fabric I'd have tried to make the back with the envelope match all the way across, but I only just had enough to squeeze the pattern out of, as I'd only bought 0.5 metre of it whilst on holiday!

The pattern also suggests top-stitching 3mm from the edge, but I want to get a 50cm cushion pad for it first and check that that fits OK before doing that. Don't want to do the stitching and then discover it's too tight a squeeze!


As the Owls is nearing completion I thought I'd better start looking for another knitting project to cast on this week, and I've settled on Liesl, which I've been meaning to make for ages. I enjoyed knitting Wee Liesl last year for my god-daughter. I'm intending to use some leftover purple  Araucania Toconao yarn from my stash.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sewing - the introduction

I'm starting off small with my sewing projects. I used to do quite a lot of sewing, but this is way back in time, over twenty years ago! I was an enthusiastic member of the sewing club at primary school, where I learnt to use a sewing machine and how to use a pattern, plus we did a bit in textiles classes at secondary school (although I seem to remember dyeing cotton and using it to make a bag, before we spent weeks writing business plans for a hypothetical farm shop, which was rather boring, if probably useful. The school trip to the farm where the hypothetical farm shop was going to be was quite fun though, lots of cows to see!). And in my early teens I made a few things, but then I must have got swamped by GCSEs and then A Levels and then university and then career, as I have done very little since.

So, with a new sewing machine to get used to, I started off by making another one of those bags, this time for a friend's birthday. All went well, and I was impressed with how much easier it was using a zipper foot on the new machine. I'd bought a more complicated zipper foot after a consultation with the saleswoman in John Lewis - this one swops sides and is adjustable, unlike the basic one that came with the machine. It definitely seemed worth buying the extra foot. I also got some thread that properly matched the fabric, thanks to the OH and his Superior Colour Matching Abilities.

I then spent quite a while finding some chocolate that just fitted in the bag! I only got a few funny looks whilst I was shopping.


This is project two, a drawstring bag for a knitting project. I wanted a slightly bigger one, as my existing ones are fine for sock projects, but not bigger things like jumpers. This was a free pattern from Quilting Bees (opens as PDF) and is lined with a cunning channel incorporated into it for threading the drawstring through. So cunning that I only made a hole for it one side, so couldn't actually use it for the drawstring. Oops. So I used a strip of the lining fabric to make an external channel, which does the job (although then it ended up taking ages longer to make the bag as it would have done if I'd not misread the instructions). *sigh*



Next on the list of things to do was to wash my existing fabric stash! The Tilly and the Buttons book suggested washing fabric as soon as you get home with it (which seems a bit excessive on the washing machine front, maybe I'd wait and put it in with a load that's going on anyway?), but it seemed like a good idea to get the stash washed and ironed so that it would all be ready for future projects.

At the moment the fabric stash is quite small, just a few purchases made from two lovely fabric shops I found on holiday, and some organic fair trade corduroy I found at a ridiculous discount online. I'm intending only to buy fabric that I already have a plan for, and not to buy too much as I haven't got room to store it. Unlike yarn shopping, there is a haberdashery in Staines, and there is an absolutely enormous haberdashery/fabric store (Fabric Warehouse) not far from where I work, so there feels like less of a need to stock up as I can get a lot of things without going too far or having to buy online.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Snowy Christmas and some presents

We had a lovely few days up at my Mum's for Christmas, and it was nice not having to do any of the cooking too! I was spoiled with some great Christmas presents too, including the laptop I'm typing this on - say hello to 'Hadrian'!

This set of saucepans was a joint present for us (although I suspect I'll be doing most of the cooking with them, with the OH eating the results), and they're the first new saucepans I've ever owned. Aren't they lovely and shiny? They are nice and solid too, and should be great fun to cook with. 


First go at cooking with the new saucepans!


Other crafty presents included a copy of Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes, which I've wanted ever since I borrowed a copy from the library. And some stitch markers - these are all shaped like little knitting symbols.


These are some bits from a local windmill - muesli (probably the best muesli I've ever eaten) and lavendar bags. They don't appear to know how to spell muesli though, as it's also spelt as "museli" on their website!

And I bought Lauren Guthrie's Learn to sew with Lauren with a book token I had, ready for lots of sewing adventures with my new machine.


On Christmas Eve we went over to Lincoln to catch up with some friends. It was a cold and frosty day but no snow!



The nephews played football in Mum's garden.


which was then covered in snow the following day!


I'm glad we didn't have the snow down south. What did you get for Christmas?

Books read 2014 #5

#21 Matt Haig The Radleys
This was a chance find from the quick picks section at the library. Ostensibly it's about a middle class family living in the suburbs but it turns out things are not quite what they seem. I won't give away the plot, but it's all about secrets and repression, and finding a balancing act in life. I'm not actually sure what I thought about it. It's definitely not the book I thought I was going to read (I can't say why, as that will give it away). It was kind of quirky, kind of funny. Easily readable though.

#22 Emma Donoghue The sealed letter
I picked this book up in a little bookshop in Salisbury, where everything seemed to be discounted. I thought it looked quite interesting, but underestimated how much I'd get sucked into it, after a rather slow start. It's based on real-life happenings, the Victorian court case around the divorce of Helen Codrington, and her friendship with Emily Faithfull. The action is portrayed from various points of view, giving an insight into the motivations of all the characters - I was interested to find I could feel sympathetic towards Helen, even though her behaviour was often unbelievable. It is also a good reminder of how much things have changed for the better - Helen's husband retains control, "ownership" in those days, of their children after their divorce, and the children's welfare simply isn't taken into account.

#23 Lucy Lethbridge Servants: a downstairs view of twentieth-century Britain
Another purchase from the same little bookshop in Salisbury, this covers the history of being a servant, and attitudes towards servants, throughout the twentieth century. The chapters are in chronological order, but with some overlap, as obviously circumstances changed in servants' situations depending on whether they were employed in a big or small house. Some traditions in big houses continued long after things had changed in the rest of the country.  It was a fascinating insight into attitudes towards class - how employers often couldn't understand why someone would rather work in a factory and live independently, than be in service, and how the changing demographics caused by the world wars gave more opportunities outside of service. The minutiae of the servants' lives was also fascinating. At the beginning of the century, the sheer number of people required to sustain the lives of the rich, who often didn't do a thing for themselves, was incredible. I also hadn't known about the 1911 Unemployment Insurance Act, which made it mandatory to have medical and unemployment insurance (the precursor to the NHS and the Welfare State), and the uproar this caused amongst both servants and their employers, with much misinformation doing the rounds. And, yet without this insurance, any ill servant was entirely dependent on the goodwill of their employer and was at serious risk of ending up in the workhouse. A really interesting insight into twentieth century history.

#24 Elizabeth Jane Howard The light years
And the last book provided a lot of background to this one! I originally read Elizabeth Jane Howard's Cazalet Chronicles about twenty years ago and decided to revisit them, after enjoying the Radio 4 adaptations over the last couple of years. This is the first novel, and I found a lot there that I either missed the first time round or just hadn't remembered. I don't think I had appreciated how she delves into the different aspects of so many people's lives, both servants and the family. I think, on first reading, I had assumed the family were upper-class, but they are actually somewhere in the middle, and earn their income from 'trade', so aren't hanging out with the poshest of the posh. You get to see events from a lot of different perspectives, and I love how she captures all the point of view, particularly that of the children in the years leading up to the Second World War. Have now got the next one reserved at the library.

So, that's 24 books read in 2014. What did you enjoy reading last year? I hope I've inspired some people to go and read some of the books or authors I've mentioned.