Sunday, January 29, 2012

Big garden birdwatch and some knitting and sewing

This weekend I took part in the big garden birdwatch, where you spend an hour writing down which birds you've seen in the garden, then submit the results online to the RSPB. I was out both mornings so had to do it in the afternoon, but I think I'd have seen more in the morning as that's when they're out and about more. My results were: 3 woodpigeons, 2 blue tits, 1 magpie and 1 robin. Not the greatest, considering we've seen quite a few blue tits and dunnocks in the garden in one go before now.

It was quite fun. You sit down with a mug of tea and watch the garden for an hour. Simple.

 This is the robin.

I had a sewing splurge last weekend, as I decided to use up the leftovers from the lining of the laptop case I made Mum for Christmas, to make a little bag. I used this pattern I found online, from Flossie Teacakes blog.

 As a first attempt and bearing in mind I've done very little sewing in the last few years, I'm rather pleased with it, although the pattern is meant to include a cover for the ends of the zip, which didn't really come out as I only had heavyweight interfacing stashed away to use up  which made the whole thing hard to turn the right way out!

I plan to make another one, just to get it right, as I want one to give as a present and I do want to do more sewing. I've been reading some sewing blogs over the last year, which I've found inspiring. The main problem is time - I made this bag on a Saturday afternoon, and for most of the year I'll be outside gardening on a weekend afternoon. I do all my knitting either in front of the TV, on the train or at knitting group, so actually getting the sewing machine out and doing nothing but sewing feels very indulgent.

I've put the locking stitch markers I got in the knitting group secret santa to good use to mark the edge of the cardigan along which I need to pick up stitches. It's much easier to pick them up evenly if you follow the instructions on knitty and divide the area up into small, equally sized, sections. 

That's it for now. I have a books read in January post scheduled for this week too, but I think I'll wait until daylight next weekend to do garden at the beginning of the month. Apparently we might actually have some cold weather forecast for later this week so the garden might change in appearance a bit.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I won an award

So, after rather a long week, which started with the burglar alarm going off at 5am on  Monday (don't ask, suffice to say, it wasn't a burglar...), I was delighted to discover on Friday that I've won a blog award!

This is what it said:

Liebster is German for dearest, beloved or favourite. This award is bestowed on blogs with less than 200 followers but deserve more attention.
What a great way to support fellow bloggers you admire!
Here are the rules that come with this award: 

  • Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
  • Link back to the blogger who awarded you.
  • Give your top 5 picks for the award.
  • Inform your top 5 by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Post the award on your blog.
So, first of all, thank you to PixieMum, who gave me the award. She's one of my fellow Archers Listeners, and also a (retired) librarian. So in other words, extremely cool. 

This is my award:

And my five are:

Nicsknots - which is all about her shop selling handmade bags (which are really cool) and Phoenix cards and the things her family get up to. Oh, and chickens! We used to go to knitting group together, back in my former existence in Lincolnshire. Almost all of my knitting bags were made by her.

BlueADT Knits - who I also know, and met absolutely ages ago at the Knitting & Stitching Show at Harrogate, and who does a LOT of crafty things. As well as blogging about her lovely dogs.

KnitYoga - who I met ages ago. I first started following her blog because I admired her knitting expertise, and she has now branched out into various other crafts. I've linked to her old blog, as she is in the middle of changing blogs.

KnittingontheGreen - yet another blogger I've met! She posts a mixture of knitting, books and there was some gardening a while back, all of which I enjoy. Oh, and she's another Archers Listener and a librarian too...

Bleak Midwinter - I haven't met Katarina, but I did do a secret pal knitting exchange with her once several years ago and have read her blog ever since. She does beautiful knitting, and I also enjoy admiring the yarn from a different country...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tentacles of the slime monster

The OH thought my spiced parsnip soup bubbling on the hob looked like a slime monster's tentacle was about to emerge from it. I think he's been watching too much Doctor Who.

See, it looks totally normal once it's been through the food processor and is cooling down ready to go in the freezer. Recipe here.

This week has been a bit crazy - knitting group got hastily moved to a new location as the pub we usually meet in closed down about 2 hours before we were due to meet! We ended up meeting at a different pub, which isn't a permanent move as it's very busy, so two of us went to investigate another potential venue after the meeting. We're going to try that one this week...

Then the night after that I went to a talk about the history of gin (!) at the Wellcome Library with a friend from work. It was great, and felt deliciously bad to be sat drinking gin in a library - everyone got a free drink before the talk! Meant I didn't get home until nearly 10pm though.

Then the following night was my church home group, which is always lovely and chatty, particularly as we hadn't met since before Christmas, so I didn't get home until nearly 11pm that night.

So not much knitting happened last week, thank God for a freezer full of batch meals and fortunately the temperature has finally fallen and we've now had a frost, so there wasn't any gardening to do. I did get the Isabella jumper blocked and I'm really pleased with it:

 I love the way the colours work, and it's ended up fitting well - I was worried about the sleeves not being long enough so knitting from the top down was definitely the way to go - I've ended up with 3/4 length sleeves as I wanted, and 7g of yarn left over!

 The bottom is supposed to be knitted as a hem, and you then turn up the bottom and stitch it so that the holes form a picot edge. I decided I didn't like that effect, or the way it made the jumper shorter, so I've just left it as a rolled up edge with a decorative (!) row of holes along it.

Not sure how much time I'll have again this week - I have knitting group at home one night, then craft group at work another night. There are a lot of beginners at craft group at work though (I've now signed up over 10% of the staff!) so I spend most of the time teaching and not doing my own project.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Tidying up

I was back at work this week after the New Year break, but only for three days, so still had time to do what turned into mainly tidying things up.

This is my sewing box, which I've been meaning to tidy up ever since I got it, about ten years ago (!), as it's a hand-me-down. I'm not sure how old it is, but I was rather alarmed to see very similar ones for sale in our local haberdashery for £50+! I really just needed to sort out what I'd got, as otherwise I end up buying more sewing thread in the same colour, or yet more elastic because I hadn't realised I'd already got some. So, now it's much easier to find what I've got, and to see all the colours properly.

The thread is a fun mixture of old wooden reels with imperial measurements and very recent plastic ones.
I cleaned the oven. I'm not doing too badly, having intended to clean it in July, I eventually got round to doing it in October, and I was aiming for once a month after that. Oh, except October to January is 3 months. Oops.

 Finished the Isabella jumper, with 7g of yarn to spare! Not bad though, one jumper took 293g of yarn.

I'm rather pleased with how it's turned out. Only using 3 balls of yarn meant there weren't many ends to sew in, although the Noro Kureyon sock yarn I knitted it with pulls apart if you use it for sewing up, so I used some similarly coloured sock yarn leftovers. It's still blocking, so I should be able to wear it sometime this week.

And I've finished the back of the Essential Cardigan. Slightly alarmed at the speed this is appearing, as I only moved from 4ply to DK. Presumably if I now started an aran jumper it'd be finished in a weekend?!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Books read in December

Can't review my Advent book yet, as it actually goes all the way up to Epiphany, so I'm still going! It's the incredible journey by Steve Brady.

Also read in December:

The Morville hours by Katherine Swift
What a lovely book. Bizarrely I tried reading this when it was first published back in 2008 and didn't get very far with it, maybe because I wasn't really gardening then? Anyway, something made me buy a copy on holiday at the little book shop we found in Thame and I tried reading it again. This time it was compelling - it's an mixture of gardening (how the author created the garden at the Dower House at Morville), but around a framework of a medieval Book of Hours, so there are parts about faith and belief, plus the history of the house and area, and the history of her family, and related to her earlier life as a rare book librarian. The garden was designed from scratch, with different areas to represent different parts of gardening history, and I definitely want to visit it now! I've reserved her other book about Morville , the Morville Year, from the library.

Sew your own by John-Paul Flintoff.
The sub-title of this is "man finds happiness and the meaning of life making clothes". This was one I'd had on my Amazon wish-list for a while, then happened to see at the library so I borrowed it. It can sometimes be a bit hard to follow, as the chapters can lurch between taking apart a shirt to work out how to make one, to attending a meeting of various religious groups. Ultimately the book follows his quest to make life more meaningful, both through doing practical stuff for his own family (instead of paying someone else to do it) and spiritually. It is very funny, and inspirational, although I can't help thinking it must be a lot easier with a freelance/flexible job to fit in doing all of that, than around most people's working lives!

Death comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Mum's Christmas present, which I promptly stole borrowed from her to read before she went home. This is much better than many of the other P & P sequel type books I've read. It's a few years after the events of P & P and there is soon to be a ball at Pemberley, when a carriage lurches out of nowhere and Lydia tumbles out in a dreadful state. Yes. There's a body in the woods. OK, so the plot is a tiny bit predictable, but it is good fun and mostly believable, although definitely not something Austen would have written... I wasn't convinced by the inclusion of characters from other Austen novels though, made it all feel a bit too much like Facebook, where everyone follows what everyone else is up to! But if you enjoyed P & P it's worth reading.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Knitting plans 2012

I got quite a lot of knitting done over Christmas. So my list of WIPs isn't too horrendous, only four projects currently on the go - two of which are blankets (one of which is a long-term project, on the go since August 2006!). I've nearly finished the Isabella jumper, this has been the background project for much of the year, in between working on things for all the babies born last year, and other presents. Isabella now has one sleeve attached, and the other sleeve is almost knitted. I like having a project like this on the go in the background, as it's easy to pick up and put down again, depending on other projects, and is also small enough (the yarn is 4ply, so it's quite a small project, despite being an adult jumper) to take on the train.

 We watched quite a lot of films and TV over Christmas, including the newest Harry Potter, Tamara Drewe, the adaptation of Great Expectations on BBC1 and Downton Abbey. I found the 4ply quite hard going for that much knitting time, so cast on the Essential Cardigan, from Interweave Knits summer 2010 issue, as well. The yarn is Grignasco Merino Gold DK, which I bought on honeymoon, and is gorgeous to knit with. It seems to grow so much quicker after you've been working with 4ply for a while.

For the first time ever I went into work between Christmas and New Year. Only for two days, and it was quite fun, as we only had to work short days, and the trains were blissfully quiet, and I think I only received about 5 emails at work both days! One day I popped to John Lewis on Oxford St after work and found a lovely selection of  yarn on sale. I bought 14 balls of Rowan Amy Butler Belle organic aran, intended for the Briar Rose tunic in Interweave Knits Winter 2011.

I have a few plans for knitting projects in 2012 to get on with, and I want to do more knitting from my stash - although it helps that I now try to buy yarn with a project in mind rather than just randomly buying yarn in sales. One of the girls from knitting group put together a chart of how much yarn in different weights you need for different jumper sizes, I think if I keep that in my handbag it'll be really useful next time I just happen to come across a yarn sale. Ahem.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Garden at the beginning of January 2012

And what a contrast with a year ago!

We now have plants!

And even more of a contrast with how it looked 18 months ago:

I think that's what I've enjoyed about doing Garden at the Beginning of the Month, is seeing both how the garden changes through the seasons (bearing in mind 2011 was a weird year, with April temperatures that were like summer, a winter that wasn't a winter and an autumn that didn't really happen) and also the amount that we've done to it in that time.

And of course, seeing other people's gardens who've also taken part in the challenge. Sometimes it was a challenge, particularly remembering to take photos in the darker months of the year.
I've put together a slideshow of the pictures, here: