Sunday, December 29, 2013

Finished projects - cardigan, scarf, beanie, man!

I got a few projects finished just before Christmas. One was Fantastic Purple Cardigan (the Velvet Morning pattern from Knitty), which I made with Araucania Toconao. It's turned out to be a lovely snuggly cardigan, very warm as the yarn is aran weight.

It's not quite as swingy as the Knitty pictures, as my gauge between the plain and fair isle sections turned out to be very very different, so it pulls in quite a bit round the middle. But I still like it, and will wear it, so that's the main thing. I do need to do more practising of fair isle though, as the sleeves (which I knitted last) are much better than the body! The balls are 100g each, which means I have nearly 350g of yarn of the purple (and a bit of the other colours too) to make something else with.

According to Ravelry it's taken about 10 months to knit this, which isn't really true. It was quite a fast knit, as the fair isle keeps you interested, and the aran weight means it goes fast. However, I wasn't keen on the idea of sewing the neck edging all the way round the front, as sewing up really isn't my favourite thing, so I did loads of procrastination. When I eventually did get round to it, I mattress stitched the collar on, and it didn't actually take that long after all...

Another finished project is a ribbed scarf for my BIL for Christmas. This used three balls of Patons Colour Works Aran, which has some fairly subtle colour changes in it. It's nice and soft (and machine washable) but a bit on the splitty side for knitting with.

I made this beanie hat in about 10 days just before Christmas - finished on Christmas Eve just in time to wear it to Midnight Mass! Again, this didn't really take 10 days to knit, most of it was done using magic loop, but I realised I'd find DPNs more useful when the circumference got smaller, and Hobbycraft didn't have the right size in stock so I ordered some from GetKnitted, who were commendably fast (I did wonder whether they'd get through the post before Christmas!).

The pattern is the Thrifter Beanie by Woolly Wormhead, knitted in Manos del Uruguay wool clasica, which is another lovely squooshy yarn.

And this chap is the Man Who Built His House on the Rock, which I made for a friend who runs a charity that does RE teaching with primary school and younger age children. The idea is to have two larger figures that can be used to tell the story, and then make some smaller pairs of figures to give to groups of children so they can tell it for themselves. The figures don't have to have any particular look, and don't have to have a "Biblical" look, they just have to be different to the other one in the pair.

This one is based on the basic pattern from the Sirdar Nativity collection by Alan Dart, and I used some leftover bits and pieces of DK. I wasn't going to make the cloak thing for him, but you can see where the head is attached to the body without the cloak so I added it. Cardboard circles in the feet ensure that he can stand up! The hair is some leftover fun fur yarn someone at knitting group was getting rid of.

I found it quite hard going, as there are LOADS of little pieces to sew together (not my favourite thing!), so I thought I might give Bobble Man a try for the next one! I love the Ravelry pattern browser/advanced search, as it made it really easy to narrow down what I was looking for!

I also found a Downton Abbey season 4 mystery knitalong whilst I was looking for Bobble Man. Shame I've already seen it...

According to my Ravelry projects page, that makes 12 projects completed this year, seven of which used stash yarn, which is pretty good going (I haven't yet done a calculation about how much my stash grew this year!).

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas preparations

This year, with working part-time and the bank holidays, I've ended up with a 3.5 week Christmas holiday whilst only using up 4 days of annual leave. This is the longest break I've had since I was an undergraduate, and I've had a great time getting things sorted out for Christmas, oh and getting a new shed, but more about that in a later post.

Back in November I made the Christmas cake. This is the dried fruit and brandy soaking overnight.

And the cake when it came out of the oven.

Then I poured brandy over it every week until last week, when I added the marzipan to it. Which I forgot to photograph.
Then today I iced it, using the cop-out ready-made fondant icing instead of royal icing.


This is batch of mince pies number three.

I also made stollen for the first time ever, and it was surprisingly easy, just time consuming because of having to leave it to rise for a while. I made one batch using the Delia recipe, but that is actually much more complicated than the Paul Hollywood recipe I used for the second batch, which also has more dried fruit it so it a lot tastier too.

As you do, a week before Christmas, I finally got the curtains altered that I've been meaning to do for nearly four years now...

I had these up in my old house, and the windows here are smaller, so the curtains were covering the top of the radiators - not ideal in the winter, so I've shortened them (there's a second pair too) to a more sensible length. This is one of the spare bedrooms ready for Christmas guests!

Think that's all for now. Another post to follow shortly with my finished projects on!
I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Cables and elephants

A lot of the knitting I've been working on at the moment is for presents, so I haven't been able to post pics. But it was my god-daughter's second birthday yesterday, and I'd knitted her an elephant (this is the Elijah pattern by Ysolda). Apparently she's very pleased with it and has called it "Elephant". An elephant takes exactly one ball of Sirdar Country Style DK, using 3mm needles to make the fabric firm enough to stop the stuffing appearing.

I got an iPhone for my birthday, and have been playing around with pictures and knitting apps (I've never owned a smartphone before), which is why some of these pictures may look stranger than usual. I'm loving the Yarma app, which lets you take a photo of your knitting or stash and upload it straight to Ravelry.

And I've been knitting a cabled hoodie for my nephew's birthday in December, but had to get it finished last week as they were coming to stay on Friday night, en route to Heathrow.

This is it a week ago, almost finished, with just the hood to do. That's the point when I ran out of yarn (John Lewis Heritage Aran, which comes in huge 400g balls), which wasn't available online. In the end I had to ring John Lewis on Oxford St (where I bought the first ball) and they tracked down another ball at the Brent Cross branch, which someone then posted to me. Can't beat the John Lewis customer service...

Some frantic knitting this week got the hood finished and sewn on, then I blocked it overnight on Thurs/Fri, and wrapped up on Friday, about two hours before he arrived! The colour below isn't very accurate, it's more of a royal blue as in the picture above, but by the time I finished it there was no daylight so this was the best I could do.

Hopefully he'll like it. This is the 9-10 years size, which is almost big enough for me to wear!

After leaving it blocking I went off to one of our "extra" knitting group meetings - in the daytime several of us who work part-time/are SAHMs sometimes meet up for an extra knitting group - and had to quickly grab my sock yarn blanket as I hadn't got anything else to knit at that point! A strange feeling.

This is coming along well, considering I only knit it when I haven't got anything else on the go. Despite it being a leftover sock yarn blanket, I did buy a couple of balls of My First Regia to get the bright orange and yellow colours I needed at one end of it.

And yesterday I cast on a scarf to give to my BIL for Christmas. This is just a simple k2p2 ribbing, using Patons Colour Works Aran, which is lovely and soft to knit with, but a bit on the splitty side. Still, I like the way the colours work out in it. Despite being aran the recommended needle size is 6.5mm, so it's growing fairly quickly.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Autumn colours

I meant to write this post in October, but had too much else going on! It's got a bit colder since, but some of the flowers are still there.

The first two apples from one of our trees - and the first year we've had any fruit from it, as we were given it as a wedding present three years ago, waited to let it get settled in and then squirrels ate the apples last year! These were really really tasty. Looks like my attempts at outwitting the squirrels worked.

Japanese anenomes in flower - this variety is called Queen Charlotte.

And my sedums. The different shades of pink are from Chelsea chopping them to different heights back in May - the deepest pink ones are the farthest on, with the others following along behind.

Fuchsia Mojo Boogie - my favourite fuchsia. Which will soon have to come into the coldframe as it isn't hardy. Wonder when we'll have our first frost?

I've been doing lots of heaving things around in the garden, as we've just ordered a new shed. The old shed is very very leaky and not really useable, plus not in the place we'd like it to be in. Now we know when the shed will be arriving (mid-December), I needed to get somewhere cleared for its base to be constructed.

We've decided to put it here, as this area doesn't get much sun, so it's not very good for growing things. My raised beds for vegetables are here, but the nasturtiums had taken over after I'd harvested the last of the veg. The rest of the space is taken up with the old compost heap from when we originally bought the house.

I used a lot of the compost to mulch the flowerbeds in the rest of the garden, then moved both of the raised beds, to create one, taller one. Lined up our compost bins, and dug out the original compost heap to start filling up the raised bed. The bucket and tap is what I make comfrey plant food in.

Now we just await the builder who's going to construct the base for us!

Sunday, September 15, 2013


It's suddenly gone really Autumnal here. About 10 days ago I was flouncing around in my summer dresses and the temperature was almost 30°C, too hot to knit, the garden needed watering etc etc. A day later the temperature plummets 15 degrees and I have to excavate a woolly jumper from the wardrobe. Last weekend I got drenched twice - once coming back from the shops, where I'd walked over, thinking it was a nice bright-if-cold day and I wouldn't need an umbrella, only for an absolutely enormous black cloud to appear out of nowhere as I walked back. I'd even hung washing outside, but fortunately the OH was at home to rescue it. And once trying to garden on the Sunday afternoon.

It's really too early still for the trees to be turning Autumnal though, although the horse chestnuts round here have got leaf miner so have all turned brown already. No wonder it feels like Autumn!

One of my colleagues at work had found lots of blackberry bushes near where we work last year, so several of us went one lunchtime and collected tubs and tubs of blackberries. I have the scratches to prove it. I also have the blackberry and apple jam:

Out in the garden the Pyracanthas have started to develop berries. We've had them nearly two years, but last year I didn't notice that the berries appear at different times, depending on their colour.
The red ones are already huge and very red (these are the birds' favourite).

But the orange (on the right) is only just appearing and the yellow (on the left, there's a rose in the middle) has hardly started to appear yet. These are also much less popular with the birds.

Now I'm trying to remember if they all flowered at the same time earlier this year...

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Lace shawl - finished!

It's taken a while - I originally cast it on on 15th February, and cast off last week (had to wait for this week to block it though) but the lace shawl is finally finished!

I'm really pleased with it. It's my first "proper" lace shawl, using laceweight yarn, although in May 2007 I made a Diamond Fantasy Shawl in 4ply yarn. This one is the Aeolian Shawl, from Knitty, on  3.25mm needles. I used 85g from a 100g skein of Clicky Needles merino silk laceweight yarn, purchased on holiday last year at Miju Wools near Gloucester Cathedral.

I mostly followed the pattern for the shawl (there are also instructions for a shawlette), although I left the nupps out. Apparently there is also an alternative plainer edging to try, but I didn't find that!

By the end each row was taking most of an hour to knit. One row had so many beads and fiddly bits on that it took 2.5 hours! This is it when I cast it off:

I gave it a bath in the washing up bowl before blocking. I used a free sample of "Soak", which I'd acquired somewhere along the line. It smells really nice, and I liked not having to rinse it out afterwards! I squidged it as dry as possible with a towel after its bath. Soak does now seem to be available in this country, although it's rather expensive! (the Little Knitting Company and Tangled Yarn both stock it). I usually use Ecover Delicate for washing handknitted things. I have noticed the Lakeland now stocks Eucalan, another no rinse one, but, again, it's expensive. Plus, I'm not sure of the ethics of transporting what is basically laundry liquid across the glove! Ecover is made in Belgium and France.

Then I settled down upstairs for a bit of blocking, along with some catching up with the Archers and a Herdy mug of tea.

Oh, and my new blocking kit, courtesy of Little Houndale Knits.

And this is it blocked! I had to squeeze it in a bit, as it only just fits on the spare bed (which is a Queen size). I used a combination of the blocking wires (I'm glad I got the flexible ones) and then pins on all the pointy bits. And, of course, it is SO much bigger!

A few close up shots, I couldn't resist taking.

So, there you go. I'm not sure when I'll get a chance to wear it. I think it would be great with a summer dress, but today is probably the last hot day of the year, so it might need to wait a while...
I've really enjoyed knitting it, although I'm also looking forward to knitting lots of other things now I haven't got huge long rows of lace to get through!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August visits

As I said in my last post, August has been a pretty busy month. We had a trip over to Cambridge to see the OH's friends, and did this walk in Thetford Forest, on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, along the Little Ouse river. The walk starts in Brandon, which has a station, so it's doable by public transport from Cambridge.

Although the grass on the path had been cut down, it was pretty uneven underfoot.

We did pass some canoeists but they were going so fast I didn't get a chance to take a picture!

Some parts of the walk had dense undergrowth, others were more open.

The cygnets are getting big now.
I also had a few days away in Yorkshire, visiting friends whilst the OH was beavering away at work. I really enjoyed catching up with them. As well as talking LOTS of knitting, eating LOTS of yummy food and doing some playing/reading bedtime stories, I helped a bit in their new garden, which is on a slope with beautiful views, and really quite amazing. (*jealous*, me?!)

We visited the Dutch House, which has a lovely café and wildlife garden, plus really good examples of square metre gardening (much better than mine!).

Monday, August 26, 2013

Outwitting the squirrels

I had so many good intentions about blogging more often, and now it's been a month since I last posted. Oops. August has been a lot of fun, but we've been out and about quite a bit.

Out in the garden we didn't get any apples last year from the two trees we were given as a wedding present. They mysteriously disappeared in the night before they were ripe. This year there are quite a few apples ripening, then I saw a squirrel making off with one of them (no, they're still not ripe). We weren't too impressed with the idea of the squirrels making off with our apples, so I did some googling and came up with a couple of solutions to try (along with a lot of completely impractical/bordering on the illegal solutions).

The first is to hang CDs or something else shiny in the tree to deter the squirrel. We had some CDs that had come free with the weekend papers so I've hung those up, and so far, so good. This is the espalier tree, which the squirrels have multiple ways of accessing as it's against the wall, so there wasn't much point trying to put a barrier in their way.

On the standard apple tree, which is too far from any fences for the squirrels to jump across to it, I've smeared vaseline up the trunk and the support pole, which has so far deterred them from climbing up there. It will eventually wash off in the rain though, so I'll have to keep an eye on it.

The tomatoes finally ripened, and have been absolutely delicious - we're now inundated with them! I haven't grown this variety before, as I usually grow bush cherry tomatoes, and these are cherry tomatoes that grow on a cordon. Next year I'll probably grow the same variety but put some better supports in. These were plug plants, from a free offer in a magazine, so I need to go and check what variety they actually are!

And the raspberries (Autumn-fruiting variety - Autumn Bliss) have started to ripen. I like Autumn-fruiting ones as they gradually ripen over a period of time so you don't end up with a glut.

We're also doing really well with the wildlife (apart from the unwanted wildlife, like the squirrels!). Birds now spotted in the garden include song thrushes, jays, blackbirds, great tits, robins, chaffinches, goldfinches, greenfinches, magpies, collared doves, wrens and dunnocks. In fact the birdfeeders are so busy they resemble a motorway service station. We (well, the OH, who is much better at spotting them than me) have also now seen several varieties of bees and butterflies.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

And then there was a knitting update

Two blog posts in one weekend? I'm on a roll.

I seem to have got quite a lot of knitting done since I last did an update (OK, so that was back in June, so hardly surprising).

My Fantastic Purple Cardigan is nearly all knitted, I just have to sew the seams and knit the edging. I blocked it on the spare bed one week and it took up loads of room, as it seems to have come out rather large. That's a good thing though, as it's meant to be a baggy cardigan.

I got frustrated with the Mini Mania Scarf and ended up frogging it. I'd wanted to knit it to use up odds and ends of sock yarn, but found that linen stitch was hurting my wrists if I did it for too long so decided to give up. Plus, all my machine washable sock yarn leftovers seemed to be variations on mud colour (have I really knitted a whole pile of mud colour socks?) which didn't make for an interesting scarf. Instead I have started a Sock Yarn Leftovers Blanket using mitred squares. The pattern is more of a recipe into which you add in whatever weight yarn and needle size you want. It's very easy to follow, and this is a great project to pick up when I need something fairly mindless to knit, such as at knitting group where I'm busy talking and drinking wine, or when I'm at home watching TV with subtitles (anyone else enjoying Les revenants?)

My Aeolian Shawl is coming on well, I've just started the edge pattern, although there still seem to be a LOT of rows to go. I've really enjoyed knitting this and, apart from a blip last week when I did four rows wrong, it's been fairly straightforward knitting. It is quite time consuming, as it's now at the point when it takes about 45 minutes to do a knit row.

On a trip to our nearest proper yarn shop, Mrs Moon, with a friend back in May...

I bought a couple of balls of Rowan Cocoon to make a scarf as I wanted a nice straightforward pattern for TV knitting and to take on holiday with me. I finished knitting this in the hottest week of the year - because what more could you want in 30°C than a chunky knitted scarf?!

Not sure why my ribbing looks a lot more even in the photo than it is in real life.

That was a really good shopping trip, as I also found in the sale a copy of a book I'd wanted for ages, Little red in the city, which has lots of info inside about knitting to fit your size and shape.

Think that's all for now.