Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas crafting

These are the secret projects I've been working on for the last few months - destined to be Christmas presents. First of all is a pair of Hermione's Everyday Socks (pattern by Erica Lueder), which I knitted for my Mum, in Araucania Ranco Sock yarn, on 2.25mm needles.

The stitch pattern really shows the colours up beautifully.

The leg

The foot

Slip stitch heel pattern

The other present was for my god-daughter - I decided to make her the doll from this Laura Ashley book, which I was given by my own Godmother when I was about 10. The story involves a girl called Emily who is desperate for a hat to keep the sun off her face, as she thinks it causes freckles.

These are the two earlier incarnations of the doll. The one on the left I sewed by hand when I was about ten. The left hand one is partially done on a sewing machine, when I was about twelve.

As I started to make the doll, it quickly became obvious that I had a LOT more free time when I was ten, than I do now. I think I also had a lot more concentration and smaller fingers. Still, I ended up making it in bursts in the afternoons when I wasn't working. I had a lot of fun in the local haberdashery choosing some fabric to make the doll's outfit. This is the doll, wearing her dress, and having just finished off attaching the hair - which involves unwinding some wool to make it wiggly.

Now she can see where she's going!

Pinafore finished.

And her hat!
Phew, a lot of work, but I'm pleased with the final result, and it made me get the sewing machine out and use it a lot, which was fun. And nearly finished the sewing machine off in the process!

I hope everyone is having a good Christmas. What Christmas crafting did you do?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Another finished item and a bit of sewing

This is Wee Liesl, and was actually knitted in the summer, for my god-daughter's birthday in November, so I had to wait until now to post pictures. It took almost four skeins of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino yarn, which I love knitting with as it's so soft. And big daisy buttons, in the hope that they won't come undone too easily! I really enjoyed this pattern - there's enough going on for it to be interesting, but it's relatively straightforward. I now want to make a Liesl for me.

It fits!

I have another finished knitting project, but this one's a Christmas present, so I can't reveal it yet. I've been doing a lot of sewing in the last few weeks too - I've got my sewing machine all set up on a table so it can stay out instead of having to be put away every time we want to eat a meal, which has, funnily enough, dramatically increased the amount of time I spend sewing! I must take a picture of where I've got it set up. I've been referring to this as the "sewing room", but the OH is insisting on calling it the "small bedroom" still.

I've been working on a secret project (this is just a sneak preview), but I'm especially pleased with it because I've been watching videos of how to do things, and have done things like gathers for the first time on a sewing machine. At first I thought it was going to be a bit of a pain gathering on a machine, but it is so much simpler than that, and I'm really pleased with the finished results.

One project I can reveal is this little bag, which I made for my knitting group's secret santa exchange out of some cotton fabric I bought several years ago in Penrith. I've used the instructions on the Flossie Teacakes blog, which I've used before, but this version came out a lot better. I used lightweight interfacing this time, and the iron-in version rather than sewing it. I even managed to iron it on without attaching it to either the iron or the ironing board!

I was pleased with how it turned out, although the sewing machine struggled with the zip - I don't have a zipper foot for it.
Hopefully I'll get time for some more crafting over Christmas, as I only have two days left at work now.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Garden at the beginning of December 2014

Last one of the year! It's about 8°C today, so not ridiculously cold for the time of year. The leaves are off most of the trees, apart from the two apple trees actually in the garden, which have just begun to drop leaves. The garden is also probably looking a bit lighter as the neighbour's walnut tree was removed last month (it had died and had honey fungus).

Pretty leaf colours on the Hydrangea Twist n' Shout

The cyclamen I planted up in containers last month are just starting to flower.

The colours of the remains of the Spiraea flowers are really pretty (although they're prettier when the sun is shining on them!).

The Cotoneaster we bought last year has really pretty leaves now, and some red berries, although I think some have already been eaten by the birds!

The Alstroemeria is still flowering (it's tucked up in the cold frame for the winter).

And the Convolvulus has started flowering again!

Think that's all for now! Happy December gardening everyone. I think we've nearly done for the year, we had a big clear up over the weekend, and I got the soft fruit and rhubarb mulched.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

My birthday (a while ago now)

So, back in October, I had a birthday, but, as I said in my last post, life was a bit busy for a while so I never got round to blogging about it. Ever wondered what Slough station looks like at  8am on a Sunday? Almost totally deserted. This was when I had to head over to Bristol for a work conference and, of course, there was engineering work on our railway line that weekend with rail replacement buses on instead, so it seemed easier to drive to Slough and go from there...

Anyway, that is now all finished, and I'm getting caught up with all the time off in lieu that I managed to accumulate in the early part of November. So, my birthday? Well, you've already seen the plant purchases, from our lunch and afternoon out to the garden centre.

Then I got some fabulously cool presents. The crafty ones are here. The OH got me some blocking mats, which are already proving useful for pinning things out for blocking. I like being able to use just a few of them to block a small item, or the whole thing for something big. A friend gave me a make a bag kit, which I'm looking forward to trying as I want to do more sewing.

These are the other ones (I also got a new dress, but I haven't got a picture of that!). The Borgen box set - we really enjoyed the first series but recorded it then waited ages to start watching it. It turned out that the final episode was only partially recorded so We Couldn't Find Out What Happened - really annoying! Anyway, this meant we could finish watching the first series, and then get going with the next two series. And the book about the Magna Carta and Lincoln, cos, you know, Magna Carta is going to be big next year. Oh, and a Montezuma chocolate library!

It was a lovely birthday, even though it feels like a long time ago now... We'd thought about trying to have a holiday the week of my birthday, but we couldn't quite coordinate getting the same week off work, so our few days in Salisbury ended up being a couple of weeks before it.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Even more finished items and CHALLENGE COMPLETED!

I seem to be on a bit of a roll with finished items at the moment, although most of them are small projects, it's not that I've suddenly become Speed Knitter.

I finally finished the fourth of my challenge projects this year (four adult-sized garments in a year, in 4ply, dk, aran and chunky). This is the Garter Yoke Cardi finished and blocked, although I haven't yet sewn any buttons on it, as I can't decide whether just to go for one at the top or all the way down. I think I should have made the next size up, as I can get into it and it's not tight, but it doesn't do up at the front. I hadn't intended to wear it done up so that isn't the end of the world, but it does affect what I decide to do about buttons.

At the last minute I made a load of mini Christmas stockings to go on a friend's stall at the church craft fayre. Almost all of them sold really quickly, at £2.50 each. These were a good way of using up oddments of sock yarn, and the free pattern is Mini Christmas Stocking Ornaments by Julie Williams.

I used the Knitting Goddess pack of sock yarn I bought at Yarndale to make the OH a hat for Christmas (don't worry, although he reads this blog, he's seen me making it as I kept trying it on him!). I chose the Mini Roni Hat pattern as it comes in such a wide range of sizes. I used about 5 mini skeins for the hat, so still have a couple of the lightest colours to use up.

And I've been knitting another Puerperium, this time for a friend who is expecting a little girl (actually, I know she went into hospital to have a caesarean a couple of days ago but isn't home yet, so I should get this in the post fairly soon!). I used the lime green RYC cashsoft 4 ply I dyed in the summer, with some careful measuring for the sleeves to make sure I used it all up.

Once it was finished though I wasn't so keen on the colour. It had dyed a bit splodgy in places and was a bit pale for a baby. So I got out the Kool aid and did a bit of dyeing again. I used some sachets of black grape flavour, and the microwave technique. This looks more like it! It was actually a lot easier dyeing the finished garment than the yarn-in-a-skein had been back in the summer. It turned out my skein winding was dreadful, so it took forever to disentangle the yarn and turn it into a ball the first time I dyed it.

When I blocked it (do you like my blocking mats? The OH gave me them for my birthday!) it looked a bit disturbingly in your face red, but I think that just the light then.

This is more like the real colour - a kind of deep pinky/purple, which is much more what I was aiming at. The buttons are little pandas, which I think I got free with a knitting magazine a while ago.

I'm pleased with how that has turned out. There are a few other things on the needles/sewing machine at the moment, but they're all Christmas presents so I can't reveal them on here.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


I don't know where the time has gone, but the end of October and first half of November were incredibly busy and I simply didn't get time to blog.  At the end of October I went for another meet up of the knitting librarians (we met up once before), this time to Norwich, and took advantage of needing to be over that way to visit Cambridge and stay with Knitting on the Green again. I had a fun day in Cambridge, mooching around the shops and visiting the marvellous new Incunabula Exhibition ("Private lives of print") at the University Library.

The next day we headed off early on the train to Norwich to meet the other librarians. It was good to explore Norwich again, after going on holiday there four years ago. We walked along the river from the station, and explored shops in the Lanes area, including a lovely bookshop, the market and two yarn shops, Norfolk Yarn (which I visited on our holiday in its previous location) and the Crafty Ewe.
I'm still amazed at how much yarn shops have improved in the 9 or 10 years that I've been knitting. Remember the days when you didn't see sock yarn in a shop, let alone lace weight? We see to be well and truly past that now. It's also good to see shops selling a variety of cheaper and more expensive yarns.
Window of Norfolk Yarn

Window of the Crafty Ewe
 We went over to the Forum to have lunch, partly because there was a lot of space for knitters to sit and knit and chat, and also because it's home of Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library. It's an impressive building.

After lunch, I decided to head back to the Crafty Ewe to make a yarn purchase (how did we buy yarn in the days before being able to check yardage on Ravelry on your phone?!) before heading back to the station.

I bought six balls of the very reasonably priced Sweet Briar Chunky in a sort of tealy/greeny/bluey shade. This is intended for a Bulky Brioche Raglan, which was in one of the first issues of Interweave Knits I ever bought, and which I've wanted to make ever since!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Garden at the beginning of November 2014

Last week was busy so I'm only just getting round to posting this now. The sun is getting low in the sky these days, as you can see from the first picture! The first weekend of November was disturbingly warm, despite the low sun, and we had temperatures in the high teens, which made for very pleasant gardening. It has dipped since though, and it was 9° out in the garden today!
These are a few plants we bought on my birthday weekend (no, I haven't bloggged about that yet!). This is a replacement for "Spiky bush", who was purchased a year ago to go under the bird feeder to stop the pigeons being a nuisance down there. I don't think its roots took as it was fine whilst the weather was wet, but as soon as the weather turned warm it turned brown and died. This new one is smaller (but will grow bigger over the next ten years) and it's called Picea Glauca Globe. I've also moved the bird feeder back a bit so it's now in the middle of a bush, which should stop the pigeons compacting all the soil round the base of it.

This is part of a bed in the front garden, which had some older plants in it that weren't doing well, their leaves went all mottled and  unhealthy looking. So I dug them up, and we bought a couple of new plants. The left hand one is another Abelia Grandiflora, which was in a new section of the garden centre where they had smaller versions of many plants which were a lot cheaper (and it'll grow!). The right hand one is a Choisya ternata Sundance (Golden Mexian Orange Blossom), which has lovely bright green/golden leaves, hopefully making that corner look lighter.

These Hellebores are also newly planted, but they're ones I've grown from seed from a Hellebore given to us by a neighbour. They are showing lots of new leaves and I'm hopeful that they'll flower early next year. The Daphne has also got buds forming on it.

My newly planted up containers are looking good, and the pansies will hopefully flower through the winter. The Hellebore in the middle is from the bargain shelf at the garden centre.

Newly potted up cyclamen - this has been on the go for a couple of years now, and I keep thinking it's died each summer, but it comes back each year.

We've done some clearing up and tidying up ready for winter. The half-hardy fuchsias and the Alstroemeria have been tucked up in the cold frame to protect them from the worst of the weather (don't know whether there will be a 'worst of the weather' this year - last year I think we only had one frost).
We tidied up the patio, and I've put the herbs in pots in a line to make them easy to find for evening cooking sessions - picking herbs by the light from the security light! The wooden bench has been moved further away from the shed, as that area floods very easily (the drainage is really poor - we're saving up for a new patio) and I don't want the bench to be stood in water over the winter.

This is a couple of plants that I've had for several years, but their leaves look so pretty in Autumn I couldn't resist taking a picture. They are both Heucheras (one of my favourite plants). The back one is "Ebony and Ivory", which my Mum brought with her one time she visited. The one in the front is "Georgia Peach", which I bought with a garden gift voucher received when I left a job a few years ago. Georgia Peach has been planted in various spots around the garden, and in a container, and wasn't very happy, but it seems to be thriving in this spot.

It's been so mild up until now there are already signs of bulb foliage appearing above the soil, although the new cold weather will slow them down a bit. I love the signs of next year's flowers already appearing too - something to look forward to over the Winter! The Camellia is covered in buds and should look really pretty early next year.

And these are just three of the many buds that have formed on the winter-flowering Clematis "Wisley Cream". This is really pretty, and lovely to see flowers in the depths of the winter. I'm hoping this will be the year that I achieve my aim of having something in flower in the garden every month of the year!
Think that's all for now!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Finished items

I've been on a bit of a knitting roll recently. I took the socks that I was knitting in Swansea in August away with me to Yorkshire and Yarndale, as a straightforward portable project. And they were perfect for this. The pattern is Basic Ribbed Socks by Kate Atherley, and they fit really well. The yarn is Bergère de France Opal, which is lovely and thick knitted on 2.5mm needles.

Then last week I finished my not nautical or striped, but now with stripes, nautical striped sweater. This used almost all of the 15 balls of the Debbie Bliss Cotton Denim Aran yarn I had in my stash. I'm really pleased with this. Despite not getting gauge and deciding to wing it a bit (I knitted the smallest size, and made the body longer than in the pattern), this fits really well. The "design feature" of stripes on the upper body when I realised I had two slightly different colourways in my stash, rather than 15 balls of one, also seems to have worked. There is also one sleeve each in the different colourways.
 This means I'm doing really well on my four-garments-in-different-yarn-weights-in-a-year challenge. That's chunky, 4ply and aran all completed. The DK one, the Garter Yoke Cardigan is coming along well, and I just have one sleeve now to finish on this.

As the number of projects I've got on the go was getting worryingly low(!), I thought it wise to cast on for something else. I always like to have a smaller, more portable, project on the go for things like taking to knitting group or travelling by train. I couldn't resist winding up the set of Knitting Goddess mini skeins I bought at Yarndale, and casting on for a hat for the OH. I decided on the Mini Roni hat, which comes in all sizes from premature baby to absolutely huge adult. It turns out the OH has an absolutely huge head so I hope it's going to fit.

I love the colour of these mini skeins

And don't they look cute wound into little balls?!

Of course, those projects aren't going to keep me busy for long, so I'd better get deciding what to make next.