Sunday, February 22, 2015

Liesl finished

Yay, Liesl is finished, and I'm really pleased with it (her?). I've made it(her?) quite long as I wanted to use the yarn up - I used up all 406 metres (320g) of the Araucania Toconao I had left over in purple after making my Fantastic Purple Cardigan a couple of years ago. It's 100% merino yarn, bought at 50% off from Norfolk Yarns when we visited there on holiday in 2010. It's lovely to knit with.

I love the Liesl pattern. There's enough happening to keep it interesting, but it's a quick knit using aran weight (you can use different weights of yarn) on 7mm needles. I think it will be a really useful cardigan too in a few weeks time, once the weather is a tiny bit warmer. The yarn is also soft enough to wear over a short-sleeved top or dress.

I blocked it using some Eucalan wool wash in lavender (seemed appropriate, given the colour!), and here is the finished item!

I actually finished the knitting about 10 days ago, but then had to wait for it to dry, and then go and buy a button for it. I only did one buttonhole, and found this purple button in a local shop which I thought would be perfect.

I'm pleased with the fit (it was hard to tell whilst trying it on during the knitting, as the circular needle pulled it backwards. I know I could have put it onto a bigger circular etc to try on, but I couldn't be bothered!).

And the back view. I'm especially pleased with the length of it.

So, that left me with a knitting gap this week, and 2 x knitting group plus an awful lot of TV either on or recorded to catch up with (Broadchurch, The Casual Vacancy, Indian Summers, Call the Midwife, Wolf Hall, The Legacy), so I needed to get my next projects chosen quickly. I did some swatching for Harvest Moon, intending to use one particular yarn for it, but it really didn't work and I just couldn't get gauge. The yarn was also horrible to knit with! Then I tried a swatch using my Rowan/Amy Butler Belle Organic Aran (originally purchased half price in the John Lewis Christmas sale the year I was working in London), and this went much better. The pattern calls for 4.5mm needles, but I had to go down to 4mm to get gauge. However, the knitted fabric feels and looks lovely, and the yarn is a dream to knit with. It's 50% organic wool and 50% organic cotton, with great stitch definition. It's more of a duck egg blue shade than it appears below.

The construction is fun. You knit a garter stitch strip, with a clever thing at the end which sort of centres the edging at the edge (that probably doesn't make any sense put like that). This is the collar of the cardigan.

Then pick up a billion stitches along the edge and knit downwards, increasing for the yoke.The billion stitches took most of one knitting group session to pick up!

It's a really satisfying knit, and is great for TV knitting, including subtitles, as you can work away without looking at it too much.

However, I also had my church's Quiet Day to go to yesterday, which involved 3 x 15 minute talks, with an hour of quiet reflection after each of them (all interspersed with tea, lunch or cake!), and craft activities were being provided to help people to be quiet and reflect. Of course, I could have taken Harvest Moon (and, in fact, I did), but I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to start another shawl. Having purchased two skeins of Triskelion Taliesin 4ply sock yarn at Yarndale in September, I'd been on the look out for a pattern to go with it, and finally settled on Semele.

As I'd suspected, this was a good choice as it required a fair amount of concentration, but still meant I could get on what I was meant to be doing at the Quiet Day! I took Harvest Moon as back up, just in case I ran into pattern problems or something, but all was fine.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Dressmaking course

Overcome with sewing enthusiasm when I finished my London Cushion (which reminds me, I haven't blogged about it yet), I signed up for a two day dressmaking class at Fabric Warehouse. This was handy as their Saturday classes were fully booked for months ahead, but they also run them on Thursdays, and I don't usually work on Thursdays. It was on two consecutive Thursdays, which was nice as it meant we had the weekend inbetween to have a go at things if we wanted. I think two days in a row would have been a bit intense.

Both days started with tea (always a good sign), and introductions to the tutor, Patsy, and the other two women taking the class. It was nice that there weren't too many of us, so there was plenty of room for cutting out. The idea was to bring a pattern along that you wanted to make, buy the fabric downstairs in the shop bit and then be helped to make it. This was great as it meant we weren't forced to make a pattern we didn't want to, and also meant that we could look at each other's work and learn about techniques that weren't used on our particular design. I'd actually chosen a dress pattern I'd seen on several mannequins in the shop and liked. One of the other women was making a long shift dress, and the other was making a long top (which she managed to get finished the first week, so she started a pair of trousers the second week).

We spent most of the first morning talking through our patterns, laying the fabric out and working out what we were going to cut out, then cutting it. The skirt on my pattern was quite short, so I needed to add another 10cm.

I always seem to end up with my eyes closed in photos.

Oh, as well as gallons of tea, there was cake too...

This is the teapot and cupcake fabric I chose. It's called "Time for Tea"

You could either take your own sewing machine along, or use one of theirs. I decided to take my own, as I wanted to practice with it as much as possible, as it's new. I actually discovered another couple of its features during the class!

It was also a good opportunity to have a go with an overlocker, as we overlocked all of our seams and edges. Without doing the class, I'm not sure when I'd have had the opportunity to try one of these, and they are quite expensive to buy.

I got as far as the back zip insertion on the first day, then decided it was a bit wonky (after watching Sewing Bee that evening!), so unpicked it at home and redid it over the weekend. The tutor was very complimentary about my second attempt!:-)

And, I managed to get it finished during the class, so I had a completed dress to take home. The tutor suggested wearing it to drive home, but as I had to stop for petrol on the way and it's freezing at the moment, I decided not to!

And this is it hanging up.

I'm really pleased with how it turned out, and this is definitely something I'll wear in the summer. I think I'd like to make another one, just to make sure all those techniques are practised!

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Having a January sort out

January was the time for a much-needed Sorting Out of Stuff, probably because it's the beginning of the year, there's not much to do in the garden and I have some time. Some of the ideas I get from the "January cure" on Apartment Therapy, although I use that for inspiration (it's mostly decluttering and cleaning type tips, all the apartments seem to be huge, with vast "closets", but there are lots of nice ideas (setting up a home maintenance calendar anyone?), and the cleaning tips use basic householdy items), rather than following it rigidly, as I have no idea how anybody who does all of it manages to go out to work or have a hobby too. These are the things I've done this year:

I usually do an annual "weed" (yes, that is a genuine librarian word) of the bookshelves for books that I don't want to keep any longer, and send them to the charity shop or sell them on Greenmetropolis, depending on how energetic I'm feeling. We have about 4000 books in the house, and, although there is a little expansion room on the bookshelves, there isn't a huge amount of extra space, short of getting a bigger house(!), so some weeding each year is essential. I don't do the OH's books, that's up to him! ;-)

Yarn stash
Ta da - my stash now all fits into the boxes, which have all been labelled. I did an inventory of the whole lot - printed off a spreadsheet from Ravelry showing all my stash and worked my way through the boxes, checking that I had what I thought I had, picking out some things to put on Ebay, and making sure everything on Ravelry had a location so that I can now go straight to the box. I've also started linking patterns to items in my stash, as I thought I'd be more likely to use it up if I had patterns in mind for it (I tend not to buy yarn now unless I have a pattern in mind). It sounds like a massive chore, but actually it was fun going back through my stash and finding some yarn I'd forgotten about! I'm not reaching the impressive heights of Whitehart's double entry stashkeeping but I'm going to attempt to post figures each month and keep cumulative totals (I've set up a very simple Excel spreadsheet) - the idea is to have more knitted than is acquired. I'm only counting finished totals for projects, so some months might look a bit unbalanced.
Figures for January:
Yarn acquired: 0 metres
Yarn knitted (completed projects): 820.7 metres

The fabric stash is quite small, and I have no intention of it turning into a stash really - I'd rather keep it at the level of buying for particular projects, bearing in mind the amount of time I have. So, I've started a spreadsheet to list what I have - type of fabric, manufacturer, length/width, where purchased etc so that I should hopefully avoid buying something when I've already got some fabric I could use! I'll wait and see whether this works...
At the beginning of January I did wash all the fabric I already had, so I know it's ready to go when I do want to use it. Some of it has obviously got used up since then! ;-)

I generally go through my wardrobe and chest of drawers a couple of times a year (I don't have room to store everything in there, so have to change my winter woollies/summer dresses over every year), and clear out anything that's literally falling apart. So, this wasn't a January clear out, I just hadn't done anything with the clothes I had cleared during my Autumn Sort Out! In 2014 I started trying to be more strategic about what clothes I was buying and what I kept - as a result of reading Whitehart's blog (where she takes pictures of what she's wearing to work every day), and then starting to read Tadpegs, when I looked around for sewing blogs. That has started me on an annual clear out of the tights box (yes, I really am not going to wear the holey tights again, despite keeping them "just in case" or to "wear under trousers" in previous years), and an annual bulk purchase of new tights in the Autumn, plus assessing what basics I need, such as underwear and short sleeve/long sleeve tops, and then buying them in a couple of shopping trips each year.

Other stuff
Before Christmas we'd bought ourselves some new towels that matched the bathroom, which meant a Sort Out of the linen cupboard was necessary. The resulting teetering mound of towels hung around for a while whilst I found a new home for them, and they will be making their way to the local vets' practice.
I've also rehomed my old sewing machine, and had a sort through of the kitchen cupboards which has resulted in a few bags of things to take to the church jumble sale. 

Is there anything you're going to Sort Out this year?

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Spoke too soon...

We had snow overnight! 

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Garden at the beginning of February 2015

I didn't think there was much different to show for this month's garden at the beginning of the month. Mostly the view hasn't changed a great deal from January! We've had a bit of sleet, but no snow, unlike most of the rest of the country.

However, if you look more closely... Snowdrops have begun to appear:

The hellebores are flowering:

The first of the indoor hyacinths is flowering (and it smells lovely). I have three planted like this, but staggered so they should all flower in succession.

January has been fairly mild (or probably normal?) and a few things have flowered which I wasn't expecting, including this rose:

I think the camellia is flowering earlier this year too?

Oh, and the OH bought me this enamel (i.e. unbreakable!) mug to drink my tea out of when I'm gardening!

How's your garden looking at this time of year?