Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Christmas Wreath

This is me blowing my younger daughter's trumpet.  I've mentioned on here before that DD2 is autistic ('traditional' type of autism with very impaired speech, etc).  Despite her difficulties understanding many things in her life, she is very clever, but her language processing impairment means she finds it difficult to follow instructions.  She's also resistant to being asked or told what to do (we're thinking it might be a condition called Pathological Demand Avoidance, which is an anxiety-driven need to be in control) so we have to tread carefully when trying to introduce new things to her.

When she learned to crochet, she first watched me and then made long chains, undid them and then made more lengths of chain, until I left her with one of my crochet magazines opened to the 'how to crochet' tutorial pages towards the back of the magazine when I went off to work and by the time I got home, she'd made a decent-sized square of crochet!  Since then, she's made several dishcloths and washcloths, some of which she's given away to people she likes at school.  In the last week or so, she's moved on to making scarves; quite narrow and not too long, but it's a step forward, especially as the first scarf she made was for one of her friends at college whose birthday it was.

A few weeks ago at knitting group, we were talking about Christmas crafts and someone mentioned rag wreaths, which interested me, so I looked them up on the internet, bought some fat quarters of Christmassy fabric from a local store and then went to Home Bargains and Poundland to buy cheap, small-sized decorations.  Hubby ordered some wreath frames/rings for me from Amazon (he has Prime; I don't) and I spent a couple of hours one Saturday morning cutting the fabric into strips approximately 10cm x 2.5cm with my pinking shears, showed her how to tie them onto the wreath frame and that kept her occupied for several hours over the course of two or three days.  The result?

I hadn't planned on her using quite so many baubles on the wreath (and had thought I might move some of them around once she'd gone to college) but posted a photo of it on Facebook and was told by a friend that I should leave it as it is, so I did!

As hubby had bought a pack of 10 rings and we had at least half the fabric strips left, I asked if she'd like to make one for Granny and she said she would, so another few hours of tying fabric strips ensued and some baubles added (not as many as on the first wreath though), finished off with one of the red bows and we'll be taking it round to Granny and Grandad's house when we visit them later in the week:

I gave one of the wreath frames to a friend so she could have a go, which still leaves us with 7, so I'm hoping there will be Christmas fabric on sale in January so I can stock up for next year.

I wasn't sure how these would turn out, to be honest, but they're very effective and make a change from tinsel, blingy wreaths.  The rings are 8" in diameter and, once finished, just fit inside the large-sized square Dunelm freezer bags I've got (which press together to close) so if I squish out as much air as I can, the wreath should be able to be stored for next year.

If you fancy making one, then just search for rag wreaths on the Internet for ideas.

Craft-wise from me, there's not much going on at the moment.  Our Christmas tree and decorations were put up a couple of weeks ago which means my weaving loom has been packed up and put away (there's no room for it in the lounge!) and my spinning wheel's been relocated in the dining room, so all I've got on the go at the moment is a pair of plain socks.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, I'll 'see' you in January.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

A Couple of Quick Knits

I seem to be getting a lot of knitting done at the moment and have two more finished items to show off.

First is a Hitchhiker Scarf, which I've made before and is a very popular pattern (over 30,000 projects on Ravelry; wow!).  The yarn I wanted to use was some handspun merino which I'd spun earlier this year.  I'd bought a colour pack of 10 x 25g bundles of fibre from World of Wool and it had sat in my fibre stash for at least a couple of years so I thought it was time to spin it. 

I split each nest of fibre into thirds in order to spin a 3ply yarn.  For the first single (or ply), I spun each colour end to end; for the second single, I split each colour lengthwise into 4 pieces and spun in the same colour order 4 times and for the third single, I split each colour into 8 and spun that in the same colour order as bobbins 1 and 2.  After I'd plied the singles together (using my Jumbo flyer and bobbin) I ended up with a large skein of yarn that weighed 260g and measured 387 metres.

For my Hitchhiker scarf, I used a 5mm KnitPro circular.  This pattern is very easy to memorise and didn't need too much attention, so was good knitting to do whilst watching TV or chatting at Knitting Group, so was a quick knit and, in fact, only took five days to complete.  I blocked it last week whilst hubby was away and I was able to pin it out on the floor of the spare room/office and today I nipped outside while the weather was good (it's since got very foggy here) and snapped a photo in the daylight:

I'm very pleased with it and think I'll use it a lot, especially if the weather turns colder, as forecast.  It's nice and wide, but not too deep, so can be wrapped around the neck a couple of times.

Having finished that scarf, I went hunting through my stash (hubby's made comments about how large it is so I haven't bought any yarn for at least three months) for something to make into an Escarpment Cowl.  DD1 will be home from Uni in three weeks and I thought that, rather than wearing a scarf which needs to be unwound, she might prefer a cowl so, when on a Tube train or a bus, she can just pull it off over her head.  I hunted down the two balls of Sirdar Escape DK which I knew I had and started knitting.  Again, this turned out to be a fairly mindless knit, apart from increases every other round and was soon knitted up.  I modified the pattern very slightly in that I knit it a bit longer than the pattern said before joining and starting to work in the round (because DD1 has a larger-than-average head circumference and very thick, wavy hair) and did an extra four rounds/two ridges of the garter stitch border before casting off (and I used the JSSBO rather than the one in the pattern).  The thing I'd forgotten though, was how much this yarn bleeds when it's washed, so I'm wondering whether to make another one to wrap up for her at Christmas (she tends to throw all her washing into the machine for one load as nothing she's got has bled).  Oh well, maybe she'll just have to remember to handwash it -- or (most likely) wait until she comes home in the holidays so I can do it for her!

The colours are a little darker than the photo shows, but it's a mixture of blue, purple and fuschia pink.  It's a clever pattern because it looks like a shawl with the point at the front, but just pops over the head (I couldn't get the back to sit right on the hanger, but the back goes down into a shallower point too), so there's not too much bulk under a coat.
I cast on something new yesterday evening as well and I also started a new weaving project last week, which I'll tell you about next time. I'm really getting things made, aren't I.  In the meantime, I'm tied to the house today as we're expecting a couple of deliveries and it's just me and Jess at home today.  I suppose it gives me an excuse to do more knitting and spinning as I don't want to switch on the vacuum cleaner and miss hearing the doorbell, do I!!!

Friday, 16 November 2018

A New Sweater

When I received Betty T - my Ashford Traveller spinning wheel - as a Christmas present from hubby and the girls, I started to amass a stash of fibre (to accompany the stash of yarn I'd accumulated over the years).  World of Wool in the UK was recommended to me as an online supplier of fibre for spinning and, indeed, there is a lot of choose from.  Before I started spinning, I'd considered wool as -- well -- wool.  It was only as I started to look at the pretty braids of fibre being sold that I saw names such as BFL (Bluefaced Leicester); Jacob; Falkland; Corriedale, etc and the penny dropped that different breeds of sheep have different types of fleece.  So..... every time I bought something prettily dyed from World of Wool (quite a lot of merino-based fibres, it has to be said) I added into my shopping cart a 100g 'bump' of natural coloured prepared/combed top from a different breed of sheep.

To the point where I had at least 12 (it might be 14..... or 16...... something like that).

So, I decided that I needed to get on with spinning these single bumps of yarn, which would become skeins of yarn in the region of 90-100g.  My first thought was a blanket, so I started spinning each bump in turn into a worsted-style 3ply yarn.  So far, so good -- until I got realistic and remembered how difficult hand-washing a 100% wool, easily-feltable blanket would be.

My thoughts then turned to a sweater.  Aha! thought I; a colour-block sweater, much like that Agnes sweater from Brooklyn Tweed that I made two or three years ago.  So, I had a look on Ravelry.  I searched for colour block sweaters.  I searched for boxy sweaters, but nothing came up for aran-weight yarn.  I was disappointed for about a day, then had another look and still nothing.

I had a bit of a light-bulb moment though.  Brooklyn Tweed patterns are noted for their detail in both instructions, measurements and schematics.  Agnes is a boxy sweater.  It is a forgiving type of sweater when it comes to ease and shaping.  I could knit the smallest size with bigger needles than specified and it would be ok.

Actually no, it wouldn't (and I have no idea whatsoever why I thought it would).  I cast on and after a couple of hours, some garter stitch bottom edge and a couple of inches of stocking stitch later it became apparent that I'd end up with a chest size of around 56" which, when your full bust measurement is 40", is one heck of a lot of ease.  It got ripped!

I Can Do This I thought.  I *can* convert a pattern written for a 4ply/fingering-weight yarn to fit both me *and* my aran-weight yarn.

What I haven't admitted until now (although I might have mentioned it when I wrote about my first Agnes sweater) is how much I like the neckline on this sweater.  The double decrease is just so flipping clever, as well as stylish.  I think the neck shaping (plus the garter stitch and rolled stocking stitch/stockinette) might have been the reason for me discounting other patterns which were actually written for aran-weight yarn.

Anyway, to cut a very long story short, I spent a few hours doing some maths (there might, or might not have been head-scratching, swearing and a fair few mugs of tea drunk) and came up with this:



I think I mentioned the neckline?

I finished it on Thursday (spent most of the day watching the Parliament drama unfold whilst sewing seams) and this morning I steam-blocked it so I could wear it to knitting group.  It could do with a wet-block, but that might have to wait a couple of days until I can pin it out in the spare bedroom while hubby's at work (he uses the spare room as an office on the days he works at home).

Yarns used are:

Back: Brown Jacob; Oatmeal BFL; Manx Loaghtan
Front: Brown New Zealand; Zwartbles; Light Grey Swaledale
Sleeves: Manx Loaghtan and Grey Suffolk : Light Grey Swaledale and Grey Suffolk

Once it's been blocked and washed, I might sew some tape or ribbing around the the neckline.  As well as giving the neckline stability so it doesn't sag, it also covers up the picked up edges!

I spoke to DD1 this evening and she seems fine.  We hadn't heard from her since last Sunday, so were just checking all is ok as she's just over halfway through her first term and had phoned a few times a week for the previous couple of weeks so we were wondering if after the gloss and excitement of the first few weeks away at uni had been and gone, she was feeling a bit homesick, but she says she's just been busy.  She met up with Granny a couple of weeks ago (to go to the Chelsea match - my in-laws have season tickets so DD1 used Grandad's ticket) and I've suggested that she tries to find a time to meet up with her father every once in a while when he's working in London, especially as his office is about 30 mins by public transport from her Uni!!!

I took with me to knitting group this morning a big tote bag with my interchangeable needle case (one of those small, metal briefcase thingammies from Paperchase), a few balls of yarn and a couple of patterns as I wasn't sure what I wanted to knit next, but decided on a new scarf in some handspun yarn, so more about that next time.

Have a lovely weekend :)  I'm working my usual shifts tomorrow and Sunday, but new Smart-Tills were due to be installed this Wednesday just gone, so tomorrow could be fun (wish me luck!).

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Has it REALLY been that long?

I can't believe it's been 16 months since I last blogged.

What happened?  Life happened, that's what and I fell off the blogging bike and didn't manage to get back on again.

However, things have calmed down now and so I shall start posting things about my crafting again.

Nothing drastic or bad happened over the last 16 months, it was simply that life got much busier. 

Both daughters started the last year at their respective schools in September 2017.  This meant that a couple of months before that, DD1 started considering which universities to look round and apply to.  We spent three days and two nights away from home, attending the Open Days at three of her possibilities and she went to look at another one with her school.  Then came writing her Personal Statement for her UCAS application (I hadn't realised how important that is).   She also had mock A-level exams and sat the Cambridge University entrance exam.  Then came university interviews and offers.  Of the five universities she applied to, four asked her to go for an interview and one gave her an unconditional offer without interview (if she put it as her first choice).  She was offered conditional places at three of her choices and got a rejection from Cambridge (there were tears, but she soon got over it).  Then came final choices and finally she sat her A-levels and we then waited for Results Day and were delighted when she got 3 A*s and an A which meant she comfortably fulfilled her first-choice offer and just over five weeks ago she and I went to London so she could move into the Halls she'd been allocated and start her degree in Physics at Imperial College London.  I can't express in writing how proud we are of her and her achievements so far and how hard she's worked to get where she is :)  She calls a couple of times a week (I think now that she's halfway through the first term and the excitement of the first couple of weeks is finished she's feeling a little bit homesick) and seems to have settled in really well and sounds as though she's met some very nice people.

As for DD2, she had to move from the SEN school she'd been at since a week after she turned 5 to somewhere else that offered a suitable place for her special needs.  In short, I narrowed it down to one place and told the local education authority that if they couldn't confirm a place there, we'd have to think about the private school owned and run by the National Autistic Society (which costs lots of £ a year).  She started at the school (sorry - College - we're not allowed to call it School!!) at the beginning of September and has settled in well, helped by knowing three girls she used to be at school with who are a year older than she is.  It wasn't an easy transition as she was resistant to changing schools, but we got there in the end, but had some bumpy moments.

So, life has now calmed down and we've adapted to our new routine, so feel able to start blogging again, which means I need to dust off my proper camera and make sure it's got an SD card in it!

I'll 'speak' to you again soon


Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Some finished things

A quick round-up of some finished projects.

First off, I finished my latest Attic24 Neat Ripple blanket:


  • Yarn - Caron Simply Soft, bought from Wool Warehouse (list of colours on my Ravelry project page for this blanket).
  • Ten ripple repeats wide and - I think - there were 12 rows of each colour.
  • Colour sequence from the weighted random stripe generator on Biscuits & Jam .
  • The ends were 'filled in' to make the top and bottom edges straight before doing the border.
  • Amount of yarn used - just under 1.3kg, including ends (nearly 2,200 metres).

For the border, I used each colour, doing two rounds of treble crochet (US DC), then one round of double crochet (US SC), flipping the blanket over after each round so it didn't skew.  I finished off with a round of crab stitch/reverse double crochet.

I enjoyed using the stripe generator as after the initial fiddling about refreshing the page until it produced a sequence that I liked it took away the pressure of which colour to use next.  I also like the unevenness of the stripes.  Most are one stripe high, but there are some two-row and one or two three-row stripes as well.  I particularly like the top part of the blanket with the dark red, light beige, chocolate brown (which is a lovely colour and I never thought I'd say that about brown!), aqua and darker blue; those colours seem to play very happily together.

I've started another blanket, but more on that another time as it's a stash-buster and I've only done a few rows on it.

I've also finished a couple of pairs of socks in the last month:

A green pair from the Exmoor Bluefaced yarn I spun a couple of months ago:

These are fairly substantial due to the nature of the fleece, but feel nice on the feet and, to be honest, I'm quite liking these slightly heavier weight (in yarn terms) socks I've been making.  My default needle size for commercial fingering-weight sock yarn (Regia, Lorna's Laces, etc) is 2.25mm but I with the socks I've made from handspun yarn I've been using a 2.5mm or 2.75mm needle.

The other pair of socks I finished is from two balls of Regia Arne & Carlos which I've had in my stash since the yarn was first available to buy:

This is the second pair of socks I've made from this yarn (the first pair was in 2015 in the 3657/Summer Night colour and they've worn well as I'm wearing them today!).  This orangey/yellow colour is 3654/Twilight).

That's all my recent FOs.  I've got a busy day ahead as I'm off tomorrow morning for a couple of nights with DD1.  We're going to university open days in London (Imperial and UCL) and then Nottingham on Saturday, travelling by train and staying in hotels overnight :)  Part of my busy day includes finishing off the first sock in the pair I'm currently knitting so I can leave it at home and start knitting the second while I'm away.  I might put a ball of cotton yarn and a crochet hook into my bag as well (one can never have too many dish/wash cloths!).  I'll also be taking one of my spindles with me as the Tour de Fleece starts on Saturday and our train journey home is Nottingham to Norwich and then Norwich to home.  I've told DD1 that I won't make her go to Loop this time (but Liberty and maybe John Lewis may be on the cards if we end up on Oxford Street).  Ooh - I've just had a thought; Harrods isn't far from Imperial* and I wonder if they still have a craft/yarn department!!!!

*The college I attended was in South Kensington, so although it was many moons ago, it's an area I know fairly well.

See you soon :)

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Spinning Round-Up: May

Late again!  No excuses; I just haven't got round to writing this entry.

I haven't got any spinning FOs to show for May.  I was going to say I've just been plodding on with my spinning, but that's not right because 'plodding' suggests it's a chore when the truth is, I've been enjoying what I've been doing.

The bright pink fluff is coming along and I finished the first single.  When I first started using my spindle, I hand-wound the yarn off onto the inside of a toilet roll, but that took absolutely ages to do, so now, I tape some thinnish card around the core of my yarn-winder and carefully wind off from the spindle, which takes about a third of the time.  Here's the first single:

The colours in this range from a very pale, almost-white pink through to that eye-searing bright pink on the outside of the cake.  I finished the second ply yesterday evening and have started on the third, so hopefully I'll have a finished yarn to show off at the beginning of July.

I've barely done any spinning on my Turkish spindle, so no photos of that.  I think I've spun a couple more rolags and I can see that the rolags I'm making are getting better with practice.

On my wheel, I've had progress on my sweater spin (yay!!).  I filled each of my six bobbins with 70g of spun fibre, which meant that I couldn't do any more until I'd plyed two of the bobbins together to make the final yarn:

Bobbins in a shoebox

First plyed skein of yarn!
Because each skein of yarn I'm making weighs 130-140g, I'm using my jumbo flyer and bobbin to ply the two strands of yarn into the final yarn and that means my legs are getting a good work-out.  In fact, I overdid it with that first skein as I plyed it all in one day, which was a bit silly because I've still got foot problems (plantar fasciitis in my right heel/sole).  That first skein weighs 129g and is 378m in length, pre-washing, so I think I'm going to need five skeins in total.  It'll be interesting to see how the yarn blooms once it's washed.  I've made four more 35g batts on my drum carder and have just started spinning those up.

I've also started a long-term project on my other top-whorl spindle (I bought two the same, thinking that DD2 might be interested in learning to spindle spin, but she wasn't).  I bought a 500g bag of mixed 'waste' fibre from World of Wool, so I've sorted it out into bundles of 30-35g according to colour and am going to spin each bundle into a single and will then make multi-coloured yarn by plying three singles together.  This is an 'upstairs' project, so I don't work on it as much as I do my 'downstairs' things (a few minutes while I'm waiting for the bath to fill, first thing in the morning while I'm waiting for the teasmade to do its thing, if I wake up in the night and don't want to read, etc).  The first bundle is purple:

Finally, not a WIP, but a new purchase.  I'd seen large spindles for plying on a couple of blogs, especially this one from Snyder Spindles (scroll down to see the photo), but the cost of post and packaging from the US, plus the probability of having to pay duty and post office handling fees meant I couldn't really justify ordering one, so I had another search on the internet and came across a UK company called Kerry Spindles, who makes a large-sized (68g or so) top-whorl spindle for plying.  I was going to put in a link, but I don't really need to because I've taken a photo instead:

Yes, I bought one!  I also took a photo of it next to one of my top-whorl spindles so you can see the difference in the sizes:

The new spindle (which is naturally purple - the wood is Purpleheart) is just under 4" in diameter and the lighter spindle is just under 2.5" in diameter.

In other spinning news, I've joined a team for the Tour de Fleece which starts on 1 July.  The team I'm spinning with is the Wool 'n Spinning one, from a blog/vlog and corresponding Ravelry group that I follow.  I've never done the Tour de Fleece before (link to the Ravelry group if you want to see what it's all about), so it should be fun.

So, that's my spinning summary for May.

I've got some knitting and crochet catching up blogging to do as well, which I'm hoping to do tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Spinning Round-Up: April

I'm a bit late this month, but this was because my husband took last week as annual leave from work, so my usual routine went out of the window simply because I was working around him!

So, what's been happening with me spinning-wise over the last month?  Well, there's been a bit, but not a huge amount.

I finished the brightly coloured Neptune roving from World of Wool and I'm quite pleased with it.

It's a 3ply yarn and these were the three balls of singles I made:

After plying and washing, the skein looks like this:

Here's a close-up:

From a distance, the yarn has an overall brown look to it, because there were so many colours in it.  I'll be interested in seeing how it knits up and if those colours and the barber-polling make the knitted fabric look more brown.  Time will tell.

Anyway, the skein weighs 93g and is 267m in length.  Not bad!

That was it for finished spinning in April.  As for Spins in Progress:

I bought a bump of a merino blend in various pinks (because it was on offer) and when it arrived, well, all I can say is WOW.  It didn't look *that* pink on-screen!  I've divided the fibre into thirds and have stripped it down into narrow strips, trying to separate the colours (not always successfully) and am spinning it into three singles which will be plyed together once it's all done (it's taking a while; I think it's the brightness putting me off):

It's brighter than this.  One of the colours is called Barbie!

I also got out my hand carders and some oddments of fibre I'd got and have been making rolags, just to practice (because I'm not very good at hand-carding and need to work on my technique) and am spinning those on my Turkish spindle.

As you can see, I haven't got very far with this, but pick it up and do a few twirls when I've got a free minute or two.

My big spin of the year is very slow-going and fairly time-consuming.  Because I'm making the batts I'm spinning, I have to first weigh the yarn for each batt (15g BFL, 10g silk, 5g Welsh, 5g merino) before putting them through my drum carder, carefully pulling them off and then putting it back through the carder a second time, to further blend the fibres.  After that, I then spin the batts (two batts per bobbin).  So, it's taking time and I'm not as enthusiastic as I could be because I don't keep my drum carder downstairs, so have to go and get it each time I want to make a new batch of batts (I've been making two at a time).  On top of that, I've developed a slight problem with my right foot (plantar fasciitis) and doing too much spinning on my wheel seems to be exacerbating that, so I'm having to pace myself (as well as doing the exercises I've been given).  So far, I've spun three bobbins of yarn, which is six batts and I've prepared another two batts.

I've no idea why the Wii board is against the wall; I've just noticed it!

I suspect that as it's black, that doesn't help as, let's face it, spinning something bright and colourful is much more exciting to do!  Still, get it done I shall and I am enjoying the whole process of making a sweater starting with a few bags of fibre.

I've also been using some more of my handspun, so will show that off soon as it's not quite finished yet!

I'm going to spend some time this morning finishing putting the warp threads on my long-neglected rigid heddle loom as I have a project in mind.  More on that another time as well.