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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas knitting round-up

Now that all the chocolates are eaten and the remainder of the turkey is frozen I can take a moment out from the non-stop consumption that's been going on around here to catch you up on the knitting (I occasionally put down my knife and fork for long enough to pick up the needles).

We have, in order of completion:

Cashmere little pyramid scarf.

Cashmere scarf

This is the perfect scarf for anyone who has a relative who wants a plain, flat scarf, but who doesn't want to be bored out of their minds whilst knitting it. The equal numbers of knit and purl stitches mean that it's perfectly balanced and it blocks a treat. Lesley's Devon cashmere yarn is deliciously soft and just gets softer with age and wear - I knit my sister (who is modelling the scarf here) one of these two years ago and this year she commissioned one for her sister-in-law. You can get a little scarf that will wrap once around the neck (with knot) or twice (without) from just two skeins of cashmere 4-ply

Stitch pattern: Little Pyramid from A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara G. Walker
Needles: 3mm
Yarn: Devon Fine Fibres cashmere yarn (2 skeins)
Ravelled: here
Recipient: Jane (my sister's sister-in-law)

Sheep Yoke baby Cardigan by Jen Little

Sheep yoke cardigan

This the the fourth of these that I've knit. I rang the changes a bit by knitting the sheep in stocking stitch (not an entirely successful idea) for than in garter stitch and putting in a fence for the sheep. I added about 4 extra rows and 16 extra stitches to the yoke so that it would fit a two year old. The fit was pretty good although I did forget that Laurie would be wearing long sleeves underneath it so it's a tiny bit tighter in the arms than desired. Anyhow, the parents like it (which is the main thing and Laurie, when asked what was on her cardigan, said "sheep" and "Lizzy cardigan" which was rather gratifying*.

Pattern: Sheep Yoke baby cardigan
Needles: 3.75mm circular
Yarn: British Breeds Yarns Blue Faced Leicester DK in Natural (2.5 balls), Denim (0.5 balls), Sage (0.5 balls), Sienna (0.5 balls), Lilac (0.5 balls)
Ravelled: here
Recipient: Laurie (niece)

Stripey mittens for baby Joshua

Stripey mittens for Joshua

A quick knit for Christmas night. Just about finished in time to visit my uncle, aunt, and cousins (including my new baby first cousin once removed) on Boxing Day. These make a very neat and pleasing last minute gift!

Pattern: Djevel mittens by Sigurlaug Eva Stefansdottir**
Needles: 3mm
Yarn: Rowan Cashsoft 4-ply
Mods: Worked over 28 sts rather than 32 to make newborn size.
Recipient: Joshua (baby cousin)
Ravelled: here

Cirrus sweater for baby Joshua

Cirrus sweater

I was so happy when my cousin produced a little baby boy for whom I could knit this lovely sweater designed by the very talented Katie (longtime Bluestocking). Again this is a very quick knit (two evenings at most). Knitters will like the subtle stitch pattern and cunning colour changes at the yoke and mums (and dads) will like the button placket at the shoulder - so much easier to get over baby's noggin!

Pattern: Cirrus by Katie Hanrott from Petite Purls
Needles: 3.75mm
Yarn: British Breeds Yarns Blue Faced Leicester DK in Natural (just under 1 ball), Denim (just under 1 ball)
Recipient: Joshua
Modifications: I accidentally carried the garter stitch edging of the bottom tabs all the way up the sides of the sweater (oopsie!). Still it give the sweater a nice tunic-y look I think!
Ravelled: here

* she has also (completely unprompted) asked "where Lizzy knitting?" on one of the rare occasions when I didn't have needles and yarn in hand.

** check out her patterns - I love the Nemo mittens!

Friday, December 25, 2009

On the night before Christmas ...

... my true love gave to me!

Twelve ends to darn in.


Nine sheep to duplicate stitch.

Eight buttons to sew on.


Four seams to stitch.


Two sleeves to graft.

And a Sheep Yoke cardigan to wash and block.

Sheep Yoke cardigan

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fetching the turkey

Fetching the turkey

We're very lucky in that that snow hasn't prevented any of the family who were coming to Bolton from coming or really inconvenienced us in any other way than necessitating a little more travel by public transport or on foot than usual. Of course if we were fetching the turkey in true Dickensian fashion then for starters it would be a goose and we'd have it lashed down to the sledge, possibly on a bed of highly toxic but decorative evergreens. Alas you can't even see the turkey in this photo because it's in the rucksack on my back (and I'm taking the photo)!

I'm starting to feel a little bit tense about the Christmas knitting. I didn't have much to do - two scarves, one pair of socks, and one toddler cardigan - and the only thing outstanding is the toddler cardigan. I'm sure Laurie wouldn't even notice if she had one parcel less to open (especially if it doesn't contain toys) but I would feel like I'd failed as an aunt and as a knitter if it wasn't under the tree by Christmas morning. If you're feeling similarly tense about your Christmas knitting I suggest you pop over to Franklin's blog, laugh hollowly, and then get your nose back to the grindstone.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The slippery slope

I'm not talking about the one I helped to dig out yesterday, or the one I went sledging down today. Of course I love independent craft stores but a big crafting supermarket whose name begins with "H" just about saved my bacon yesterday when I finally decided that there weren't any nice family cards (for under a fiver) to be had in either Manchester or Bolton.

Rudy card

Although I went in with the intention of making some beaded Christmas tree cards a la Petit Filoux but these kits looked just so fun and easy (NB: I didn't actually buy this kit - the ones I chose were considerably less cheesy).

I am rather concerned that it may be downhill all the way to decoupage and scrapbooking from here on in!

Talking of downhill we have had perfect snow for sledging (it's about six inches deep on the road now). Earlier in the day Laurie had her first sledge ride down the driveway.

Laurie on sledge

Then, a bit later on, whilst Laurie was having her nap her Aunty Lizzy went out with the sledge to a slightly bigger hill (you really can't tell from this photo but this is a proper good hill for sledging).

Mountain Peak

The snow conditions were excellent and I had about a dozen goes before coming off quite hard and deciding that the next go should be the last. It's difficult to walk up hill with a sore arse! No photos of me (as I was on my tod) but I'm hoping to persuade Laurie's mummy out later on!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Appliqued leaf

The group quilt project has been taking a back seat over the past few weeks, what with dress-making and Christmas knitting, but I got a gentle reminder in the post that I should be working on my Celtic applique block in the shape of an acknowledgement of our registration for the 2010 Festival of Quilts at the NEC. I'd stalled a little bit on the second leaf so it was nice to finish that in Eleanor's company (it's always good to have moral support for the tricky bits) and the third leaf seemed to go much more easily. I'd learnt (the hard way) that it's a good idea to line the outer edge of the piping up against the outer edge of the leaf to ensure that all the layers of fabric are caught down by the stitching.

Appliqued flower

It's still over 5 months until we even have to send in the entry form so we should have plenty of time to finish the quilt, especially as after Sally, Eleanor, and I have finished our current blocks the remainder should involve a lot more machine stitching and a lot less applique by hand.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mmm, cashmere

Mmm, cashmere

I'm knitting an absolutely plain and simple cashmere scarf in natural coloured 4 ply yarn from Devon Fine Fibres. Now I know that the cashmere goat is not a native breed** and so strictly speaking falls outside my yarn buying rules (only British breeds bred in the UK and Ireland) but A) it's a commission (for my sister to give to her sister-in-law) and B) they're my rules anyway and C) the cashmere from Devon Fine Fibres ticks every other box relating to ethical farming and local produce. Not only are the goats farmed in Devon but the fibre is spun there too at Coldharbour Mill***. So the only yarn miles on my yarn are the postage miles between Devon and here! I love Lesley's blog too - it's so lovely to know a bit more about the animals that provide this beautiful fibre.

** [EDITED TO ADD]: In fact it seems that I'm wrong about this and that Lesley's cashmere goats can be classed as a British breed (see Lesley's comment below). And of course "the rules" really are about supporting British sheep (and goat) farmers and trying to show that you can do every kind of knitting you can think of without buying imported yarn or fibre. All that said there is now absolutely no reason for us all not to haul off and snaffle as much of Lesley's beautiful yarn as we can lay our sticky little mitts on!

*** Lesley has pointed out that this batch was actually spun up in Lancashire but it's still all produced in the UK.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Buttons (and a bonus)

Apparently virtue is its own reward. I went out at lunchtime on an errand for Mum to Crabtree and Evelyn (and frankly that's no hardship either!) and as a result happened on a great stall selling buttons and notions and handmade brooches and other lovely trimmings in the Antiques and Craft market (every Thursday from 9am-3pm) at Gloucester Green. I had a lovely chat with Jo from Darnit and Stitch (great name) and I hope I've persuaded her to come along to Bluestockings in the New Year, especially as she's interested in hooking up with local yarn producers with the idea of selling their yarn on her stall. And then I couldn't resist these beautiful vintage buttons.

Vintage buttons from Darnit and Stitch

And the bonus? Well aside from making a lovely new crafty contact when I turned over one of the cards I discovered this needle still attached. Jo, if you want your needle back then you'll have to come along to the knitting group.


A Very Bluestockings Christmas

Everyone had a fantastic time at the Bluestockings Christmas party last night. Thirteen (13!) knitters turned up for knitting and mulled wine, crackers and a Yankee Swap which was just brilliant. At one stage Ellen, who organised it for us, was a bit concerned that everyone would be too nice and there would be no "stealing" - I think she regretted saying that when I "stole" a fabulous hat with crocheted flower from her! The pub was brilliant too - they even gave us mince pies on the house - and didn't mind about us making loads of mess with the knitting-themed crackers and gift exchange!

Bluestockings Christmas party

[Felix, Melanie, and Meaghan]

I'm not sure how much knitting got done with all the eating and cracker pulling and playing with Poppy-the-prettiest-dog-in-the-world - who seems to get withdrawal symptoms if she goes for more than 30 seconds without someone telling her how lovely she is. I managed to finish off the bloke socks and cast on a pair of knee socks for me - I'm so excited about the idea of knee socks - in Megan's Wellington sock yarn in the Scarpantoni colourway - soo pretty.

Bluestockings Christmas party

[Eugenie and Abby]

It was lovely to see everyone, especially those who for various reasons - Clare (baby), Abby (new bloke and insanely busy job) - can't make it so frequently!

Bluestockings Christmas party

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Doing, not blogging

Hey there! It's been one of those weekends where I've been so busy doing bloggable things but not finding a spare moment (when I'm awake*) to blog about them. I had a fabulous day on Friday. In the morning, whilst waiting in for the man from the garage to come and collect the car for repair**, I finally tackled the huge mound of yarn, fibre, patterns, fabric, and needles that I (affectionately) and the boyfriend (not so affectionately) liked to call Mount Stashmore. It felt so good to tidy up that corner and I found a lot of stuff that I had forgotten about (or at least had no idea where it was) in the process.

As soon as the man came for the car I dashed off to get the bus and train to Reading for some Christmas shopping. I had a lovely time in John Lewis buying fabric for a party dress although I was slightly fazed by the amount of choice when buying gold satin. Eventually I emerged with 2.5 metres of silk satin in new gold, a matching zip and thread, and special machine needles for stitching silk. I also managed to sort out pressies for my sister, the boyfriend, and my new second cousin once removed. Then, around 4, I met up with Felix and we headed over to Mark's to wait in again (this time for the man for the boiler). We had a gorgeous afternoon and evening sitting and knitting and drinking tea in front of the fire.

On Saturday I went for a run, tidied up a bit around the flat, and then steeled myself to cut into the silk with my new serrated dressmaking scissors. Cutting out the dress pieces was a nightmare, the silk just slips away from the scissor blade, the pattern, and the pins every chance it gets and it wasn't until I'd cut out most of the pieces that I realised that the rotary cutter, used frehand, is the best way to cut out silk.

I was really scared that if I stopped working on the dress I would lose my nerve and pack it away somewhere to languish so I just did it (as a leading sportswear brand) would say. Thankfully the stitching was considerably easier than the cutting and I managed most of the sewing by Sunday morning. Now I just need to hem the outer dress and the lining and I'll be all set for the work Christmas party next Thursday. I'll try to get someone to take some pictures then for the blog.

Sunday I had a cross country race in the morning followed by a leaving do (my friend Katie has got a nw job in Nairobi) in the afternoon. The cross country was great. All the training I've been putting in really seems to have had an effect - I came 60th out of a field of around 150 (which is pretty good for me. After the race I had the best shower ever round at my friend Lizzie's accommodation - I'd forgotten just how much hot water you get in student buildings - and then headed for the pub and Katie's leaving do where I had the yummiest drink in the work, hot apple and cinnamon toddy. At £5.20 a mug it's an expensive taste to acquire but I watched the barman closely the second time around and I think I can make my own now.

OK, I'm falling asleep as I type this so I'm off to bed with a skimmed milk hot chocolate and Dorothy Wordsworth's journals - they are just delightful.

* I've been feeling very sleepy in the evenings, possibly due to all the running!

** I got rear-ended at a roundabout the Saturday before last - the boyfriend and I were both fine (if a little shaken) but it wasn't the most pleasant of experiences.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Random Thursday

I cannot not wash my hair when taking a shower. Even if I get into the shower wearing a shower cap if will be taken off within about 10 seconds of turning on the water. Trying to keep your hair dry in the shower just takes all the fun out of it.

I frequently sing whilst running. Sometimes in my head. Sometimes out loud. It's cheaper than buying a lightweight MP3 player and running headphones.

I fit into my skinny jeans (the ones I've been hanging onto for two years so that I know when I'm the "right" size again) on Saturday. It'll be interesting to see if I still fit into them after last night's Brakspear and hot chocolate extravaganza.

I'm thinking about making another Cabelona dress for the work Christmas party. It depends on whether or not John Lewis have any gold coloured satin in stock.

I love how when you're nearly thirty you can cut your own fringe and no-one can tell you off*. Remember how when you were little cutting your own hair (or the hair of others) with the scissors at school was the ultimate taboo?

* don't worry Mum, I've been doing it for a while now and no-one's pointed at me in the street yet!

Knit night

Brakspear o'clock

Beer and yarn, it's a winning combination.

I love my knitting group. As soon as I sit down in the pub and pull out my knitting on Wednesday nights it's like my soul takes a big sigh of relief and says "... and relax". We had a lovely evening. We cooed over the big pile of Megan's yarn and admired Ellen's stocking and petted Poppy-the-prettiest-dog-in-the-worldTM and smelled Tineke's Shetland fibre beasties sweater (no, really). I love our mad little knitting world where no one thinks it's (too) weird to sniff yarn. I got loads of knitting done too - I'm almost down to the toe on the first bloke sock in Megan's Wellington sock yarn in Stringbark, at this rate I'm on for a new sock knitting PB although as with marathons, so with sock knitting, the second half is always slower.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Christmas mugs

The boyfriend and I tend to spend a lot of time over Christmas with our respective families so we need to get our own Christmas stuff out early in order to enjoy it before we head off to Kent and Bolton. We've already had two cups of coffee out of the Christmas mugs and I'll be putting up the decorative twigs (with their new Handm@de ornaments) on Friday.

Christmas knitting is underway too. I've finished one scarf for a colleague and I'm a quarter of the way through a pair of socks in Megan's gorgeous Wellington sock yarn in the Stringybark colourway. I love this yarn, there's a real complexity and subtlety to the colourway which totally does not show up in this photo!

Stringybark sock

Proper daylight photos when we get some proper daylight around here!