Sunday, 13 August 2017

What's in your notions pouch?

I recently had some Cath Kidston vouchers that I hadn't mentally assinged to anything, so when they had a sale, I picked myself up a new notions pouch. While I was transferring what I regard to be my essential knitting items into the new bag, I thought I would spend a little bit of time sharing what's in my notions pouch.

1. Scissors
Always useful for snipping ends and doing afterthought heels (so you don't have to improvise with a fork!). Mine are straight nail scissors, nothing fancy.

2. Needle gauge
This slider design is my favourite as you don't have to guess what size your needles are. This Aero needle gauge is a vintage one that was a present from my mum. And it features unintentional inuendo!

3. Interchangeable needle tightening kit
I'm pretty sure everyone who owns interchangeables finds that the joins undo every now and again, so I make sure I carry the alan key round with me to re-secure the needle tips.

4. Yarn bobbins
This might just be me, but every now and again I feel a desperate need to do some intarsia! Doing it without yarn bobbins is a pain, so I always have a few to hand.

5. Tape measure
Essential for everything! I use a standard tape rather than a retractable one as I always manage to break the retractable ones!

6. Needle case
I stitched this needle case a very long time ago (well over ten years, possibly 20), and it's been a faithful friend. I have an assortment of needles in there: darning needles for Kitchener stitch; tapestry needles for weaving in ends; and fine needles for sewing buttons on shirts when they fall off!

7. Stitch markers
You can never have too many stitch markers (and I have tendency of losing them), so I have a selection in a little pouch that I got for my birthday.

So, what's in your notions pouch? Anything you can't live without?

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Yarning Along: Grandma

We've had Grandma staying with us this week, which has been lovely, and has freed up quite a lot of time for knitting and reading. I've taken a week off from work-knitting (pretty much unheard of) and have been knitting a corner-to-corner baby blanket for a friend's new baby, who should be making an appearance before the autumn term starts. I'm using Caron Cakes* in Faerie Cake, and the blanket will take two balls, so the only thinking I've had to do is how to switch from increasing every row to decreasing every row when I moved on to the second ball. Such an easy mindless project, and so satisfying. I pulled the first ball from the outside and am pulling the second from the inside so the colours reverse halfway.

As for reading, I have just started reading The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie and am enjoying it so far - the book involves several stories set in different periods of time, all linked by sewing machines. I'll let you know next week how it pans out, but for now I'm enjoying it.

I have also read two books this week from start to end: Bridget Jones' Baby and The Summer Seaside Kitchen by Jenny Colgan. The Bridget Jones is much the same as the earlier books, which I've enjoyed. This one is based on the film that was out last year: Bridget gets pregnant after two one night stands; who is the father? The book diverges slightly from the film in that one of the parental candidates is different, and I am a bit baffled that this book (and the film) completely ignores the earlier third book Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, in which Bridget is a widowed mother of two. But enjoyable all the same. I whizzed through it in under 24 hours.

I read The Summer Seaside Kitchen having read a few of Jenny Colgan's books and enjoyed them. This one is set on a fictional island off the Scottish coast (called Mure). Flora escaped Mure to go to university and is now a paralegal at a London firm of lawyers. One day an American billionaire approaches the firm to get them to fight his case to get a planned wind farm relocated to stop it from spoiling the view from his hotel on Mure; he knows Flora is from the island and wants her on the case. Flora is sent to the island and is forced to address some home truths. I loved this book; Colgan's writing style is so warm, and the book addresses place and identity so beautifully; there are also a lot of references to food, which absolutely had my mouth watering. By the time I had finished reading I was desperate to pack a suitcase and fly immediately to the northern isles.

What have you been reading this week?

As ever, linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along.

*Affiliate link.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Sunday stitching: tea towel project bags

For several weeks, every time I walked past the window of our local Asda a particular tea towel in their window display caught my eye. Eventually I caved and popped in to buy these three beautiful tea towels. I'm not massively excited about housework, but I knew that these tea towels would make beautiful project bags!

A couple of weeks ago I finally spent a Sunday afternoon turning them into bags.

First up, the seaside towels. I decided that I wanted to use the whole design, so unpicked the hems before washing the tea towels ready for sewing. I cut lining the same size as the tea towels, then stitched them into a lined drawstring bag with mitred corners. The bag is huge! I put two 200 g cakes of yarn in the bottom, and they pretty much swam. This is very much a decorative storage bag rather than anything very practical (I also added a pocket on the inside, but it's not very useful as it's too deep and goes into the mitred base. If I make another I'm going to have to rethink the pocket design, and I might go as far as to sew up the pocket on this bag).

The watermelon bag was a much quicker project. I folded the tea towel in half end to end and trimmed the edges off before seaming the sides of the bag (I used French seams to enclose the raw edges). I kept the hemmed edges at the top and bottom of the tea towel to form the bottom of the drawstring casing, which made life easy. The bottom has internal mitred corners, which are loose, but don't seem to get in the way. I love this little bag; it's just the right size for a pair of socks, and is so lovely and cheerful.

Have you done any sewing recently? What's your favourite thing to sew?

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Yarning Along: A heel short of a sock

This week has been swatching heavy, so while I have done a lot of knitting, I don't actually have all that much to show for it. The Pavement Sweater now looks like a sweater, but still has a long way to go. Which isn't to say I'm not enjoying it. The long rounds of stocking stitch make excellent television knitting, and I can happily work on the jumper while reading, which makes for lots of extra reading time.

I haven't done much work on my Felici socks in the past week, but I do now have a sock! While the kids were at soft play this afternoon I added the afterthought heel (I nkow that if I don't do the heels as I go then they won't get done!). There were a couple of stumbling blocks - I had failed to pick up either scissors or a darning needle, so I had to improvise a little. I used a fork as a pair of scissors to snip the yarn to unravel stitches to make a hole for the heel, and managed to do Kitchener stitch using just the knitting needles that were holding the sock to pull the yarn through the stitches (I used the instructions in this blog post for the actual Kitchener stitch). While it would have been easier to wait until we got home and I could access a darning needle, it was hugely satisfying doing it the unconventional way!

I have had time to read this week, which has been lovely, and this afternoon I finished The Keeper of Lost Things, which I loved. The story is made up of two separate threads, one set in the present day, and another set in the past, but moving towards the present. The present day story is about a man who collects lost things to make up for something he lost in the past, and the story is one of loss and love. I related hugely to the characters and really enjoyed the writing style. There were a few elements of the story that startled me as I was so invloved with the tale. I highly recommend this as a nice light summer read.

Linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Re-FO: A blue Barley Twist cardigan

You may remember that a few weeks ago I showed you a 'finished' powder blue Barley Twist cardigan. And yes, it was finished, in that I needed a sample of the short sleeved version of the cardigan to include in the pattern photos. But this cardigan is going to a friend for her little girl, and she requested that it had long sleeves.

So I took lots of lovely photos of the washed and blocked short sleeved version, then unravelled the sleeves and knitted on longer ones instead. And here it is in all its glory (we finally had some sunshine yesterday so I could get some photos of it).

I love this little cardi, and I hope that its recipient does too. Aren't those little daisy buttons just the cutest (I really need to buy some more, or to delve deeper into my button shash - I have a feeling there are some slightly darker daisy buttons lurking at the bottom)?

If you fancy making your own Barley Twist cardigan (short or long sleeved), the pattern can be purchased from my Ravelry or Love Knitting stores.* If you buy the pattern from my Ravelry store before 11.59pm BST, Monday 31st July 2017, and use the code SCHOOLSOUT you can get 20% off.**

The cardigan is knitted in MillaMia Naturally Soft Aran* in shade 222, Powder Blue. The Ravelry project page for the cardigan can be found here.

*Affiliate link.
**Code and discount not applicable to patterns in my Love Knitting store.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Yarning Along: Round and round we go...

Hello... Is it Wednesday already?! Half a week in to the school holidays and I have lost track of the day of the week!

This week's knitting is almost exclusively stocking stitch in the round. One pair of socks in Knit Picks Felici in the fabulous colourway Captain Nemo, and my Pavement Sweater. Neither requires much attention (I'm knitting the socks with afterthought heels, so I haven't even had to think about the heel yet), and I'm switching between the two depending on the size of needles I fancy working with (2 mm for the socks and 3.25 mm for the jumper). Both are perfect portable projects for taking along to play dates, so I'm making good progress!

Last night I finished reading Running on the Cracks by Julia Donaldson. A well-written and tightly plotted read, whose thiller element was very much at the young adult end of the genre, I enjoyed this book, and throughout was keen to see how it concluded.

I've just started reading The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan (which I came to via Rachel) and four chapters in know that I am going to whizz through it, and love the ride. So far, the central characters have been introduced, and I am finding them all fascinating.

Linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along. If you like crafting and reading, head over there to see what other people are sharing.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

School's out for summer

As of this weekend, school is over for the academic year! Obviously the kids are very excited about this...

I am excited about getting to spend a lot of time with the kids; I have all sorts of activities planned, as well as plenty of family time. I'm also looking forward to a bit of a rest, and maybe a little extra sleep! This year has been a rather busy one, and I really enjoyed switching off all the alarms on my phone yesterday!

The holidays do mean that I'm not going to have as much time to work on knitting work, so for the past week I have been trying to get on top of things, making sure I have some patterns ready to have samples knitted, and a couple of test knits in my Ravelry group so that the tests can get underway before I get too busy.

The blog will take a bit of a back seat until September, I will try and check in at least weekly for Yarning Along, and may manage some other posts here and there, but it might be a bit quiet round here. While I'm away I will be working on several new patterns, so am hoping to return energised at the start of September.

To celebrate the arrival of the school holidays, I am having a little sale in my Ravelry store. For the next week you can get 20% off any of my patterns using the code SCHOOLSOUT.* Hope you find something you love.

*The code is valid on patterns purchased from my Ravelry store until 11.59 pm BST, Monday 31st July 2017. The code can be used as many times as you like, so this is an excellent opportunity to stock up. The code is valid on all individual patterns, and the Knit Night Collection and Reach for the Stars ebooks.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Yarning Along: A lot of stocking stitch

The past week has been a long one. Between my two children, there has not been a whole 24 hour period where no one has been ill. Thankfully today they are finally both better, and we have been able to leave the house and get on with life as normal.

I've not felt much like knitting anything complicated for the past week, and have been very grateful to have my Pavement sweater to work on. I have completed the yoke (there was a bit of a panic about it not being long enough, but a lot of the yoke depth is added by the underarm stitches, which I hadn't taken in to account; I have tried it on and it will fit fine), and am now working on a very long stretch of plain stocking stitch. The only complicated bit is that I am alternating skeins to avoid pooling, so the jumper isn't very portable, but I'm quite happy to take it along to knit night or coffee with friends.

Book reading has been slow this week too. I'm still reading the Julia Donaldson book, and it's an easy read. I'm pretty certain I can get it finished by the weekend, provided my kids manage to sleep through every night!

Linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along. What are you knitting and reading this week?

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

British Wool Show 2017

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the British Wool Show. Longer established than Yarndale or Edinburgh Yarn Festival, but not as well known, this was a yarn show that I stumbled across via Instagram when one of the vendors mentioned it. I looked it up, and this year it was held in Thirsk, which is only an hour from Durham, so I decided that I would pop down for the Sunday.

The show was held in Thirsk Rural Business Centre on the outskirts of Thirsk. The venue had a large enough car park (there was just enough parking for everyone), which made it an easy option (we'll ignore the 8 mile detour I had to make as I missed the entrance to the car park, oops).

The venue was large and spacious, with a good variety of stalls. One distinct advantage of the show being less well known was that there was plenty of space to browse, without having to wrestle my way past people to get to look at things, making it a very laid-back affair. I was there for about 5 hours, and at no point did I feel rushed or overwhelmed (I'll be honest, I find the bigger yarn shows completely overwhelming and exhausting; while I love yarn, I don't love being in large crowds).

One of the things I like to do when I first arrive at a yarn show is to walk methodically round all the stalls and see what's on offer. I really enjoyed my first walk round this event: I saw lots of beautiful fleece (I almost tried spinning, until I remembered that I really don't need another hobby, and that spinning wheels and small children are not a good combination), a wide variety of buttons, lots of wonderful yarn, and myriad other things that were fascinating.

I was really excited about getting to meet a few specific vendors the the show. My very favourite stall was Alice Yarn, whose website I had stumbled across a few weeks ago, and it is an excellent example of a beautiful yarn website (go and look now!); she had a lovely selection of yarn, patterns and stitch markers (which I found hard to resist, more about that later), and pick and mix mini skeins. SkyBluePink Designs had a fantastic array of buttons [I leapt at the stall as (i) I have an obsession with buttons, and (ii) I remembered their stall from Yarndale a couple of years ago]. I finally got to meet Jillian from Mothy and the Squid, whose yarn I have loved for a long time.

A stand out feature of the British Wool Show was the Sheep Show, a live show where a man told the audience all about a selection of sheep, and their uses, and a live shearing (the sheep wasn't all that impressed with that section!).

The venue was a good choice. It had a cheap and cheerful cafe on site - I got a bowl of chips and a Diet Coke for £2, which was pretty much all I needed for lunch - and plenty of picnic benches and grass outside to sit on. I caught up some knitty friends and had a lovely time doing some outdoor knitting in the sun.

So what did I buy? Obviously I couldn't travel to a yarn show without picking up a few souvenirs. I could not resist the yarn from Alice Yarns, and picked up a skein of deep, intense purple merino/silk 4 ply, which will become a crocheted shawl over the summer (I'll be using Alice's Porthcawl Shawl pattern, which I also bought). Alice also had some gin and lemon stitch markers, which also jumped into my basket (I don't even drink gin!). I made two other purchases: a full rainbow of colour-edged wooden-buttons, which I am delighted with. I had bought them with the intention of using them on a garment for my daughter, but by the time I'd got home I had decided they were for me! And the final purchase was a ball of Opal sock yarn in the colourway Cheerful - it is sparkly (!) and comes in amazing pink and grey stripes that remind me of licorice allsorts (which are one of my favourite types of confectionery).

All in all an excellent day out. I wouldn't have travelled further than an hour for it as it wasn't a very big event, but it was just the right level for me and I really enjoyed it.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Summer knitting sorted

You may remember that, last week, while reviewing my ideas for the Best Year Ever CKAL, I posted a photo of some cornflower blue yarn, thinking that it might become a Pavement Sweater. Well, on Wednesday, while at home with a poorly toddler and at a bit of a loose end (looking after an ill child is similar to looking after a new baby - they require a lot of attention, which takes all your mental energy), the idea got stuck in my head and I found myself knitting a swatch.

And when the gauge was a little out, I found myself knitting a second swatch.

Then winding the yarn. And before I knew it I had cast on a jumper.

The pattern is knitted top-down, and in many ways is similar to knitting a sock: the yarn (Araucania Ranco, long since discontinued) is fingering weight, and the vast majorly of the knitting is stocking stitch, with the odd more interesting section (mostly short rows) for variety. This is a perfect project for our and about (or it is until it gets too big to be portable).

The collar called for smaller needles, 3 mm vs. 4.5 mm, but as I had to go down to 3.25 mm needles to get gauge (normal for me!) I've plumped for 2.5 mm needles for that section. I'm hoping that works out, they felt very small while I was knitting it!

In any case, my summer knitting is go, go, go! The only problem is, the summer holidays don't start until the end of the next week, and there are other things I should be working on until then...

Friday, 14 July 2017

No such thing as too much navy?

At the minute my knitting is going though a definite colour phase: last week I cast off a navy blue children's jumper (the gingerbread man jumper - the pattern will be coming at the end of the summer), then promptly cast on... a navy blue children's jumper (a second sample for From Breton with Love, after the first one got damaged by the sun while I was blocking it; the pattern will be available as soon as I can get some photos taken). Which is already quite a lot of navy blue, and next up in the queue are two more navy jumpers and a navy cushion cover, which is starting to feel like navy blue overkill!

Navy blue isn't always the easiest colour yarn to work with. I don't recommend working with navy blue in the evenings in poorly lit rooms: it's really hard to count rows in dark colours unless the lighting is really bright, and as someone who works by reading their knitting rather than taking notes, that's a real issue, and not one I have a way round, especially as I do a lot of basic knitting while sitting with my daughter in semi-darkness while she goes to sleep in the evening (which sometimes takes a long time).

Following on from the last point, mistakes in navy blue are really hard to fix. While knitting the back of From Breton with Love I did several rows of ribbing where I had offset the stitch pattern and didn't notice until a few rows later, but as soon as I did the mistake became glaringly obvious. Dropping back to fix those mistakes would have been a lot easier in a lighter colour!

Navy blue was also the colour of my school uniform for 4 years; I am largely over that, but I know plenty of people who have never overcome their aversion to colours associated with their school days. 

But even taking these things into account, I like navy blue. It's a good dark neutral, goes with everything in my wardrobe, and isn't as harsh as black. So I'll keep on with my list of navy projects, though if you ask me again in a few months I may say that I never want to work with it again!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Yarning Along: Sick bay

Today I'm stuck at home with a poorly toddler. She's been a little lethargic all week, and spent most of yesterday evening and last night being sick. Having abandoned all plans of soft play and playgroups, we're having a quiet day at home.

I've finished the gingerbread man jumper I was knitting last week, and the pattern is now with my tech editor, so should be out by the end of the summer. This week's project is much more summery - it's a second sample of my From Breton with Love pattern after the first got scorched by the sun earlier this summer. I have a beach photo shoot planned for this one when it's done, so I have my fingers tightly crossed for at least one dry, non-scorching day before the start of the summer holidays next week!

Since I wrote about it last week, I have finished reading The Lake House. I finally decided to sit down on Saturday evening, switch off the tv and read while knitting instead. It was definitely worth it, the book was very enjoyable. The mystery in the book was tied up nicely in the final few chapters, and I didn't totally see the ending coming (I did guess a few threads, but not the whole thing). Highly recommended.

This week's book is some young adult fiction, written by the former children's laureate Julia Donaldson - Running on the Cracks. I've enjoyed the vast majority of her books for younger children [her collaborations with Axel Scheffler are my favourites (you're probably familiar with The Gruffalo even if you don't have children)], so when I saw this in a local bookshop I thought it was worth a go. I'm about fifty pages in and have so far been introduced to Leo, a girl whose parents have died and she has run away from her unhappy life with her aunt and cousins, and Finlay a teenager who has problems of his own. I can tell that this is going to be a quick read, and I'm looking forward to finding out what happens.

Linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along. What are you knitting and reading this week?

Friday, 7 July 2017

Best Year Ever CKAL: April–June 2017

This year I am taking part in the Best Year Ever CKAL hosted by Nikki of the Tea and Possibilities podcast, and as we're half of the way through the year, here's how I'm getting on so far.

The aim of the KAL is to knit or crochet four things that you love over the course of the year. I had a definite plan at the start of the year, but as you'll see from this post, that plan may have wandered a little...

1. Sara Elin socks

When I last updated you on my progress I had already finihsed one KAL item: my pink socks, which I christened my Sara Elin socks after my blog-reading friend Sara Elin (hello!), and wrote up the pattern for shortly afterwards (the pattern is available from my Ravelry store). I loved knitting these, even though they presented many challenges along the way. And the colour?! How could they not make you smile!

2. A squishy purple shawl
Not the shawl I set out to knit at the start of the year, but I do now have a squishy purple shawl: Dotted Rays by Stephen West. This shawl was a triumph and I adore it! I am still to photograph it properly (the weather warmed up as soon as I cast it off), but will do before autumn, and then it will be added to my regular wardrobe.

3. Sincerely Louise reindeer head
I have wanted a Sincerely Louise faux taxidermy head for a long time, and finally it is going to happen! I signed up to the Sincerely Louise mailing list a few months ago, and when she had a sitewide sale on a little while ago I jumped at the chance to grab a kit. So at some point over the next few months I will be knitting a reindeer head. Woo hoo!

4. A garment for me
There are a few options for this category.

First up we have the Antler jumper. Actually this isn't an option any more. My Antler jumper was a total fail. The gauge was wrong, the yarn was too itchy, and last month I sold all the yarn on eBay. Goodbye Antler.

A Pavement sweater. Amy of the Stranded Podcast knitted a Pavement sweater a few months ago, and it is gorgeous: lightweight, seamfree and a nice shape, this jumper is a top contender. I have three and a half skeins of Araucania Ranco in my stash that is a perfect cornflower blue, but will that be enough, and will the yarn be toon scratchy? Hmm...

A Lush cardigan. This cardigan has been on my to-knit list since the pattern was in testing. I have the yarn (Rowan Baby Merino Silk DK*), but it might be too lovely as I am feeling a little intimidated. Maybe I should grab some less precious yarn (possibly something merino by Drops) and just get on with it.

Something new. The final garment option is something else that may be a little out of my comfort zone: my first adult garment design. I have the yarn (Cascade Superwash 220*), I have the idea, and I know how to write the pattern. But that doesn't mean I'm not nervous about it.

Watch this space to see what I finally decide on...


Have you been joining in with the Best Year Ever KAL? How are you getting on? It's not too late to join in the fun; if you want to know more, head over to the thread in Nikki's Ravelry group.**

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**Ravelry link, you must be signed in to Ravelry for the link to work.