Wednesday 30 August 2017

Yarning Along: Penguins in August

This week sees me looking as relaxed and sunkissed as I ever am, having just come back from a long weekend in North Wales with friends. We spent a day on the beach, one at the zoo, and one at the Grosvenor Museum, which was a surprise hit with the kids. But the nights are starting to draw in, the weather is starting to turn autumnal, the kids are back at school next week, and I am starting to look forward to a little bit of time on my own to get on with things.

On the needles this week is a Christmas jumper; you may remember that last year I published my Waddle jumper in Knit Now? The pattern has had a re-write, and this will become the new sample. I have done the sleeves and back and am now onto the front, which I always save until last when knitting intarsia jumpers as it's my favourite bit. I'm using Milla Mia Naturally Soft Merino Aran,* which is glorious, so this knit is a bit of a treat.

Last night was the first in the new series of The Great British Bake Off, which I got very excited about when the trailers came out last week. I had contemplated stopping watching it when it moved to Channel 4, but I did watch, and enjoyed it - while the presenters have changed, little else has. Except for the adverts, which I could do without... Watching hasn't inspired me to bake in the same way as previous series, but I will be dusting down a few recipe books in the next few weeks as part of a grand clear out we're having; if I haven't used a recipe book in five years, I probably don't need to keep it! But just to be on the safe side, I'll be baking a recipe or two from each book, just to check that I'm not missing something I'll love.

It turns out my summer holiday reading time is up: I am still reading The Miniaturist, and fully expect to be doing so for the next few weeks. I'm enjoying it, but haven't felt a need to pick it up and read it over doing other things.

Linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along. What have you been reading this week?

*Affiliate link.

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Yarning Along: Counted rows never grow

Hello! I feel like it's been a while... We've spent the past couple of weeks split between Cornwall and Somerset, and are now back to reality (and a lot of laundry), which means I have access to a proper keyboard again (rather than an iPad screen), woo hoo (if anyone has worked out the secret of using Blogger from an iPad, let me know; the situation is very much 'computer says no')!

Cornish holidays: Mousehole Harbour

I packed *a lot* of knitting to take away with me for the two weeks we were on holiday (1.5 kilos), but only actually managed to complete one baby blanket (400 g of Caron Cakes* to make a corner to corner baby blanket) and half a sock. One day I will learn to be less ambitious in my holiday packing. So this week I am working on two children's jumpers that have deadlines associated with them, and seem to be spending a lot of time counting the rows, only to find that I still have rather a lot to go. Maybe I'll aim to get the second half of that sock done this week (it's the second sock of the Felici pair); finishing things can be so satisfying.

On the book front, we have The Miniaturist, which has been out for ages, and on my Kindle for pretty much the whole of that time. I did start reading it a while ago, but having picked it up again I think I must have read only the first page or two before abandoning it as none of it sounds familiar. The book is set in 17th Century Amsterdam, and tells the story of Nella, who has just moved to Amsterdam having recently married a merchant, Johannes Brandt, and moved into his household. Johannes pays little attention to his new wife, until one day he brings her an enormous dolls house to decorate. I'm a little on the fence about this book so far; there are a lot of mysteries in the book: what does Johannes job actually entail; what is the back story for his mysterious sister; why won't their servant Otto travel on the sea? But I'm struggling a bit with the writing style: this book seems to make good speed-reading, but I find that if I put the book down I am thoroughly lost when I pick it up again. I will finish it as I want to know what happens, but I'm not certain I'm going to enjoy it.

I did get quite a lot of reading done while I was away, so have updated my Books Read in 2017 page - head there to find out what else I've read recently. What are you currently reading?

Linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along. Head over to her blog to find out what other people are reading and crafting on.

*Affiliate link.

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Meow! New design: Ray the Cat blanket square

Earlier this year, I got asked to work on a collaboration with Love Knitting and Battersea Cats and Dogs home, and here is the result: the Ray the Cat square.

The Ray the Cat square is a collaboration between Vikki Bird Designs, Love Knitting and Battersea Dogs and Cats home. Battersea Dogs and Cats Home is an animal chalter that rescues animals in need and looks after them until they can be rehomed. Every cat at Battersea is given their own blanket to snuggle in, and when the cat is rehomed, the blanket is sent home with the cat as a comforter. The cat featured on the square, Ray, is a cat who found a new home through the charity.

The square is knitted in a single piece with a moss stitch border, and Ray is incorported using the intarsia technique. The square can be expanded into a blanket by knitting several squares featuring Ray, or one Ray the Cat square and several plain squares. Alternatively you could knit a single square and use it as a wall hanging or make it into a cushion cover. If you don't have anyone to knit the square for, or fancy doing some charity knitting, Battersea are always taking donations so anyone can make the Ray Square into a blanket and donate directly!

The Ray the Cat square is knitted in Paintbox Yarns Simply Aran, which is a 100% acryllic yarn, for easy care. The yarn comes in 60 colours, so you could change the markings to make your square match your favourite feline.

Ray the Cat isn't the only pattern produced for the project: Love Knitting have created eleven dog and cat patterns (six crochet and five knitting), each based on a real dog or cat that was once at Battersea, and has now been re-homed to a loving family. All the patterns can be found here, and 100% of the pattern proceeds go directly to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home to help find homes for even more lovely little pets.

Each of the patterns has an associated colour pack, making is extra easy to pick up everything you need in one go. The kit for Ray the Cat includes full 100g balls of each of the colours you'll need, so you'll be able to knit two squares from each kit, or you could pick up an extra ball of the background colour and knit four squares.
The patterns are available here, and can be purchased until the end of November. 100% of the pattern sales will go to the charity.
Want to share your Ray the Cat square on social media? Use the hashtags #stitchfurbattersea and #vikkibirddesigns I can't wait to see what you come up with! Ypu can also share your projects on Love Knitting and Ravelry by creating a project page.


All photos were taken at Battersea Cats and Dogs home and copyright remains with Battersea and Love Knitting.

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.