Foxy Roxy and the rainbows

Not long after we lost Max the friend who was so supportive over that time also lost one of her dogs. Roxy was a Vizla who, like Max, far outlasted her prognosis. Even so, her death was a blow and she will be much missed.

You may remember the beautiful light catcher that Pauline made for me in memory of Max (who looked rather like her dog Siddy) and how touched I was by it. It continues to bring me rainbows and to provide a beautiful reminder of my much-missed pal. I thought, therefore, that it would be lovely to be able to give my friend a Roxy memorial light catcher and so I asked Pauline if she could oblige. I sent her this photo, showing Roxy in her favourite fleecy ‘pyjamas’, and asked if the light catcher could be made in these colours:

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Roxy in her ‘pyjamas’

And what a marvellous creation arrived through the post. The colours look a bit washed out because it’s just so darned sunny here at the moment, but they are really evocative of the original.

So, if you are looking for a special memento, or just a beautiful decoration for your house, do check out Pauline’s creations here.

I’m dubious about the idea of ‘shrines’ to loved ones, but I am very taken with the idea of capturing happy memories, and the light catchers seem to do this perfectly – the rainbows they create capture the ephemeral nature of life and it’s associated beauty. Grief and loss are so very difficult the deal with, and finding ways of moving on from the gaping hole and remembering the good times are really important if we are to lead full lives. Incidentally, I was much inspired by the animated film Coco in addressing ideas surrounding death and loss – I highly recommend, whatever your age (don’t be fooled – it isn’t a typical Disney film and the trailer doesn’t do it justice).

Just a word of warning – if you do commission Pauline to make a memorial light catcher, be prepared for floods of tears from the recipient.

 

ScrapHappy July 2018

One of our regular Knit Nighters has moved away and so we will only be seeing her when she comes up for an occasional visit. Before she left, however, she witnessed the creation of the alpacadillo and she was besotted. I didn’t have time to make her one of her own before she left, so this little chap will have to go in the post:

His head, body, limbs and tail are made from the remains of a ball of wool from Sophie, but I can’t remember what the shell is an oddment from… anyway, it was lurking in a basket of small left-over balls, so I clearly made something out of it at some time (I do know it’s one of the last remaining bits from the sadly missed company Colinette). This critter is 100% wool, so not an alpacadillo, but a scrapadillo, I think. It’s going to live in Swindon.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate, who provides links to other (mostly sewing) ScrapHappy bloggers at Tall Tales from Chiconia on the fifteenth of every month… do check them out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sofa stoppage

Long-term readers know how long the project to make a complete set of covers for my sofa has been going on. However, it recently received a boost when I bought more (thicker) wool supplies whilst we were away on holiday and I started making progress once more.

The work-in-progress at the moment is the cover for the seat cushions. I have decided not to make separate covers, but to make a single piece, which will be easier to hold in place and will also prevent the migration of crochet hooks, scissors, knitting needles and biscuits down the cracks (there’s never any spare change heading that way!). So far I’ve managed about half of the top, made from join-as-you-go squares. Here it is… and a ‘mock-up’ of what it will look like when it’s done combined with the existing parts.

It’s quite hard to show the colours… the limestone grey always comes out looking rather washed-out and the subtleties of the other colours don’t really show, but you get the idea. I’m planning to stitch it onto some cotton fabric to ensure that it holds it’s shape through the rigours of being sat upon.

Unfortunately, however, work has ground to a halt. The UK is currently basking in glorious sunshine and it’s far too warm to be underneath a thick woolly creation. I’m focusing on smaller and thinner things instead… including this month’s scrap happy make (just completed). Nevertheless, I’m pleased that this section is at least started. No doubt it will be cold soon enough and a wooly cover whilst I’m working will be not welcome.

Stripes without seams

This year, as well as focusing on some UFOs (like the now completed Bavarian crochet blanket) I am trying out some new techniques with the intention of making several items from start to finish. As someone who does not really enjoy sewing, the idea of knitting in the round and thus avoiding seams is very appealing. That combined with the (new to me) techniques of knitting a garment from the top down has resulted in a most enjoyable project: Poison Oak, knitted with Cambrian Mountains (slate) and Little Grey Sheep (moonlighting) wools. After the knitting was completed, there were just a few ends to work in and then it was done, but in need of blocking, especially around the bottom edge:

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a bit rough around the edges!

So, it has been soaked in Eucalan, gently spun and is now pinned out and drying gently to ensure that it finishes up the right shape, with a nice neat point at the front.

 

This has been a remarkably enjoyable project for me and will certainly not be the last top-down garment that I knit… in fact Breathing Space is already lined up to start, right after I’ve made a bit more progress on the sofa cover (yes, that’s one of the UFOs I’m currently working on).

 

Byebye Bavaria

My plant to complete some of my UFOs* is going well. Finally, after four years, I have finished my Bavarian crochet lap blanket.

It doesn’t look like I originally envisaged, but I think having a border around the Bavarian centre frames it rather beautifully. I’m also rather pleased with the scalloped edging, which just finishes it off nicely.

To celebrate the completion of such a long-term project, I embarked on a tiny project that was completed in a single day. I was asked if I would make a baby bonnet by one of my Knit Night friends:

It needs a ribbon threading through, but I think it turned out quite well and it was lovely to make something so quickly.

Now… time to return to the jumper I was knitting before I got swept up in a frenzy of crochet!

-oOo-

* UnFinished Objects

Reflections on our holiday

One of the most beautiful things I noticed when we were on holiday was the light on the water. Our cottage overlooked, Loch Carron, which was tidal, but very calm. Every morning we looked out of the window to a glorious view of the water. And many of our walks involved views of the loch. Capturing the atmosphere and beauty on camera proved difficult:

However, on our final full day we visited the Lochcarron Gallery and enjoyed seeing the different ways that local artists interpreted the area. One piece of work particularly gabbed our attention, seeming to capture perfectly the shimmering light and peaceful waters. And so Mr Snail bought it for me  and we brought home the wonderful “Dispersing Sea Mists” by Helena Emmans:

The photographs don’t do it justice, but it really does shimmer like the water. It is made using hand dyed threads wrapped around wood. A lovely memento of our holiday.

Welsh Quilts

What a lovely day I had yesterday…

Some weeks ago Sue (Going Batty in Wales) mentioned to me that she wanted to go and see the summer exhibition at the Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter, and suggested that we go together. So, we met for coffee and then visited Red Apple Yarn before having an unexpectedly large lunch (the café we went to had run out of the soup I wanted) and then going to the exhibition.

The quilts on display represented the past ten years of summer exhibitions at the Quilt Centre and so we had the opportunity to see a wide variety – from Kaffe Fassett creations to Victorian quilts made from tiny scraps of reclaimed fabrics. There were examples made with flannel, beautiful cream coloured quilts made for Claridge’s in the 1940s and marketed through the Rural Industries Bureau, a single printed tree of life panel made in 1810 and paisley scarf quilts.

Whilst it’s hard to single out any one quilt, I did love the creations where the quilting itself was the star, and the cream Rural Industries Bureau quilts were perhaps the epitome of this, but I particularly liked the yellow quilt that I have featured some corner detail of above. The pattern in this demonstrates the traditional Welsh characteristic of a central design surrounded by borders comprising smaller motifs… or at least, so Sue tells me. The other quilt that really caught my attention was the Victorian patchwork one displayed on the bed… mainly because it featured a large mend (that I completely failed to photograph) where it had either been torn or worn along a fold. Several of the quilts had been repaired or had small unfinished sections and I was particularly drawn to these features that reminded me of the women who worked so hard to make and maintain these works of art.

Altogether it is an inspirational exhibition and we had a lovely day out. If you are visiting mid-Wales I highly recommend a trip to the Quilt Centre where the exhibition runs until November.

Back to Bavaria

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Eccup, Filey and Bramley Baths, still not used…

Many moons ago I fell in love with Bavarian crochet and I hankered after making a blanket using my new skill. I bought some glorious yarn – Titus from Baa Ram Ewe in the wonderfully named colours Eccup, Bramley Baths and Filey* –  and I set about it. It looks beautiful, and once the pattern is set it’s quite easy… and therein lies the problem. After a while I started to get bored. That combined with the fact that it doesn’t grow very quickly, so progress is slow, led to me setting it aside in favour of more exciting projects. As a result, it has been in a bag, untouched, for nearly three years (hangs head in shame).

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new pattern and old pattern

However, towards the end of last year Wild Daffodil posted about a blanket that she had just completed for her grandson and I noticed that it included some squares with a Bavarian crochet centre and a plainer border using a pattern called Bavarian Beauty. I didn’t rush into anything, but the seeds had been sown and I knew I could finish my blanket without it driving me to distraction. Anyway, tomorrow I’ve got another day at Red Apple Yarn, and since the weather has returned to being cold, I thought it might be nice to work on (and under) a blanket in the shop. So, yesterday I printed off the pattern for the square and this afternoon I have familiarised myself with Bavarian crochet once more and done a bit of work on the old project. I left it part way through a round, so that needs to be finished off before I can progress with the change of pattern.

By the end of the year I am hoping that all projects that were in progress in January, however old, will be completed or frogged. So far it’s going well… think of it as a very slow declutter!

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my creation so far

 

-oOo-

* Well, wonderfully named for me since I grew up very near Eccup Reservoir, had day trips out to Filey and went to, well, Meanwood Baths rather than Bramley Baths, but still the names and places were all part of my childhood.

Bamboo – the not-so-natural fibre

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different breeds provide wool  with different characteristics

As you will have noticed, I am a fan of working with natural fibres – my preference being sheep’s wool (because we produce lots of it in the UK), but I’m not averse to other types too, including the fleece/hair from other animals such as goats and alpaca. There are some circumstances where something like cotton is much more appropriate… when making Knitted Knockers, for example, but most of my knitting, crochet and felt-making is done using wool.

You may have noticed, however, that when talking about working with non-wool natural fibres I don’t tend to mention bamboo or soya “silk” or a number of other fibres that are derived from natural materials. This is because bamboo etc are members of a class of fibres that, whilst not made from petrochemicals, like acrylic, are “manmade” – the rayons.

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a bamboo yarn sample

Rayon is a manmade fibre, but created with polymers from natural sources (often cellulose from plants, but sometimes another source of polymer, such as protein in milk – yes, milk) rather than petrochemicals. For example, viscose is a sort of rayon made from wood pulp; Tencel is a sort of viscose made from eucalyptus wood (usually found as fabric rather than yarn); bamboo yarn or bamboo silk is a sort of rayon (unless it is referred to as bamboo linen, in which case it’s retted and spun from the natural fibres like flax).

There are all sorts of environmental and health issues associated with the chemical processes required to create these products (with the exception of Tencel® and other Lyocells, which are produced in closed loop systems that avoid chemical pollution). Rayon fibres are biodegradable; indeed, they break down at approximately the same rate as cotton, if not a bit quicker. However, it’s important to understand that the processes used to make bamboo and other similar yarns are chemical and similar in some ways to the production of plastic yarns, but with a very different polymer source. It is often difficult to find details of the processes used to create these purportedly “natural” fibres, although it’s easy to find misleading claims about their environmental and health credentials.

Generally the rayon yarns are soft and silky, with little give in them.

Different fibres have different characteristics, and it’s a case of choosing the right one for the job. I would always recommend handling yarn before you buy, which generally means supporting a local yarn shop… adding an extra dimension to your ethical choices as regards your knitting and crochet.

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buy your yarn somewhere like this – support the local economy, get expert advice and feel and see the yarn before you buy

 

Upside down

Human beings are creatures of habit. We can get set in our ways, always following the same pattern and not considering other possibilities. And this, I realised, was how I had been with my knitting. For the past 40 years I’ve started at the bottom and worked up… because that’s how you knit… isn’t it? And then Jude at Red Apple Yarn introduced me to the idea of starting at the top and working down. She was knitting a pattern called Breathing Space and it looked lovely; I’ve bought a copy of it to make myself with some Eden Cottage Yarns ‘Milburn’:

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my next new project

But first I decided to have a go at Poison Oak (not the most promising name, I have to say) with a combination of Cambrian Wool (in Slate) and Little Grey Sheep Stein Fine wool (in Moonlighting). I love the fact that you start at the top and that it’s knitted in the round, so there will be very little finishing required. I’ve just started work on the first sleeve. The wool is gorgeous and the fit is great… what’s not to love?

In addition, both these patterns are for asymmetric sweaters, which I think are great for those of us who have real body shapes. Again, this is an approach I’ve never considered before. It’s good to climb out of my knitting rut.

So have you tried any new ways of doing anything recently?

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