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.

bamboo yarn sample

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?

ScrapHappy April 2018 #2

Yesterday’s ScrapHappy was very practical, but I’ve also been more frivolous with the scrappy activity.

You may recall my participation in The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook last year, for which my contribution was (unsurprisingly) crochet. Before I settled on what to include I did one or two trials and these have been sitting around ever since. One of was an African Flowers motif, just the right size to sit on a greetings card. So, a card base, a scrap of handmade paper and a bit of stitching and I had created this:IMGP5257It’s made me think that I should make lots more pieces of crochet specifically for greetings cards.

My second scrap yarn creation was rather unplanned. On Thursday evening I arrived at Knit Night to discover that, whilst I had taken my knitting, I had completely forgotten the pattern. Since I was at a critical point with respect to shaping, I couldn’t make any progress. However, I had promised to take along a couple of roll-up armadillo patterns for two of our new members to see (I think they thought I was joking that such patterns were available). Anyway, there was general enthusiasm about either knitting or crocheting an armadillo and everybody seemed to want one. So, I rooted about in the scrap pile in the stock room and found some lovely soft alpaca yarn, borrowed a crochet hook from the shop and started work on a little crochet armadillo. I had made the body and head by the time I went home. At home I finished off the tail, ears and limbs and dug out a small ball of wool from an old unravelled cardigan (you don’t get more scrappy than that) and made the shell. Yesterday I delivered him to Jude in Red Apple Yarn… his new home (at least until Jude’s grandson spots him):

I’m rather pleased with how this little alpacadillo turned out, with his lovely floppy ears – scraps can be used to produce some delightful things.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ScrapHappy April 2018 #1

Whilst I haven’t been blogging recently, I have been busy with other projects… several of which have involved scraps, so this is only the first of a couple of ScrapHappy posts this month.

Mr Snail spends most of his life wearing jeans, and he has a sort of hierarchy, from relatively new to ancient and only suitable for gardening/practical conservation work. I used to refuse to mend them, but my discovery of boro mending and my determination to keep as much stuff out of landfill as possible has encouraged me, in recent years, to regard the continued life of these jeans as a personal challenge.

Boro makes use of scraps of fabric behind the tear or hole to reinforce the garment and then lots of running stitches which form a visible mend and which rely on the additional fabric to act as a foundation. If the hole is big, or of you what to make a feature of it, it’s fine for the reinforcing fabric to show through. And it is this fabric that has been the destination of a variety of scraps. I’ve used several sorts of fabric, including some cotton jersey and we’ll see what works best.

First I repaired the seat of a pair of work jeans. The knees of these jeans had been patched with waterproof fabric (salvaged from a raincoat that the dog ate) a while ago and that has lasted well, but both sides of the seat area had split, so I used some scraps of checked cotton drill, edged using my overlocker, to repair these.

Next I moved on to some ‘everyday’ jeans. One knee of these had been mended twice previously, but the other knee was close to tearing and, again, the seat was worn through on one side… perhaps Mr Snail has been doing too much sitting down recently! This very odd pair of jeans is significantly darker on the inside than the outside – you’d never guess those were the same mends, would you?

All the fabric was small off-cuts from previous projects that otherwise could have been considered to be waste (too small even for dusters, which I made a few more of from some of Mr Snail’s old pyjamas last week).

Watch out for more scrappy activity soon!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minding the shop

Sandwiches… check; knitting… check; mittens… check; shawl… check; woolly socks… check; thermal undies… check; keys… check.  It’s an odd combination of things to need for work, but I think that covers the most important stuff. And so, yesterday, I set off for my day in charge of Red Apple Yarn.

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a woolly tribute in the shop window

The loss of our friend Pauline has left a hole in our little knitting community. Whilst Red Apple Yarn is owned and run by Jude, it was Pauline who looked after the shop when help was required. Minding the shop this week was already in her diary and no one expected that she would no longer be with us to do it. The Knit Nighters, however, were determined to fill the hole and so we volunteered our services to keep the shop open this week so that Jude didn’t have to close up for her holiday… and yesterday was my day.

I should explain that Red Apple Yarn lives in the old Post Office in Lampeter and it still has many of the original features – wooden doors and window frames, the old counter (now L-shaped rather than running across the room), the wooden panelling and, most importantly when you’re sitting in there all day, a very high ceiling. It’s very difficult to keep warm, and the big, heavy outer door needs to be propped open otherwise no one would dare venture in, but it makes for a chilly work place… hence all the warm clothing.

Despite the temperature, I loved my day there. I settled down to knit and talk about wool. I found chatting to the gents whilst the ladies browsed  a good ploy. Of course a wool shop on a rainy Thursday is not the busiest place in the world*, so I had time to make use of the huge swift that Jude has in the shop and wind a couple of skeins that were too big for my antique one (skeins must have expanded in the last 100 years!). I cast on for my new top-down jumper and drank a lot of tea. I failed to locate the gift vouchers and a specific colour of yarn, but on the whole I think I had happy customers. In addition, I didn’t break the till – which I was slightly intimidated by. So, I’m hoping that I’ll get the chance to help out again in the future… it is a very happy place for me!

-oOo-

* Apparently, however, Sainsbury’s was heaving as people stocked up for the Easter weekend, when no food is available in the UK**

** No, really… we may all starve

Toasty toes

Finally, they are finished…

It has been a bit of a labour of love, including frogging most of the foot of the second one when I realised that I had miscounted my decreases. I won’t be rushing to make another pair from this rather challenging pattern, but they were most welcome today, when I spent the day in a rather chilly place… more about that tomorrow…

 

 

From snow to snails

This has been a glum weekend. We were supposed to be away celebrating a birthday, but we couldn’t get out of Wales…

Usually I would be only too happy to stay at home, but missing spending time with my family, having posh afternoon tea, eating at a lovely brasserie and going to the theatre has put an enormous damper on my mood. Often I cheer myself up with creative activities, but it’s been hard this weekend. I have forced myself to start a new knitting project and to return to yet another long-abandoned crochet project, but progress has been slow and my mood has been low. It’s certainly not been helped by the weather improving, such that two days later, there would be no problem travelling.

Anyway, I have a pair of Nordic socks underway The pattern is Starry Night Socks and I’ve only modified it a little bit! I’m mostly using the wool I bought in Norway a couple of years ago, half of which was used for another pair of socks.

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warm socks now it’s warming up again

The ‘old’ project is a cardigan that I wanted to wear for a wedding 18 months ago! The wedding came and went and the cardigan was not finished. Then I discovered that the pattern was very poor and didn’t properly describe how to align the little flower motifs in the border – there being a point where the flowers up the front simply didn’t line up with the flowers up the back (they are off-set by a third of a flower and it would only get worse when you add the next row and the final third row):

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this is where I stalled – any additional flower would be in the wrong place in relation to one of the existing rows (both correctly placed according to the pattern)

I contacted the designer to get advice and she was unhelpful, basically telling me just to fiddle around with the flower motifs until they fit. I was so fed up that I put it to one side and didn’t pick it up again until a few days ago. By this stage I had decided not to follow the pattern (what there was of it) and instead to do my own thing. Since I was already glum, I started by removing the row of flowers up the front and weaving in all 248 ends that remained, then I added a simple border along the fronts and back of the neck that would be easy to attach other things to. Once these tasks were done, I felt a little better about the project.

As you can see, I left the row of flowers up the centre of the back, but I don’t plan to repeat them for the borders. So, it was a case of playing about with what I actually wanted. Initially I thought about paisley motifs and combining these with some free-form crochet, but then I had an idea: snails! Why not make it a snail of happiness cardigan? I’ve only just started, but I think this sort of thing might make a splendid border:

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a cluster of snails

I can join them as I go and shape the border easily… and it will be both unique and very personal.

So, the weekend is drawing to a close and although I’ve wasted lots of time being sad, I’ve also made some things and I’m feeling happy about a project that, until now, was something of a millstone. I hope you have been having a happier time than me.

 

Slothages

Being asked to make something for someone does not always fill me with joy – it may be that the thing I’m asked to make does not inspire me, or uses techniques that I’m not keen on/good at, but there is also the fact that I’m not sure that I can actually make the thing that the person asking envisages. Anything that requires lots of sewing together at the end is off-putting to me and these are the sort of patterns I would not choose for myself and I’m particularly worried when someone says they want a thing “just like this”.

So, when my friend Kate asked if I would make her a couple of tiny baby sloths from a pattern by The Twisted Crocheter, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make them anywhere near as cute as the photographs:

I really wanted to oblige to say thank you for the waxed wraps she gave me a while ago, but I wasn’t sure I could do them justice. And then inspiration struck – I offered to do the crochet if she would do the sewing. This way I avoid the possibility of making sloth faces that look like demented frogs, but I do the thing that I am skilled in.

So, yesterday afternoon I settled down with my hook and some lovely Cambrian Mountains Wool (they will be Welsh sloths – sadly, my dictionary does not have a translation). I made all the crochet pieces for two of the little critters – most of them look like sausages (hence slothages).

Now I just need to pop them in the post and await the final results.

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