Crochet, frog, repeat

Sometimes you make something and everything goes smoothly… the instructions contain no mistakes, the materials are cooperative, it ends up looking exactly how you want it to and you’ve enjoyed the whole process. And then sometimes that’s not the case.

I had some lovely New Lanark aran yarn in “Blackberry” that Mr Snail bought for me a couple of years ago. I had fallen out of love with the crochet pattern that it was originally intended for and I couldn’t find one that was exactly what I wanted. So, I bought a pattern that I was sure I could adapt. It was knitted rather than crochet, but that was ok – I’m happy to do either. I made the sleeves full-length rather than 3/4 and that worked well. Rather than adapting the wide, low-cut neck, I decided to in-fill with crochet once it was knitted. And that was where my problems started…

First I crocheted in a little triangle so it wasn’t as low-cut, but on inspection I discovered that it wasn’t quite centred, and in fact I’d made the triangle slightly too wide at the top, so it distorted the neck shape… so I frogged it. Then I decided to start slightly differently, so I edged it first, but it was saggy… so I frogged it. Then I edged it with some decreases and that was better, so I tried the triangular insert, and some more edging, but when I tried it on it still gaped and seemed very low… so I frogged it. Then I switched to a smaller hook and edged it and made a triangle using a different stitch pattern (which got partly frogged as I went) and then I realised I’d miscounted stitches down one side of the front edging, so it was uneven… so I frogged it.

Finally I got out my notebook and wrote down how many stitches I needed to work in each of the five sections. Then I counted as I worked and recounted once the first row was done. Then I put in a second row and counted again. Then I made the triangular insert based on all that I had learned from my previous attempts, which included using stitch markers to ensure that the two sides matched exactly. Then I crocheted another row and then I tried it on. It seemed to be ok, so I finished off with a crab-stitch edging.

It’s worked and I’m happy with it (it really is the colour in the first four pictures not the last one), but my word it has taken hours and hours and hours. Once all the ends are woven in, that will be another completed item made from my stash. I’m planning to spend time on something less challenging now before I return to the stripy cardigan that I abandoned months ago because of some technical issues with the pattern. Have you been struggling with any challenging makes recently?

The Dancing Skeleton

Many moons ago we made a blanket… it was called “The Masterpiece” and it represented lots of aspects of my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design. I made squares and you made squares and each of you who did so also sent me a letter or note telling me what the square represented in terms of helping make the world be a better place. Then I used The Masterpiece as the focus for my diploma presentation*:

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I’m a very enthusiastic speaker! © Alan Carlton

The central nine squares each represented one of the projects in my diploma portfolio. If you look closely, you can see that there’s a little dancing skeleton in one of them… here it is a bit closer:

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let’s dance!

It represented a design that I did about end-of-life planning, which I called A Dance with Death. The square turned out to be rather popular in its own right and I got several requests for the pattern. So, I found some charting software and made a chart and then I stalled. Other things needed doing and I lost momentum. Every year as we approached halloween I intended to get a pattern sorted and every year I failed. I thought that having ‘publish two knitting/crochet patterns’ amongst my goals in 17 for 2017 might provide the motivation, but even that failed**. However, producing a (completely different) pattern for Mandy at Faithmead got me back on track and so, the dancing  skeleton pattern is finally written up and available to buy as a digital download from etsy. I’m delighted to have Hattie to model it – although I really must sort out some hair for her (anyone have a wig they don’t want?)

Of course the charted pattern could be used as a motif on anything, I just thought that the hat would be a good starting point. Next I plan to make a crochet version… and sort out a few more skeleton poses to chart up.

-oOo-

* The blanket is still in use, in fact I am sitting on it now

** I did manage to get my bird roosts pattern sorted out, though

Three Things Thursday: 23 November 2017

My weekly exercise in gratitude – three things that are making me smile – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with happiness.

First, restoring faith in humanity. I just got back from the post office, where I was served by the lady I made the gloves for. It’s the first time I’ve seen her since I dropped them off and she thanked me very sincerely, saying I had restored her faith in humanity… now that’s not a bad thing to do with your crochet, is it? Anyway, her name is Rachel and I seem to have made her very happy.

Such a simple way to make someone happy

Second, new homes for unwanted items. My rehoming scheme seems to be going well… I’m never going to have a house completely free of clutter, but I am really enjoying seeing things that I have no use for finding their way to new homes. So far this week I’ve rehomed two lots of broderie anglaise and a 1990’s Vogue sewing pattern. Although money is not the main issue for me, charging for an item means that it’s more likely to go to someone who actually wants it and will make use of it.

This pattern has gone to a new home today

Third, a new home for a person. I’m really happy that it looks like my sister’s eldest daughter has found a new home. There’s nothing official yet, but we are all keeping our fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly.

So, that’s some of what’s making me happy this week. How about you?

-oOo-

Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes.

And suddenly it’s autumn

Rain, darkness when I get up and all those “first day at school” pictures (shudder)… whatever happened to summer?

Now that it is September, Knit Night has returned to my favourite local yarn shop. Having come to the end of my charity blanket marathon, my current project is the honeycomb cable socks.

These are not suitable for a night of knitting and chatting as too much concentration is required. With this in mind, I returned to the chunky wool from the crochet jumper I frogged a little while ago. Whilst still at home, I cast on the stitches required and so I was ready to knit and be sociable simultaneously last night.IMGP4040It’s rather nice to have a project that is growing quickly. I very rarely use chunky wool because I’m not keen on knitting with big fat needles (this project uses 8mm needles), but it’s fun sometimes.

In September I also want to publish a knitting pattern, so I am busily testing the chart I have created and making sure that the numbers of stitches work. Watch this space if you want a hat with a Halloween theme… complete with skulls!IMGP4025So, those are three knitting projects on the go and no crochet. Actually, I do have three separate crochet projects to finish, but for one reason or another none of them are currently inspiring me. I do, however, now have all the yarn I require for my Sophie’s Universe blanket, and so I will begin that soon. Hopefully it will grow bigger as the weather cools and I can snuggle underneath whilst I work on it through the winter.

If I am to meet my 17 for 2017 target, there need to be two further pairs of socks before the end of the year, but otherwise  there will be no new projects… well, that’s the plan.

So, I’m interested… with the turning of the seasons, what are your creative plans for northern hemisphere winter/southern hemisphere summer?

Three Things Thursday: 12 January 2017

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain (note her new self-hosted web site) here are my Three Things Thursday. As she says…

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

First, our local library. I haven’t been a member of a library since I resigned from the university, but last Saturday I finally got round to calling in to our local town library and joining. Since I spend all day editing, I don’t read many fiction books (I listen to audio versions, which the library also stocks – yay), but I do make lots of use of non-fiction books. So, here is the first one I have borrowed:

Some inspiration when baking for my gluten-intolerant friends

Some inspiration when baking for my gluten-intolerant friends

Second, boro. I’ve been meaning to have a go at Japanese visible mending for a while. I’m quite pleased with my first attempt, which I wanted to be subtle in case it turned out badly! There is substantial reinforcement on the reverse. This is one knee of a pair of Mr Snail’s jeans.

Boro: visible mending

Boro: visible mending

Third, my first pattern sale. It’s taken me ages and a lot of hard work to finalise my bird roost pattern, but it was very gratifying to make my first sale of it from my etsy store. This little boost is encouraging me to get on and finish a second pattern that I’ve been working on – knitting this time.

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A roost made to test the pattern

So, those are three things making me smile this week – what about you?

Want to crochet a bird roost?

Well, if you do, my pattern is finally available.

After much pondering, I have decided to sell it via etsy, who are all set up for digital downloads. The pattern includes two styles of roost – a house and a pouch – and two options for material – twine and wool – the latter is worked up and then felted to make a snug shelter.

Just click here to buy your copy.

Say a little prayer, or not

Sissie in her blankie in the garden at High Bank

Sissie’s blankie was described in the pattern as a ‘prayer blanket’

Recently, I have come across numerous patterns for prayer shawls and prayer blankets and I was beginning  to wonder whether the knitting and crochet community was undergoing some great religious revival. However, the other day I discovered that these are not shawls to pray in (like a Jewish Tallith) nor blankets to kneel on whilst doing so (like hassocks), but creations that include simple repetitive patterns. The idea is that the shawl can be made whilst praying because there is no need to concentrate too much on the pattern, so one’s mind can be occupied by something else.

inner-peace-awardIt was quite a coincidence, therefore, when a few days back Megan (my chronic life journey) nominated me for the ‘Inner Peace Award’ and got me thinking about the whole idea. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a great fan of the chain letter type blogging award, but this one doesn’t really involve that aspect and did start me considering the importance of things like prayer shawls. Even if we do lead a stressful life, finding time to create something simple and beautiful (like Sissie’s blankie in the photo) can really help us to achieve a little inner peace. I have written before about crafting and mental well-being – the fact that repetitive activities, like knitting, crochet and wet felting, can increase alpha waves in our brains and encourage creative thought and relaxation. As a person who has the propensity to get very uptight I can highly recommend this approach to achieving a happier life and as a way to develop a calmer and more positive state.

Other people, of course, seek peace in different ways. Recent research has demonstrated the value to our health of visiting natural places or simply being outdoors. There is also clear evidence that walking can be a useful tool in treating depression. Whatever we choose to do, it seems that our mental state can be improved by participating in the right activities.

As I explore the blogosphere, I come across all sorts of approaches to peace and happiness and I want to share one in particular with you. I found Candy Blackman’s blog London Life with Bradshaw’s Handbook quite recently. You may be wondering what this has to do with inner peace, but if you read this post, you will find out. Candy is exploring London using Bradshaw’s 1862 Hand Book to London as a way to deal with her grief following the loss of her mother. One day a week she visits London, following Bradshaw’s guide and she blogs about it. It’s lovely – great pictures, fascinating links, a whole new (old?) perspective on London. She says that she hasn’t found a direction yet or arrived anywhere, but clearly the pure act of doing something is helping her… and providing those of us who follow her blog with fascinating information.

So, if you are feeling blue or stressed – put on your walking shoes or pick up your knitting needles and see if you can’t achieve a little inner peace.

Lazy Sunday

My bottled peaches and waffles made using an egg from Aliss

My bottled peaches and waffles made using an egg from Aliss

Yesterday was a busy day – volunteering at Denmark Farm (moving piles of bracken onto the compost heaps, clearing out culverts and subduing a rampant silvanberry) as a well as a couple of blog posts, plus celebrating the 50th birthday of Doctor Who in the evening. Today, therefore, has to be much more relaxed. We started the morning with homemade waffles and some peaches from the batch that I bottled in the summer… what a delicious treat, it really was like having a little bit of stored sunshine, as I had hoped. This was followed by some virtual house hunting… my sister is planning to move house (much nearer to us – hurrah!) and so we spent a long time on the phone and online looking at possible houses.

Work in progress.. fingerless mitten in 6-ply Opal Polarlichter Shade 5207

Work in progress.. fingerless mitten in 6-ply Opal Polarlichter Shade 5207. plus pattern notes

The rest of the day will be spent on creativity… Mr Snail-of-happiness has been coveting my fingerless mittens for a while now (they are brilliant to wear if using the computer when the house is a bit chilly) so I offerred to make him some (and thus to delay starting an amigurumi dragon that I spotted on  The Guy Who Crochets blog). The only pattern I have for fingerless mittens fits me, so I’m writing a man-sized version as I go along. Right now the first one is done all except weaving in the ends and I hope to make the second today… so it won’t really be a lazy Sunday after all, just a relaxing one!

Knitted knickers

I am still occupied by the idea of homemade underwear. You may remember me mentioning my friend Seema, who makes her own knickers. She recycles old t-shirts and the suchlike as a way to avoid buying new items in order to reduce her environmental impact.

It turns out that Seema and I are not the only people interested in this subject. A number of courses have been brought to my attention at which I could learn to make my own (in some cases very fancy) knickers. But places like The Make Lounge and Emiliana Underwear are a long way from west Wales (although the latter does sell kits) and I simply can’t afford the time and travelling expense.

So, I turn to the internet for further inspiration and discover an abundance of patterns for knitting your own knickers… many from the 1940s. Fabulous forties fashions, for example, sell patterns for knitted knickers, vests and the marvelously named ‘pantie-vest’… a garment that seems to be designed to be impossible to extricate oneself from without disrobing completely! They even sell a pattern for crocheted bras!

I confess, however, that discussions with ladies who experienced such garments in their past reveals (not literally) their propensity (the underwear not the ladies) for bagginess and I suspect that, even using modern yarns containing lycra (or similar), they would still be saggy and almost certainly rather bulky… not to mention the likelihood of chafing! Several ladies have also described having knitted swim-wear when they were girls, including the horrors of emerging from the water in a progressively enlarging costume! Fortunately I am young enough never to have been exposed to such traumas and I’m not about to start now.

So, I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll give underwear making a miss for the time being and stick to knitting socks, cardigans and snails!

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