A new pin

As you may remember during British Wool Week I started knitting a shawl in British Suffolk wool. By the end of the week I had only completed a bit of it, but because the wool was chunky and the needles large it was soon finished. It is great for wearing around the house, especially when sitting still… as I am now, writing this post. However, I realised that I needed a pin to hold it in place… something that I didn’t have.

As you know, I like to support small producers, so I hunted around the internet, but just couldn’t find anything that appealed. Eventually, however, a friend recommended a company in Portugal who sell via etsy and who will make items to order, so I contacted Pedro and Cris at Artis Ignis. What a lovely experience – they told me that they had been thinking of making shawl pins for a while, so my request had given them a nudge. Then, they sent me some sketches, asked me which I liked and offered to make up a couple of pins, photograph them and I could choose – with no obligation to buy if I didn’t like them.

Artis Ignis shawl pin - designed for me

Artis Ignis shawl pin – designed for me

When I received the photographs, I was delighted… I had asked for a pin with leaves and was given the choice of a vine theme or ivy leaves. For me it had to be the latter to fit in with my British wool – ivy is characteristic of British winters (think of the Christmas carol ‘The Holly and The Ivy’) so seemed the perfect companion to my cosy shawl. In total from first request to the pin arriving it took just over three weeks, including me spending a few days making a decision about designs!

I have been waiting until I had a pin to photograph the shawl , but here it is:

British Suffolk Wool Shawl and Portuguese Alder Wood Pin

British Suffolk Wool Shawl and Portuguese Alder Wood Pin

Scrappy update

All laid out, in no particular order

All laid out, in no particular order

When you’ve finished a piece of knitting, there are always scraps or oddments of yarn left over. Currently, I’m using the left-overs from my sock knitting to make hexipuffs… tiny hexagonal padded pockets that will eventually become a ‘beekeepers quilt‘. I’d really like it to be big enough to cover our bed eventually, but I’m a long way off yet. To date, I have knitted 86 puffs, but they don’t even make a square metre of quilt. However, I still have lots of yarn oddments to work with and lots of sock yarn still to knit into socks. My intention is only to use left-overs and not to buy any new yarn for this project because I started it as a way to avoid waste. It’s also rather lovely to have a project like this, where it’s possible to complete a section in half an hour or so (with practice, I’ve got quicker at making them) and thus maintain a sense of achievement even when there’s still a long way to go.

planetcoops' leftovers shawl... I really want to make one!

planetcoops’ leftovers shawl

Despite my long-term goal, I have recently seen a another project for using sock yarn oddments that I would really like to undertake in the future, a ‘leftovers shawl‘ as made by planetcoops… perhaps I’ll get there in about four more years!

Of course, not all my oddments are 4-ply – the gauge I knit socks in – so I’m on the look out for other projects to use up double knitting  and chunky yarn. Amigurumi is great for this, especially since I’m currently experimenting with my own designs… eventually I will have a crochet version of the knitted snails that star at the top of this page.

So, what do you do with yarn oddments?

Wool week round-up

Here we are on the last day of 2013 British Wool week, so I thought it appropriate to show you what I have made using wool and yarn in the past seven days:

British Wool Week 2013: The results

British Wool Week 2013: The results

The slippers were felted last Sunday; one and a bit of the socks were completed in the past seven days; the bacterium was crocheted one evening, and the chunky shawl was started on Friday evening.  Not an insignificant amount of creativity in a week, if I do say so myself. I did all of the knitting and crochet at the same time as something else: watching TV, listening to an audiobook, attending a meeting or quietly thinking about some permaculture design work.

If you don’t already do it, I encourage you to try being creative when you are relaxing… it’s very satisfying.

Having a woolly week

This week, 14-21 October 2013 is UK wool week… I’ve only just found out, but I feel that I got it off to a good start with my felt slipper-making yesterday.

I love sock knitting... especially with self-patterning yarn

I love sock knitting… especially with self-patterning yarn

As usual, I have a pair of socks on my needles, but (a guilty pleasure) it’s not British wool. In fact it’s a yarn made by Opal in the bizarrely named ‘Smokey eyes and coloured lips’ range (shade 6640, if you are interested). I do feel, however, that I should celebrate wool week by knitting something in a British wool, and so I have decided to cast on some yarn from my stash. Specifically, I’m going to start a chunky shawl/poncho in undyed Rowan Purelife Suffolk yarn… it’s a lovely steel grey. In fact, I’m not a great fan of knitting weighty yarns on fat needles (hence my love of sock knitting and amigurumi), but I really want a nice warm ‘personal blanket’ to keep me toasty over the winter and reduce the need for heating, so I’m biting the bullet and going to make a start. I might also get round to perfecting crochet amigurumi bacteria, so I can sell anyone who wants one a ‘germ of an idea‘!

Chunky British Suffolk yarn for a really warm shawl

Chunky British Suffolk yarn for a really warm shawl

Blankies

Sissie snuggling in her blankie

Sissie snuggling in her blankie

Last year Patty and Perkin loaned us a dvd; the film was called Lars and the Real Girl. Have you seen it? It’s rather odd, but very endearing and a story that, at the end, you really wish was true because you want to believe that there actually are communities that care enough about their members to overlook their odd behaviour. However, this post is not really about the film, it’s just that the main character – Lars, a sad and troubled man – has a beautiful baby shawl that his mother (who died at his birth) knitted for him whilst she was pregnant. He wears the shawl as a scarf, giving him comfort and acting as a security blanket. I found this rather touching (despite it being fictional) and it inspired me when I found out that Patty was expecting a baby.

I don’t really enjoy knitting the sort of lace shawl featured in the film and, anyway, all those fine threads are just asking for little fingers to get tangled in them, so I made a much more serviceable blankie for little Sissie. It’s got a simple knitted pattern to add a bit of interest and I made it with Sirdar’s Simply Recycled yarn, which is more than 50% recycled cotton and easily washable (another important consideration with items for babies). Apparently, Sissie is rarely without her blankie… I’m wondering whether I shouldn’t have made two of them so there was a chance for washing!

A new blankie from left-overs... it will be creams and yellows with a cornflower blue border

A new blankie from left-overs… it will be creams and yellows with a cornflower blue border

Another of my friends is also expecting a baby. This one is due in the autumn, so a warmer blankie seems in order and this time I have decided to exercise my new crocheting skills and make one out of granny squares. The yarn I’m using is left over from someone else’s baby projects and was bought for a few pounds on e-bay… as usual, it feels good to be turning waste into useful items. It also feels good to avoid jumping on the baby gifts bandwagon. So many new-borns are showered with brand new stuff, which is then hardly used. Perkin and Patty specifically asked family and friends to avoid this consumer-madness, so my gift was made specifically with this in mind… even down to the choice of yarn. Avoiding waste is an approach that permeates their lives, from gardening to running their delightful holiday cottage, so it is natural for them to want the same ethics for their family.

A little bit of internet research reveals how much new parents do spend on a baby, even before it’s born. An article on Netmums from last year states:

…new parents are spending 13% more on their new baby than they did three years ago and are forking out an average of £2,538 before their baby is born. One reason is thought to be that they are copying celebrities who are photographed with the latest ‘must-have’ strollers and baby clothes and equipment. In a poll new mums admitted they were inspired by ‘A-list’ lifestyles and many also said any money sense flew out of the window when it came to buying for their baby. The survey found that newborns in Britain have a £600 wardrobe, £180 toy collection and a nursery costing £463 in furnishings and decorations.

EEKK! And that doesn’t cover all those presents that come with the birth of a baby and the spending afterwards. Well, I’ve been assured that Sissie’s blankie was most welcome and that her pre-birth spend was nowhere near that amount. I’m sure the same will be true for the other imminent arrival and since she is going to be a third child, there will be lots of hand-me-downs as well as the blankie from me.

I hope that Sissie, like Lars, will continue to value her blankie into adulthood (although for different reasons) and if it ever wears out, I can always make her a new one… possible recyled/upcycled from something else!

Sissie in her blankie in the garden at High Bank

Sissie in her blankie in the garden at High Bank… perhaps they found her under a gooseberry bush!

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