Three Things Thursday: 9 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, things arriving in the post. I love to receive letters and cards and parcels, especially when they have been sent by friends. The post this week has yielded two of these things – a card from Cathy and a parcel from Ann. Both made me smile a lot.

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lovely arrivals

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I think I can spare some!

Second, sending things in the post. Although I don’t ‘do’ Christmas, I decided this year to participate in Sewchet’s Crafty Secret Santa event… Stitching Santa. Basically, you are allocated a person to send a little gift parcel to and you receive one from someone else; there’s a budget but you can add extra bits and bobs that you have from your stash. I’m taking part in the knitting/crochet version, but there’s a sewing version too. I’m having fun reading my recipient’s blog and trying to decide what to include in her parcel. I really think I must send some Cambrian Mountains wool and some vintage buttons and some of my spare stitch markers, plus I’d like to make something… I have so many ideas! The suggestion is that everyone opens their parcel on Christmas day, but I may keep mine until my birthday a week later since I rarely receive presents because everyone is so busy with Christmas/New Year that they either forget or just don’t bother. I’m sure my gifter won’t mind a little delay in getting thanks. Oh and I have a parcel to pack up and send to the Beasties too.

Third, 100 swims. Yes, that’s right; so far in 2017 I have been swimming 100 times. That must be a cause for celebration, and must mean that I’m getting fitter.

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.

About that ‘yarn diet’

As you may have gathered, I am on a ‘yarn diet’. This means that over the next few months (at least until the end of the year) I am not going to buy any more yarn. This may sound like imposing unnecessary suffering on myself, but the intention is to encourage me to enjoy the beautiful yarn I already have rather than leaving it languishing in various drawers and cupboards, unappreciated. Many crafters have the habit of accumulating lots of materials (whatever their preference). I do this and, whilst it’s fun to have stuff available to use when inspired, it feels very wasteful to have loads of untouched yarn, plus it does take up a lot of space.

In general I buy yarn for particular projects, but sometimes I never get round to starting them, and by the time I am ready, I have had a change of heart (or even shape!) and so I need to find an alternative. I’m also a bit over-enthusiastic about sock yarn and have ended up with rather a lot of the stuff… more than I need for sock making. As I don’t want to build up an enormous collection of shawls, I have been wondering what else I might do with the sock yarn and inspiration arrived on Saturday. One of the organisers of the 60MT get-together was wearing a beautiful short-sleeved, asymmetrical top, clearly knitted in 4-ply. I asked her about the pattern and now I’ve bought a copy and will use some of my yarn to make Sugar Maple.

Despite the diet, some new yarn has come my way, but I did not buy it. At the event on Saturday, we had a ‘secret Santa’… everyone brought a ball of yarn wrapped up and they all went in a big box, before each person selected a different package to take away. So, I gave a ball of mottled sock yarn (which I entirely failed to photograph), but came home with two balls (yes, there were two balls in the parcel I picked) of Rowan Lima, an interesting aran yarn that looks like it has been crocheted into a chain already:

The two balls add up to the same weight as the donated ball (and, in fact, contain similar colours), so I have made no net gain, and, indeed, a loss, if I consider length of yarn rather than weight. I really am beginning to think like someone on a diet! Not sure what I’m going to use this yarn for – it’s very soft, so maybe a cowl.

As well as working on various existing projects, I’m also trying to restock my etsy shop a bit, as I’ve sold quite a few of the bird roosts. The train journeys over the weekend were split between sock-knitting and bird roost crochet, and I’ve now got several roosts ready to felt:

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three done, one in progress

So, the stash is slowly being used and I’m not feeling deprived because I can’t shop for yarn… it’s a good result so far.

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?

Stash not scraps

It’s the fifteenth of the month, which would usually mean a ScrapHappy post, but not this month. You’ve already seen my latest scrap creation, in the form of this blanket:

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a big blanket of scraps

For the next few months, my plan is not to use scraps (although it might happen on the side), but to work my way through my slightly out of control wool stash and complete some WIPs*. Whilst I have been busy using up scrap wool for charity blankets, I have worked on relatively few other knitting or crochet projects, but I have continued to add to my yarn stash.  I’ve decided that the time has come to address this imbalance and to make use of some of the lovely wool currently squirrelled away in draws and cupboards.

So, my first (small) stash-busting project is a pair of socks (which will also contribute to one of my 17 for 2017 targets). This wool came in my 2016 sock yarn club subscription from The Knitting Goddess. The theme was The Discworld and the colour combination is called Distressed Pudding**. Personally, it makes me think of Neapolitan ice cream.

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scrummy yarn

There were six stripy colour combinations that came in the 2016 subscription and this is the third that I have used. I subscribed to another club this year with more subtle colourways, but since I have not knitted up any of those yet, there will be no 2018 subscription… I really have to reduce the amount of wool, not increase it.

As someone who bangs on a lot about excessive consumerism, I’m feeling a bit guilty about having this lot, especially since this is by no means all my stash. It’s time to enjoy using rather than accumulating I think.

-oOo-

* WIP = Work In Progress

** If you are not a Terry Pratchett fan, just accept this and don’t worry about what it all means.

The frog princess

Sometimes you know when something is wrong.

Over the winter I crocheted most of a sweater. All the main pieces were done, it just needed the neck working up and sewing together. But I didn’t do it. It sat in my work basket for months whilst I made up excuses for not finishing it.

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nice wool, shame about the pattern

Finally, over the weekend, I got it out of the basket and looked at it. And admitted that I really didn’t like the shape – too long and skinny. In fact the pattern was for a man’s sweater and I should have taken this into account and adjusted it, but I didn’t, I followed the pattern. I should also have stopped working on it when I realised my tension was wrong and it was not as wide as it should have been for the number of stitches. For some reason, I pretended this wouldn’t matter as I worked and considered adding side panels… despite the fact that this would change the way the arms would have to be attached.. and their length… and their shape. And even knowing this, I followed the pattern for the arms too, so they weren’t going to work if I made the body wider. Is it any wonder that I couldn’t bring myself to finish it off?

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back to balls

On Saturday, however, I bit the bullet. I love the yarn and hate the way the pattern turned out. The only thing to do in such circumstances is to frog (unravel it for those of you who don’t do yarny stuff… because you “rip-it, rip-it”). So, with much sneezing (it had got dusty from all that sitting around), I converted it back into balls. I have plenty of yarn, so now I’m going to have fun choosing another pattern to work it up into… probably a cardigan or jacket. I have to admit that this is one of the reasons I like knitting and crochet better than sewing – the work can be completely dismantled and the raw material used again in its entirety if you don’t like the finished item or if it doesn’t fit.

 

-oOo-

This is another in my series of ‘honest’ posts, about things that don’t work or aren’t perfect. You can read my first one (about gardening) here. This is the anti-Instagram!

 

 

 

Primordial felting

Last week was a good week for felting. Two days after my fleecy adventure, I went to spend a day felting with Ruth Packham – a wonderful felt artist who lives locally. I had done a two-day course with Ruth last summer and I wanted to spend some time with her practising some of the techniques I learned then. Over the years I’ve been on various felt-making courses, but I decided that the time had come for some one-to-one tuition.

As it turned out, I chose the perfect day. I started raining overnight and didn’t stop all day. Sitting under the Velux windows in Ruth’s studio, listening to the rain hammer down, I was very happy that I was spending the day indoors, playing with wool. Ruth’s studio is full of amazing creations and loads of inspiration:

After some debate about what I would make, I decided to have a go at a sculptural piece, mainly based on wet felting, but starting with some needle-felted balls that would be felted onto stalks and then the stalks would be felted onto an undulating base. This was the piece made by Ruth from which I drew my inspiration:

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one of Ruth’s creations

 

First, I chose my colours… which Ruth described as ‘sludge’! Because I’m interested in natural forms, I wanted some colours that might be found in natural habitats, so I went for a couple of greens and a reddish-black. I got so carried away with the first part of the process – needle-felting little balls, making cords, attaching the cords to the balls and making the ‘resist’ that would define the basic shape of the base, that I forgot to take any photographs, but I did capture most of the rest of my work:

And after some more work to get the little antennae to stand up straight/ point in the direction I wanted them to and the base to sit nicely and the edges to smooth out, I ended up with this:

I’m thinking of it as life emerging from the primordial soup… I may add some more evolved critters to it.

Whilst I was working on my creation (I was with Ruth from 10am to 7pm, although we did have coffee and stop for lunch), she made these cute little ‘creatures’:

I have made so many useful things recently, that it was rather lovely to spend a day making ‘art’. Ruth is a brilliant teacher and I highly recommend her courses… she will teach you how to make rather more traditional things if you like (!) and she sells needle-felting kits too in her etsy shop. She also sells her creations

 

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Ruth’s creatures

I have made so many useful things recently, that it was rather lovely to spend a day making ‘art’. Ruth is a brilliant teacher and I highly recommend her courses… she will teach you how to make rather more traditional things if you like (!) and she sells needle-felting kits too in her etsy shop, along with some of her lovely creations.

Have you been doing anything arty this week? Share your more frivolous or quirky creations!

 

Fleeced

I have an increasing number of friends who keep sheep and, therefore, they have lots of fleeces around at this time of year. This means that, because of my interest in things woolly, I get plenty of offers of fleece. In general, I turn them down because my real loves are knitting and crochet (and a bit of felt-making on the side) and I really don’t want to have to go through all the rigmarole to get to yarn (or wool tops for the felt). However, when one of my Twitter friends said that she wanted to have a go at making felted fleece rugs from her collection of fleeces, I asked if I could join in (just in case I loved the activity and would have found a reason to accept all those fleecy offers).

So, last Sunday, another friend and I trundled down to Carmarthenshire, and rolled up our sleeves, to get felting.

The idea is to use a whole fleece and felt the underside of it (using wool from a different sheep) whilst keeping the top unfelted. You do this (according to the instructions we were following) by working on a mesh, so that what will be the top of the final rug hangs down through the gaps and doesn’t get involved in the felting process.

You start my making lots of fluff from a tatty fleece, pulling it gently apart and separating the fibres, then you spread these out over the underside of the fleece. First in one direction, then in the other. After that, it’s simply a case of using soap and water to work the wool into felt. I say ‘simply’, but it’s actually really hard work to persuade raw (although washed) wool, in large quantities, to become felt. We made some progress with three of us working together, but we didn’t complete the rug.

It was an interesting experiment and, despite not ending up with a finished rug, we learned a lot:

  • It turned out that the gaps in the mesh of the fence panel we were working on were a bit too big – not providing enough support to felt successfully without moving the fleece around periodically.
  • The panel was a bit too bouncy as well, so a bit more support would have been helpful.
  • Our instructions suggested using washing-up liquid as the soap, but it’s harsh on the hands after a whole day and I would use olive oil soap in future, as I do for other felting.
  • There was no mention of covering the work with net (as I usually do when felting) to stop the fibres lifting up. It’s absence made the work much more difficult and I would employ a net cover next time.
  • The process could have been speeded up by using a rolled bamboo mat as a sort of rolling pin to give extra friction a bit later in the process.
  • A whole fleece was a rather ambitious first project – it would have been better to make some mats to begin with.

Nevertheless, we had a lovely sociable day, a fabulous lunch which we all contributed to, and an audience with a special interest in the project:

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Ken and Dave

I’m sure there’s going to be a next time! I might even remember to photograph the finished item second time round.

A bit more scrappy

Following on from yesterday’s post, I’m happy to report that the parcel of unloved yarn arrived today.

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a mixed bag of fine yarn

Some of it is very fine, and clearly intended for weaving, but that is no obstacle. I immediately set aside the sock I was knitting for Mr Snail (it’s summer, he doesn’t need new sock right now, right?)

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temporarily abandoned sock

and wound some of the yarn into multi-coloured cakes of two or three strands:

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cake, anyone?

But I couldn’t leave it there, and had to test it out by making a square for the scrappy blanket:

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behold, a square!

I think I’m going to be able to create a fine big blanket now and still maintain the basic colour scheme:

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looks like it belongs, doesn’t it?

Three Things Thursday: 15 June 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – 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 the happy*

Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes. Anyway, here are my three things this week…

First, a big cone of wool. Cambrian Mountains, 2.5kg.

I don’t think this does justice to its size!

Second, some little balls of wool. Various colours, all British. 50g each.

lovely colours… I chose them specially

Third, a new project. It’s called Sophie’s Universe and it’s  going to be beautiful, and it’s going to be mine!

All that I need to get started

So, those are three things making me smile this week. What is making you happy?

Painting with yarn

You may recall that I am taking part in a collaborative art project known as The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook (it has its own blog here). The book arrived with me here in Wales back in March, but I have only just got round to completing my contribution… or actually, as it turned out, contributions.

I knew that I wanted to use mandalas and circles as my theme and I also knew that there was no way that I would be able to draw or sketch anything worthy of inclusion. So, I dug out the finest wool that I had and a 2.25mm crochet hook and set to work painting with yarn. I was rather pleased with my first creation:

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mandala #1

But when I checked, I’d made it too big, so that was rejected. On reflection, I decided that smaller circles might be better, plus that would allow me to incorporate some words. I mounted my crochet by stitching it onto stiff paper, then added some words. And this is what I ended up with…

Encircling the earth: the skill of our hands, the love in our hearts. Brought together by our creativity and kindness, although we are separated by hundreds of miles… …our shared passions bind us together. One sisterhood, representing one world, united in love.

However, being me, I wasn’t able to leave it there. You see, the very fine wool was not British, and I really wanted to contribute something made of local wool. So, using Cambrian Wool, bought from Red Apple Yarn, I made the sketchbook a pouch to protect it on the rest of its journey…

I even made a little pocket inside, so I could include a postcard giving information about the wool:

Now, all that remains is to pack it up and bid the sketchbook a fond farewell as it goes on its way to Yorkshire and The Crafty Creek… its last stop before it returns to Australia.

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