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Monday, 7 December 2015

Giving

For me, apart from being with family, one of the best parts of the festive period is

I don't in any way mean that in a capitalist sense, it's not about spending money on extravagant gifts. For me there's nothing better than to have carefully thought about something that a person might like for Christmas, and to watch their face as they open or receive it. It's similar to preparing a meal and then watching as the person you have prepared it for enjoys it. Well I guess in both ways you hope they like it! I think if you've thought about it carefully, and started thinking about it early enough it's easier. I listen out for things they mention, or think around their hobbies and likes and dislikes as a starting point. I gather ideas and do lots of list making before starting to buy or to knit.

Giving knitted gifts is fulfilling, however it's even more so when you know the recipient will appreciate the time and effort you have put into the gift you have made and actually use it. This year I'm knitting a few gifts. I've tried to limit myself a bit and to have contingency plans in case I don't finish on time. In previous years I have been very stressed trying to get things finished right up to Christmas eve. That's really not a great place to be! But this year it's going well. I don't want to post too many pictures for fear of them being seen but here's a sneaky peek. Fingers crossed that the good progress continues!



I like to think a gift is something to make someone happy, or happier. Of course, it doesn't have to be an object or have a monetary value, some of the best gifts we have are our time, our love and our forgiveness. I also like to give money to charity at this time of the year; to give something back to people in a less fortunate situation than me. For the last few years following my aneurysm it's been to Headway.

I hope I can spread a bit a joy with the gifts I am making and with those that me and the hubby have selected for friends and family this year. How are you getting on with preparations for your festivities?

Friday, 20 November 2015

FO Friday: Baby Jacket

I've definitely had a bad case of start-itis the last couple of weeks which you may have seen a bit of if you follow me on Instagram (come and find me I'm @knit.purl.relax). It's partly because I know that Christmas is coming up and partly that we have some friends/family with babies due and partly because I just can't stop myself! Don't laugh - I know that you know what I'm talking about! Anyway showing you all my WIPs is definitely the subject of another post but it's Friday and now it's time to post a finished object!

I knew that my hubby's cousin's baby was due in November but the baby has arrived now and I did get this finished in time thankfully (although I did make the 3-6 months size just in case!) I have had this on the needles since July, which is ridiculous really because it's really simple and does not take that long to make. I've just been distracted by other things...



Pattern: DK Jacket Without Hood by King Cole, pattern no 3368 in size 3-6 months

Yarn: Blue Acrylic yarn from Knitting Essentials

Needles: 3.75mm & 4mm straight needles



This is a simple garter stitch pattern. I've made it loads of times and I've also made the other two jackets on the pattern leaflet. The pattern gives instructions for both DK and 4ply and I've tried both and they work well. I love adding the contrast buttons - sometimes I use ducks or teddies but for this one I used shells. I'm really pleased with how it turned out!



Have a happy & crafty weekend!



Sunday, 1 November 2015

Obligation Knitting

I was watching the Bakery Bears podcast (episode 34) the other day with my knitting and a cup of tea and Dan from the podcast mentioned that he had advised Kay not to do any obligation knitting, perhaps with the exception of Christmas knitting. I looked down at my knitting in dismay - I knew exactly what he meant! In our last knit and natter meeting which is run in a church hall, they had been asking people to make things for the Christmas fete. Now don't get me wrong, I love knitting for charity or for a good cause and I have knitted for the Christmas fete previously in patterns/yarn I had selected but this time they had some specific projects that they wanted someone to do. They had a large cardigan that had been donated to them and was half finished and just need the bands doing and several projects in Sirdar Firefly.



Offers of help were not particularly forthcoming and so I offered to help out. I wanted to help but I have to say that the project was probably not one I would have chosen myself. However it was a one ball project, in garter stitch with shaping on every alternate row to give an asymmetric scarf. What could go wrong, right?



Anyway I knew the moment I cast on that offering on this project had perhaps been a bit hasty. Have you used Sirdar Firefly before? Dubbed a "fashion yarn" it's more like a ribbon than a yarn but worse than that, it's like a ladder, with small squares of colour as the rungs of the ladder. In short, not the easiest yarn to knit with as you have to take care you are putting the needle through the stitch and not through the yarn and of course I had picked up a black & silver version making visibility not the easiest!



So watching the Bakery Bears podcast really made me think about obligation knitting, even for Christmas. I think for me it's key that I choose the yarn & that the pattern is something that appeals to me. Something I want to knit. Also for gifts I think it's better as a surprise rather than telling someone that you'll do something specific. That way if it doesn't work out as you planned you can change your mind about the yarn or pattern without it being too much of a problem.

I decided the only way to get through it was to power through. Last week I only worked on that. I did finish the scarf and it only took 6 evenings. I wasn't particularly happy with it. It did look like it was supposed to but I don't think that yarn is for me. I'm sure it has it's place but I won't be using it again myself.



So next time there's a request for help I will try to hold back on jumping in too quickly...that's not to say that I won't help but perhaps I will suggest something I do want to make in a different yarn...

Do you have any obligation knitting stories/yarn choice disasters?

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

WIP Update: baby jacket

Having finished a couple of WIPs (the Whitlam Cowl and the Northmoor Lock shawl) I was quite eager to start something new. However, life often gets in the way, doesn't it? We had booked to go out to Portugal to see the in-laws and time ran away before I could cast anything new on. So I grabbed another WIP, a baby jacket I've had on the needles for a while (since July!) but that I had hardly picked up and I stuffed it quickly in the case.



It's a King Cole pattern and it's garter stitch so it's really straight forward and easy to pick up and put down - perfect for the trip where my mind is only partly on the knitting and partly on speaking in Portuguese! I'm using Knitting Essentials acrylic yarn in the blue shade and its a beautiful colour.


The back was done already, and normally when we are in Portugal I get some knitting done, but not loads - to be fair it's more about seeing family and friends than it is about knitting! However, in the end we did get some time to rest in between our visits and I managed to get the two fronts done and started on the sleeve. The pictures I've taken were at the end of the trip but I did work on it a bit more this weekend and got the first sleeve done. So just the sleeve and the sewing up & ribbing left to do...good job really as it's for my hubby's cousin's baby that due in November! Better get knitting!



I'm still itching to start something new - the yarns that I bought at the Yarn in the City Marketplace are calling me and with so many WIPs finished/nearly finished I can't stop thinking about what's next! I leave you with this beautiful picture I took by the beach in Barra during our trip. Stunning.


Sunday, 4 October 2015

A Crochet FO: Northmoor Lock


I mentioned in my last post that I was blocking another FO, a shawl for my sister. I had offered to make her a Northmoor lock shawl to go with her new dress for a family wedding. It was pretty tight timewise, but I did get it finished.



Pattern: Northmoor Lock by Joanne Scrace
Yarn: Pom Pom from Tricots brancal
Hook: 3.5mm


The pattern was easy. It was marked as "beginner level" and it really was. However, much in the same way that beginners sometimes dislike garter stitch, I found the pattern a little hard going. I had seen a lot of people do the shawl during the CFTC make-along when I made the Spirographical pattern from the same pattern book - The Shawl Project: Book One. I think it was a combination of things. The yarn I chose was an acrylic yarn that I had in my stash. With two small children, my sister is not likely to have the time or inclination to wash and block a shawl each time it's needed and I wanted it to be practical - after all if you spend time making something for someone, you like to think they will use it! However, I don't think that the yarn was necessarily a good match for the pattern and I found it quite splitty & varying in thickness in places which was annoying. I didn't swatch and my tension, having not done that much crochet was quite tight. So after I had done the number of repeats the pattern called for I knew it was not going to be large enough. I thought about ripping it back and starting again, but at that point I was worrying about the time I had left to finish it. So I just kept going until it seemed big enough before I started to decrease. I don't think the drape is as good as it could be, but I think that's a mixture of the yarn I picked and the tension. Perhaps I should have used a larger hook. I'm not sure. Anyway, regardless of the fact that I was unsure, the shawl still looked pretty good when it was finished and it went really well with my sister's dress. It's funny how shawls can be worn in different ways and she looped it around her shoulders and knotted the ends at the front and it really looked great!


Having prioritised finishing this shawl, I'm itching to start a new project. Definitely a knitted one. I keep telling myself that I really should finish the baby jacket I've been working on but some of the new yarns I bought at Yarn in the City Pop-up Market place are calling me...




Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A Secret FO that I can finally post: Whitlam Cowl

I've had one of those months where life just seems to get in the way of blogging (and knitting on some days!) and even when I had a spare moment I've been knitting away furiously on a birthday present for my Mum. Knowing she's a reader, and wanting this to be a secret, I've not posted any WIP updates. However her birthday has now passed and I did get it finished in time.
Remember the yarn that I solar dyed myself


When I dyed it my Mum admired the yarn and told me it was "really her colours." So I thought I would use it for a gift for her. She had also admired the pattern I picked up at Wonderwool on the Baa Ram Ewe stand for the Whitlam Cowl. So here's the details.



Pattern: Whitlam Cowl by Jo Spreckley
Yarn: DROPS Alpaca 4ply solar dyed by me with onion skins
Needles: 3.75mm straight needles

I can't recommend this pattern highly enough. It's brilliant. It's a 2 line repeat, that you can easily remember that makes a lovely lace pattern. I really hadn't done a lot of lace before (other than a lace border) but this was easy. I will definitely be making this one again, I want one for me! I washed and blocked it too and am glad to report that the colour was fixed in the yarn and has not faded.




Actually I finished this a couple of weeks ago but I've been frantically crocheting to meet another deadline as I promised my sister a shawl for a family wedding. I wasn't sure that I would get it done it time, but it's blocking right now! More details in the next post.


Monday, 7 September 2015

Yarny Update

Last Saturday, my Mum and I went up to London to the Yarn in The City Pop-up Market place. It was really a great day out and we got to see a lot of the vendors we have been following on Instagram, have a good  squish of the yarn and to add to our stash (of course!) Having been to a number of yarny festivals and events before I knew I would wander around aimlessly and overwhelmed by the yarny goodness available if I hadn't got a plan in mind so I spent a while prior to the trip trawling my favourites on Ravelry and noting down the types of yarn I would need to complete some of the projects. I promptly left this at home (how useless am I?) but at least having looked I could sort of remember what I was looking for.  I had also scoped out the vendors online and had a wish list of items to look out for.





It was great and we particularly loved Eden Cottage Yarns. Mum got 2 skeins and I got this charcoal Aran weight yarn, perfect for a hat or cowl project for the winter. We've also been looking online at her shop. So beautiful. Cannot wait to try them out.



I also have in mind to make the Industry shawl from Truly Myrtle. I've already downloaded the pattern and so when I saw this beauty from Travelknitter, I knew I had to get it. It's  going to be beautiful and should have good drape with this stunning yarn that's 50% Merino & 50% Silk.


Finally I got the 2 below from the Wool Kitchen, Beautiful yarns. Not sure what I will make with these. Again, perhaps they will be good for hats/cowls for winter... they are both DK so will need to do a bit of searching again on Ravelry. They were too good a bargain to pass up as I picked these ones from the sale basket.


In other yarny news, I have just completed my first swap! Louise from Knit British podcast was doing a hot drink & recipe swap and I decided to go for it! I got matched with Imogen from What Stitch Where and had so much fun putting together her parcel, with hot drinks, recipe, postcard, mini skeins, stitch markers etc. I even made a little notions/small project pouch from aran yarn, to put all her teas and goodies into. I didn't have a pattern  - I just improvised but it was great and quick - I would definitely make one again!



Today I received my parcel from Imogen and it was amazing. Thanks Imogen! 

I love it all but especially the project bag - it's just gorgeous. 

Finally, in terms of news, remember the Settler Shawl I made for the Truly Myrtle KAL? I won a prize! I won some dark purple Vanitas DK from Outlaw Yarns and a small tote.  The colour way is called Ephemera. It arrived after I paid the VAT to Royal Mail (can you believe they charge an £8 handling fee??) but it's just stunning. I'm going to make a Koru hat with this one and then if I have yarn left (which I should) I will try to make a cowl to match, Well that's the idea anyway, but I am permanently with a million ideas on the brain - I just need to set to and knit. With all this yarny goodness, I'm just trying to be restrained and finish a couple of WIPs...not sure how long I'll hold out, but we'll see!






Sunday, 23 August 2015

FO: Borderline Blanket





Yarn: Various Acrylic DK yarn from my stash
Needles: 4.5mm circular needles


I really enjoyed knitting this design, the pattern was clear and easy to follow. I adapted it because the pattern called for worsted weight yarn but I had loads of DK in my stash so I adapted the needle size. It's beautiful, it's large and I think my friend will love it. I love that it knitted up all in one piece and there was no sewing together and I did what was suggested and sewed in the ends as I went so I didn't even have to do that at the end. One day, when we start a family, I will definitely treat myself so some yummy baby friendly yarn, such as Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, and knit this again. I'm so pleased with it. This also counts towards the Actually Knitting PALKAL, but I am so happy with it, it wouldn't matter if I won anything or not! 




Sunday, 16 August 2015

A trip to Willowmead Alpacas

I've gone slightly longer than normal in posting my next blog post because I've been away this week on holiday. We usually try to avoid August but this year that was one of the only times our holidays could match up. We decided to go for a stay-cation and booked to go caravaning in Suffolk. We had a fantastic time enjoying the quiet, the proximity to the sea and the rest. Moving away from London and in a more rural location meant that mobile signal and internet access were sporadic to non-existent. In actual fact this meant that the resting part came easily, and it was quite nice to "fall off the map" for a while. It did make me think about how much I check my phone and the internet while I'm at home. Not sure how much it will change it, but it did make me think about it!


I have family in Suffolk to so it was great to meet up with them and catch up. We ate fish & chips on the beach, went for walks, visited Jimmy's Farm, and lastly on Friday, we visited Willowmead Alpacas. I really enjoyed the whole trip, but going to Willowmead Alpacas was something of highlight for me! Many thanks to my Auntie, who having visited it with her knitting group recommended making a visit there.

Situated in Otley Bottom it was a small alpaca farm with a craft room/tea room/shop. They are only open on Fridays and Sundays, and really only do tours to see the alpacas on Sundays. I only found this out when we arrived, but after asking nicely to the lovely lady in the shop, she did let us walk up to the field by ourselves to marvel at the alpacas and there were babies! So cute. I took quite a few photos!


Then we returned to the craft room/tea room/shop and had tea and freshly made cakes (the wholemeal fruit scones were amazing!) and the lady gave me some information about the alpacas. It had lots of frequently asked questions, but my favourite was that the female alpacas spit at the male alpacas when they are already pregnant to resist their advances :-)



Then, of course, I couldn't help but to look around the shop which had a large choice of yarns, ready made knitted garments and notions among other things. I had already gone prepared to see if they sold the yarn from their own alpacas and I was delighted that they did! I just bought 2 hanks. The first is a beautiful caramel colour and on the label it says that the yarn came from the alpacas Sahara & Caramel! This really makes me smile - it's so great not only to find local(ish) produced yarn but to be able to say the alpacas it came from really appeals to me as a knitter. I also picked a chocolate brown baby alpaca 4 ply - again from the alpacas at Willowmead, although it doesn't say their names on that one, So exiting - can't wait to make something - they are both incredibly soft!



Anyway that's all for today - progress on my WIPs has been slow because of the holiday - I did do some but not loads. I'll post about it soon.

Hope you are having a great summer!

Gx

 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

WIP Wednesday: Knitting, Crochet & a Book

My Borderline blanket for the Actually Knitting PALKAL is growing. I've reached the middle where the rows are the longest and I have started to decrease. It's beautiful. I love it. Progress has been slower through the middle but now the decreasing has begun, it's starting to get moving again and it's all downhill from here!



I'm hoping I'll have enough of all the yarn colours to reach the end. Slightly worried, but I think I should be OK. I hope.


In the usual way though, I have failed in remaining monogamous to this project and have started hooking another crochet shawl. We have a family wedding at the start of October and my sister bought a new dress. It looks lovely and I thought a shawl would really set it off and I offered to make her one. I picked Northmoor Lock by Joanne Scrace - I already had the pattern from the ebook I purchased when I did the CFTC Make Along and I've been meaning to try it, especially when other people who took part in the make along seemed to speed through it and suggested it was a simple make. It is straight forward and I did the below on Sunday alone.


I think my gauge might be a bit tight (no, I didn't do a gauge swatch - I know, naughty me!) but the pattern does say that gauge is not that important and you can just keep going until the shawl is the depth that you want it. So that's what I am planning to do. I'm using the yarn Pom Pom from Tricots Brancal which I got in Portugal and which has been in my stash for ages. It's 4ply acrylic which my sister will appreciate for it's easy care attributes. I wasn't too sure when I started the pattern, but now I am into it, I'm pleased with how it's going.

I also thought I would tell you about the book I'm reading. I'm reading Mad Man Knitting or Slip, Slip, Knit by Gregory Patrick. I already finished the first book The Waiter & the Fly, where the author, Gregory tells of how his life fell to pieces and ended up out of a job, single and homeless and he used knitting to get himself through it, In the book I'm reading now it's a series of posts taken from his blog following his progress as he knit himself out of homelessness, by knitting teddy bears and selling them on etsy. It's a true story and a good read. I'm definitely going to be following his blog going forward! The bears are so cute too!

sskcover

Anyway, that's all from me. I'm going to knit furiously on my blanket in the hope that I might have an FO to show you soon!

Happy Knitting & Crocheting!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

New Project on the Needles: Borderline Blanket

I've been meaning to blog about my new project all this week but it's been a crazy week and I just haven't gotten around to it. Do you ever get that? It's been so busy at work that this week that I've really needed my knitting time at the end of the day! So much so that blogging was side lined. So I've actually done quite a bit. I had originally thought I might start another shawl but having done a shawl for the last 2 projects, I decided  I wanted a bit of a change. I had already downloaded Borderline by Angela Alves of Delusional Knitter Designs and the Revelations of a Delusional Knitter podcast and it was in my queue.  Also as I have mentioned before, I have a few friends/family who are having babies this year and I thought this would be ideal as it would fit in not only with this but also with the Actually Knitting PALKAL which is running until September.


I had previously picked out some colours and really soon after casting off the Settler Shawl I cast this on. It's knitted from corner to corner with diagonal stripes so it was also a good excuse to use up some of my (ever growing) stash. In fact the pattern calls for worsted weight yarn but I have adjusted the needle size as I have a large amount of DK that I could use. I've also picked colours that could work for either a girl or boy so that I can decide later who to gift it to.


To start with it grows really quickly. I'm heading towards the middle and progress is slowing down but the fact that it's stripes means  I'm constantly thinking that I'll just knit to the next stripe, so I'm already nearly at the middle.


It's a really straight forward pattern and colour repeat to follow although I'm trying out the After This Row tool that I won on a giveaway on Angela's podcast (even though the one I chose was the one for Scarves, Shawls & Shawlettes). Simply, it's a tool to help you keep track of where you are up to in a pattern, with space in the actual tool for you to keep all the details of the pattern. I've been keeping track of the colour repeat and when I need to start decreasing. It's a great tool and it would be perfect if you were doing something more complex, such as a shawl with a pattern repeat, or with increasing/decreasing every so many rows. The book also has other handy pages, such as a page for notes, shopping lists and tags for you to attach the ball band and a sample of the yarn to so that you can refer back to them after you have finished a project.


I'm already really happy with how the blanket is knitting up and I can already tell you that I will definitely make this again! I'd like to see how it would work with self striping yarn too, although I am trying to weave in the ends as I go on this one. I also think it would look great in shades of the same colour, like all different shades of blue for a boy for example, and also I bet it would look great in rainbow colours.

How about you, what are you working on?






  


Thursday, 16 July 2015

FO: Settler Shawl


Finally, I'm finished! So here are the details.

Pattern: Settler Shawl by Libby Jonson from Truly Myrtle
Yarn: Coastal Colours from Lancashire in the UK. 70% Alpaca, 20% Silk & 10% Cashmere
Needles: 4mm circular needles



This is a stunning pattern. It's a crescent shaped shawl that's knit from the centre out. The main part of the shawl is garter stitch and it has a beautiful but simple border pattern. It's taken just a month to complete and it counts for the Actually Knitting PALKAL supporting podcasters and also the Truly Myrtle KAL. I swatched and blocked which are new-ish things for me but the blocking particularly was really worth it - it really shows off the pattern. The yarn is stunning. I had never used a yarn with silk in before and it slides differently on the needles and between your fingers to other yarns. I got used to it but it was a bit strange to begin with.  I'm so pleased with it. I'd recommend the pattern and may even do another one in the future!



Saturday, 11 July 2015

Almost there - Knitting WIP Update & musings on acrylic yarn

The title says it all. I am almost there with the Settler Shawl that I have been knitting for the Actually Knitting PALKAL and the Truly Myrtle KAL. The border has progressed more quickly than I thought and I only have 1 row and the cast off left! Admittedly it's what I have mainly been working on this week and since I have been a fair way into the border it's been really hard to put down. With what's left I think I will finish it this weekend which really makes me smile. Then I will just need to wash and block before I can wear it. Plus I'll feel justified  in casting on something new. Not that I haven't already, but you know what I mean!


I'll also be able to post in the FO threads of the 2 KALs and join the other beauties that are already posted there.

Actually I have already cast on something new. I go to a knit and natter group on a Saturday morning every other week and I haven't really wanted to take the shawl with me, mainly because I don't want to get the beautiful yarn dirty and also I don't want to mess it up while I'm nattering, So I started on the King Cole baby jacket for my husband's cousin's baby. They already know it's a boy and I have started knitting with a beautiful blue acrylic yarn. It's actually from the local Poundland store where the yarn is always on offer for £1 a 50g ball or 3 balls for £2. Poundland do a whole range of colours and I've used it a few times. This one has got quite a dry handle but it still knits up nicely and is not at all splitty.




I want to talk a bit about the yarn choice here. Since I have started blogging I have noticed online that quite often acrylic yarns are portrayed in a negative light. It's also really since I've been blogging that I have explored other types of yarns. I've never been very good with wool and wool garments that you buy in the shops often leave me itchy and uncomfortable. Consequently acrylic yarns have made up a large part of my stash until recently. They also tend to be more reasonably priced and machine washable, reasons which have sometimes been a draw for me. Having now explored the likes of alpaca, superwashed merino and other blends, I am more aware of the other options open to me but that does not mean that I no longer wish to knit in acrylic. And I should not feel guilty about that. Knitting is about the actual process of crafting and the enjoyment it brings as well as the finished object. While it's nice to use a beautiful natural yarn, the process is still the same with acrylic. I'm still getting the same enjoyment from it and there are some really beautiful acrylic yarns and blends available on the market.

This has been mentioned in a couple of podcasts I have been listening to recently. Gemma from the Knitting in Wonderland Podcast mentioned it in her latest episode and she has made the most beautiful Campside shawl in Stylecraft Life in a dark green colour. Stunning. I'm tempted to make one of those myself (adding to my never ending list of intentions!) It was also mentioned during the Yarn in the city Episode 14: Knitting is not a competition, where they interviewed Karina Westermann. Westermann has written a couple of blog posts recently (links in the YITC show notes) questioning how social media is having an effect on our crafting.

Knitting not being a competition is also an idea I've touched on before when I did the MAL with Crafts from the Cwtch. Although the knit alongs I've taken part in so far are inspirational and motivational, I do have remind myself when I see the FO's rapidly filling the Ravelry threads that there are lots of people out there who do not work full-time, who live nearer to their work, or who knit as part pf their job who consequently have more time to knit then me. That's OK, it doesn't matter. What matters is that I enjoy it and I am really enjoying taking part!

Anyway, I'm off now - my shawl is calling! I'll hopefully post my finished shawl really soon. Happy Knitting!