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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Exploration into Finger knitting

My in-laws live in Portugal and we visit them several times a year. I know that some airlines have started to let you take needles on the plane but I am petrified of getting to the airport and then having them confiscated mid-project. So I always check in my knitting and then read or play scrabble with my hubby on the plane, often wishing that I could be using the 2 hours on a project!

Knitting without needles is trending. Sarah from Crafts from the Cwtch identified it as a trend for the Deramores blog competition this year and she's right. Everywhere you look online & in magazines people are talking about finger knitting & arm knitting. While thinking about this, it suddenly struck me - finger knitting could be the perfect solution for an aeroplane project! Time to give it a go...

Having never done it before, I decided  the best place to start was by swatching to see what the result was and the effect of different yarns, So I checked out several tutorials online, including Sarah's blog and picked several yarns from my stash in various different thicknesses and made a swatch of each.

From left to right - 4ply, DK, Aran, Chunky & Super Chunky
I learnt several things from trying finger knitting in this way. Primarily, I learnt how it worked. It works in a similar way to the Knitting Nancy toys we had when we were children, or in a similar way to loom bands which I learnt about last year from my niece. It makes a thin strip which curls into a kind of 'sausage'.  I also learnt that because you can't vary the thickness of your finger's in the same way you can with needles, that really the best effect seemed to come from the thicker yarns - the chunky & the super chunky. But then I wondered what would happen if you held 2 different thinner yarns together, I tried this with 2 strands of aran and the results were quite pleasing to the eye!



It's very speedy too, so great for quick project and it's easy to put down - you just slip the stitches onto a stick or pen.


I thought about the types of projects that you could make. I've seen it used for hair bands, plaited together, for belts, a skinny scarf or even sewn together to make table mats or a blanket. I settled on a corsage and a cushion:




I'm very pleased with the results - now my mind is whirling with more project ideas. I'll definitely use it on a plane and probably at home too!

This post is my submission to the Deramores Craft Blog Competition 2015. Deramores is the UK’s number one online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies. Visit www.deramores.com for more details.

This post is my submission to the Deramores Craft Blog Competition 2015. Deramores is the UK’s number one online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies. Visit www.deramores.com for more details.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Gratitude

This week is the last week of A Playful Day's Love your blog challenge. The final prompt from Kate is Gratitude.

There are many things I am grateful for in life, the main thing being the fact that I am alive! When you have had a close brush with death as I did 3 years ago (brain aneurysm and haemorrhage), it does change your whole outlook on life. It makes you appreciate the little things and makes you see beauty in things you may not have noticed before.

Trees in bloom by the gym
It makes you stop and be thankful for what and who you have in your life. You never know what will happen tomorrow and how your life will change, On this note, I would like to say how thankful I am for my family, my friends & my husband, Without them, I would not have had the strength to get this far both in terms of my health & in crafting. When I was thinking of beginning this blog, my hubby really encouraged me and he even drove me 4 hours each way this weekend to visit Wonderwool (you can read more here). I truly have an amazing support system.

I think that's why I really enjoy doing charity knits. In some way, in doing this I feel that I am trying to give something back. Does that make sense?

I'm really thankful I have knitting & craft in my life, It helps when I'm having a bad day, it helps me relax and it gives me great enjoyment. It's also something that brings me together with my Mum and with my Mother-in-law. Many an evening I have spent with each of them, just knitting. My Mum & I often chatter about knitting/projects/ideas etc - perhaps even daily! I know she's been spreading the word about my blog with friends and family, so thanks Mum! My Mother-in-law is Portuguese and although I do speak Portuguese, knitting/crochet acts a kind of bond that transcends language and brings us closer together, We often just text each other pictures of finished projects or WIPs. The scarf in my profile picture was knitted with yarn bought on a trip to a local yarn store in Portugal with her.

Hitchhiker Scarf (Martina Behm)
In terms of this last month I would like to say a huge Thank You! to Kate at A Playful Day. It was her challenge that has inspired me to start blogging and I feel I have met some really lovely people in the process, learned more about Ravelry using it more to meet people and really learned to enjoy the process of sharing my creativity. Also thanks to Sarah from Crafts from the Cwtch, as I found the challenge through her blog, so she has set me off in this creative journey too.

A Playful Day

Finally I would like to thank all of you! Thank you for reading, and thank you to everybody who has been kind enough to leave a comment. It's very encouraging and I am inspired to continue, to try new projects to blog about and to continue reaching out. I have enjoyed reading your posts too (I'm been trying to read them all every week) and I have book marked quite a few to read more regularly. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have. :-)




Sunday, 26 April 2015

Wonderwool

So, we just got back today from a good trip away for the weekend to Wales. We stayed in Llandrindod Wells, about 15 minutes away from the Royal Welsh Showground where the Wonderwool Wales is held and about 4 hours away from home, I translated that as 4 hours knitting time as my hubby was driving, which he found somewhat amusing. I did manage to finish the preemie hat that I cast on last week and which goes with the blanket I posted here.



The event itself was on both Saturday & Sunday and with the amount of stalls there I think you could easily spend all weekend (& a lot of money!) working your way around. We had day tickets and we went on Saturday. I think the hubby was quite surprised as we drew up to the showground and there was a queue of cars to get in! First thing I did was bought one of these beauties:


Here's some of my loot - all were yarn's I would not usually buy for myself so I felt really treated! ;-)



I also got some patterns for a ladies cardigan, a men's jumper and a cowl.  What was really great was that the stall holders often had samples of the patterns made up and were encouraging you to try before buying the pattern, It made me think how trusting we are as knitters - we buy a pattern and make the size we think should fit in a design we like but it not like going into a shop - you invest a lot of time & effort into knitting it and it can be disappointing at the end if the cardigan either does not fit or doesn't look how you imagined. So having samples to try was really a great idea.

One of the things I really had in mind to get before I went was from the company Spin City. I had seen that Louise was going to have a stand and I was interested to talk to her about the solar dying kits she sells. I have wanted to try dying for a while and this sounded like the perfect introduction. It was great because on the stand she had a pick and mix style offer, where you could choose  the natural ingredients for your kit as well as the wool or yarn. I have tried spinning on a spindle, not hugely successfully and so I went with the yarn. I can't wait to give it a go and I will post updates as it develops.



There were also some other interesting things to see, some companies had bought their sheep/alpacas and there was a Alison Murray's gingerbread house made entirely of knitting and Lisa Hellier's giant cardigan. Here are some pictures.







Overall a great day. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone thinking of going next year!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

How to Avoid Project Ugliness

It's the third week of the Love your Blog challenge from A Playful Day and I'm really enjoying it. It's introduced me to some interesting blogs and I've met some really lovely people! Thanks to everyone who has been reading, whether you've left comments or not.

So this week's topic for blog discussion is Ugly, and for the first time since starting this blog I've really had to think about what to write. This is a tough one.

The meaning of ugly is, according to the Cambridge dictionary, "unpleasant to look at; not attractive" and it is the antonym of beautiful. I think as knitters/crocheters we are always striving to make something beautiful. However, we should also consider that "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and therefore ugliness must also be subjective. I looked through the forum thread "Your ugliest FOs" on Ravelry where people have shared their ugliest makes and most of them really aren't that bad! Perhaps we just deem something to be ugly when it is not to our own taste.

Nobody wants to make something ugly. Inevitably though as you learn, there are always disasters. This can be in terms of messing up the pattern, poor colour choice/combination or poor yarn choice. I have to say that I don't really have any FOs that I would  describe as ugly. If I start making something and I am unhappy with the pattern/yarn/colour, I tend to rip it back or frog it. I remember one shrug pattern that came on the ball band that was a disaster for me, not that long after I started knitting. I didn't have much experience and it was a pattern where you had to knit so many rows and then drop stitches to make a ladder effect down to the cast on edge. Only the cast on that I did was the cable cast on it and it kept coming apart at the cast on edge when I dropped the stitches. I asked for help on a forum and discovered the problem was with the type of cast on that I was doing. I changed it and started again, but even with a different cast on, I still felt it was ugly and that I was not going to be happy with the effect of the finished object. So I ripped it back & frogged the project. Perhaps one day I will find a different use for the yarn as it is pretty but until then it remains in my stash. Have you got any ugly project tales?


I would also say that another point of my knitting that I find ugly are the seams when I sew it up. For me the best part of a knitting project is the actual knitting. When I get to the end I'm eager to finish it, not just to have the finished object but also to start something new (although I don't always wait until the end ;-)) so invariably I rush the sewing up because I hate that bit! If you are not careful it leaves ugly seams. Having spent so much time knitting, you don't want to ruin all your hard work with ugly seams!

So I was thinking, what can we do to avoid ugly projects? I've thought about this a lot during this week and I think the answer is to do a bit more planning before diving into a project and, although I dread to say it as I rarely do it, perhaps this is why swatching is so important, particularly if you are putting together your own colour combination, pattern or using a yarn for the first time. Claire at Yarn & Pointy Sticks wrote an interesting post last week about listening to the yarn last week and I think that's what I need to do more...and spend more time sewing up!

Have you got any tips for avoiding project ugliness?


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

New yarn, new project, new trip...

So Sarah from Crafts from the Cwtch announced last week that she is doing a Make-along starting from May 1st. You can read more details here. The idea is to make a shawl or other type of neckwear using a skill which is new to you or a challenge. I've wanted to improve my crochet skills for a while and this seems like the perfect opportunity! There's a forum for it over on Ravelry for sharing ideas on patterns and yarn choice and Sarah is also providing details of discounts that will be available to participants both on the forum and on her blog.

One of the patterns with a discount is the e-book The Shawl Project from Joanne Scrace (aka Not So Granny). Sarah talks about in on her blog here. I took her up on the discount and bought the e-book and I've already picked out the pattern that I'm going to go with. Its called Spirographical and it's beautiful.

I had originally thought that I would go with the yarn used in the pattern, which is from Eden cottage yarns but after looking into it in more detail, it's 75% wool and 25% nylon and I'm never very good with sheep's wool - it makes me itch if it's in the yarn in a high percentage, So I did a bit of research and ended up choosing this 100% Alpaca yarn from DROPS. It's a beautiful colour and it feels really soft.



So that's the new yarn and the new project. The new trip is really exciting. Last week I was idly surfing on Ravelry, reading about Wonderwool and as a bit of a joke (because I didn't think he'd be too bothered) I asked the hubby if he wanted to take me to Wales for the weekend to go to Wonderwool. He said yes! So what started as an off the cuff comment is actually coming true and we booked our tickets today! I'm so excited! Will definitely be taking a wishlist, a large bag and lots of photos...




Sunday, 12 April 2015

Beginnings

This week's topic on the Love Your Blog challenge from Kate at A Playful Day is Beginnings. So I guess I want to share with you how I first got into crafting, what caused me to first pick up my needles, and what has fired my passion for knitting.

My Nan was a great crafter and a great knitter. She always had a variety of projects on the go and a muddle of bags tucked down the side of the sofa with various projects, from knitting & crochet, to sewing & paper craft. She belonged to many different classes and clubs. I remember her taking a doll making course with my Mum, knitting toys, crocheting blankets, making furry teddy bears for gifts & charity, doing cross stitch & tapestry and making a tapestry topped foot stall to name but a few of her projects. We saw her a lot as kids and she always came up with a crafty project for us, from making marmalade, recycling Christmas cards into gift tags, making paper chains, sewing & threading buttons. Unfortunately she passed away in 2004 but she was and still remains a great inspiration to me.


However the truth is I can't really remember learning to knit and whether it was my Nan who taught me or my Mum, who is still a big knitter and crocheter today. I just know that in 2007 when my boyfriend's sister (now my sister-in-law) was pregnant and I asked my Mum to teach me so that I could knit her a baby cardigan, the basic stitches all seemed quite familiar. It seems fitting that the first cardigan that I made was from one of my Nan's patterns, although with my Mum's help I adapted the pattern to remove the bobbles to make if easier for a novice knitter,


I continued to knit after this, but I don't think my passion for it was ignited until a dramatic turn of events in 2007 when I was hospitalized after suffering a burst brain aneurysm. I was extremely lucky to be in the right place at the right time and I had an operation to insert platinum coils into the aneurysm to fix the problem. After having been released from hospital, I spent a few months on the sofa recovering and to prevent myself dying from boredom from the overload of daytime TV and to feel like I wasn't wasting my time, I knitted and read knitting magazines and was generally inspired. I made loads of different projects during that time, a few of which are below. So this is where my passion began.







I've made a full recovery and have now been discharged from the hospital completely and if you see me now, you probably wouldn't even know. I just get a tired more easily than before and occasionally have headaches. But when I do get a bad day, I know that knitting will help - it relaxes me and makes me feel better. And hey, who needs and excuse to cast on?

Now, with this blog and this challenge I'm embarking on another beginning and I have to say I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Are you? My mind is filled with other projects I might try like dying or recycling yarn, finger knitting and crochet and with reaching out to other knitter and crocheter's in the process.

But I must remember, as I said in my last post - I do need to persevere and finish some of my current projects too ! :-)

   

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

On my needles and on my mind...

Like a lot of knitters I know, I can never just have one project on the go. I guess if I dug through all my hiding places, I would probably find bags full of UFOs. Just thinking about it now, I can think of at least two or three - a cardigan, a top, a hat - and I really do intend to go back to each of them and finish them off, well until the next idea pops into my brain anyway! I think there is generally a pattern when I look at it - I'm not very good at finishing items for me. I'm often diverted by gifts for friends or family and by charity projects. I'm often inspired by thinks I've seen on Ravelry or Pinterest or on someone else's blog and it becomes another project my queue in my mind! Or I will go to a shop/knitting event or see a sale online and buy yarn because I'm inspired by the colour and never quite get round to starting the project!

However, my most current project, the one I have been working on most frequently is a sleeveless top for myself. I'm determined to set aside some time to finish this for me. It's called Ocean Breeze and it was from the September 2013 edition of Simply Knitting. You can see an image of what it should look like when its finished on Ravelry here. The pattern is for Alpaca Select yarn but I'm using Red Heart Lisa. I'm doing OK. I'm almost finished the back. The back is quite plain - just rib and stocking stitch but the front has a beautiful cable. The yarn is knitting up really nicely even though its acrylic. I think I would buy it again. Here's a pic:


I've also just finished a preemie blanket for the local hospital. It's a pattern given out at our knit & natter and you can make the blanket & a beanie hat from just 100g of yarn. I've done a few now, but this latest one is in white. I did it on a circular needle - it was just the perfect project to squeeze in my bag while I was at my in-laws in Portugal (although I didn't take it on the plane - I'm still to scared they'll confiscate the needles at security!) Now just to cast on the hat!


I've also got a lot of projects in mind. I've got some DROPS Kid-silk yarn I bought at the Knitting & Stitching show at Olympia last year that I still haven't used, some Red Heart Lisa Big wool that I bought to make cushions for the lounge, some more Red Heart Lisa DK that I want to make fingerless gloves with, and a ball of Sirdar Head Start that a friend bought me for my birthday that still hasn't been knit up. That's just some of the knitting projects, I want to try a bit of crochet, try dying my own yarn, experiment with finger knitting and do a square swap among other projects - what I need is more time!

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Happy Easter!


Today has been the first day of decent weather this weekend so we've been tidying up our garden today ready for spring. The grass has been cut, and the weeds pulled out - now we just need a trip to the garden centre to get some new plants and vegetable seeds, and we'll be all set for the summer.

We also went to visit my sister, brother-in-law and their 2 girlies to  deliver our Easter eggs. The littlest one is only 6 months old though - a bit young for chocolate, so I've had my needles out whipping up a soft toy. I was inspired by the "one square bunny" that appears many times on Pinterest, and I used the tutorial on the blog Jo So & Sew to make the below. Its just perfect for Easter!





I thought it looked cute once it was all sewn up like the one on her site but my husband said we had to give it at least eyes, so that was his creative input! She seemed to like it though so that's good. Such a clever idea, once you have a square, in any size, its so easy & quick to make!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

xo

Friday, 3 April 2015

Inspired to blog

Knitting might seem like a solitary activity and I suppose there are times when it can be. It definitely helps me to relax after a hard days work and helps me unwind with each click of the needles. But knitting can also bring people together. When you knit a gift for someone, whether it be a new baby blanket, a soft toy for your niece or finger-less gloves for your sister it brings us closer to someone, especially if its someone who appreciates the gift you've made and the time that you have spent making it.

I like knitting for a number of charities too which builds interaction with the community. I've knitted blood droplets for the Give Blood campaign Blood Doesn't Grow on Trees:


Made "Bears & squares" for Refuge via Simply Knitting magazine:



And have knitted soft toy "shells" for sufferers of brain injury to stuff and finish in a craft workshop run by the charity Headway:



Knitting for charities like these serves not only to give value to the time you have spent knitting (as if I need a reason!), but sends a bit of love out into the community to those that need it. Again knitting drawing people together. 

I also belong to a local knit & natter group. Held bi-weekly it draws people of all ages from the local community together. Its great to meet up with like minded people and compare projects, admire each other's yarn and natter about everything from last night's television program to what is going on in our lives. It doesn't matter about what gender we are, what background or religion we are, where we work or whether someone is retired or unemployed. What matter's is that its bringing us together doing something that we all love doing and finding community (or commu-knitty!) in that. 

I've been inspired to begin this blog by Kate at A Playful Day and I am taking part in her "Love your blog challenge.


A Playful Day


Kate is going to set a subject for discussion each week and this week's subject is Interaction & community. Now with social media becoming such a large influence in our daily lives, I want to develop my interaction with other craft lovers further afield and share in our passion for the creative. At the end of the day this is just a much larger, virtual, multi-craft version of a knit & natter. So tell me, what are you making?