Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Hello again!

Well, Happy New Year to anyone and everyone who happens upon my blog!  I have been AWOL for over a year, due to a massive and unpredicted change in my personal circumstances which I'd rather not go into right now.  Suffice to say that Jennyanydots and I have come through it together, and knitting, crochet and sewing, together with lots of lovely crafty friends, have kept me purposefully focused.

Jennyanydots (Jenny for short) is the cat I adopted from the RSPCA in September 2017. She is a brilliant companion who keeps me company and listens intently to my conversations with her.  I have to admit, they are a bit one-sided, but a request for a head rub is a good reply to pretty much all topics of conversation.  Oh, and another plus point, she has absolutely no interest in yarn!  She is happy for me to knit and crochet while she's on my lap with no interference whatsoever.  I might get a baleful stare if I accidentally touch her back with a knitting needle, but she never attacks the wool. Cat spam follows:

Prowling her territory - the back garden!

Snoozing in the sunshine on my lap

What do you mean, you want to make the bed?  I'm comfy!
Through all the upheaval in my life I have kept on knitting and crocheting.  I have made a few blankets and clothes for refugees and others who have need of warmth and comfort.  

I have also completed my first pair of socks!  Sock knitting has been a particular bugbear for me, but I persevered and here is the result:

I'm sure I'll write more about socks in a future post.  In the meantime, I hope that 2019 is the year in which you are happy and fulfilled.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Blanket happiness

I did say earlier that for me 2017 would be the year of the blanket.  So far I have made around a dozen blankets (pictures of all of them are on the  2017 - Blankets page of this blog).

Back in May, I posted about a blue blanket that I was really enjoying making, in fact I called it my favourite one so far.  This is the one I mean, made from a pattern by the Crochet Crowd:

In June I sent it off, with other items I had made, to Operation Orphan.  As they were getting ready for their distribution of warm winter clothes and blankets in Moldova, I assumed that this blanket would go there, but as with virtually all the things I make for charities, I didn't know where it would end up.

Moving forward to last week, I was reading a blog post from Brad of Operation Orphan, describing how he had managed to get aid to Antigua and Barbuda in the West Indies. following the devastation of Hurricane Irma.  The post included lots of photos, and as I looked at the final ones, I noticed a little boy clutching - yes, you guessed it - the blue blanket that I had sent them.  He's the little boy on the far right in this photo:

I feel so happy to be able to see exactly where this blanket has ended up!

On the personal front, I was delighted this week to meet my great-nephew, Sebastian, for the first time.  He was born on Sunday 8 October, and so of course, he had to have a blanket.  I toyed with making him a tartan blanket (his surname is MacLeod), but several abortive attempts later, I changed the plan and made him a Tumbling Blocks blanket instead.  It was really simple to do (just double crochet diamonds) but the optical illusion it creates is so effective.  I based it on the Vasarely Blanket pattern on Ravelry

His mum, my niece, was delighted with it.  So two lots of blanket happiness to report.

Friday, 15 September 2017


Have you ever read T S Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, or maybe seen the musical Cats?  If so you may have come across one of my favourite cat characters, Jennyanydots the Gumbie cat.  She's a cat who lazes about by day, but at night she keeps the mice in order:

She is deeply concerned with the ways of the mice—
Their behaviour's not good and their manners not nice;
So when she has got them lined up on the matting,
She teaches them music, crocheting and tatting.

I just love the thought of a cat who can crochet! 

This week we have adopted a cat from the RSPCA, and named her Jenny after this fictional cat.  She is approximately three years old, and hasn't had the best time in life so far.  Her tail is very short, so she must have had part of it amputated at some point.  She was brought to the animal shelter last October (almost a year ago) after she was found by the side of the road, having been hit by a car.  She was badly concussed, but hadn't broken any bones.  As she recovered, it became clear that she was deaf.  There have been two previous attempts at rehoming her, but neither of them worked out.  As we live in a very quiet area with little traffic, we hope she will do better with us.  

She is a tortoiseshell cat who loves stretching out in the sun.  The only slight hiccup in settling her in so far was when I found her gingerly clinging on to the pelmet above the curtains.  I managed to rescue her, and hopefully she won't try that manoeuvre again!

She loves cuddling and is definitely a lap cat. I'm pleased to say that she doesn't mind me crocheting while she is curled up on my lap.  Aren't her eyes beautiful and trusting?  We're looking forward to lots of love and fun with this girl.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

A bit of sewing for a change

I don't do a lot of sewing, but sometimes Loving Hands is asked for sewn items and the challenge of making them appeals to me.

The Neonatal Sister at University Hospital Coventry and Warwick asked for some small drawstring bags  to hold memory items for bereaved parents.  Without the bags, parents would have to take their precious items home in a paper bag.  Among the fabric stash I found some Peter Rabbit fabric and a small piece with nursery animals on.  These two pieces made eight bags, which will be sent off later this week.  Other Loving Hands members have made some bags too, so hopefully we can keep the hospital supplied on a long term basis.  

I've also enjoyed myself making some hand puppets.  The charity Knit for Nowt supplies family puppets (which can be either sewn or knitted) to social workers and therapists for use with children.  The puppets have two faces, one happy and one sad, to enable children to express emotions that they may not otherwise be able to show.

So far I have made four puppets: Mum, Grandma, Girl and Boy.  Grandad is under construction, and Dad is at the cutting-out stage!

Can you spot the differences between the two photos???

Friday, 4 August 2017

How many strands?

Chunky yarns are very useful for making warm hats, scarves and mittens ready for winter, especially the cold winters in middle and eastern Europe.  I don't have much in the way of chunky yarns, but I do have lots of thinner coned yarns which I have been combining to make chunky or thereabouts weight for knitting mittens for adults in Bulgaria.

The first pairs were made with charcoal and blue yarns.  If you look closely at the picture above, you will see that the 2 balls of yarn comprise 5 separate stands - one of 4 ply, 3 of 3 ply and one of 2 ply.  A total of 12 ply is roughly chunky, and knits into a tight fabric on 5.5 mm needles.  The pattern I used is Marlene's mittens.

Using so many strands slows my knitting a bit as I have to check that I am working all of the strands all of the time... Occasionally a couple of stitches have to be unpicked and reknitted because of a lost strand or two.

After making a couple of pairs in the grey/blue mix, I moved on to a brighter combination of colours:

How many strands this time?  Well, actually it's seven:

There are two strands of 3 ply and five strands of 2 ply - 16 ply altogether.  In fact the white and black strands may only be 1 ply, so I could be exaggerating slightly!  It is definitely knitting a thicker fabric than the grey/blue.  I have found that stacking the 3 balls on top of each other makes it much easier to control the strands, and there is really no difference in knitting with seven rather than five strands.  The mix of colours works well together too:

Mitt number one still missing a thumb.  For some reason my strategy when making mittens is to knit the bodies of both, then to knit the thumbs after.

Can I beat 7 strands?  We shall see!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Little things finished

Here in the West of England we are enjoying warm weather at the moment, although as is normal, two or three hot days mean that thunderstorms will follow.  They followed at around 3 am this morning, and, although I have a hearing impairment which means I normally sleep through loud noises quite happily, I certainly heard these storms as they passed over.

Warm weather makes crocheting full size blankets a bit of a challenge, so I have put the current aran monster to one side.  It is roughly 30 inches by 58 inches at the moment, and I'm aiming to get it about another 12 -15 inches bigger all round.  

We did have a few cooler days at the start of July, which meant I was able to finish off the other aran blanket; it was a corner-to-corner, made with 2 strands of coned yarn.  I do like the stripe design of this one, and will be going through my remaining cones to see whether I can plan another.

But on to the smaller things that have been finished; firstly the fingerless gloves: 3 pairs in 3 different sizes, all made from the same pattern, and using different combinations of coned yarn.

And then the baby blanket made from 4 ply.  I pondered for quite a while over the layout of this blanket, sorted one out, and then sewed it up completely differently by mistake!  Never mind, it looks fine as it is and at 33 inches square will keep a baby cosy and warm.

Next will be another baby blanket, this time for a family member; my niece is expecting a baby boy in October, and as their family surname is MacLeod, I had the rash idea of making a tartan blanket for him in the clan tartan.  I have ordered the wool, but will have to make the pattern up as I go.  Watch this space!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Little things

I seem to have spent a lot of time lately working on large blankets.  When I found a large bag of 4 ply in among the yarn that RAFT gave me to make more blankets, I was rather pleased, because 4 ply to me says baby blankets, which are a lot smaller than the ones I have been doing.  There were four colours of Patons Diploma 4 ply, a lovely soft yarn.  As a bonus, I also had a couple of balls of the same yarn in a fifth colour in my stash.  Small squares were needed, so I went for a simple approach:

Just a plain treble crochet square.  But what colour order should the squares be set out in?  Decisions, decisions....

I'm probably going to go with the top order.  The squares need a white frame to border them too:

So far I have 15 colour squares, 3 with borders.  So I need to do another 10 colour squares and a lot of borders:

The finished blanket will be about 32 inches square, just right for the baby packs that RAFT put together to go to refugee camps.

Another little project has been to make small, warm items for a charity called Muddy Footprints, which distributes them in impoverished areas of Bulgaria.  I have been using coned yarn with a high wool content to make fingerless gloves.  The pale green is two strands of 2 ply Alpaca yarn while the multicolour is 4 ply super wash 100%wool.  These should be very warm to wear.  The pattern I am using is a very simple one I found on Ravelry called Easy Fingerless Mitts by Calypso Knits.  Although it is written for dpns, I am using the magic loop method on a circular needle.

By the way, there is also a large corner to corner blanket on the go, but it has been a bit too warm to work on that one much.  However, today has been cold and wet, so it might get dragged out this evening for a little more work!