Wednesday, 30 December 2015

December's project completed

It took longer than I expected to join all of the squares into a blanket, but, after darning in untold numbers of ends, it is finished.

I have laid it on the guest room bed, and it measures 42 inches by 60 inches.  It weighs 1.2 kilos, so was an excellent stash-buster project.  I expect it will go to Operation Orphan's Keep a Child Warm project in the new year.

These are just some of the ends.....


Sunday, 27 December 2015

December's project

I've mentioned before that, via Loving Hands, I was given a donation of yarn by a lady who lives near me.  A lot of the yarn was aran weight, with a high wool content.  At Loving Hands, were are having a "blanket challenge" at present, to see how many blankets we can produce before the clocks go forward in March.  I decided to use up a lot of the aran to make a crochet blanket.  I have made 35 squares, and here they are laid out on the living room floor.   Each square is 7 inches across, and I am aiming for a blanket that will be approximately single bed sized.

To bring the blanket together, I am using some cream aran to make the final round on each square, and using join as you go to link everything together.  I have made a start, but I think it will take most of today to finish the joining.

I am using a size 6.00 hook to join, which is 2 sizes larger than the one I used to make the squares.  There is some disparity in the size of the squares, depending on the yarn used, so I am hoping that this will give me a bit of flexibility to smooth out the differences.

Today I am home alone; both sons and daughter-in-law have returned to their own homes and my husband has gone to watch rugby at Twickenham, so I have the ideal opportunity to press on with the blanket.  There is Test Match cricket on the TV (England vs South Africa); it will be a good day!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Ladybird, Ladybird.....

I quite enjoy making ventilator bonnets as small projects in between bigger things.  I usually use 4 ply and knit them in pastel colours or white.  Then yesterday I saw a Facebook post from a NICU nurse asking whether it was possible to make animal or superhero ones.  I've made quite a few animal hats, but I'd never thought about embellishing vent bonnets. I can see that some parents would be happy to see their baby in a cheery, fun hat.   So last night I played around and came up with a first attempt at a ladybird hat for babies in ICUs.

I took inspiration from Repeat Crafter Me's crochet ladybug hat pattern, and made this:

And modelled by my very own childhood doll, Susan, who will turn 60 at Christmas!

I haven't got the eyes quite right, and on future versions I think I will make the spots larger.  But I am so pleased that I saw that Facebook post!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Gosh, I hadn't realised that I haven't posted anything at all in November!  It is a busy month, with both my and my husband's birthdays.  We've also had a visit from my niece and great-niece; Millie is a super toddler, but she left me with a cold which is lingering and lingering.

But enough of the excuses.  Drum roll please, for I have finished the other WIP I was working on, the aran cardigan.  I am so pleased with the finished article.  The yarn was donated to Loving Hands for charity use, and is 100% wool, so the cardigan will be super-warm for whoever receives it.  It will fit a 28 inch chest, so probably a 9-10 year old.  The picture below doesn't really convey the rich red of the yarn.  It is flecked with yellow and black and is really attractive.

The pattern was one of my Mum's, and offered the option of hood, collar or a simple neckband to finish off the neck.  I wasn't sure the I had enough yarn for the hood, so I opted for the collar.  It went on really easily and I'm very pleased with the overall finish.  A couple of weeks ago we received a large bag of toggles in the scrapstore.  I made a donation and took a few to act as the fasteners.

I have also done some other bits and pieces of knitting and crochet since I last posted on here; mostly they were preemie items, including hats, body warmers and a small blanket.

Friday, 30 October 2015

One WIP finished

I'm very pleased to report that I have now finished the Leaping stripes and blocks blanket.  I love the overall effect; because of the way it is constructed, it is a very dense and warm blanket even though it is done in double knit.  It is 32 inches by 36 inches, and weighs 420 grams.

Compared with other blanket patterns, this one grows very slowly, and it took much longer to make than I originally thought it would.  But I enjoyed making it nonetheless.

I am also knitting the final sleeve of the aran cardigan that I showed in my last post.  Because I have done so well with my WIPs, perhaps I can be forgiven for making a penguin hat as well (classic procrastination tactic, I know!).   We received a consignment of buttons in the scrapstore, and they looked so much like eyes that I had to try them out.  I used Repeat Crafter Me's pattern, although I changed the beak a bit.   Aren't the buttons just exactly right for eyes?

Friday, 16 October 2015

Two works in progress

When I worked in education, we looked at why certain teams of people were more successful than others.  One method we used was to look at Belbin's team roles.  The role that always attracted me was the Completer-Finisher, because it is something that I most certainly am not.  In term of my knitting and crochet, I have around eight or so projects that I have started but not yet completed.  There are three different blankets on the go at the moment, together with several items of clothing.  I am trying to get a bit of a grip and finish some before I embark on something else that takes my fancy.

The ones I am concentrating on at present are a Moogly blanket and an aran cardigan.

The Leaping stripes and blocks blanket pattern is one that I have always wanted to make, and I started it after I had a splurge on yarn a few months ago.  I am making it as a lap-sized blanket, and am almost half way through.  It is rather nice on these chillier evenings to be able to drape a blanket over my knees while I work on it.

The other WIP is this aran jumper.  On behalf of Loving Hands, I received a generous donation of yarn last month, and it included around 700 grams of this wonderful 100%wool aran yarn.  I have resisted knitting it up until now, but it is so lovely to handle that I just had to make a start with it.  This is the same pattern that I used for the Aran cardigan of doom in an earlier post, but this time it is an absolute pleasure to knit.

I am not now allowed to start another project until these two are finished.  Remind me of that if I appear to forget, will you please?

Monday, 12 October 2015

Granny square

Some time ago, I bought 10 balls of a Stylecraft Merrygoround yarn in a discontinued shade.

As I used it, I came to my own conclusion as to why it was discontinued; firstly, the pink is very vibrant (almost neon) and doesn't go with the colours surrounding it.  Secondly, it was hard to find patterns that worked for it.  Somehow it didn't knit up very evenly, because the dyes used had noticeably different effects on the base yarn.  So the yarn dyed blue was considerably thicker than the yarn dyed white. The only items I was really happy with were crocheted, like this little jacket and hat set, where the evenness of the yarn didn't matter so much.

Eventually my stash of this got down to 3 balls, and I really wanted to finish it up.  So I started a granny square, and ended up with a baby blanket 30 inches square.  I found some green baby dk in my stash which matched the green in the multi almost exactly, so I was able to finish it with a solid colour border.  

A cheerful goodbye to this yarn!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Box for Knit for Peace

I've finally finished enough knitted and crocheted items to fill a box for Knit for Peace.  There are hats, mittens, scarves, cardigans and a baby blanket, which will all go to refugees in camps around Syria.

Some yarn was donated by an online friend in Leeds, and this has made 6 hats so far.  There is still some of her kind donation left for the next box.  I also collected a donation made to Loving Hands which had lots of aran and chunky yarn (much of it with a high wool content), so I will be continuing with making more winter woollies.

Using chunky and multiple yarns has had an impact on my stash busting too - in September I used 1.250kg of yarn, which is the highest monthly total yet.   But because of purchases and donations, I have stopped keeping a total of how much stash I have left - it is most definitely more than I started the year with!

Friday, 25 September 2015

Warm winter woollies

Continuing on my quest to use up more of the part balls in my stash, I have been mixing and matching to combine some thinner yarns to make chunky thicknesses.  The largest crochet hook that I possess is a size 8.00, and it has been working overtime this week making scarves.

I enjoyed myself putting together different combinations of yarn. The red scarf consists of two strands of pink 2 ply, one strand of lilac 4 ply, one of red 4 ply and one of white dk.   The blue one has two strands of blue 4 ply, one of white 4 ply and one of a grey variegated sock yarn.  In some cases it is not the same yarn throughout; as long as I had enough of the same ply in a similar colour, I used up smaller balls where possible.  The blue scarf is softer and has a better drape; I think that really the red one should have either used one strand fewer or been made on a larger hook.  However, it is large and very warm and wraps twice around my neck, so will hopefully help someone keep warm.  Perhaps this is my excuse to go hook shopping!

Friday, 11 September 2015

Converted hoodie

I have lots and lots and LOTS of part balls of yarn in my stash.  I need to use them up, but the trouble is, I often find it hard to judge just how much yarn is left in each of them.  My kitchen scales, while fine for measuring flour and fat, are not terribly accurate beyond 50g.  One of these days I will invest in electronic scales which can weigh to individual grammes.

I had bookmarked a pattern for an aran weight hoodie from the Tricksy Knitter website, because I liked the jagged edge to the stripe.  The pattern is knitted all in one from the neck down, and no-sew patterns are my favourite, particularly when I am knitting small sizes.  I chose two substantial part-balls from my Aran stash, and started to knit.  The main ball was a very warm oatmeal yarn, and I picked a bluey-green to put in the contrast stripe as in the pattern.  However, as I got on with the cardigan, I realised that I had overestimated the amount of oatmeal yarn that I had.  An extra green stripe in the body and contrasting ribs still did not leave me enough to knit the hood in the main colour.  I thought about knitting the hood in the contrast, but decided that it wouldn't look right.  So I went for a contrast collar instead.  Using an old pattern of my mum's to get an idea of the increases that would be needed to let it lie properly, I knitted a 2x2 rib collar.

Thankfully, the end result looks as though it was intended to be that way!  The cardigan should fit a 3 year old, and will be going into the box I'm preparing for Knit for Peace.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Lifelong learning!

As I used to teach in the Further Education or Lifelong Learning Sector, I feel really pleased when I learn a new skill myself.

A few months ago I bought some yarn for 50p in a charity shop.  There was a full skein and a part skein of bottle green with this label:

Normally bulky is the US equivalent of our UK chunky, but this was much thicker than chunky.  I don't know how old this yarn is, but there was no meterage or suggested needle size on the label, so I selected a size 7.00 crochet hook, although I could have used a larger one. I had a little chuckle at the Shrink Resistant and Mothproof selling points too, which suggests that acrylic was not as common when this was made as it is now.  Interestingly, there is a Nortex Mill in Bolton, Lancs, but it specialises in fabrics (Lancashire cotton trade) and doesn't sell yarn.

On to the learning.  I decided that this would make a lovely warm crocheted scarf  for Knit for Peace. I looked at a few patterns on Ravelry, and realised that most crochet scarves are made lengthways rather than widthways.  A lot of them start with foundation double crochet (fdc) too. This s a technique where the starting chain and the first row of double crochet (or single crochet in US terms) are worked simultaneously.   In almost 50 years of crocheting,  I have never attempted this technique; truth to tell, I only heard of it about 5 years ago.

So, I googled some YouTube videos, chose one that was easy to follow, and off I went.  My technique was a bit uneven to start with, and I found it hard to establish a rhythm, but for a first attempt, I did manage as reasonably neat edge.  I will definitely use this technique again.

I followed the fdc row with 2 rows of double crochet, then for the middle of the scarf I did  9 rows of one dc one chain.  I finished it off with a further 2 rows of dc.  And I ended up with a very thick and cosy scarf that is 62 inches long, so should keep a child's neck nice and warm this winter.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Knitting for Peace

Every quarter, Loving Hands sets challenges for members who wish to participate.  It's not compulsory, but it does sometimes act as a means of publicising the needs of different charities.  The charity Knit for Peace are able to send items to Syrian refugees who are sheltering in Kurdistan, and given that winter weather will soon be on us, these people with inadequate shelter will need all the warm clothes and bedding they can get.

Two items that I have finished off may help.  First, I've made a stash busting baby blanket from squares:

It's about 30 inches by 36, just the size to wrap a little one in.  

The second make was an adult hat with a spiral pattern.  I have seen this Hurricane hat pattern on Ravelry for a long time, but assumed it would be complex to keep the the spiral going.  In fact, it is stunningly simple to do - by having 81 stitches, and knitting a pattern repeat of 10 stitches  (9 knit stitches and 1 purl), the odd stitch moves the raised purl stitch each round into a spiral:

I think that it is really effective as a design.  The one pictured was made with 1 strand of dk and one strand of 4 ply on size 5.00 circulars, and it fits me well.  I changed to dpns for the decreases because I find them easier than magic loop. I will be making more of these hats!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Dusting off the sewing machine

What miserable weather we are having at present!  It has rained all day, and the temperature is 59 degrees - more like October than August.  Strangely on days like this I sometimes decide to do some sewing.  My mum was an excellent seamstress, and I grew up watching her at her sewing machine, making clothes for us and doing alterations to clothes for friends and neighbours.  I'm not in her league, but I can cope with simple patterns.

In my window box seat, where I keep my sewing stash, I found a couple of old shirts of my son's.  They were too good to throw out but no good for a charity shop because they were ripped on the sleeves.  I found a pattern for a pair of child's shorts, and repurposed a striped shirt into some cotton shorts to fit a four year old.  I enjoyed the pattern so much that I made a second pair out of a piece of blue fabric left over from a skirt I made a while back.

By now I was on a roll, so I pulled out my favourite girl's pattern and made a little tie-top dress.  The fabric comes from a duvet set I found in an RSPCA charity shop.  It is really versatile, with patterned and plain sections in pink and purple, hence the two-tone effect.

I've left the sewing machine out - I wonder whether I will feel like dong some more sewing tomorrow?

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Butterfly boxes

Recently I joined a local crafting group, and we've been making butterflies for a local charity, Towards Tomorrow Together. This is a charity that supports families in Somerset who have lost a baby, and one of the ways in which they do so is by providing them with a butterfly box.  They appealed for one thousand knitted or crochet butterflies to go in their boxes.

These are the ones I have made.  They are mostly 4 ply, and have been a great way of using small amounts of colours left over from other projects.  We are hoping to have a shoe-box full when we meet up tomorrow night to deliver to the charity.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Stripes galore

I do love knitting and crocheting striped garments.  This month I have made 2 striped tops, a jumper and a cardigan.  Both of them have sleeves that are different from the body, giving a nice contrast.  The cardigan was from a pattern on Deramores website.  Until the end of July they are offering free downloads of some of their normally paid-for patterns, and I was very taken with this little cardigan, so I took advantage of their kind offer.

I made the 2-3 year old size.  I used some of the Stylecraft Special dk that I bought when Deramores had 25% off the price earlier this year.  I love the range of colours and the smoothness of this yarn.  I was tempted to put buttons and buttonholes all the way down the front, but in the end stuck to the pattern with its 3 buttons close together at the neck, and I have to say it does work very well.

The little aran jumper was one that I have made before.  It knits up quickly and is very straightforward to put together.  I made the neck opening a little larger than the pattern suggests, because I remember only too vividly trying to pull jumpers over uncooperative little heads, particularly at the end of a tiring day!  I expect that both garments will go to Operation Orphan.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Chair rescue

We have two sons, and I've been feeling that they have been attached to the family home with invisible elastic, which has brought them back to live at home for extended periods of time when we might have thought they had fled the nest for good.  But they now both seem settled long term (the younger one is getting married in September), and neither has been back, except for long weekends and odd nights, for eighteen months now.

We have redecorated their bedrooms and now have a real guest room no longer filled with boy-type clutter.  OK, it does have some of my crafting bits, but they are easily tidied away into the empty wardrobe when visitors are due.  

I was about to throw away one of the boys' old office chairs - look at the picture below and see if you can guess why!

 I was assured that the hole in the fabric, and the larger hole in the foam underneath was not caused by picking at the chair, perish the thought, but rather by the seams of their jeans rubbing the seat.  Hmmm.....

As I had some fabric left over from the guest room curtains, I had a go at re-covering the chair.  I filled the foam hole with some quilt wadding, and then covered the back and seat of the chair with the curtain fabric.

Finally I made a loose cushion to go over the seat so that the hole and filling weren't noticeable when sitting in the chair.  Ta dah!  

A refurbished chair that actually matches the room's decor.  Now all I need to do is clear away the crafting bits.......

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Closet card sharp?

My little corner of our front room (as I like to see it) contains my end of the settee, a side table with my macbook (a present to myself when I retired 4 years ago), my iPad mini (an unexpected present from my husband two Christmases ago when we had agreed not to give each other big pressies), my knitting bag (OK, 2 knitting bags), my circulars roll and my library book.

Having my laptop and iPad to hand is my means of staving off the dreaded Repetitive Strain Injury.  I take a break from knitting or crocheting, open up the laptop and check my emails, the Loving Hands Forum, and then I open up an app which has lots of different games of Patience on it.  My favourite is one called Australian Patience.  The game doesn't often work out, so it is very satisfying when it does.  I do find it very relaxing (the background is a video, so the waves break rhythmically on the beach), and a bit mentally taxing too.

Then today I looked at the stats which the app helpfully compiles.  It showed that I get it to work out 25% of the time (higher than I thought), but then it showed that over the last 4 years I have spent 11 days, 13 hours and 36 minutes playing this game.  Eleven days!  That's a good length for a holiday, let alone playing games of patience.  At first I was horrified at the loss of this length of time, then I broke it down to 3 days per year, less than one percent of my time.  It didn't seem quite so scary then. What would I have done otherwise with this time?  Probably watched mindless TV, or eaten biscuits, or carried on knitting and then maybe damaged my shoulders or my hands.  Should I feel as guilty as I do for playing cards for that amount of time?

Now I have come across Zooniverse, a community website that seeks people with time on their hands to view scientific or historical information and analyse it in some way.  One of their current projects is Operation War Diary, where they need people to transcribe key information from handwritten diaries kept by British military units during the first world war.  So I shall cut back on the cards, and do a bit of transcribing instead!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Missing for a bit

I've been missing for a while because our broadband gave up the ghost and it took a while to get BT out to fix it.  However a very helpful BT man came last week and sorted everything out for us.  He moved our router to a different location so hopefully we will have a more reliable broadband service in future.

On the knitting front, I have been making some preemie blankets.  I used Daphne's pattern from Wye Needlecrafts' collection of preemie blanket patterns (sadly the patterns do not seem to be on their website any more).  I like it because it is simple and also because of the waffle texture it produces:

I will be adding them to some other preemie blankets I have made and sending them off to Cuddles UK, who provide maternity units with burial clothes and blankets for stillborn and premature babies.  It is one of the very worthwhile charities supported by Loving Hands.

I've also sent off a parcel to Loving Hands.  There was a small amount of room in the box, so I quickly knitted a few pairs of children's mittens, which are always in demand for Operation Orphan.

They filled the gap admirably!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Walking in the woods

The estate that our house is on was built in woodlands in the 1930s.  So not only do we have mature sycamore, oak and ash trees as the boundary between us and the homes behind us, but we also look out onto a copse at the front of the house.  The woods themselves are just at the end of the road, too.

They were planted in the 1860s by the Lord of the Manor, and they cover the hillside above Weston sea front.  Lots of the largest trees were cut down a few years ago, to general outcry, but I suppose they were getting to the end of their life cycle.  Most were taken away, but there are still a few fallen tree trunks lying on the ground.  It does mean that there are plenty of young saplings growing up now, although they are rather spindly because of the lack of light.

I love how the tree stumps left behind are being colonised by mosses, ivy and brambles. They must provide shelter for a wide variety of bug life.

Due to the darkness under the leaf canopy, there are not many flowers.  This morning I noticed campions, cow parsley, dandelions and this tiny specimen, which I thought might be a violet, but I could be wrong.

I do enjoy going for walks in the woods.  And although there was no snow, I couldn't help thinking of Robert Frost's poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, in particular the lines:
  "The woods are lovely, dark and deep
   But I have promises to keep
   And miles to go before I sleep
   And miles to go before I sleep."

Not that I had miles to go when I left the woods - just 100 yards down the road!

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Squares and squares

I firmly subscribe to the theory that time speeds up as you get older.  When I was a child, days seemed to go on for ever, whereas now they're gone in the blink of an eye.  Undoubtedly this has something to do with Einstein's theory of relativity, but I was 'advised' to drop physics after the third form, so I didn't get much beyond finding out the heat conductivity levels of a range of different metals.  I never really used that learning a great deal in later life, although I do remember its importance in how a thermostat works.  Isn't it odd how we remember the wierdest things?

So somehow, although Easter only seems a fortnight ago, we have arrived at the last day in May.  Today it seems as though the weather hasn't caught up with what month it is either, with cold, overcast conditions outside, and barely 53 degrees (I'm old-fashioned, I use Fahrenheit).  End of the month means it's time to take stock of what stash busting I have achieved. And I have managed to get through 910 grammes of yarn, which is very pleasing.

There's always an urgent need for blankets, and I have been doing my bit by concentrating on knitting squares this month.  I have managed 36 x 6 inch knitted squares - well, actually 35 and a half squares, but there will be 36 by the time you are reading this.  Here they are:
 Above are the 35, sewn into strips so that they can quickly be added to contributions from other Loving Hands members to make large blankets; and below is the half, which will be finished while I watch the Test match cricket on TV this afternoon.

I have made a few other things this month (I'm afraid I'm a bit of a gadfly and I get bored doing too much of the same thing), including a striped aran sweater to fit a 2-3 year old - I was attracted to the variation in the stripe pattern on the sleeves:

a range of hats:

and a Carole Barenys Yoked Baby Sweater.  I have made several of these in the past, and love the way it knits up.

So, quite a productive month all round.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Lily of the Valley

For a time when I was little, there wasn't much money for Christmas presents, and so one year for my present, Mum bought a remnant of material and made a bride's dress for my favourite doll.  To finish it off she made a tiny bouquet with some  plastic lily of the valley and attached it to the doll's hand with a rubber band.  It was the perfect present as far as I was concerned, and lily of the valley became my favourite flowers.

Mum always had loads in her garden at this time of year, and would give me a bunch or two during their brief season.  After she died, I dug up some roots from her garden and planted them in mine.  They have produced a couple of blooms each year, but for the first time this year, they have produced masses of flowers, and their scent drifts across the front garden.  There are so many that I felt justified in cutting some and bringing them into the front room.

There they are, sitting on the mantelpiece in their crochet-covered jam jar, filling the room with their fragrance, and bringing back lovely memories.  It beats an air-freshener any day!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Open Day

We had our Scrapstore Open Day on Saturday, and very popular it was too.  Lots of families came through the door and purchased scrap for children to play with.  I embellished a few more bags with hot-air balloons (appropriate since I was using balloon fabric) like this one, which we sold for £2 to fill up with scrap.

The tiger who has hitched a lift is one of a range of very cute little finger puppets that we sell! I thought that a child might like to be able to put a tiny doll or lego character in the balloon basket. As the 'ropes' are made of elastic, it should help to keep the toy in place.

On the knitting front, I fancied making some bootees after seeing the ones that Una made.  My never-ending stash of 4 ply provided some contrasting yarns. When I have done a few more pairs I will send them to the Freedom from Fistula Foundation. 

 In the meantime, however, I am concentrating my stash-busting on making 6 inch blanket squares for Loving Hands to make into blankets which will go to Nepal via Operation Orphan.  It is good to feel that we can do something practical to help those poor people after their earthquakes.