Saturday, 29 December 2012

Dots and stripes review of 2012

This is where I look at the year just gone and sigh at my failure to achieve my last year's objectives.

In 2012 said I would:

reduce my yarn stash, so it fits easily into the two baskets, and I certainly want to finish the year with fewer skeins than I started with.
Partial success! My yarn stash did go down, but only by 700 yards. I have 14 fewer whole balls of yarn, 1 less partial ball, but scraps have gone up by 14. About the same on the fitting-into-baskets front.

aim to achieve a minimum of 12 completed sewing projects over the year, with the rainbow quilt counted as multiple projects, one for each pattern instruction (printed in parts) I complete.
I sewed total 8 projects, not 12. But if you count the rainbow quilt as multiple projects, as I said I would, it was the equivalent of 3 projects during 2012 so that would take the total up to 10. Still less than I hoped. Oh well.

try not to add to the long term languishing list.
Unfortunately the list grew by one. :-(

do more cultural things, especially with the children; support dd through her A Level journey and help ds to improve his handwriting; all of us to go on holiday.
I went to New York with dd at Easter and we had a truly cultural time, which included architecture, modern art, film locations, and immersion in a foreign culture (even though we speak the same language, I found the USA totally different to the UK). In August we spent a wonderful week in France by the sea on a family holiday. Ds and I went to Bath in October on a short visit. We made a lot of historical excursions, some of  which were practically on our doorstep, like Creswell Crags in Nottinghamshire. Both children seem to be getting on just fine at school. So all in all, top marks for this one.

stay employed, so I can afford to do all of the above.
Achieved this one too, and since they are now recruiting again in my work area, I'm not too worried about this for next year. Although I'd quite like a move for greater job interest, I can't see that really being feasible until ds has started secondary school, so I'll have to make the best of the employment I have in 2013.

What are your successes in 2012, dear reader? And your hopes for 2013?

Monday, 24 December 2012

Bring on the celebrations

Got my act together just in time! Tree up, mince pies made.

Snow topped spice cake in accordance with annual tradition:


This year with extra gold pearls!

And new in 2012, certosino (Italian-style fruit cake):


Made from a recipe in How to be a domestic goddess. I love the bejewelled look of it; hope it tastes equally good.

Merry Christmas to all my readers. See you on the other side of the festivities!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012


I don't know what's up with me this year, but I seem to be seriously lacking in energy, or forward planning. I discovered yesterday, I'd left it too late to book a grocery delivery before Christmas, so I'll have to actually go to the shops (the horror!). I haven't made any kind of cake, or got any ready-roll pastry in for the mince pies. Nothing like leaving stuff to the last minute. Luckily I found half a box of crackers and load of wrapping paper in the loft where I'd packed it away last year, so I don't need to worry about that.

I've been lazy on the crafting front too, although I have re-knitted dd's fingerless mittens:

They fit her, finally. She has hands as small as mine, and I didn't realise this until now. I am still hatless though, having not even got to the frogging part of the reknit hat.

Also mildly amused by watching Yodel trundle a parcel of mine up and down the A1, between Hatfield and Newbridge. What is going on?? This online tracking lark reveals all sorts of inefficiences! It's only for me, so it won't matter too much if late.

Saturday, 15 December 2012


I'm terribly late with the seasonal preparations this year. Put it down to the House Cup focus that has been exercising me for the last three months, but which ended with a win for my team, so I'm celebrating!

My christmas crafting has been minimal. I made these decorations for our tree:

I have made one present and that is all. Next year, I might try a handmade approach to birthdays instead. They are staggered through the year, so this might be more achievable, given my tendency to crumble under the pressure in the months up to December.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Reduce, reduce, reduce

Last weekend, I got all of my yarn out of the baskets and counted it all up. Looks like this is becoming an annual December ritual, since I did just the same last year.

After a whole year of attemtping to stashdown, I really don't have very much less yarn than I had at this time last year. Last year, when I did the same count, I had 50 whole balls, 68 partial balls and 27 scraps (each less than half a skein). The same assessment this year finds 36 whole balls (down by 14!), 67 partial balls (not much change) and 41 scraps. Eek, my scraps have gone right up! But perhaps that is OK, as it can be a side effect of using whole balls.

Here is my stash, all laid out for your enjoyment. Lace weight is on the left, the weights increase to the single bag of bulky on the right. I keep it in ziplock bags with yarn wrappers included so I can easily identify yarn.

I did use up more yarn than I bought over the year, so there was a stashing down overall, and it was about 700 yards. Not bad... I would like to do better next year though. I should note that eight of the full balls are already earmarked for planned projects between Jan and March 2013. That should get me off to a good start.

I intend to follow these rules in 2013:
  • I will always look for stash options first when I want to knit something. 
  • I will look for stash options for House Cup participation. At least 2 classes out of stash before I may buy any new yarn for one new project (attempt to prevent further stash growth! Although I did stick to this rule last year, I found I still bought lots of yarn as well and hope to reduce this, in 2013). 
  • Yarn purchase only allowed when I have a specific project identified. No buying yarn just because it is pretty. 
I will do monthly reports again in 2013. Look for the stashdown tags.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Stashdown #11

In November I was busy busy crafting. I did not buy any yarn. And I used up:

  • 200 yards Fyberspates scrumptious lace, finishing blossom shawl
  • 450 yards of KP telemark completing the colourwork cushion
  • 200 yards assorted dk - I used various stash yarns to make a cupcake baby hat, a mad hatter's mini top hat, some gingerbread-style xmas decorations and a crochet toadstool
  • 62 yards - all the rest - of my blue Sirdar smiley stripes yarn on a pair of bootees

That's just over 900 yards worked up.

In December I shall most likely not be knitting at all, or if I do, it will only be re-knitting things that didn't work too well. I have a hat and a pair of mitts that are both too big and need reknitting a bit smaller. Should have a nil effect on Stashdown.

I intend to re-catalogue my stash during December, and I will post about that, but I can summarise now by saying I did loads of knitting this year. Between 1 Jan and end Nov, I worked up 8300 yards in total. And although I bought 7587 yards of various new yarns, I did end my 2012 stashdown 714 yards down on where I started, so all good. (Why yes, I also keep detailed spreadsheet records. Didn't you know?!)

I'll be renewing my stashdown vow for 2013, but I think it unlikely I will do so much knitting in the year ahead. I must reduce my participation in the House Cup, as I'd really like to see more of my kids! On the other hand, I won't buy so much yarn either. I sincerely hope.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Amanita Muscaria

That's the Latin name for the classic red and white toadstool of which I am so fond. Which is a way of introducing this FO:

The pattern was in Knit Now magazine, issue 8. I used Knit Picks Telemark instead of the specified yarn and I could not get row gauge, so I had to make row adjustments to the motif. I like my version better than the original, though, as the toadstools seemed a bit elongated to me. But OMG intarsia! I'm not in a hurry to repeat that experience, to be perfectly frank. No wonder I hadn't done any for ten years.

For good measure, I then made another version:

That was a simple pattern, free from the Red Heart website. I used dk yarn scraps, a 4mm hook and a few buttons. I will use it to festoon my Christmas tree.

Ah yes, the festive frenzy is about to begin. But I decided I will not be crafting for Christmas this year. I just don't have the time left, or the inclination really.

Monday, 19 November 2012

The magic of blocking

Remember what my blossom shawl looked like on the needles?

That's right, a crumpled mess.

It still looked like that when it came off the needles, but then I soaked it, squeezed out the water, stretched it out on a large towel (not owning anything approaching a blocking mat) and pinned it out to dry.  (Note: the blue colour has not come out at all in this next shot, I don't know why)

This process is called blocking, and is very important to open out lace. Here are some shots of the shawl during and after blocking, so you can see the effect:

The centre pic above is the truest to the actual colour of the shawl, I don't know why there is so much variation. The third pic was obviously taken outside and may be affected by sunshine, but all three were taken in natural light and the first two in the same location.

I think maybe I won't knit any lace for a while. It is hard work and takes a lot of concentration. The FOs are rather fabulous, though.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Fly Agaric Fan

Long-term readers may remember my fondness for the Fly Agaric. I had another one in my garden this Autumn, and it was awesome:

This photo was taken in the early stages. After that, it got bigger, and flatter, and then released all its spores. Next year, hopefully I will get even more. Although I have cautioned the kids not to touch it, as I hear they are toxic.

In recognition of my fandom, I'm now working on an intarsia cushion, that uses the toadstool motif in its design. Just over half way through the colourwork element, which is driving me mad, actually. It's ten years since I did any intarsia, and that wasn't nearly as complex as this one. Here's the back right now:

What a mess intarsia looks in progress. But hopefully the front will look better, when I've had chance to block it. As I found that made quite a big difference, last time.

I have two weeks to finish this, and my lace shawl, which is at the edging chart. Yes, I am on a House Cup mission! Wish me luck...

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Stashdown2012: #10

I bought one more lot of yarn at the start of October, for a planned project which is already on the needles - a colourwork cushion. It was approx 820 yards of KP Telemark  - as it's discontinued this was in the sale, so not a lot of outlay. I also visited a yarn shop whilst in Bath, and there I bought 4 balls (550 yards) of Adriafil col, with the intention of making a cardigan for my baby niece, and a ball of Rico creative cotton (90 yards), as I want to see how that works as dishcloth cotton, since it seems to be impossible to buy peaches & cream in the UK at present. Total yarn in = 1460.

I have offset some of this by using up yarn in October.

  • 130 yards of Wendy bliss merino dk making a strawberry tea cosy (it used up so much yarn because the yarn was held double for this project)
  • 110 yards of KP telemark making a pair of mittens for dd
  • 300 yards of Fyberspates scrumptious progressing my shawl
  • 30 yards of rowan wool dk on a gingerbread man. Yes, it's true. I do like to waste time making odd things...
  • 60 yards of KP Telemark on a couple of blanket squares
  • 150 yards of KP telemark on the colourwork cushion
  • 90 yards of Rico essential cotton making a crochet votive cover, and decorative hearts to go on christmas presents

Altogether that was 880 yards used up.

1460 yards in, 880 yards out = net increase of 580.  Kinda hoping I won't buy any more yarn this year now, as otherwise I won't achieve my year end target, to have less yarn than I started the year with. We'll see.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Roman Holiday

Just back from an awesome couple of days with ds in Bath, home of the UK's only thermal hot spring- a warm 36 degrees Celsius. The spring water apparently fell as rain on the Mendip hills 10,000 years ago, sank through the limestone layers, was heated through geothermic energy to 96 degrees and then forced upwards by the heat and pressure to form the spring. The Romans built the original baths, and a holy temple on the site, and the Roman drains, sluice gates and overflow system are still working today, although only fragments of stone carvings and the steps remain of the temple complex.

It was my third visit to Bath, but the first time ds ever went. He is a young archaeologist, so was very pleased to visit the roman site. Here he is in front of steam rising from the Great Bath.

You can't swim in here any more, and exhortations are not even to touch the water, but there is a new thermal spa open to the public in Bath since my last visit, about eleven years ago. Unfortunately children under 12 are not allowed in any of the facilities, and 12-15 year olds may only go in specific baths, so we couldn't visit on this occasion. But never mind, it is another reason to go back!

Georgians elegantly dined and sampled the waters at Bath in the Pump Room. Ds pronounced it too posh to go in. But we did take afternoon tea in Sally Lunn's original tea shop. Here's my Sally Lunn tea, in which a Sally Lunn bun is served with jam and clotted cream:

Ds and I have a eclectic approach to tourism. Future Publishing is the source of the now defunct Nitro magazine for boys, which was very popular in our house. I believe they publish Mollie Makes, the Knitter and other craft titles as well. We saw several of their offices in Bath, but this photograph was taken outside the address where ds used to send his competition entries (he won once, to his great delight):

Crafters also have some special places to visit in Bath. Here's what I picked up at The Makery, a shop selling fabric and notions:

Other places we recommend:  the Georgian assembly rooms, where there are some fabulous chandeliers (free to National Trust members)

the Holburne museum of art - snuff boxes, silver spoons, ceramics, paintings, miniatures, more chandeliers (free entry)

Two days was only just long enough. I'm longing for the next visit and hope this will be in less than another eleven years.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Dearie dearie me

There has been very little blogging in October to date. Kids have been taking up a lot of attention. Dd's possible university plans involve a lot of discussion, helping her to refine her thoughts and arrive at decision (but there are so many of them! And they all look the same on paper!) I was organising the celebrations for ds's tenth birthday, featured in yesterday's post. Then there was that pesky thing called work. And in my spare time, I've been knitting, and playing quidditch for Ravenclaw house. But it's half term this week, so I am at home and finally have a minute to post on the blog.

Here's a few small projects I finished earlier in the month:

Strawberry tea cosy, for quidditch match:

That was a fun knit! And the FO is quite fun, too.

Gingerbread man, for no reason whatsoever, apart from I thought it would be fun to make:

Pair of Alice-style mittens to keep dd's hands warm while she works on her history essay:

Still working on my shawl, plus a cushion cover with fly agarics on it. More about that next time!

Sunday, 21 October 2012


Boys Who Are Ten like trips to the Climbing Centre. They don't mind if their mum brings her knitting along. They like cake, ice-cream, Skylanders Giants and the Guinness Book of Records.

Happy Birthday, ds! Here's to the next decade!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Quiet weekend

It's very quiet here this weekend, as dh is away with work until Tuesday and dd had two shifts in her new weekend part time job. She has a proper paid job in a shoe shop (but is still volunteering a couple of hours in her charity shop). So it's just been me and ds, going to swimming lessons, to get Skylanders stickers, hanging out at home and watching TV.

While this is going on, I've been working away at my shawl. It's a pity lace doesn't look better in progress:

The FO will look better, I'm sure.

The red thread is a lifeline. Also, to try and keep on top of the pattern (8-stitch repeats in every other row) every stitch marker I own is now in that project, and I'm going to run out at the next chart. Will have to look for some paperclips!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Stashdown2012 #9

On 1 September, I stashed up for the House Cup term ahead. At the yarn shop I bought 2300 yards in total, made up of:
  • Sirdar smiley stripes 3 balls 312 yards
  • Fyberspates scrumptious lace 1 ball 1094 yards
  • Rowan pure wool dk 1 ball 136 yards
  • Sirdar aran 1 200g ball 260 yards
  • Wendy bliss merino 1 ball 120 yards
  • Sirdar crofter 1 ball 184 yards
  • Debbie Bliss cashmerino aran 2 balls 200 yards
Phew. That is a lot of yarn. But laceweight is very good value - 1094 yards for £17. It's beautiful too, look:

Also, most was bought with specific projects in mind and I started knitting from three of the yarns within the month.

In September, I used up:
  • Roughly 360 yards of Fyberspates scrumptious, on the needles to make a lace shawl by 30 November. It should take about 900 yards altogether and I'm at 40% of the way through.
  • 250 yards Sirdar smiley stripes making a baby hat and Puerperium cardigan
  • 140 yards DB Cashmerino aran making a butterflies and vines cabled hat. This was a test knit. It's lovely, but the FO is slightly too big for me, so it may be that this yarn eventually finds its way back into my stash again for re-knitting in a smaller size.
  • 130 yards of Rico essential cotton crocheting a robin, a lavender sachet and a coffee cup (don't ask...)

2300 yards in and 880 yards out. That's a net stash up of 1420 yards. I have some more yarn due to be delivered any day now, again for a planned House Cup project, but after that I shouldn't need to buy any more yarn this year. I hope.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Roses and lavender

I crocheted a little lavender sachet this weekend, with a crocheted rose on it for decoration.

I used Rico essential cotton dk yarn from stash, a free pattern on Ravelry (note: Rav log-in required for link) and a 3.5mm hook. The pattern used UK crochet terms and I am so used to working with American patterns, I forgot and did the last round in American trebles and not single crochet, so I had to rip it back! I did this twice as well, once on each side. How silly of me!

I specially like the picot edge. This is the first time I did that in crochet. I also think I have now mastered the magic circle, finally.

These would make pretty christmas presents, so I might make another. If I was making again, I would use a smaller hook, as I had to line it before filling with lavender because the crochet was quite big. I would also probably omit the last round of (US) double crochet, as I think smaller would be even prettier.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Flower garden

I sewed some flower pin cushions this weekend. I made them out of wool felt, and using a pattern in issue 38 of Sew Hip magazine.

They are quite simple, folk art type style. I like the one with the little flowers best. I also learned to do French knots whilst making the circular one with the big flower.

I mean to put these in gift parcels for sewing friends. As I have plenty of pin cushions already. But perhaps you can't have too many?

The felt flowers are more reliable than the ones in our garden, at least this year. We suffered from a cool and wet Spring and early summer too. Not only were there fewer flowers than usual, the apples on our trees are very small this year. My purple sage plant and gooseberry bush were drowned owing to heavy rain standing on the ground for a long time. We suffer from clay soil, and are also located at the bottom of a hill, so drainage can be a problem.

It's raining again now. At least we have no water shortages!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree

I sewed this cushion last weekend:

I made this pattern before, in a different colour palette. The first version was too insipid to look good in our front room, so I gave it away. This version suits our wall colour better, and also goes with the apples cushion I made last year, as I used a similar gingham border, and some of the same fabrics. As an addition this time, I sewed a little fallen apple on below the tree.

The apple didn't fall far from the tree also with me and ds. We share an interest in history; this week we were much excited by the discovery of possibly Richard III's bones in an archaeological dig in Leicester. Very timely after our recent visit to Bosworth.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Baby knitting

I really enjoy making baby things. I think it's the instant gratification, as there is hardly any time involved in making such small items. It's a long time since there were any very small people in our house, so I take every opportunity to knit for babies I know, however distantly! This week, I knitted this little set:

The cardigan is the Puerperium newborn baby cardigan. Because it buttons right down the side, there is no need to try and get it over a newborn head! The hat is the tiffany lace baby hat. Both patterns are free. And awesome! I used Sirdar smiley stripes dk for these, as it is machine washable.

Hope the mummy of the expected little boy approves.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Wars of the Roses

Ds has become a Young Archaeologist this summer. The benefits of this include free admission (usually only for him, unfortunately) to a range of UK historical sites. The membership pack came with a booklet of relevant sites, two of which are within easy driving distance of our house. I'm rather ashamed to think we lived here nearly twenty years and I hadn't been to either before.

Yesterday, we went to Bosworth Field heritage centre and country park. This was the site of the final battle in the Wars of the Roses, in which Lancastrian Henry Tudor, later Henry VII, defeated Yorkist King Richard III.

The actual battlefield site has moved! It was thought at one time to have been fought on the hill, but you can read here how archaeological investigation found cannon balls and gilt badges in a field nearby, which was therefore identified as the actual battle site. This is what it looks like now:

This is the route we took to get there, with dh and ds doing a spot of brass rubbing for the children's activity trail (£1 from the visitor centre, and you get a free poster if you complete it).

On the hill is a memorial to the soldiers who died:

And in the visitor centre courtyard is a stone erected for Richard III, although his body was supposed to have been taken to Leicester, and buried somewhere there.

Someone had left white roses at the foot, and one was wedged into the plaque too. White roses of Yorkshire for Richard of York.

We had an excellent day out. The activity trail for children was engaging and interesting also for adults - we especially liked the sound recordings. Tips for visitors to keep costs down, bring your own picnic. There are plenty of picnic tables. Admission to the exhibition is pricey at £7.50 per adult, but there is a family ticket available for £15. Or, if you have a Young Archaeologist like ds, they can get in for free.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Stashdown2012 #8

I didn't do much knitting in August -  too busy being on holidays and generally chilling. But I did complete two items. I made the lovely Koigu scarf I wrote about in my last post. That was 440 yards. And I made a little baby hat, 60 yards, really just so I could get points for Ravenclaw House.  And I scored five Ravellenics Medals in the process!

I'm sending this one off to for distribution. This is a charity that collects knitted and sewn items and sends them where they are needed - maternity hospitals, projects for elderly people, overseas collections etc.

Altogether that was 500 yards worked up. I also discarded some more yarn, as I had some to take to the church group from last month (my sock yarn, still waiting to actually be donated. Blush). I did a quick review of my stash and added to the bag some paton's washed haze (200 yards approx), some old Sirdar country style in a colour I do not like (200 yards) and some Wendy Peter Pan (200 yards approx). So my total down for the month is 1100 yards.

But of course, the Fall term begins today over at the House Cup and so this morning, I went to the yarn shop. I'll tell you what the damage was in my stashdown post on 1 Oct!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Olympic knitting

Well well well. What a lazy person I am in August (looking at ye olde archives, this seems to happen every year!)

The week after we got back from France, I spent a lot of time watching the Olympics on TV. While I was watching, I finished my scarf I started in France. It is made from a kit I bought in New York, and the FO is lovely:

That is Koigu PPPM in eight different shades. Gorgeous, and just the right weight for Autumn, when it arrives in a few weeks.

Last week I had rather a lot on at work. I am hoping for a more active September on the crafting front.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

La Belle France

Feeling all rested and relaxed after a lovely week in beautiful Normandie, where the lavender was in full bloom:

We spent a lot of time by the pool. There were sunny days at the beach too.

We enjoyed wonderful French food, including pancakes:

Ds had fun scooting along the Cabourg promenade:

Dd got to visit a posh chocolatier:

And I also got to spend time in one of my favourite ways:

Dh and I enjoyed drinks for adults. We also brought some calvados home with us, to revive our holiday memories.

I have now achieved my this-year objective, to go on a proper holiday. Not one but two holidays this year! You can read on my blog previously about our trip to New York at Easter.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Stashdown2012 #7

Really, my July crafting progress was most unsatisfactory! I gave up on the socks. I did not even start my planned tea cosy, because it turned out I didn't have the right weight of yarn, and I felt unwilling to buy more yarn in the face of the stashdown. As a result of these decisions, I have failed my Divination OWL this term. But never mind, it's just a game!

Most of my July Stashdown effort was caused by discarding yarn. After frogging the socks, I gave 400 yards of fortissima sock yarn away to the church knitting group. I have learned a lesson here, and that is not to let house cup requirements bounce me into hasty yarn purchase. Also, I sent 240 yards of long-term stash Rowan summer tweed out of the house in a swap parcel. So that's 640 yards gone.

In terms of actual knitting or crochet, I used up
  • About 20 yards crocheting peas in a pod
  • 50 yards in a stashdown dishcloth
  • another 300 yards on my blues summer top, which is now finished:

So the total reduction for the month is 640 given away plus 370 worked up = 1010 yards.

I didn't buy any more yarn in July, but I received 325 yards of Alchemy Haiku in a swap parcel.  So the end of month net position is 685 yards down.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

A pre-Olympics trip to London

In one more week, the Olympic Games start in London. Dh had to go to a meeting in London yesterday, so ds and I thought we would join him on the train and have a pre-Olympics day out.

Here I am on the train with my knitting. One and a half hours of uninterrupted crafting time!

Pray excuse ds's face-pulling. He's nine; 'nuff said.

Olympic symbols welcomed us to St Pancras.

Ds and I headed off to the Museum of London. Ds was in his element looking at broken pottery, flint axe-heads, civil war weapons, and bits of metal melted in the Great Fire. We were there for three hours!

Then we caught the Docklands Light Railway to Greenwich Park, which is the venue for the Olympic equestrian events (we couldn't go right out to the Olympic park, as that is in Zone 3 and our travelcards covered only Zones 1 and 2). Olympic security had to be navigated at the National Maritime Museum; G4S didn't send enough staff so it was the army. I was rather glad my knitting was on circs at that point.

On our way back to the DLR, we passed the Cutty Sark:

She is the last surviving tea clipper, from the days when tea was imported to UK from India by fast sailing ship, now in dry dock in Greenwich. I last saw that when I was eleven.

We finished off with a posh dinner at the restaurant at St Pancras station.

What a lovely day! And now ds has seen one of the Olympic venues, he doesn't mind so much that we have no events tickets.