Friday, 13 December 2013

Annual stocktaking day

This is the post I write every December, in which I consider my Stashdown efforts and report on my updated stash. Here it is laid out on the sitting room floor (although actually, there were a few further reductions since then, as I discarded some very old partial skeins).

It looks smaller than last year and that's because it is! Last year at the count, I had 36 whole skeins, 67 partial (more than half a ball) skeins and 41 scraps (less than half a ball).  I now have 30 whole skeins (and quite a few of them are recently purchased, so this is better than it sounds), 55 partial skeins and 56 scraps.

My stashdown was successful this year, in the sense that I ended the year 754 yards down in November when I counted up. Actually, it's gone down a bit more since then, about 200 yards discarded in the latest review of stash, but I didn't weigh it so that's not very scientific.

I felt quite conflicted about the impact of stashdown this year. In the first half of the year, I bought hardly any new yarn, but that meant I didn't do that much knitting, as I was too inhibited by feeling obliged to stash down and the lack of choices available from within the yarn on hand.  So although there was some downward travel, it wasn't much production, really. In the last three months, I stopped the yarn diet and 19 new balls of yarn came in since September 1st! Of course, that had a predictable impact on my stashdown.... which actually make the year end position not at all bad, since I was still down overall by over 700 yards, and slightly more than the previous year.

For 2014, I will still keep my stashdown records, and aim for more out than in, but I don't want to let it inhibit me in quite the same way, as I would like to do a little more knitting. We'll see...

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Holly and Ivy

Yesterday I did a little seasonal crafting, involving jam jars, tea light candles, red berries and green leaves. It seems like it's been forever since I tried a non-yarn project, and this one only took about twenty minutes. Instant gratification!

I went out in the garden to find supplies. The red berries were from my cotoneaster. The green leaves were mostly from an ivy growing on the front garden wall, and a few holly leaves cut from a holly seedling in the garden. It's only a baby, so I didn't take too many.

I put some of the berries in the bottom of the clean jars next to the tea light candles. Then i just wrapped stems of ivy round the tops. Ivy is good for this as the stems are very pliant. I used a little piece of string to fasten, where I needed to, but some of the stems stayed in place just by wrapping.

Then I lit the candles. Ta-da!

How lovely and Yule-like! But like all candles, these should not be left unattended when lit.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Stashdown #11

Unfortunately I went to a yarn shop this month, as I was in London and there was a trip to Loop in the schedule. And I had to buy an extra ball of dk as I didn't have the right colour in stash for one project.

Yarn in
420 yards in the form of 1 skein of Mad tosh fingering in vishnu.

362 yards of quince and co chickadee.
123 yards of Wendy bliss merino. I needed another colour.
Total in: 905

I had a review of my stash and got rid of some long-term residents with the aim of offsetting half of the incoming yarn. I didn't quite manage this, but the total out was 372.

I also did knitting! I knitted up
803 yards WoTA in assorted colours making my intarsia bag. I used up nearly all of the five brown skeins, one bright blue skein plus part skeins in assorted colours as follows: pink, purple, lilac, purple heather, light blue, medium blue, yellow, pumpkin, light green, dark green. I have got a lot of the colours left, but hopefully I'll be able to use them up in various smaller projects. I foresee stripes in my future!
78 yards of James C Brett monsoon making a pair of fingerless mitts:

21 yards of Wendy bliss merino making flying keys for a class project.
30 yards of Wendy bliss merino making a little hat and scarf for a wine gift
187 yards of assorted stash yarns: WoTA, Rowan all seasons cotton, Rowan handknit cotton, Wendy merino dk, making a tea cosy

End month position:
+905 new yarn purchases
-372 discarded yarn from stash
-1119 knitted up
End month: -588

Final YTD: -754

I say final because it's very unlikely I'll do any knitting to speak of in December, but I will be doing my annual stash catalogue. I might take that opportunity to clear out even more old yarn, so I am down again for the new year. It would be really nice to knit down some more in 2014, but I don't want that to inhibit my knitting, as it really has this year, so I might try a more relaxed approach to stash down next year.

I can also count success, because I said I wanted to do better on my stashdown than in 2012 and I have, by 40 yards!!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Tea from a Yorkshire landscape

Regular readers will know, although I've been transplanted to the Trent Valley, I'm actually from Yorkshire. Where I grew up, there were dry stone walls, green hills, and lots and lots of sheep. Which perhaps lies behind my fondness for yarn. 

Hill farming is what can be managed in that geography, although lower down in the glacial valleys, there are hay meadows and pasture with cows. This is the country of the Bronte sisters and The Secret Garden.

This week, I have made a tea cosy that recalls that landscape:

I once had the book with the pattern for this tea cosy in it, but unfortunately I gave it away last year, so I had to reverse engineer this pattern using other people's FO photos from Ravelry and my tea cosy knitting experience.
All the materials came out of stash. I made the sheep using duplicate stitch and not the intarsia of the original pattern, as I'm sick of intarsia now. 

There is a knitted lining on the inside which not only adds to its efficiency in keeping tea warm, it also hides the unsightly backs of the duplicate-stitched sheep.

I now have six tea cosies at home. I usually start with the intention of giving them away, but when I finish them, I like them so much, I can't bear to part with them. 

So for now, my Yorkshire landscape tea cosy is in my kitchen!

Monday, 25 November 2013

A bag full of flowers

Today I can report I have FINISHED my major project from the last three months.

I am very happy with the end result:

Here's a close up, so you can see the very many French knots I added for texture on the lovely purple flowers:

And one of the lining, that I sewed. It hides the back of all the intarsia and embroidery nicely!

And the reverse, so you can see the flowers extend to the back:

I am very pleased. I think I will be taking this one out of the house.

No more intarsia for at least another year, though!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Felt not bad

7 steps to felting chez moi:

1. Stress unduly about the fact that I, like most British people, own a front-loader washing machine, so once I start the cycle, I can't check progress until it finishes. Most felting instructions on web are for top-loaders and exhort you to check how the felting is going.

2. Examine washing machine instruction book to see if I can switch the spin off (in the end, I didn't switch it off, I just switched it down to the lowest speed).

3. Felt swatch several times at different temperatures and measure. Gnash teeth over inconclusive results.

4. Stick completed piece in machine. Take deep breath. Turn machine on.

5. Drink coffee and contemplate the hours and hours of intarsia knitting now in machine possibly being trashed.

6. Open machine and take out FO.

7. Marvel at final result, which not only looks OK, it is approximately the desired measurements as well.

Here is is while blocking:

This weekend, I shall sew the lining and add the handles. Updates coming soon. I hope.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Flower progress

I seem to be a much reduced blogger. Contemplating whether I am going to stop posting here altogether in 2014. I am approaching five years of blog presence and I'm maybe running out of things to say...

I've been working mostly on my intarsia bag this month and I'm pleased to report the actual knitting is finished, the ends are (mostly) woven in and I experimented by felting my swatch, so I'm just about ready to start the actual felting. I was a bit concerned as I only have a front-loading washing machine, and I'm not sure whether I can switch the spin off either, but the felted swatch looks OK so I will press ahead.

If all goes according to plan, I'll be blocking the bag over the weekend, embroidering on it next week, and adding the lining and handles the following weekend, so I am on track to get this one done in time. I really don't want to miss the deadline and fail yet another OWL!

Here's a pic of the completed knitting, before I started on the finishing (with apologies for the poor quality photo. I took it on my phone)

It gives you the general idea, and perhaps some indication of how much intarsia was involved! I shan't be doing any more for quite a while. The FO is enormous at present, but hopefully felting will reduce it down considerably.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Stashdown #10: October

In October, I didn't buy any yarn, and I finished a pair of socks: 320 yards worked up.

I've been mainly working on my colourwork bag this month, which is still in progress, so I can't count any yarn down yet. But it is definitely going down! I started with 15 balls of KP WoTA and I now have less. Although, I will have lots of partial balls left. Such is the way with intarsia.

Brought forward from last month +154
Yarn in 0
Yarn out 320 yards
Net for month -320
YTD total: -166

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Tea with Aladdin

Periodically I post entries here about visits to tea shops, which is a favourite pastime of mine. Whilst in Disneyland last week, I was fortunate to experience a new kind of tea stop:

This is tea as served in the cafe Agrabah. It comes in a silver tea pot with little feet, and is poured into coloured glasses with a gilded pattern of elephants. Beautiful. The actual tea is mint, very sweet, and there was a sprig of fresh mint in there too.

I had never had tea like this before, but I certainly would again, if the opportunity arose. I don't know anywhere local that serves this, so I might have to go back to Disneyland, I guess...

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Crafting Alert!

I thought it was about time I mentioned crafting on my so-called craft blog!

Over the last month I have been knitting away, very slowly, on my intarsia project, which is a felted tote bag. I'm now at about 65% of the knitting. It looks terrible in progress, but that's the way with intarsia. Believe it or not, this is actually the front!!

I'm following instructions for intarsia contained in Debbie Stoller's Superstar Knitting, in which it is recommended to join colours from the front. I will pull them all through to the back and fasten them when complete.

I have another 60 rows to knit - "only" 50 of them are colourwork - and then I'll be at the felting stage. I'm hoping it will be transformed by felting. I won't have to weave the ends in, according to various people with more felting experience than me. Actually, that's not hard, as I have none yet. The felting will apparently secure the ends and they will be hidden when I sew a lining in. Let's hope it all works as anticipated.

My other project in October was going to be a sewing one, but unfortunately it is not finished, so I will be submitting a partial (the potterverse refers). The pattern said it was a footstool, but after sewing the pieces together, I definitely have something larger that a footstool - more the size of a beanbag! So I would need to buy lightweight polyester beads to fill it, as I don't have enough polyfil or fabric scraps, and those options would in any case be, respectively, too expensive or too heavy, given the size.

I'm not sure this will in fact be finished, though. I was attempting fabric stash-down and so using leftovers, and I'm just not so happy with the way the fabrics work together. So I might be jettisoning this one and putting it down to experience. Oh well.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Birthday Treat

Ds was eleven last weekend. Gosh, eleven!! How did that happen?! It was also the start of half-term week, so we took advantage of the school holiday to take a quick trip to one of ds's favourite places, Disneyland Paris. It wasn't quite what I had planned, as my mum was unable to come with us, so it was just me and ds. However, we have form on travel together (see, for example, our trip to Bath, or to Hadrian's Wall) but this was the first time we had been abroad by ourselves.

Here's ds on the Eurostar service on the outward trip:

And here he is meeting Rex the dinosaur in the park. Ds declared he was too big to tolerate queueing for a photograph with the characters, but he wasn't averse to a quick snap with a statue. (Although, he was sorely tempted by Jack Skellington. Only the length of the queue put him off!)

We had a lovely time, and especially enjoyed the food. Our menus included Mexican, creole, German and north african. Ds has quite adventurous tastes for someone only just eleven. But he doesn't mind indulging my preference for the tea cups:

Happy birthday, best boy! 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Golden Socks

I have finished my golden socks, and here's the evidence:

They were not an easy knit, but the FO is very, very nice. I particularly love the little leaf charms - there is one on each turn-over cuff, on the lowest leaf that hangs down slightly. They are a very nice touch on the finished socks.

I used 320 yards of Knitting Goddess sock yarn in the semi-solid wheat colourway. One skein seemed to be a slightly darker shade than the other, and even though I noticed in time to alternate the skeins in the second sock, there is some colour variation between the two different socks. Not enough to put me off wearing them.  I will take greater care when knitting another pair of socks in hand-dyed yarns. I wasn't looking for this, particularly, because in the last pair of socks I made with this yarn source - pink eighties style socks - I didn't notice any discrepancy in the two skeins used.

Still loving my so-elegant socks, though!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Ticket to Hogwarts

Busy week! But I'm off today and here to blog about my AWESOME day last Sunday.

On Sunday, I caught a train to London - all by myself. I was meeting members of the Harry Potter Knitting and Crochet House Cup, a Rav-based group of which I am inordinately fond. Anyone reading my blog from there, hi! I expect I'll see you in the Great Hall, Tower or class rooms. Explanation for non-Cuppers: the House Cup is a Harry Potter-themed knitting and crochet tournament game - competitive knitting for points and a winning team every term. This is what accounts for a very large part of my inspiration and motivation, where crafting is concerned, and explains why my FO list is full of weird things like toadstool pots, knitted hedgehogs and the like.

As a group of Harry Potter fans, there was only one place to meet in London and it was here:

The Ravenclaw scarf was a prop provided by the staff, but I brought my own owl. His name is Finniston. Blyton fans will perhaps make a connection between my Rav user name and my owl's name and laugh. Others, maybe not so much...

BTW the staff did try to give me a Gryffindor scarf first off, but of course I said "no way!" because everyone knows, I am Ravenclaw or die :-)

There is a shop at Platform 9 3/4 selling HP merchandise at vast expense. I was shocked at how much it was. It makes hand-knit HP scarves in top quality yarn look exceptionally good value! I bought a few pin badges for ds, but that's all. But you can buy time-turners (that truly would be magical!), house shields, wands, and the like. Here's a pic I took of some of the stuff for sale.

Since we were a group of knitters, afterwards we caught the Tube to Angel, Islington, and went to loop. But I was very good and bought no yarn. Since I've come home, I've been kicking myself about this, and want to go back. Maybe when I have some spare £. I had a lot of outgoings with dd's university transfer in September.

The best bit was meeting the other House Cup people. Three of them were over here from the USA and Canada, so it was truly an international meeting. Although I met them all on the Internet first, and all previous communication had been computer-mediated, I have been playing this game with these people for over three years, so it was really like meeting old friends.

Also, I got to sit on the train for quite some time, and so I have finished my golden socks! More on that later.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Stashdown #9: September 2013

My stashdown is Fail this month. Owing to the House Cup crafting timetables: I had to buy 15 balls of worsted weight yarn for a big intarsia project I'm now working on. I have actually worked two of those down already, but it was still yarn in during September. I also bought 2 balls of Rowan lima to make my London hat, reported previously.

Yarn in: KP Wool of the Andes 1650 plus Rowan Lima 220 = 1870 yards.

I finished two projects and used up 204 yards

London hat - 103 yards of Rowan Lima
Crochet toadstool pot - 101 yards of Wendy mode chunky (this was deep stash yarn, leftover from a christmas stocking I made back in 2010)

Net for month: +1666
YTD: +154

It's not as bad as it sounds. I'm nearly at the end of my Lady Tryamour socks, which will be over 300 yards. Another couple of days should do it, and then I'll be back in the right direction again. After that, I'll be back on the intarsia so that yarn will start to go down too. Also, I was in loop in Islington yesterday and I bought no yarn at all. My stashdown psychology has now made it quite difficult for me to buy any yarn if I don't have a definite project in mind.

That mushroom again...

I finished another project at the weekend - crochet this time.

My beloved Fly Agaric makes yet another appearance, as a container for, er, not sure yet!

This was a quick project to make. I used stash yarn (Wendy mode chunky) and a 5mm hook. The buttons on the top are just for effect - they are cheap acrylic ones. The pattern is available for sale on Ravelry.

Inside you can keep things:

Another shot with the buttons in better view:

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Socks in progress

In my last post, I mentioned I was knitting some socks.

I'm making the Lady Tryamour socks from the Knitter's book of socks, a book I had for Christmas but this is the first pattern I've made from it so far.

It is a lovely book of patterns, but I have a major grumble, in that not all the patterns include a range of sizes. Some of them are women's M only, some are women's M and L, and having very small feet, I am saddened by the missing S sizes. Also, I really feel that when someone shells out hard cash for a hardback knitting book, it's not too much to expect a complete range of sizes to be included for every pattern. It's not so easy to adjust them, either, since most of them have reasonably complex stitch patterns involving charts!

But I was very happy to see that this particular pattern comes in a small size. So far I've knitted up to the fold-over cuff on the first sock and they are AWESOME!

Not a very good photo, as taken in rather poor light, but the stitch pattern involves a relief design of buds and leaves.

I have train journeys on Sunday in which I hope to make good progress on these socks. They are taking longer than I expected and I'm falling behind on my other knitting plans. Must knit more!!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Long Week

It's been a long old week, and not the best one I had.

Last weekend, dh and I drove dd down to her University town on the south coast, and helped her carry all her belongings into her residence hall. It was 200 miles in each direction. Since then, it's been very quiet at home - perhaps a little too quiet, even: I'll have to get ds to make a bit more noise! However, I have noticed the new availability of the bathroom, TV switched off, and the complete absence of being woken late at night by dd returning from various revels, so not without compensations.

I have finished my hat, and here it is:


Back - a view of London's skyline:

It is technically finished, but sadly, it is rather tight round my head. I made the smallest size; the medium is 2 inches bigger in circumference which will surely be too big. Trying to decide my next move. I can either wear it, even if it is a little snug, or frog it and re-knit, with adjustments to the medium sized pattern. Still thinking. 

Meantime, I cast on for a pair of lovely socks. More on this later. 

Monday, 9 September 2013

Back to school

I have to apologise for my absence. It's been a month since my last post, I remarked today.

I can't do a stashdown report for August because it was zero in, zero out. I did no knitting, indeed no crafting. The first half of August was a pretty lazy holiday time, as identified in a set of what-I-did-on-my-holidays posts on here. The second half was a flurry of completely non-crafting activity: the A Level results came out and I was pitched into a whirlwind of assistance with university preparation, because dd had got the necessary grades to go to her first choice.

I find the start of the school year conducive to a return of the crafting mojo, as well as a general improvement in organisation. Since 1 September I have been buying yarn and crafting. Look at this evidence of progress:

I hope to finish this hat by the weekend. I have grand crafting plans this month, that also involve a fly agaric (nearly done, needs buttons), a field of flowers (on the needles), and a pair of golden socks (yarn on hand, needs winding). We'll see how far I get...

Friday, 9 August 2013

A grand day out

Today I took ds and a friend to Twin Lakes, the nearest theme park to us. Although not on the scale of Alton Towers, it is pretty fun for a day out, and doesn't suffer from long queues. If you go on a hot day, remember to take swimming things, so you can make the most of this fabulous attraction:

That giant yellow bucket you can see right at the top fills with water, and then tips up, splashing water down the slides and on everyone beneath.

The boys had SO MUCH FUN! Although they are getting a bit too big for some of the activities and rides now, they especially enjoyed the falconry display and the reptile house.

Since our last visit I can report there is now a wonderful choice of ice-creams, but the lunchtime catering is still not up to much, so I was glad we had brought our own pack-up.

Monday, 5 August 2013

A Spectacular Angel

This post continues the "what I did in my holidays" post I wrote a couple of days ago.

Our route to Hadrian's Wall country took us along the motorway close to Gateshead. As we drove along, I was astonished (and charmed) to see this famous piece of public art come into view:

This giant sculpture is the Angel of the North by Antony Gormley, that was funded with National Lottery money in the late '90s. On our way back, we stopped off for a better look, and walked right up to the installation. In the pic below, you can see me and ds at the bottom right corner:

I'm really pleased to have seen it in real life, as I'd only seen pictures of it before.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Hadrian's Wall Country

I haven't posted for more than a week because I've been away with ds, visiting Britain's most famous Roman site: Hadrian's Wall.

If you want to know more about the historical background to Hadrian's Wall, there is plenty of information linked from here. In the course of three days, we visited three Roman forts, one Roman temple, one museum about the Roman Army, saw a live archaeological dig (at Vindalanda, highly recommend!) and walked along sections of the Wall twice.

Here's some pics of the historical sites for your enjoyment:

Wall in background with view towards Scotland
Roman Milecastle 37 and another view towards Scotland
Roman Temple of Mithras
At Vindalanda Roman Fort

The countryside in this area is simply beautiful:

We stayed at High Keenley Fell farm B&B and I can highly recommend it. It's a working hill farm in a beautiful remote location, with peace and quiet, and home comforts, about 12 miles South of Haltwhistle. Here's a picture taken up by the farm

I'm back home now, but still have another week on leave, so look out for some day trips! 

Stashdown #7: July 2013

I didn't do a whole lot of knitting in July. The welly toppers were the only thing I knitted. I had to buy three skeins of yarn to be able to complete those, so 369 yards came in. 340 yards were knitted up for the welly toppers.  I also discarded the remaining yarn in one of the stash scrap balls I used for the toppers so that was another 60 yards, meaning I used up more yarn than I bought in July, yay!

So the position at month end is:
-1481 brought forward end June
+369 new yarn bought in July
-340 worked up
-60 discarded
New total YTD: -1512

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Festival flowers

In August, my eighteen year old dd will be attending her first ever big music festival and camping for three nights with her girlfriends.

Although the weather is wonderful in the UK right now, you might possibly have heard, we do get quite a lot of rain here. As the English go on and on about the weather - it's a favourite topic of ours :-) Festivals are generally held in fields, so a pair of wellies is essential UK festival wear, in case it gets muddy. Worn with shorts, these can make the backs of your legs sore, so I crafted a pair of welly toppers for my dd, in the hope that soft yarniness will make her wellies more comfy if worn with bare legs.

I made them in bright colours to go with her lilac wellies, which were bought from Hunters a few years ago at vast expense (but they are wearing very well, on the plus side). I used the yarn I bought in Whitby for the base cream and purple flowers, and yarn from stash for the red hearts, and the variegated purple stripes, so this was a partial stashdown project.

I found the pattern in one of my Knit Now magazines, but this pattern is now available to purchase on Ravelry (note: Rav log-in may be needed to view link). 

I love the folk-art impression of the FO, and my dd seems to really like them. I was rather gratified to hear her showing them to her friends with some pride. And they were generally admired, so this is definitely a Win. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Hogsmeade Station

Anyone who reads this blog will be only too aware of my obsession with Harry Potter. I loved the books, and the movies, and I play an online knitting game themed around it (what?! you knew I was a geek already, surely?)

I share the interest (in Harry Potter, not the knitting!!) with both my kids, so they are always up for visiting Potterverse locations. Whilst we were in the North York Moors, we took ds to a very special location. Dd has been there twice before, once as a tiny baby before there were any Harry Potter books even, but this was ds's first visit.

Recognise it? Ds did! It was that foot bridge that gave it away.

This is the Hogsmeade station featured in the very first Harry Potter film. Later on, they moved it to some studio, but in the first film, most of the Hogwarts Express scenes were filmed on the North York Moors steam railway. Hogsmeade station was at Goathland, which is where these photos were taken.

Here's when the train pulled in to the station.

And here is the steam train that chuffs away along the line. I think they used a different one for the Hogwarts Express, but I can't be sure. I really need to get my VHS tapes out and watch the first HP film again.

Keep an eye out for a future blog post in which we go to the Warner Studio Tour. Note to self: must organise this!

Monday, 8 July 2013

A day at the seaside

Just back from a lovely weekend away. It was just three of us, as dd was away on holiday with three girlfriends. This is a big milestone for us, but obviously she is over 18 now and some letting go has to happen, no matter how difficult it is.

Anyway, the rest of us drove up to Yorkshire. My parents were away on holiday, so we got to stay in their empty house and have a little holiday of our own. 

Ds's school was closed on Friday for teacher training, so we had an extra day. We went to Whitby on Friday, and as it was term time, it was exceedingly quiet, as you can see in this view of the West Cliff: 

We could do on-street parking at the top of the cliff and we didn't even have to pay. Quite extraordinary!

We walked past Bram Stoker's house, where he wrote the novel Dracula and guess what? it is to let. So if you fancy staying somewhere nice to write a masterpiece, give the agent a call!

The weather was fantastic. Here's ds and dh enjoying the sun on the pier:

In Whitby, the pier isn't the pleasure kind with amusements and fairground rides and candy floss. There are a few amusement arcades, a handful of rides and several sweet shops, along the road by the harbour, but Whitby is a serious fishing port and so the pier is given over to serious fishing. You can buy some of the marine harvest in local shops:

And indeed I did eat some of it, but in a restaurant for lunch:

Mmm yummy.

There is something else for sale in Whitby, at this fabulous shop:

They had some lovely handknits for sale, but I didn't buy any. I did buy three balls of dk, but it was cheap-ish yarn with a specific purpose in mind, so it will fit with my stashdown.

We spent the afternoon hanging out on the beach, until we finally had to pack up owing to the tide coming in. 

What a lovely day!