Monday, 31 December 2018

Closing a stitched and hooked 2018

No recap on what I've done during the year - promise!  I'm not a great one for new year and new beginnings but it is good to finish the year on a finished project.

Full of mistakes, but I learnt a lot from my first corner to corner project. It's supposed to be square but it's not. I should have had no yarn left but I have. There are gaps where there shouldn't be and crochet where there should be gaps, but's it's warm and bright and I love it!  Made from Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable in Colourway Flowerfield.  The reason it has lots of mistakes is because it is almost impossible to frog back.  The fluffy nature of the yarn locks the stitches together.

Not content with one fluffy yarn I have started a hat pattern with another fluffy yarn although I can confirm that this yarn will frog back (twice). Trying to start a hat on a circular needle with a magic loop is not to be recommended.  Eventually the hat started out on double pointed needles and was transferred to a circular needle (still too long/short) because I don't have 4.5mm DPNs or a 4.5mm with a 40cm wire.

I don't knit enough to warrant a set of interchangeable circular needles so I'm making do with what I've got although I have to say I will buy a shorter length (or a longer length to accommodate the magic loop) if I'm going to knit another hat like this. I really don't like the fiddling about with a magic loop though.

Crochet doesn't have the same equipment problems! One hook, some yarn and a pair of scissors is all you need.
Three rounds of simple crochet has produced a 4¼" square and there is enough to do at least one more and probably two from each little 15g ball. This will be my 15 minute daily project. I'll probably spend a lot more than 15 minutes a day but I'll spend at least 15 minutes per day on this. However this is a 'process' not a 'product' project.  This was brought home to me last week when a friend asked why I didn't just stick a piece of fabric on a button I had painted.
She is relatively new to crafting and still sees it as an end product. When Steph was stitching her grandma's quilt last week she said she could just feel the stress melt away. You just live in the moment, whether it's on your own in a little bubble of peace or sharing that moment with like minded people. There is something very spiritual about this kind of sharing.

When I first started serial stitching (with cross stitching pictures) I ran out of walls quickly.  It gets a bit boring having the same craft all over the house! Much of the stuff I make now is given away.  This is another element of making things - giving someone something that has taken time to make - letting them know they are special enough for the giver to invest time, money, care and thought in them.

Having said that I'll probably keep the hat I'm knitting as it has to be hand washed and I don't think it's fair to burden someone with that when they weren't expecting it.
When I downloaded the pattern (Dustland Hat by Stephen West) this yarn, (Debbie Bliss Andes, Baby Alpaca and Mulberry Silk) was the only one in my stash with the same yardage count (classed as Worsted Weight).  It's too soft and dark to show the pattern to it's best advantage but, when the mood take you.....
I love the pattern so much that I'll almost certainly make one for Will who spends most of the day outside, but I'll make it in a much more practical yarn for him. I might make one for John as he likes to go out walking with Ben. Actually Alex and Will walk a lot too - perhaps Alex might like this purple one although I expect she would like to knit one for herself.  I have to say my sudden return to knitting has been fuelled binge watching knitting podcasts over the Christmas break.

Incidentally we are going to a yarn dyeing workshop on Saturday at a local wool shop. So excited. I bought some yarn to dye when I was at Yarndale this year and am just plucking up the courage to start that so I was delighted to find this two hour course to whet the appetite.  Alex loves doing things like this too. We are planning to make some hand lotion bars soon.  Gosh I'm so lucky my daughter in laws like crafting and don't think I'm some made old bat with more fabric than sense. (or do they????)

When Will was looking for something in the cupboard under the stairs (the black hole in my house) he came across some fabric squares I had cut to make a 'boy' quilt.  So that's where they went! So I have pieces already cut and ready to be my first quilt of 2019. It will be alternating dark and light grey squares with padded 'buttons' and I think, shock, horror, I might machine quilt it.
I believe there are half a dozen or so with the circles already appliqu├ęd.

So the hat is Number 1, the quilt Number 2 and the crochet squares Number 3 of the planned projects. At Number 4, the pink shawl is high up on the list for early 2019, as are some more project bags to hold all these things.  I'm rather in love with project bags, although the first on the list will definitely be a multi-zippered affair for which a pattern has been lurking near the top of the pile for longer than it should have, considering I bought the zippers and chose the fabric some months ago.
The pattern is from Sew Demented, inspired by the one which lovely Karen made  -  she says it is not as complicated as it looks. (She's an extremely neat worker and has a really good eye for detail).  I really just need to get on and do it - Number 5 on the list although the order will change and mingle as the mood takes.

So, on this last day of 2018 I send my very best wishes to you all for a wonderful and fulfilling 2019 and leave you with my favourite picture of the festive season. A little boy, proud to be grown up enough to lose both front teeth but practical enough to wonder how he is going to bite into his food. Happy Chrithmeth Ben!

Thursday, 27 December 2018

And then it was over

I sit here on 27th December - waiting for my friend to come over for some crafting and chatter. She talks, I listen - there is no other way  - she doesn't come up for breath very often.  Tomorrow I'll be back to work and life goes on as normal.

It seems ages and yet no time since I posted. Our Christmas lunch included Will (Alex had gone to her mother's as her brother was visiting) John, Steph, Ben and Max.  John and I shared the cooking tasks which worked very well.
Ben made the dish with sprouts, bacon and chestnuts which they brought with them as well as a rib of beef, some amazing gravy made with oxtail, bread sauce and glazed carrots. I supplied the turkey and trimmings as well as the potatoes.  John made an amazing chocolate souffle for pudding.

Alex is back now and welcoming a little kitten to their home - Zula from our neighbouring farm.
She was absolutely petrified when Will brought her home and she hid behind the washing machine until they managed to tempt her out with some turkey. She'll settle in well. She is so affectionate and purrs all the time.  Will gave her a good groom with the rabbit's brush and she certainly won't want for cuddles.

I got some wonderful thoughtful presents including a book from Will
and an autographed photo from my favourite F1 driver
and some yarn from John. 15g balls of Scheepjes Stonewashed Aran Yarn to make a blanket
This one, from Cherry Heart, although hers is done in Fingering/4ply and mine will have much larger squares.  I haven't made anything in Aran so I'm looking forward to the speed!  I'll make the coloured squares first then I'll know how much cream yarn to get.  I think I'll get three from each mini-ball.
I'm not going to start it until I have finished Ben's Corner to Corner which is well on it's way and could be done by next weekend if I get down to it.

I finished the Linden Bee Shawl (also by Cherry Heart)

It is so soft and warm, made from Mulberry Silk from Watercolours and Lace.  Next on the agenda is a pink shawl, also from Cherry Heart (just stop making such lovely patterns Sandra - I can't keep up)
This is going to be made from Merino and Silk yarn I got from Dye Ninja.  It's Double Knit rather than 4-ply and involves some stitches new to me as I try to expand my knowledge of crochet.

The Attic 24 Sweet Pea Blanket is still calling to me but I think I will save this for a late Spring project.

Today however, Janet and I are going to make a dog or a bear, I think, from fabric I bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate in November 2017
First I need to clean the hens and get them fresh water and scraps from the fridge - so many scraps! Maybe I better get dressed before I start that - it's nearly 10am and I'm still in my nightie. 

OMG Janet has just texted to say she's on her way - I'd better wash up too or she'll think I'm a proper slattern. 

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Scandi cushions in the making

Thursday 13th:  About two years ago I got a little packet of those 2½" squares that you tend to pick up at Quilt Shows. (I know you're out there - I'm not the only one). I think it may have been three for £10. Well I found the scandi-fabric squares in a little box the other day and decided to make some cushion covers.  One packet barely makes a 12" square when sewn together and I needed four cushion covers. so I made four strips of nine squares and sewed them together with some cream fabric that I had about my person. As you do.
The front was spray basted to some wadding - it doesn't glue up the  needle and is great for small projects. 
A bit of random machine quilting gives a more plumptious front. (Not normally so keen on machine quilting but there's a place for it in certain situations.)
My Frixion pen (one of the best things ever for marking quilt designs) and a quarter inch line gives that little finishing touch to define the strips.
and then disappears under the heat of the iron. So much better than pencil marks which have to be washed out.
Next I made a zippered back and sewed the front to the back.  For extra definition I decided to make a binding, although if I'd had any piping cord I probably would have done that instead.

So - ta dah!!  Cushions for Christmas. I love cushions at Christmas but some are not for sitting on, naturally......  
I have cream sofas (not so good when your farmer son sits on them), so I bought about five metres of cream fabric from Ikea and have made various things to protect the sofas from Max's blackcurrant juice, my sloppy eating habits in front of the telly after a hard day at work, Will's farmy clothes and other spills and stains that would otherwise ruin things. That is why I had two metres of cream fabric in my stash for the cushions, it's not a normal thing. I'll need to go again soon as I'm down to the last metre.  I've been really good at the back end of this year, trying to use up some of the fabric I've built up over the years.  It's great to be able to dig out that right colour but, oh my, it's an embarrassment of riches and would probably go once or twice around the world if I laid it end to end.

So one down and three to go - although everything is cut out and prepared so they shouldn't take too long.

Tuesday 18th: I've had no time to actually sit down, check and publish this post so I'm doing it now before I leave for work.  I've been called in a couple of times to do extra hours for various reasons so this post is incomplete but I thought you might just want to catch up so I'm going to press the button before I leave for work.  Yesterday I got quite a bit done in the morning but got called in just after lunch. I'm working on the last stocking orders to be hand delivered on Friday - OMG just tracing the shape with my trusty template.
I've traced the shapes on to fusible web and will cut them out tonight..... Don't panic Captain Mainwairing!

Saturday, 8 December 2018

It's all about the content

Posting every day would not be a problem. Words are no problem, but content is. When there is little time to produce (also little energy when there is time) then there are no pictures, no inspiring 'makes to show. Days go by which turn into weeks - this is just no good.  This weekend has to count, as it's the one where:

  •  I write cards and 
  • get the tree and 
  • finish off presents 
  • check what is left to buy
  • make a menu
  • tidy away my stuff so I can fit people in the house
  • etc
I wish I could make my house look like this:
or this
or this
when the truth is I don't have a big house where you can make bold statements. If my staircase had this on, no-one would be able to walk down.  Hey ho, I'll have a rummage round the loft to see what I can do. But first I really must make friends with the vacuum cleaner. Can't put up decorations on top of spider webs and dust can I? (or can I?)

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Some more chooks, some more stitching, but not much

Animals shouldn't be kept as singles, except perhaps cats and dogs that have a lot of interaction with humans. When the little ginger hen died that left me with only one as Will has taken the little Silkie hens to his new house.

On Monday I set off for Durham Hens to pick another two laying hens
I chose a White Leghorn and a Black Rock which lay white and dark brown eggs respectively.

He asked if I wanted their wings clipped (like trimming toenails) but I said no they were going to be in a completely enclosed pen. Oops.

When I got home Will helped me to unload my precious cargo. The white hen jumped out of his hands and ran down to the bottom of the garden. We managed to corner her but she got into some open space, took off and landed on the garage roof from where she could spy a neighbours hens. She flew into the garden and 'mingled'. To cut a long story short we had to wait until dark when she was roosting and pick her off (she turns out to be very feisty). So now she is where she should be and I am going to clip her wings this morning. They are busy establishing their pecking order at the moment which is quite a noisy affair with much feather ruffling and some serious pecking.  They will settle down soon and I look forward to about ten eggs a week. Plus of course the pleasure of seeing these lively little creatures pecking and scratching happily for grubs. The Black Rock has the most gorgeous iridescent green/black feathers on her back, with gold speckles on her chest.

I'm suffering that time honoured state of winter blues at the moment and am finding it hard to motivate myself to do most everything each day. I feel anxious and sad and just want to curl up in bed and sleep the winter through at the moment. Hey ho it will be the Winter Solstice soon. Moods are so hard to control aren't they?

I don't know what I would do if I didn't have stitching to keep my head in that gently lovely place. I made a pattern for the class and did a sample for a Christmas Pudding Placemat. They are 10" across.
I have enough fabric to make a complete set so I thought I'd give them to Alex and Will for their new home, because, happily for me Alex likes that sort of thing. It's also spawned a few new ideas for Christmas table settings which I'll be developing over the next week.

I must, however make a little project bag for my friend which will need to be sent off this coming week too, together with the stockings that are ready to be posted. I have more orders but they are being hand delivered, which takes the pressure off a little.
I've reached the 'solstice' on Ben's little corner to corner crochet blanket and am now working on the shortening rows. I bought six balls of variegated yarn and then just crocheted  with increases until I'd used three of the balls. It'll be about 42" square when I've finished.
The pattern is so simple and rhythmic that I'm going to make a little triangular scarf with the silk yarn I have left over from my Linden Bee Shawl. (note to self - get the tassles done).

I went to a rugby match last Friday with my friend Janet-who-can-talk-for-England.
The match wasn't bad and the Newcastle Falcons won, which is good, but I managed to trip over an uneven paving stone on the way back to the car and went flying through the air, landing heavily on one knee. I managed to limp my way back to the car and could drive the car (clutch leg affected) back home via a huge detour because the A1 was closed for resurfacing. I didn't get back until midnight, way past my bedtime.  I got an ice pack from the freezer and hobbled up to bed. Luckily I didn't have any plans for the weekend and very happily it doesn't seem to have affected my back which can go click at a drop of the hat. Other than being a bit stiff everything seems to be ok.  I kept my leg elevated and watched the last F1 of the season with my crochet on my lap.

I've been watching the Attic24 for her annual Crochet-Along (I have done two of the five).  This one again looks really lovely and I happen to have most of the colours - Sweet Pea Stripes.

I'll have Ben's blanket finished an should also have the second little chair back blanket finished too. (Part of my Summer Crocheting) This is the first one. The second will be the same, but different if that makes sense.
The chair will be outside my back door which faces South and I am dreaming of soaking up some rays even though the cloud is thick and the day is grey now.

But for now I am off the the shops to get a cat-litter box to use as another nesting box for the hens.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Where do all the weekends go?

Stitching was put on hold this weekend as the demolition squad  Ben and Max came to stay. We dropped John and Steph off at the station for a day/night in London. (Birthday present for John).

They visited Camden Market; had a wander around; went to see Stephen Fry; ate dinner and chilled. Usually I stay at their house when they are away overnight but this time I had the boys at mine. They were little angels of course although I am constantly reminded why women can't have children after a certain age!
I dropped them off at nursery and school on Monday morning and went home to fish the entire contents of my sitting room out from under the sofas. Max swishes everything off the surface of tables, shelves sofas etc and then systematically pushed them under the sofas.

So - stitching went on hold but I got a little done on Saturday afternoon,
The entire 12 months of Mini Quilts is now done.  I will photo them next to the original quilt I made (a wallhanging). Some are the same but most are slightly different as they needed more to be stand-alone quilts. Some, as in December are completely different.

Stocking orders are coming in so I've been working on those off and on over the past couple of weeks. The fronts of three are completed and will be ready for despatch over the weekend.
I'm always nervous to post them though!

Will took Scruffy the Rabbit (aka Bunzilla) up to his new house and the two silky chickens will be moving up as soon as he has finished the new henhouse for them. I will be left with a single white hen as the ginger one (an old lady) died last week. She was a Columbine and laid blue/green eggs but nothing on the scale of the white one who is still laying the odd egg after nearly seven years. At the weekend I'll go and get another couple as the difference between eggs from your own hens and even the most expensive, free range organic eggs from the shops is still vast. Two hens will give me about 10-12 eggs a week. Enough to eat, bake with and share.

I'll soon be off to work but I have the ingredients measured out ready to bake some nutella oat traybake - a new recipe I found/adapted.
Next weekend will be short as I'm working on Saturday and also covering on Monday for holidays so I only have Sunday this week for stitching - question is, when do I do some housework?

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Picture the Year Mini Quilts are done

The last stitch has just been made on the December Mini-Quilt. Happy/Sad! They have changed from the original Picture the Year Wall Quilt that I made a few years ago.  So here is November:
In England we celebrate the 5th November - Guy Fawkes Night - I love the sight sounds and smells of this night (or in this case a whole weekend).  It also provides scope for seasonal quilts. I know in America November is represented by Thanksgiving Quilts. This is the British version!

At the weekend I made the December Mini-Quilt but you will have to wait for this one as it will go to my class first.  I've really enjoyed making these and now have a hole in my quilting world that needs to be filled with some seasonal loveliness next year.  Wall quilts, mini-quilts, cushions, what next?

Since my last post we have also celebrated Halloween.  This is becoming more of festival than it was (does my cynicism put it all down to a commercial opportunity?)  I have the same attitude to this as to Christmas, I mark it in my own way.

Little chocolate cupcakes this time. I did actually buy some little sweeties for trick or treating but I was at work on 31st until about 8 so I didn't get any callers. Will and I heroically ate the little bars of sugary stuff.

I'm going to make some toffee apple cake for this Thursday night because that is a Bonfire Night delicacy.

My quiet day on Monday was not so quiet this week. John was doing some work in the house and Steph was at work so I collected the boys from school/nursery and they came back to my house for games and tea.
The place looked like a bomb site after they had gone. They are staying over this Sunday/Monday as John and Steph are going down to London to see Stephen Fry. Once they are at school on Monday I'll be able to recoup!

The last few days have been very dull and I'm getting that sort of crushing feeling you get without sunshine.  The sky feels slightly brighter today but there has been a sort of yellow/grey light all day for the past couple of days. 

A haircut on Friday will cheer me up and a quiet Saturday is planned before the demolition squad arrive on Sunday. I've chosen to stay in my house rather than theirs this time and if the weather is kind we can walk to the park. 

Will and Alex are moving this weekend so I might make them a casserole so that they don't have to worry about cooking. Will is taking the little hens and the rabbit and I will be getting a couple of new layers as my other two are quite old ladies now.  The difference between bought eggs and fresh laid home eggs is indescribable. 

So in a week when my youngest is 31 and my oldest is 33 I'm feeling my own age a bit more. But let's not grow old gracefully eh?