Wednesday, 27 February 2019

A few days off to recharge

I set out last Thursday after work to stay with my best friend for a few days. Apart from getting stuck in a traffic jam in Yorkshire the journey to Farnham was uneventful although it did take six hours. I did it in one hop though which saved a half hour. I normally stop for a McWee just before the M25.

The following day we set out for Unravel which is held in the Farnham Maltings
Farnham is a lovely higgledy-piggledy town in Surrey and happily only a ten minute journey from Karin's house.  The Maltings has a Great Hall and a myriad of little rooms which were full of people selling gorgeous things.

The yarn - oh the yarn!

I did have a plan though. Yarn from Stranded Dyeworks whose Podcast I watch every week - what a character!  I also wanted a little drop spindle and some wooly stuff to spin.
Angora from some rabbits and some merino/silk blend to spin.
So I had spent most of my hard earned dosh in the first half hour, by which time it was getting very crowded (I really hate crowds).  We retired to the little cafe and had a delicious cheese scone and hot strong coffee
We rejoined the fray but it was too much so we came home with our purchases (and I still had £13 in my purse). Hand dyed wool is very expensive but utterly individual. I got a skein for Alex who is just embarking on her knitting journey (the coloured skein on the right) and have printed out a pattern for her from Ravelry - what a resource that website is. Fabulous.
Over a cup of tea I did a bit of spinning but we were laughing at my efforts so much I really only made a few lumpy yards!  I did a bit more when I got home. I have 150 grams of fluffy stuff and I will master the art. Eventually.
I also got a sock set to knit (the table cloth design has olives on it in case you were wondering)
I drove home on Sunday morning, again in one hop. It was lovely to get back to my little house with its really powerful shower!

My main focus for the rest of my time off was a shawl made with brioche stitch and shaped garter stitch panels. After eight attempts I managed the first panel of brioche. I decided to leave  a few mistakes in because I thought I would abandon it if I unpicked it one more time.

The second panel is better, especially after I realised you had to hold the yarn really tight to stop the bagginess that normal tension gives.  So this is where I am after my few days off. 
 Another shaped panel will restore the triangular shape of the shawl.
 One side of the brioche is pale blue
The other is multi blue - not a huge contrast which made it hard to do for the first time but I'm getting there.  The stitch pattern is beautifully soft and squishy but almost impossible to correct if you make a mistake and also almost impossible to frog back. The final panel has over 300 stitches on so it will not get pulled back. No sir.

I haven't done a stitch of my patchwork and nothing in my house. I'm back to work this afternoon but feel recharged which was the main reason for the break of course. 

I'd better get on with the pattern for class tomorrow night and maybe a tray of Millionaires Shortbread too. I got a text from John to say they were missing Cake Friday last week. I paraphrase, there was an alliteration -  'what, no Cake F... Friday?' I think the text said. 

Well I'm going to reload the washing machine and slip another couple of rows in...... 

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Stitching peacefully

What a lovely peaceful weekend I'm having. John and Steph are busy arranging their new house - no mean feat if I remember rightly! Not helped I have to say by the flooring downstairs which was not laid properly even though there was no furniture to move. Now it will have to be relaid and all the furniture moved. Steph, still unpacking, is wondering how they fitted so much into their smaller house!

Will and Alex are in the Lakes for the weekend.  They walked up a hill which Will says should be classified as a mountain as it is above 640m.

I've been feeding their little menagerie which includes two Silkie Hens, one grumpy rabbit, and little Zula
An impossibly sweet little long-haired tabby.

Back at home I have just finished a little zippered bag requested by one of the ladies at the class.  The pattern just needs to be finished off. I know the flower is pretty generic but I saw a similar design somewhere. This is my take rather than my design.
 A perfect size for a project bag.
 It's made from linen bought at Birmingham last year and Sandown the year before.
I wanted it to look a bit shabby chic so I used light-weight iron-on interfacing to stabilise the shapes but sewed them with a raw edge.
I very rarely machine appliqué but I'm really pleased with this, although it is a bit narrower than I intended as I didn't quite get the little motif central and had to trim a bit from the side. Oops.

Originally I had planned to use Bosal to stiffen the bag but it didn't look right so I patiently unpicked the quilting and substituted 80/20 wadding and medium weight interfacing to give it some body. Nobody likes a floppy bag!

Project bags are a recent phenomenon for me. They are much more attractive than plastic bags which I have used in the past to store little projects. The knitting community seem to revel in their beauty almost as much as the projects that go in them.  So they are double pleasure, the first in making the bag and the second in having something beautiful and practical to store knitting, crochet and other little doo-dads and gewgaws. Win win.

Now I'm marking and layering the little linen and lawn quilt (42" x 36"). I will probably take this to Karin's on Thursday although if history is anything to go by we'll be talking nineteen to the dozen. I just like to have the option.
We are going to Unravel on Thursday - squeak. This is a festival to celebrate all sorts of yarny things, particularly Indie Dyers and designers. This will be the second visit to Unravel which - happy coincidence - is ten minutes from Karin's house in the town of Farnham.

I've been to three, or is it four, Yarndale Festivals in Skipton, which is about an hour and a half's drive from my house.  I am hearing really good things about the Edinburgh Yarn Festival too but that is at the end of March - a bit too close to Unravel and probably too tempting for someone who has enough yarn to reach to Venus and back, but I may visit next year......

The Battenberg blanket squares are coming on.  I'm about half way through the colour pack which John got me for Christmas. Each little ball makes two squares (aran weight).

I'm a bit tempted to do a few plain squares which are join-as-you-go. It's a dilemma though. Do I get all the coloured squares done and set them out to make sure they are evenly distributed and risk getting bored with the neutral squares? Or do I forge ahead and join them with the risk of ending up with a pile of ugly colours in one corner because I've used all my favourites up? I can think of worse dilemmas!

So peace and harmony are restored in my life. I'm back in my own bed, the towels are all folded in the right direction and the half used packet of peas in my freezer has got a little clip on it to stop them falling out. The lids are on the jars and my creams and lotions are lined up neatly. All's well with the world.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Stretching back into my space

My house is not big (or that small I suppose) but it has been a tight fit for the past month with 3 adults and 2 children (one bathroom and loo!).  Yesterday John and Steph got their house far enough to be able to move into and slept their first night there.Well John Steph and Max did because Ben was staying with his cousin for a sleepover. Max is in hospital today to have his adenoids removed and grommets re-fitted. They had to be at hospital for 7am this morning.  It is impossible to explain to an autistic 3 year old that he is not able to eat before the operation so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they take him down early this morning.  I'm waiting patiently for updates and am going to sew to keep my mind from conjuring up horrid pictures of the operation.
I've marked out some fabric and layered on to some bosal to make a bag with good structure. I've been working on a design which was inspired by something I saw (I can't remember where) a while ago and did a quick sketch, adapting it to my taste.  It is a raw edge machined flower, which is unusual for me.
Claire is covering my shift at work today as I've done a lot of extra duties for Steph over the past couple of weeks. Bit tired to say the least but I'm enjoying and really appreciating the space and quiet in the house!

John and I (well more John) rushed round like mad things yesterday. After a morning in the main clinic at Newcastle we rushed down to the satellite clinic near Peterlee (we hire a room in a business centre) to put up a new bed and shelves in the larger room we now occupy.
John (literally out of breath as he turned the last screw in the white unit seconds before the first patient arrived)
Originally we were in a little room but we have expanded to this more pleasant area.  We have enough room to put in a scan station and admin area too.  A few more little decorative additions will make this a lovely space to treat the expanding number of patients we are getting.

John has booked a quick trip to Spain over Easter - he richly deserves the break. I'm so proud of the way he conducts himself, running his own business, caring for his little family. He works so hard at work and at home.  I am in awe of his dedication.


Max has had his operation which was a bit more complicated than they thought. I'm hoping they will still be able to get him home today.  I feel a bit overwhelmed by it all - goodness knows how John and Steph are. 

I've managed to stitch the fabric to the bosal but I don't like the way it looks so I'm going to use wadding and interfacing instead.  Hey ho back to the drawing board. Where is my stitch ripper?

Never mind I'll finish the lawn baby quilt top - so pretty but quite flimsy - about 42" x 36"- maybe it should have had an extra couple of rows?? Too late!
I'll get it layered at the weekend and maybe take it to Karin's when I visit a week today - we're going to Unravel at the Farnham Maltings.  And we may have a glass or two of wine as well.

Later still.........

Max is out of hospital - they swung by on the way home to pick up some essentials which they'd left in my lockup, i.e. the TV stand. Max was very pale and subdued but he has come through it safe and sound. Apparently his adenoids were really infected and were 'pulling' his ear drums in. Poor little chap.  I was so pleased to see him I'm afraid there were a few tears.  I hadn't realised how tense I was today and I didn't sleep much last night either.

So I'm off to bake some cookies for class tonight and I'll be back later to sleep in my own bed again, stretched out like a pussy cat.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone xxxx😘😘😘

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Organise my time - get more done!

It's the same old cry isn't it? There's just not enough time to do everything I want.  My head is reeling with ideas for things but I'll get nothing done in a timely way unless I get myself properly organised. It's a real life skill which comes back to bite me unless I'm really disciplined.

So..... I finished my little cowl, made with the First Ever Skein I dyed:
It is yet to be blocked and I'm hoping it will soften and drape better because it is a little scratchy. I absolutely loved doing this pattern (please don't look too closely for mistakes). Although I have decided I really don't like knitting nupps (pronounced noops). I will knit this pattern again because it was a pleasure and after about half way I didn't have to frog back so much. I'll put little beads where the nupps are though because they are quite messy - I haven't quite mastered the technique.  I wanted this finished before 2nd February because we were booked on another workshop.  This time at Lucy Locket in Seaburn. It was great! We used natural dyes, which looked completely different when they were dry.  The next two pictures are the same skein of yarn, wet and uncooked, then dry.

No wonder I had trouble getting reds for my crochet hexagons!

I had intended to make my first pair of socks because I expected we would be using sock yarn but we didn't.  This base was 100% Blue-Faced Leicester, so probably not hard wearing enough for socks. I should have used the first skein for socks and the ones I dyed yesterday for the cowl. Hey ho. Live a day and learn a thing.
The pink was dyed with cochineal and madder with little touches of cochineal/baking soda solution which turned it mauves-pink in the tray but disappeared when 'cooked'. The little mini-skeins above became blue (indigo) with splashes of madder which all but disappeared; the yellow one was dyed with fustic, (from tree bark I think).
The yellow was closest to the wet colour. Carol (my sister-in-law) did a mixed colour and then a fustic skein
She was using indigo blue in this shot.
She also used cochineal and the end result was a lovely pink and blue skein.

Alex wanted some gold/yellow/toffee colours for her yarn
This was how she started - the whole skein was coloured deep yellows and toffee colours before it was heated.
After heating the colours turned much lighter with some pretty salmony colours.   I love the idea of dying with natural colours but I think I need a lot more practice to get the deep colours I want. I know it is possible because I have bought them.

We had a lovely day despite the worry of not being able to make it because of a heavy snowfall over night. The only problem was the last little hill up to Alex's house so she walked down and met us at the main road.  The roads were still slushy but we made it to the workshop.

We had lunch delivered from the cafe next door - just the ticket for a cold winter's day. It's a long time since I had such good mince and dumplings.
Lucy's shop was a lovely mixture of yarns, hand-dyed yarns and other crafts.  I got some felt to make Luna Lapin (the book was a Christmas present from Will), and some cotton to make a very fine crochet cloth.   Lucy is organising a wool festival in Newcastle in August - Woolness - which celebrates the positive mental effect that crafts have.

I haven't decided what to make with my new yarn but I think it will go into my blanket stash which is mainly made up of fingering weight blue-faced leicester wool.  That project is my long term love and I don't mind if I never finish it!

Itching to do something yarny last night, but baby-sitting meant I couldn't do anything too complicated, I went to another Christmas present.  These are 15g balls of Scheepjes Stone Washed Aran. I can get two 4" squares from each little ball.  There were 50 in the box and I bought some more neutral to make alternate squares.

I'll be popping some little balls of yarn into a project bag with scissors and hook so that I can take them out when I have an odd ten minutes to spare.

Mmmm John has just brought me a peanut butter and banana smoothie as I type.
Yum.  Steph has taken the boys across to see her mother so John and I are enjoying a few minutes of quiet.

I'll be cutting out a bag this afternoon which I'm designing for the class. It will have compartments for various things and pockets too. A proper Quilter's Bag. There will be other things to go with it, including a travelling sewing kit, ruler cover and cutting/pressing mat. Everything you need to take a project to class.

First I'm going to do a little work on a pattern which was requested by one of the ladies which I'll need to test out first.
I made this design for Steph's friend's baby but didn't write it out. So that is my job before the demolition squad gets back and hopefully I'll be able to do some sewing tomorrow morning before work.

The hens are fed and the eggs collected - I've had to chip a hole in the ice of their drinking trough these past few days - but they fluff up their little feathers and get on with searching for grubs and other things that hens love. I'm going to get some fat balls for them which I only really give them in cold weather.  There's a nice little pile of fresh eggs so a cake may be in the offing later. John likes poached eggs for his breakfast too.  They'll be moving into their new house in about a week and peace will reign once more.  In the meantime I'm enjoying the company.

So - off to the cutting table (ha! my dining table) Have a good week everyone xxxxx