Friday, 21 December 2012

Ready for Christmas

The Red Leafy Scarf is finally finished!

As predicted, by the end I was getting to be quite frustrated with its neverendingness, but I'm pleased with the final result.  The unblocked version was nice, with a bit of a shell effect at the ends, while the blocked scarf is quite elegant.  I'm sure my mother-in-law will appreciate the effort and I hope she'll feel spoiled - it's been a long autumn for her.

And just to complete the scarf-set (excepting the one which will now be for my gran's birthday in January), the 2nd & 3rd crocodiles were finished last Saturday:

The green croc either looks as though he's half asleep, or maybe he's enjoyed a Christmas tipple or two.  I'm not sure!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

It was a late finish last night...

Phew!  The Red Leafy Scarf is finally pinned out to block.  I grafted the two halves together last night, soaked it in water this evening and I've stretched it out to dry (after the picture was taken I've repinned it so the edges are less zig-zaggy).

I'd been a bit unsure how to arrange the join between the two halves, and should really have finished each half with a WS row to make it invisible, but at least it's fairly neat.  I had to unpick the first couple of inches to get the strips lined up too.  Only I will see the imperfections though...

It's not quite finished yet, so I'm joining the WIP Wednesday again:

Monday, 17 December 2012


I discovered Pinterest a little while ago, and I'm kinda addicted.  I've found all sorts of lovely ideas there and I'm using one or two for Christmas presents.  Today I've finished some gingerbread biscuit kits for for my prayer triplet (which is now 4 of us).

So that gave me an excuse to play with A's camera to see if I can get some better pictures than I've managed before...

I followed the tips on the recipe website and used extra flour (about 250g).  The test biscuits I made beforehand were yummy!  I may well make another batch to take to work.

I've enjoyed the idea of making a present for someone which they can then use to make something nice.  These 3 friends are all good in the kitchen and I think they'll appreciate something they can just throw together quite easily. And it means they can choose when to make and eat these treats - perhaps in January when they're ready for something nice in the long nights.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Endless scarves...

The scarves continue to take up most of my time...  The Red Leafy Scarf feels as though it's getting close to completion at last, which is good since I could do with blocking it in the next few days if it's to be ready for Christmas.  I'm managing about 10-20 rows in a sitting at the moment, and there are 50 to go...

I took a break from the 4-ply to do some of Crocodile No. 3 at the weekend and while we were visiting A's parents (the red scarf is for my mother-in-law, so can't be worked on when I'm there!)  I'm making it the same length as the others by adding 32 rows in the straight section compared to the pattern.  When I made the first I ripped it back when I saw how it was turning out length-wise so that I could extend it.  They're still not over-long but hopefully a bit more cosy.

The Any Yarn Scarf is on hold at the moment - if I don't manage to complete it for Christmas it can be for my gran's birthday in January instead.  Or perhaps I'll finish it on the journey north...

Friday, 7 December 2012


I've finally finished a project!  I made this crocodile scarf some time ago, but only attached the eyes and nostrils in the last few days.  It was going to be a Christmas present for one of our godsons, but his birthday present didn't arrive in time so we've done a swap.  He'll get his scarecrow puppet for Christmas now instead.

I'm really pleased with the way it's turned out. The pattern was in Let's Knit magazine a couple of months ago, although I modified it slightly to make it longer (I added about 32 rows of the straight section).  The eyes were quite tricky but I think they look good in the end.

I need to redo the eyes on the blue scarf (they're too close together and too far forward... he just looks scary!) so I can't call that one finished yet.  Crocodile no. 3 was cast on last Saturday.

I'm still working hard to finish the grown-up scarves, so I'll post about this next Wednesday...

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Capturing the creativity (or not!)

Still knitting the scarves...

and pleased that I'm making some progress.  I've started on the 2nd half of the Red Leafy Scarf, which means I'm on the lace part again (concentration required!) and I think I'm over half-way on the Any Yarn Scarf.  I'm not sure how long to make it yet, but I guess the straight part will be somewhere between a third and half of the total length.  So far so good anyway.

But my musing this week is around how to get good pictures of my projects...  I took this photo with an iPhone4, which has sometimes given me spectacular photos and sometimes just doesn't know how to focus. And on other projects it's worked well, but for these two I don't think I've managed a sharp image yet.  I've tried different backdrops and different flash conditions or focal points, but I can't get a clear picture to show the stitch pattern.  It's a shame, because the enjoyment of these scarves is partly in the detail of the patterns.

I don't have a "proper" camera to play with (maybe I should ask Santa!) but I've had success with my phone before.  So I've got some ideas to try...
- wait for daylight (weekends only at the moment, and sometimes not even then!)
- try creating a plain backdrop with a sheet of material to give a clear contrast
- wait until the scarves are finished and blocked so the definition is more obvious
- borrow my husband's camera so I can put it on a small tripod (I'm not always confident I've kept the phone steady)
- spend more time browsing other blogs to see what clever tricks other people have used
- I'd like to be able to get a good close-up as well... 

I'll just have to keep practising.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

What's the attraction?

I'm still knitting the scarves and enjoying their growth:

I've been alternating between them, partly so that one of the recipients doesn't see her present before Christmas, and partly for the change in texture and pattern.  I think the Red Leafy Scarf's getting towards the half-way point now, which means I get to start on the lace part again, and I've decided to do a straight section on the Any Yarn Scarf so that it won't be triangular after all - more of a trapezium.
So there's beginning to be a sense of achievement.

I took a short break on Saturday for a quick knit in the car that I'll post about after Christmas, which got me thinking... how do I choose my projects?

Variety - I like to change the routine a bit while I'm knitting, so I often have more than one active project which use different types of yarn or stitch so that I can switch when I get bored with the project in hand.
Challenge - I enjoy learning new techniques, so I'm attracted to projects which use methods I've not tried before.  The (as yet unfinished) Snug was a good example of this - an almost seamless design for a baby jacket, knit for a baby expected just after Christmas (it'll be finished once I know if Baby is a he or a she...)
Mindlessness - if I'm travelling then I quite like to knit to keep my hands occupied while I'm looking out at the passing countryside.  So a project which doesn't need me to watch every stitch is great to have with me.  The Any Yarn Scarf is almost one of these, in that the increase section is garter stitch.  Anything fiddly just won't do though.
Design - I'm drawn to elegant designs, such as the Baby Surprise Jacket or Clapotis scarf, where I can marvel at the designer's skill in creating something beautiful in a clever way.  This is a big part of my addiction to Möbius cowls too.

Most of my projects have been gifts, although this year I've made slightly more for myself.  While I'll always look for something which suits the recipient, I'll also be sure to choose something that I'll enjoy making.  Then  hopefully the gift can give pleasure twice - as it's made and once it's been given.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Switch it off!

After posting last week about the frustration of never-ending scarves, this week I've been enjoying some of their repetitiveness.

I cast on for an Any Yarn Scarf for Grandma, using 4-ply sock-yarn, and spent some time on that this evening.  I've reached the stage where I don't need the pattern any more, which feels good: I like being able to read the rows to know where I am and what comes next.

I've also picked the red leafy scarf back up and made some progress last night while chatting with friends.  It doesn't need to be long enough to wrap around a neck, so it shouldn't be too long until I can start on the second half.

In both cases I've been enjoying the repetitive nature of their fairly short rows and simple lace stitches combined with plain knitting. This is something I've often read about but not experienced so much myself; normally I look for the challenge of a new technique, or I'm knitting to a gift deadline.  And knowing that I can switch between projects when one becomes too repetitive lifts the sense of there being no end in sight.

But perhaps the real difference has been knitting while chatting rather than with the tv on for "entertainment".  So maybe the moral of the story is... Switch it off!

I'm a little late for WIP Wednesday, but there you go... too busy knitting I guess ;o)

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Against my better judgement...

I have 3 active projects at the moment, and one which I ripped out yesterday.  All of them are scarves.  Looking back at my recent makes I've also made 4 circular moebius scarves and a Clapotis wrap since the start of the year.

So my question is... why do I keep making scarves?  When I first cast on for a new scarf I'm full of enthusiasm, but I know that long before the end I'll have grown to resent the thing: its nagging, unfinished presence and the repetitive rows which are the same as the previous 100 and the 100 still to come.  I know that I'll put it down "just while I do this quick knit" only to find it abandoned months later, when I realise I've left it too late for the gift deadline I had in mind.

Even the Teddy's Scarf I knitted for our young godson's birthday was tiring by the end.  (Surely it's long enough by now!)

And yet, I love the finished result.  And I press on with the thought that a gifted scarf might keep the recipient feeling warm and cosy - a lasting hug.

So here are my current projects:
These were wonderfully quick to knit up, thanks to chunky yarn and a pattern that can be knitted without having to watch every stitch.  I even made the crocs a bit longer than the design.
They're both nearly finished now - only the eyes and nostrils to add.  I think they're going to be so cute!
I started this back in June and made great progress until I put it down for a short while... I've restarted it within the last week or so.  It won't be finished in time for a November birthday, but maybe Christmas; just don't ask which year... it was originally planned for 2011!

This is my first entry for WIP Wednesday.  There are loads more projects to see at Tami's Amis

Sunday, 4 November 2012

crafty creations

Our friends visited for the weekend: 2 adults and 2 children (aged 7 & 9) who all enjoy making things.  Each has their own interest and it's been fun exploring the different activities.

Over the last 2 days we have:

  • knitted... to written patterns and to a secret pattern in his head
  • slow-cooked a beef stew ready for our return from a day's exploring
  • experimented with new drawing techniques at the Pencil Museum
  • bought some (more!) yarn
  • baked lemon drizzle cake
  • shared pattern ideas
  • made a toy car garage from big blocks

I've been blessed by the eager creativity of the youngsters and the way they're learning how to put their ideas into being.  It's so exciting to see traditional crafts being shared with, and enjoyed by, the next generation.  

And I've been honoured to be the only person trusted with the secret design for his project; I'm looking forward to seeing the results!
(so no picture of that project...)

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Past presents and future

Christmas is on the way, and I enjoy making as many gifts as possible.  Partly because I think most of my friends and family have as many "things" as they want or need, and partly because I like the personal touch if I can get it right.

About 7 years ago I rediscovered knitting, which meant that 6 years ago I gave a few scarves as Christmas presents.  Since then I've experimented with baby/toddler jumpers, fingerless mitts, hats and more scarves... not to mention a few blankets for new babies, a house-warming and a wedding.

Two years ago I discovered making chutney, which seemed to go down well so I made more next year (and for one or two birthdays in between).  We made little boxes of edible treats, with things we hoped were a little unusual and that might be an alternative to more clutter around the house.

So my question now, as Christmas approaches, is what to plan for this year?  I'm looking for ideas which can be interesting (and quick!) to make, and fun to receive...  I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Why skeins?

Today I spent some hours untangling a skein of a lovely lace-weight yarn which I'd previously helped my mum make into a tangled mess...  and it got me thinking - why?  Why are some yarns still supplied as skeins instead of pre-wound as balls?

It seems to be mainly the "nicer" yarns which are supplied in this form, so could it be that it adds to the sense of luxury?  I quite enjoyed the feeling of running the soft yarn through my fingers, and my first attempt at winding by hand was surprisingly satisfying.  Perhaps this gives us the opportunity to get to know the yarn before we use it: by handling the whole length I now know how it feels, that there aren't any knots, and can have some idea of how it could be put to best use.

I've got some Silk Blend upstairs waiting for me to brave winding it into a ball.  There's some Debbie Bliss Paloma keeping it company.  Now, maybe instead of waiting to decide how I want to use it I'll try winding at least some of it... the inspiration may flow.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

A holiday reminder

I bought a couple of balls of wool in Kirkwall while we were there: A local Aran-weight yarn in a silver-grey. Ever since, I've been trying to decide what to make from it.

The make had to be for me (the souvenir aspect of the yarn would be lost on anyone else) and probably a circular scarf, since that was what I originally had in mind when I bought it.

Yesterday I cast on. I've chosen another moebius scarf, this time slightly shorter and chunkier, with a simple lace effect for interest.

I'm already about half-way! I'm amazed at how quickly it's progressing, although perhaps I shouldn't be since I watched most of the Paralympics opening ceremony while I knitted last night...

Sunday, 15 July 2012

My baby brother got married!

My baby brother has married a lovely girl!

It was a fantastic weekend with so much to celebrate and enjoy.

  • She, and her bridesmaids, looked stunning.  And so happy!
  • a special family gathering
    • catching up with people I've not seen for many years
    • enjoying meeting my new sister-in-law's family - they're lovely too!

...and knitting featured too...
  • I made a blanket for the happy couple as our wedding present
  • I wore a Clapotis wrap which I made myself for the occasion
  • I loved the feel of the Kid Classic yarn... mohair, lambswool (and nylon) felt so snuggly and soft next to my skin; perfect for a July wedding in Scotland!
  • a feeling of luxury, all the more special because it was my own work

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The knitting's done...

...but lots of sewing to do! (and then some more knitting for the edging)

It feels good to have knitted the twentieth square:

Monday, 18 June 2012

Still knitting

1.5 squares left to knit... and 1 to partially unknit to fix my earlier laziness. Fifteen squares are now blocking, ready for the big sew-up next week.

The big question is: which design to use for square number 20?

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Too busy knitting to blog!

I had a brainwave on the way home from our anniversary holiday. Why not finish the silver/grey blanket squares into a wedding present for my brother? It could be a picnic blanket, throw or something to snuggle under in the evening on the patio. And it's more personal than something shop-bought.

A great idea... if I'd only thought of it earlier! I counted the completed squares when I got home: 7 (I'd hoped it was 9 or 10). But still do-able if I crack on.

So far (9 days later) I've completed 18 1/2 blocks out of the 20 needed, although I've still to unravel part of one to fix a weak spot. I've got about 3 weeks left, so all my "spare" time will be knitting, blocking, sewing and binding.

I'm enjoying the challenge, and I think it should look good when it's complete. My wrists might be happy when I finish the knitting part though...

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

2011 makes - part 2

Knits for the home
After all the baby blankets, I decided to make a grown-up version.  I started with 3 colourways of the same yarn (James C Brett Marble Chunky) and began knitting square blocks but then realised that they didn't all go together as well as I thought. So one blanket became 2, with the blue/grey/brown and brown squares making up the 1st blanket and the silver grey squares put aside for a 2nd.

The blue/brown/grey blanket is finished, and has been given to a friend as a house-warming/birthday/Christmas present. And it also has the most stylish Finished Object photo I've managed yet:

Cabled Blanket
5 blocks by 4, alternating colourways, with each block in both colourways.  I tried to get a balance between chunky cables and more "dainty" patterns, and very much enjoyed knitting the different squares.  I was pleased by how quickly they knitted up and surprised by how much less painful it was to sew together than I'd expected.
The edging was my first I-cord edging, which I tried with all number of stitches, but settled on 3 wide.  It also took a while to get the right tension for this, but I was fairly happy with it in the end.
Finished August 2011

The silver-grey blanket is still WIP.
I also bought some pink-purple yarn of the same type, thinking it might go well with the greys.  It doesn't, so I've started a 3rd blanket - this time based on Elizabeth Zimmerman's garter stitch blanket.  So far, 3 pieces have been finished, and the 4th is about 1/3 done.  Hopefully it'll be finished in 2012.
(and I'm still short of yarn, even after all the extra purchases... I need another grey and another pink/purple ball - at least!)

Ballband Dishcloth
a quick knit just for fun...
I love the Mason-Dixon knitting book, which has this design in it. Their knitting philosophy is lovely, and I just enjoy their attitude.
This cloth is being used in our kitchen, and brings a wee splash of colour to routine work.
Finished February 2011

Hexagon Washcloth

Also from the 1st Mason-Dixon book, and just for fun.
We're using this one as a potholder (and to catch the drips from my teapot when I'm pouring in the living room)
Finished February 2011

Sunday, 1 January 2012

2011 makes - part 1

I started the year half-way through making 4 baby blankets for friends who were expecting new arrivals. The first was born in Autumn 2010, one on the 30th December, his cousin in January and one nearer Easter. It's a bit of a cheat showing them all as 2011 makes, but I was so pleased with them that I can't resist...

Bliss Blanket No. 1

made for baby Tim, and my first attempt at entrelac. I loved the simplicity of the design, and enjoyed making this blanket (I must have done, because I started another afterwards). The yellow yarn was slightly thinner than the other 3 though, which made for a messy transition to that row each time, but not so that anyone else would mind.
Finished October 2010.

Patchwork Blanket

made for baby Grace, and probably my favourite of the 4... I loved the mitred squares, and that the stripy sock yarn made the blanket so much more impressive than it was difficult. I'll happily do another one day.
Finished late December 2010.

Mitred Square Blanket

made for baby Robyn. I enjoyed making the squares (using a pattern from the Mason-Dixon book), but found the edges were curling up quite badly when I sewed them all together. I tried putting a reverse-stocking stitch border on to see if it would balance out and it was just-about ok once I'd blocked it twice. Quite frustrating though, as I loved the colour of this yarn.
Finished January 2011

Bliss Blanket No. 2

made for baby Simeon (who's mum is a talented knitter). This time I learned from the yarn-weight difference and used two shades of the same sock-yarn. The picture doesn't quite do it justice, but I was pleased with how it worked out.
Finished February 2011.

I also made my first Baby Surprise Jacket for the first-born of a friend at work.

I did much of this while travelling to/from London by train for a few days' holiday. The garter stitch meant it was a good pattern for knitting on the move, but there was plenty to keep my mind occupied with the shaping. I loved the way the yarn striping worked out (Sirdar baby crofter) and I'll happily make another of these one day. Next time I might see if I can work out the I-cord edging.