Sunday, March 29, 2009

FO: Lola apron

As I have already hinted, I was recently smitten by a pinny pattern. I was buying the lining material for my bag online, when a browse around Nerybeth’s site led me to the Lola Apron. It was one of those heart-stopping moments. I had to have it. My excitement gathered as I traced the designer’s old and new blogs and was swept up in exploring both. Which is all most peculiar, as I am not a frilly-furbelows kind of person. I don’t make dainty fairy-cakes I make whole-meal muffins. (i.e. muffins containing sufficient nutrition to substitute for a meal!)

It took me a while to choose the ideal fabric and purchase sufficient bias binding and ricrac to complete the project.

This weekend was devoted to the Lola Apron.

It took all day Saturday and all day Sunday. I re-threaded my sewing machine more times than I care to remember!
This is a great project for getting to know your sewing machine. It is not for people who don't like sewing bias binding. Or ric-rac. I learned so many things I never thought I needed to know about both!
But seriously, it was such a well-designed pinny, I will definitely be buying more of Meg's patterns. The level of finish is so much more professional than anything I have ever made before. You can customise the fit to enhance your shape. It is pretty much an apron-dress. It was fun to make and is fun to wear - I love it!
Stats: the Lola Apron from Sew Liberated, purchased from Nerybeth (the only UK stockist.) Made from 1 1/2 yards of Free Spirit Sundrop fabric in Circle Blossoms, bought on sale at Dungarees and Daisies. 12 metres each of red and green bias binding (make sure it is a firm sort - you need the structure) and 3 metres each of lilac and red ric-rac.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Looking for owls

Look! We have a wood-burning stove!

But where are the owls?

This model is known as “The Owl” because the UK version has embossed birds on the side. For some unknown reason, we have been delivered of a European stove which is completely plain. Sniffle! FL was all for ringing them up to complain on my behalf, but how childish would that sound?! I will just have to make do with the real live owls in the trees outside... or knit a jumper!

I can't tell you how excited and relieved I am to finally have a source of proper heat in our main living space. It wasn’t cheap. It cost more than the stupid government-funded “central-heating” which took so long to arrive and has proved to be, frankly, totally inadequate.

When it was really really cold a month or so ago, we tried lighting the coal fire and quickly realised that the central heating men had not cut the pipe from the back boiler to the water tank, but had capped it, so the heat from the fire set the pipes clanking alarmingly, threatening to disconnect at the top and flood us with hot water. So we shovelled the burning coal out into the snow and put our coats on instead.


But now, NOW we have a relatively clean and highly efficient, dare I say it stylish source of heat. I want to take the door off the tall narrow hall cupboard to use it as a decorative log store feature. But FL says that is a waste of space and is décor for décor’s sake... (ultimate sin!). He plans to store logs in the dog kennel. So… where does the dog go when we have nervous visitors?! Considering we have an unused Bothy on our doorstep, this seems a bit daft. But FL still has plans to refurbish the Bothy and banish my son and his electric guitar out there. I can’t see it happening before he leaves for University!

Of course, now we need to consider re-flooring the living area. There is a gap between the scrappy laminate flooring and the new hearth. It never ends! But it is definitely a home improvement!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Into the woods

There are large swathes of woodland on the farm, much of it planted by FL.

Until now, it has been largely impenetrable. I once took the kids out for a game of "follow the cat" and we ended up on hands and knees with pine needles up our noses and in our hair trying to go for a walk!

But this year, the local gamekeeper and his men cut paths through the trees to set up their pheasant-feeders and stalk roe deer. As a result we can now walk for about 40 minutes through our own evergreen woods.

They did this without reference to FL. So we ought to be outraged. But it is so lovely to have these woodland trails right on our doorstep, all to ourselves... when the hunters are not out! I am seriously considering investment in high-visibility jackets to avoid being shot at twilight!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New project: Gothlet Poppy Socks

I needed a new sock project.

I turned to the person nearest and said “OK it’s your turn for new socks – what will it be?” So my daughter and I spent some time rummaging through the stash and the pattern books and print-outs.

We both liked the Viper Pilots pattern (have you seen it yet?), but my daughter wasn’t so keen on a solid-colour yarn. There was no way I was going to knit complicated socks like that only to have the cables disappear in a swirl of colour! (Remember the Embossed Leaves of last Spring?) So I asked her to choose the yarn first. As it happens, this only arrived last week.

It is Poppy superwash sock wool from Gothic Yarns. I bought it in a rush of blood to the head when Carrie announced that she was closing her shop, before I had got round to buying anything from it! Stop! Sell me some yarn! So she did. I bought Poppy and Twilight, which is black overdyed with purple – oooh! The good news is, she is hoping to re-open her shop later in the year. Meantime, she is having a sale - so pop over there and snap up some bargains!

Then we had to identify a suitable pattern. I don’t know if this is going to work out well or not, but I suggested the Diagonal Lace Sock from Wendy’s forthcoming book. I am hoping for mostly red with regular narrow black stripes up the blocks of lace. While I was winding the yarn, I could see that the yarn was 2/3 red to 1/3 black in a very regular repeat. Fingers crossed!
Thanks so much for all the comments about my bag! My next sewing project is coming soon!

Monday, March 23, 2009

FO: Hummingbird Bag

Lots of pictures!

This is the Taxi Tote from "Seams to Me" by Anna Maria Horner. I wrote about this a week ago, confidently predicting a speedy finish - ha!

My hessian strap-strengthening ploy added complications to the whole bias-binding process and it took me about 4 hours to finish this on Saturday, on top of a previous 8 hours'-worth of work.

Of course, it was only when I had finished that I read the instructions and discovered there was a much easier way to apply the bias binding... and that it should have been two inches wide, not one inch. Sigh!

I have total respect for those who make bags for a living. So many considerations: strength, dimensions, pockets, fastenings - phew!


The Taxi Tote from "Seams to Me"

Fabrics used: Echino bird / tree upholstery-weight cotton (from an Ebay seller); Amy Butler Coriander pink print lining; blue cotton canvas found in the house when I moved in; and bias binding made from cotton chambray remnants from one of last summer's skirts.

Embroidery pattern: Hummingbird from "Sublime Stitching Craft Pad". Applique flower, my own improvisation.

Hessian strap: Webbing intended for upholstery-making, bought from Ebay.

Big enough for A4-sized paper and knitting, plus pockets for phone, pen etc.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

FO: Goldengrove socks

I turned the heel of the second Goldengrove sock in the hospital waiting room on Thursday morning, and cast off on Thursday evening. So really these should have been finished long ago!

Stats: Goldengrove from “Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn”, adapted to use dk weight yarn by casting on 60 stitches on 3.25mm dpns. Silkwood Hedgerow plant-dyed pure wool, from the sale section of Woolly Workshop.

These are practical thick socks to wear under my wellies around the farm. They are deeply rustic in texture (see the ears of barley in the rib?) and the colour is not to everyone’s taste – that’s to say both of my children find it repulsive!

Would I knit this pattern again? Yes, I think I would, but probably in thinner yarn. They are not exactly flattering on the ankles!

Would I use this yarn again? Probably not. I was attracted by its plant-dyed natural credentials and the colour was ideal for my vision of barley-field socks, but in the end it was just plain old-fashioned dk wool in an unusual colour… and anyway, it has been discontinued!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New project: Pioneer

There was a circular-needle-shaped hole in my life after I finished the Simple Yet Effective Shawl. I am still in need of "things to wear over shirts" and had this green dk in the stash, intended for Anais from Norah Gaughan Vol. 1. But somehow, Anais needs to be black or purple - something dark and mysterious.

This green merino wool (very cheap from is soft and Spring-like and goes well with my sale-bargain, still-unworn shirts. Pioneer stopped me in my tracks as I first browsed the new Knitty - so it seemed like a good match.
The set-up row took me a few attempts, probably because I was helping my daughter with her homework at the same time, but now that the stitchmarkers are in place and the cable columns have become familiar, I am speeding down the yoke quite happily. The shimmering subtleties of the hand-dyed colour suit the understated textured rib: enough to be interesting without being too busy.
I haven't stopped to check my gauge. It is supposed to be knit in sportweight, so I am assuming that a slightly thicker yarn will make a slightly larger top... so "small" should be fine. I am not aiming for 2 inches of negative ease, as I know I would feel suffocated and my shirts would ride up into an uncomfortable billowing airbag at the chest.
Actually... I already suspect I won't be wearing this over my shirts. I am coming to the conclusion that I am not a shirty girl. Why don't they stay tucked in? Why do I end up with the collars rubbing my earlobes? Maybe I need to add darts to make them more fitted. Or ribbons to tie them down to my underwear? Is this why there was a stupid craze in the 1980's for shirts with knickers attached? "Bodies"?! Ugh!

Monday, March 16, 2009

FO: Simple Yet Effective

I finished the Simple Yet Effective shawl on Sunday.

The blogger who was knitting its twin commented that her own version was most suitable for auditioning as a children's TV presenter. Do you think so? Oh - OK then!

And best of all - it goes with my Pippi Longstockings!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Birdie bag on the way

I have been marinating a bag-making project for far too long.

I had bought a fat quarter of Echino bird / tree fabric last year, with a bag in mind. But this pattern takes 3/4 yard of the main fabric and the same of lining. So I decided to use a Sublime Stitching hummingbird embroidery pattern on some plain cotton for one side of the bag, and the Echino for the other. Of course, I got carried away with the whole embroidery idea and added an appliqué flower using leftover lining fabric (Amy Butler Coriander print.). The strap is supposed to be a continuation of the main fabric, but I didn’t have enough, so used upholstery-strength hessian webbing instead. I ran this all the way round the bag for added stability. I am going to line the strap to prevent it rubbing my clothes at the shoulder - it's pretty rough.

There are lots of high-end details written into the pattern to give a professional finish. This is true of the whole book. My daughter flicked through and remarked that the projects looked like “real” things that you would buy in a shop. In part this is due to the seductive Anna Maria Horner prints used throughout, but it is also a reflection of the quality of the designs. I don’t see myself making a dog-bed (though I really should!) but I love the simple cube containers – I am thinking of making one for casual storage of knits-in-progress, and one to store spare loo rolls in the bathroom– how house-to-home-y is that?! And the pincushion/notion caddy is cute and useful. And of course I am developing an obsession about making an apron or two… and a quilt…gulp! My daughter was horrified by the flouncy little-girl skirt, but admitted she would have been enchanted by it when she was about 3 or 4!

But for now I am just enjoying making my new bag. Big enough for work stuff, knitting and a book – perfect!

I still need to make bias binding for the top edges, sew on the button, and line the strap - pictures soon!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday the 13th? Pshaw!

Thank you (again) for all your words of support.

My car lies abandoned behind the Bothy awaiting collection for repair by our friendly local garage-owner. Meanwhile, FL is chauffeuring me to and from work, which he says makes him feel useful. It adds to his tiredness, I am sure, but he has a compulsion to throw himself into the backlog of home maintenance tasks at the moment… “while he can”. I just have to try to keep him off the roof. No, I am not kidding.

Simple Yet Effective grows and grows. I have knitted past the end of the pattern as written and there is still plenty of yarn left on the ball. I see no point in stopping while the yardage is good! I came across another blogger who is knitting its twin - snap!

Goldengrove sock 2 is approaching the heel flap.

Project 13 is set to have its skeins wound into balls tonight, while my daughter is out.

This weekend I am likely to be confined to the farm, with my car out of action, so I will make my bag. And begin my pinny. And supervise homework.

We are OK. Just hoping for a positive strategy from the doctors next Thursday, and hoping that is not too much to ask.

Meantime, looking forward to Cookie A's new book (preview pics up on Ravelry!) and Wendy-the-sock's new book (preview and a free pattern up on her blog!) and marinating myself in the new Knitty. I am very serious about knitting the Pioneer top in stashed green wool! And thinking about casting on the latest Loumms sock or socks - because you knew I would, didn't you? Hooray!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Midweek crises

I’m still here!

Knitting continues happily on both the Simple Shawl and the Goldengrove socks.

I also started a new sewing project at the weekend – my first ever bag! It is from the Anna Maria Horner book “Seams to Me: 24 new reasons to love sewing” which bewitched me in the bookshop and then took a week to arrive from a discount online retailer (not the one I took the photo from!).

I am making the “Taxi Tote”. I should have pictures by next weekend as I was waiting for lining fabric to arrive – and then it had to be pre-washed, yada yada yada. In other words, I have spent longer assembling the materials than I will to make the bag!

Then one thing led to another and I found myself obsessing over an apron pattern. I know. Pinny pron. Sigh. But when you see it, you might understand – very very cute!

But... last night my car broke down (thermostat blew as I overtook a tractor on a busy road – eek!). And FL is looking… ill. Pain in his back, pain in his lungs, very tired. He has a review at the hospital next Thursday, not a moment too soon.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

A sock and a triangle

Knitting progress!

The first Goldengrove sock is complete and I have cast on for the second.

And the Simple Yet Effective Shawl is coming along nicely - I have reached the elusive purple section of the ball of Kureyon sock!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Project 13

So far I have shown you two WIPs: the Simple Yet Effective Shawl and the Goldengrove Socks. There is a third project, which from now on I will refer to as “Project 13”, as it is a secret knitted present for my daughter’s 13th birthday in June.

Just in case she looks at the blog (she knows where it is and you never know…) I won’t be blogging the details. You can find those on Ravelry, if you are so inclined. All I will say here is that it involves 700g of aran-weight wool and it was designed by KK of TTL. Got it?!

The yarn has arrived and is hidden, still in its skeins, awaiting uninterrupted time to wind the balls. I am hoping to devote a child-free week in April to knitting the bulk of this. Until then, it is all in my mind!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Literary activities

My colleagues were both out of the office for two days this week, and despite being invaded twice by a secretary who decided to do her filing over the lunch period (eh?!) I managed to grab a little bit of “me” time in my allotted hour.

I knitted a few rows of Simple Yet Effective, and listened to a Radio 4 short story reading from the Bath Festival: Knit One Purl One. It is on the “Listen Again” part of the website, so if you have 15 minutes to spare, I do recommend it!

I also did some reading. For my birthday last year, I asked FL to buy me a box of books, the“Great Loves” set from Penguin (from The Book People so ridiculously cheap!), which might sound like a pile of chick-lit, but is anything but. Imagine 20 slim but densely-written volumes exploring complex, difficult, often controversial relationships – that’s what’s in here! So far, I have read “Mary” by Nabokov and “The Kreutzer Sonata” by Tolstoy. Both deeply, pessimistically Russian! My rusty literary brain is slowly cranking up a gear or two as I read.

Now I am immersed in “Bonjour Tristesse” by Francoise Sagan. I can tell that I should be reading in French to get the most out of it. Hmmm. That would be more than “up a gear”, that would be a whole new engine! But maybe that’s what I need to do right now. I see it is available in French as a free audio download on the web... now there's a project to accompany lunchtime knitting! ( I haven't included the link for fear of spam, but it is easily found.)

It is a strange experience to return to "proper" literature in the age of the internet. I wonder what it is like to be an English student nowadays? You have access to so many journals and reviews online, plus all the web-based book groups- how easy to absorb the thoughts of others and pass them off as your own! I remember telling my 6th-form English teacher that I found my long essay impossible to write because I had nothing to say that hadn’t already been said. She briskly told me to just get on with it – it wasn’t a PhD! But what if it was? How can anyone achieve originality nowadays?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Goth Socks Club

I made it to March without joining a sock club! But today they caught me at a weak moment.

After spending 5 days agonising over a purchase of cotton fabric pieces for unspecified small sewing projects and still not pressing "buy it now", I logged on to Ravelry this morning, spotted a new group, followed the link to Etsy and subscribed to the Dead Poets Goth Sock Club, all within the space of... um... 5 minutes?!

Destiny, that's what I call it!

Three months of self-striping black-and-something-else super-sproingy sock yarn from an independent dyer? SOLD!

Psst! Join us, join us - you know you want to!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Goldengrove socks - beginnings

When my copy of “Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn” arrived I was immediately drawn to the “Goldengrove” pattern. In a book filled with hyperactive multi-coloured socks, a semi-solid yarn in an unusual rib seemed quite calm (some might say “boring”!) in comparison. But for whatever reason, I knew it would be the first pattern I knit from this book and I bought this Silkwood Hedgerow plant-dyed yarn especially for it.

The yarn is double-knitting so I cast on fewer stitches (60 instead of 72) on larger needles (3.25mm instead of 2.75mm). In one evening I was approaching the heel flap of sock one!

This is a really easy knit. The stitch pattern is quick to learn, but changes every 7 rows to keep things interesting. There is absolutely no stress to my RSI, which has reduced my right hand to a claw this week.

The yarn is nothing special in terms of its texture – it’s neither particularly soft nor abrasive. The dyeing is strong. I keep checking my fingers, but so far I have not turned yellow! I suspect a lot of colour will come out in the first wash though.

These are going to be my “farm socks”, for striding about in the fields with the dog. They speak to me of long-lost barley harvests and culling marsh marigolds from the potato crop. I wish I knew which plants had been used to dye the yarn but it is "a secret recipe handed down to Tess from her grandmother"! Nostalgia socks!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Simple Yet Effective beginnings

It’s funny what can trigger a desire to knit something. In the case of the Simple Yet Effective shawl, it was the series of photos posted on Soulemama’s blog. Until that point, paying good money for such a “nothing” pattern seemed like madness. I could probably work it out for myself, I thought. And really, why would I bother because it wasn’t much of anything really, was it?

Ha! All it took was the sight of orange against turquoise garter stitch draped over a bookcase and the tantalising talk of rocking chairs and babies to lull me into submission! Why do I want to knit this shawl? It will keep my shoulders warm while I hug a mug of Sleepy Tea late at night. It will accompany snatched moments of solitary breakfast-table reading, early in the morning before the children get up. It will keep the wind away while I hang out the washing. In short, it will be the country mouse’s comforter.

Aspirational knitting. Simple is enough.