Sunday, 30 March 2014

Hue and Value shawl

Wow, I love this shawl!

I purchased a skein of 4ply sock yarn from A Stash Addict at Yarndale.  I knew I wanted to make a shawl with it and I knew I needed to use it along side another colour to make it less shocking.  I got hunting on Ravelry and came across the beautiful Hue and Value Shawl, isn't it gorgeous.

I just knew this was the shawl but for some reason never got around to casting it on.  That is until my parents offered to buy me a set of KnitPro interchangeable needles.  I knew that I would need to knit on them as soon as I got them so packed my yarn and off we went to Suffolk to see my family.

I did cast on straight away and made amazing progress over the few days I was there.  The shawl instantly grabbed my attention as it is such an interesting pattern.

Each section of the scarf is made of varying different slip stitch patterns, separated by a garter stitch band, one or two of my garter stitch bands turned into stocking stitch due to a lack of concentration but nobody would know just from looking at it.

As I worked my way through the shawl I kept thinking about the applied i-cord at the end, I have never knitted an i-cord before so had no idea how this would work.  I got to the end and considered just casting off because I have not heard great things about i-cords.  I am so pleased I didn't though as the final thing looks awesome.  It was a complete pain in the derriere but worth it in the end.

Normally I try to get away with not blocking shawls as they only get balled up around my neck anyway but this one really did need blocking, it was so curly that I was concerned blocking wouldn't fix it.  I gave it a go though and pinned it out.

I was so pleased it blocked nicely and have worn it as much as I can since I picked it up.  That is both days it has been unpinned from the floor.

I can honestly say I am chuffed to bits with this shawl, it only took me 2 weeks to complete and I didn't really devote an awful lot of time to it once I got home from parents.  A highly recommended pattern if you want to give some new stitches a go.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Mood Scarf Along

My friend and knitwear designer Jem Weston has decided to start a mood scarf knit along.  The start date is the first day of British summertime which is the 30th March.  You can read more about it here on Jem's blog.

I took this opportunity to treat myself to some new yarn, always got an excuse.  Last week we went to Lincoln and I purchased some beautiful west yorkshire spinners blue faced leicester dk in a pale brown.  Once my birthday money had cleared I ordered the other two shades to make myself a beautifully natural scarf for the winter.  It's amazing yarn, I am finding myself drawn more and more to natural fibres, yummy.

I love all of these shades so whilst I have one for good, not so good and not good at all days I feel that I can find comfort wrapped it up in it despite my mood.

I am yet to decide how I am going to knit my scarf but I am thinking some sort of slip stitch pattern.

I look forward to seeing who else is going to join in.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

A Birthday trip to Lincoln.

Today is my birthday, it started off like this, what a great start!

Sophie the Cat gave me extra special cuddles, she has not been so affectionate in ages.  I must also say I do not normally eat so much for breakfast, this was a big breakfast to see us through the day as a trip to Lincoln was planned.

Our arrival in Lincoln didn't start terribly well with an encounter with some drug users and a phone call to the Police but from there on it was great!

Our first stop, after the bank where I paid in some birthday cheque's, was Spins and Needles where I got some beautiful hand spun undyed BFL DK yarn.  This was purchased for a particular project which will be revealed soon, once the creator has blogged about it.  The shop had a beautiful selection of yarns and the owner was lovely, I do love a friendly yarn shop owner, especially one who understands the need to grab everything and squish it.

From here we made our way towards Steep Hill, I feel the need to type DUH-DUH-DUUUUHH to reflect the sense of doom I felt standing at the bottom looking up.  Annoyingly this photograph makes it look rather mild.

We easily made it up the first and easiest part with a quick stop at a lovely old sweet shop called Goodies, we got some Rhubarb and Custard sticks and some Rhubarb rock.  From there we trudged up the hill.  Fortunately Steep Hill is lined with beautiful shops and art galleries so it broke the walk up a bit which was good for my legs which sadly spend most of their days under a desk.

We called in at a lovely gallery called Harding House Gallery.  It had a beautiful selection or art including some pieces from David William Sampson who we have met a number of times at the Long Eaton Art Rooms, it was lovely to see a local artist exhibiting a bit further a field.  There were lots of artists displaying there and it was all very impressive.  Well worth popping in if passing.

Next we called in at a shop called Annushka.  They sell hand painted stacking dolls, aka Russian dolls, and my word are they beautiful.  I was admiring some of the 10 piece sets and the tiny final doll that does fit in the slightly bigger one when I was pointed towards the 20 piece set.  This just took my breath away, I cannot begin to describe how beautifully painted it was and how small the final pieces are, and yes they do all open and go inside one another.  Each set takes two months to complete and the eyelashes are painted on with a single hair, just wow!  I took a photograph with my little finger in for scale, my little finger is reasonably small.

As we wandered further up the hill I stopped to take a photograph of the view from where we were.  The view was amazing, the sun may have prevented the photograph from doing it justice.  I don't mind though, I would rather have the sun on my back than a nice photograph.

 When we made it to the top we stopped in at the Castle, it is undergoing a huge and very exciting renovation so we couldn't access most of it.  I did manage to take a photograph of Lincoln's Crown Court though.  What an amazing Crown Court, made me briefly think about committing a crime just to get a look around.

We took a walk along the short stretch of wall that was accessible.  The views were great but I suspect they would have been better from the other side.  We also stopped for a quick selfie, got to be done.

After the Castle we wandered to locate a cash point, on the way we stumbled across the Whisky Shop, we get through a fair amount of single malt in this house so though we would pop in.  We left however with a bottle of Rhubarb Vodka, what a Rhubarb themed day we had!

 From here we went to the Cathedral, it stole the tallest building in the world award from the pyramids when it was built, I can see why.  How the heck did they get to the top without a crane?!?

We didn't pay to visit the whole Cathedral so we wandered around the free area, it is such a stunning building and the stained glass is beautiful.

Just look at the houses outside the Cathedral, we both questioned how much this beauty would cost, we decided on the figure of a lot.

Next we made our way to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, a great Museum with a huge collection of items.  

Rooms arranged as they would have been, here is the bedroom.

A large collection of military memorabilia including at least 8 Victoria Cross medals, it was lovely to see these and to read the stories of bravery that earnt them.  Here is a giant WWII tank called Flirt, it was huge.

We also visited the Victorian School, it's like they knew we were coming.

After the museum we decided we would wander back towards the car and stop on the way for a cup of tea.  I had spotted a lovely looking tea shop of the way up the hill so we went back in search of it.  I couldn't remember what it was called but when we arrived I took note so I could share it, it's the bookstop cafe.  We had a lovely pot of Earl Gray and a bite to eat.  The building is a beaut, it even has some Roman Pillars in it.

Now we are home and I am drinking a chilled glass wine and relaxing before a trip to Suffolk for the weekend.  What a great way to start the last year of my twenties.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A Handmade Mothers Day gift.

A few weeks ago I asked my Mum what she might like for Mothers Day.  She had no idea until this happened but afterwards decided a knitting bag would be useful.

She wanted me to make her one so feeling inspired by Nettnot's applique bunny bag I got to work and ordered a basic bag, purchased some trimming and raided my fabric stash.

My applique skills are not great and sewing around shapes is not a strong point either so I decided on a basic heart shape to adorn the front of the bag.

I started by making a template and cutting around it.

Then I cut some bondaweb and ironed the heart onto the front of the bag.  I love bondaweb!

Next I stitched around the edge of the heart in a zigzag stitch.  In hindsight I think I should have used smaller stitches a lot closer to the edge.  I may go back and add another row of stitches.

Next was the trimming, I started with the fancy ric-rac and stitched along the centre to secure it in place.  I learnt a valuable lesson here.  I stitched both ends on at the same time and then worked my way around.  The ric-rac was slightly too long for the bag so I ended up with a gathering as I was unable to adjust where the end of the ric-rac joined the start.

I decided that a green ribbon would look lovely along the centre of the ric-rac, so I started to work sewing this on using one of my special stitches.  Unfortunately my needle snapped halfway around.

After a quick change I was ready to continue and to finish the edging.

Overall I am pretty pleased with this for a first attempt at applique and decorative edging.  I am still new to sewing afterall.  I get to hand it over next week when I visit my parents for my birthday.  I do hope my Mum loves it as much as I do.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Custom made gifts and supporting local artists.

Over the last few years my crafting has taken me on a real journey and along the way I have met some fantastic local artists.  All of whom I would love to commission to make me something but I have to be restrained due to space and finances.

I have however decided that custom made gifts are a great way of supporting local artists and giving a gift truly original and specific to the person being given it.  It also helps drum up a little publicity for the artists.

This Christmas my sister asked for something she would like and that she wouldn't necessarily buy for herself.  I struggled here because she buys herself most of the things she wants, unless they are out of price range which means they are way out of mine.  After racking my brains I had a sudden brain wave and decided to make contact with my friend Kate Cloud who is a textile artist.  I first met Kate when I was introduced to her by my boyfriend at the Long Eaton art room, a great place!

Kate makes the most incredible peg dolls, needle felted characters and other wonderfully colourful items, here are some of my favourites. 

My sister is a Paramedic in London and I thought it would be fantastic to ask Kate to make her in peg doll form.  Rheanne loves quirky things with little smiley faces and bright colours so I knew Kate would not disappoint.  I started by asking Rheanne's boyfriend to take a few picture of her in her uniform, a surprisingly easy task as she didn't question a thing due to the fact he was testing his new camera.  I then sent these on to Kate and she worked her magic.  Here is the finished item which Rheanne and everybody who has seen it loves.

Kate has captured Rheanne so well in this peg doll, there is a small London Ambulance Service badge on the right pocket and an NHS badge on the left.  They are so small its hard to believe they are so perfect.  Rheanne is also well known for her scuffed boots so even the peg dolls boots have scuffed toes.  Her smile is spot on as well, I am amazed by how perfect this is.  I also just love the background which is perfect for the bright lights of the Capital.

I have also recently had a custom pet print made by the very talented Amy Blackwell for my boyfriends Mum.  I asked for one of her tortoise Humprey Bogart.  I met Amy at my knitting group and have admired her work ever since I learnt what she did other than work in the cave at the Broadway Cinema.  Here are some of her lovely cat portraits.

Sadly people have stealing Amy's images recently and have been having them mass printed onto terrible cushions.  This is an ongoing problem so if you see any for sale please report these people.  They seem to pop up all over the place.  Bad people!!!

I was talking to Amy one evening and asked of she had ever made a tortoise portrait, I could instantly see the cogs in her brain working and the excitement was quite apparent.  We discussed what I might like and when it was needed by and I left knit group with a plan.  My boyfriend was heading home in a few weeks so he was tasked with taking photographs of Humprey Bogary (aka Humpy) for me to send over to Amy.

Once I had sent these with a brief description of Humpy and his favourite food stuff strawberries I was soon sent back an image of the illustration Amy had created.  He was perfect and his blissfully happy strawberry covered face was captured perfectly.  We handed Humpy over this week and he has made his way back to Devon now to meet his namesake.  Don't they look happy.

 The reactions to both of these gifts have been priceless, I felt so happy to hand over something completely unique to the person receiving them and I will continue to source as many gifts as I can from local artists.  Please join me in my bid to support local artists and consider getting gifts commissioned, you would be surprised at just how affordable and how satisfying it can be.