Knitting woes

In Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’ Esther goes to see her doctor, who asks what seems to be the matter. She replies “I can’t sleep. I can’t read.” Well I know I’m in a bad episode of depression because I can’t knit.

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The lovely bright turquoise yarn that I was yearning for all summer was finally bought to make a scarf. I started with a lacey leaf pattern and on the third attempt at casting the correct number of stitches I knitted an inch or so before getting totally distracted and lost. I ripped it all out and tried a simpler chevron pattern. I misread the ridiculously simple instructions and redid the first three rows twice before knitting away. I hadn’t even got to the first 10 rows before I realised I had miscounted and had some wobbly bits instead of pointy zigzags. It is currently unravelled (for the sixth or seventh time) and is awaiting a day when I have more brain power.

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#100happydays (part 4)

I finished my #100happydays challenge a couple of weeks ago and here are the final 25 pictures.

#100 happy days 76-100 I definitely got in the habit of thinking about the day’s photo and it was a little bit weird when I didn’t have to do it (I know I never HAD to to do it, but I was determined to do all 100 days). So here in full glory is one hundred things that have made me happy (or grateful, pleased, content, or not-so-sad)

100 happy days

Picture 100 was taken the day I got discharged from the physio and she said I could try to knit again (as long as I take regular breaks every half-an-hour and keep up with strengthening exercises) so I’m hoping for a summer of knitting.

 

#100happydays (part 3)

The sun is out and my camera is charged, but I am stuck writing end of year reports so still haven’t got pictures of my newest creations! I am on day 90 of the #100happydays challenge and this round-up has two dresses I LOVE wearing so much and my first over-locked project (thanks to the super kind Miss Dibs for passing on her old machine to me)#100 happy days 51-75I can see the end of school work (for the academic year) is in sight, so hoping there will be some more frequent blogging around here soon.

 

Lush Purple Tweed Cardigan

This is actually one of my last makes of 2013, but the blocking process took a long time in cold winter weather, and it was only just ready to wear on New Year’s Eve. Since then I have barely taken it off; the only days it hasn’t been worn were when I was wearing a soon-to-be-blogged aubergine-purple skirt and I thought it would be overdoing the purple slightly!

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The cardigan in Tin Can Knits’ Lush cardigan (check out my Ravelry notes here!) and knitted in Rowan Silky Tweed in Jazz. I bought the yarn in John Lewis sale last year, and in googling a link I’m disappointed to see it is discontinued as it was scrummy to knit and is so lovely to wear.cardigan 2

The Lush pattern was unusual in that the yoke was knitted first, then the collar and neck was knitted up, and the body and sleeves were knitted down; I’ve never come across this construction before, but it meant the lace pattern was only over a small number of stitches and so was easier to follow on the chart (I coloured in each row in different colours to help me keep my place). I really enjoyed the lace and I also learned how to do a provisional cast on (one side of the yoke is knitted, then the other, for a lovely symmetry – see below, which is the most accurate colour of the yarn) which was not as scary as I thought. What I did not like was having to pick up over 300 stitches for the body and sleeves, and realise I had too many and have to start over again to get the spacing right!

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Once the sleeves were put on stitch holders it was plain sailing, but of course I made things harder for myself by adding bust darts (short rows) for shaping and to provide more length over the chest. I did this using the method in the Craftsy Curvy Knits course, with measurements doodled on a piece of graph paper at school one lunchtime. In hindsight I should have adjusted the measurements to take away the proportion of the negative ease the pattern has, as they are slightly too big, but I’m super pleased with the alteration as it is.

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The big thing I have learned since my Basic Bella Cardigan is about zero or negative ease in knitting. I carefully took my measurements and chose the size smaller than me to give a close fit, which I am liking so much more. I lengthened the sleeves, with a little too much negative ease, so I did rip back a couple of inches and stop decreases earlier. This was a pain, but is worth it in the end for a good quality garment I can wear forever. The sleeves are a perfect length for me, and I am so glad I ignored my “are we nearly finished?!” grumbles in my head.cardigan 1

 

The sleeves and hem were bound off using Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off which I cam across when googling bind-off techniques. It was simple (adding in a yarn over before each stitch) and is so stretchy, keeping the stretch of the cuffs.cardigan 6

 

The Thursday before Christmas I braved the thunderstorm to walk to knitting night at The Village Haberdashery, but I was the only one wise enough to do so! I needed to wind some hanks of yarn for my journey home for Christmas and needed some buttons for the cardigan. It was just me, Annie and gorgeous baby Harvey, but Harvey helped me choose buttons (he liked the train ones) but I found these perfect floral buttons. I had been looking for ages and could only find solid colours that looked too flat against the tweed, but the subtle colours in these ones match the tweed beautifully. (This picture doesn’t do it justice, but is the best of bad lack of daylight).
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I am so pleased with this cardigan and know it is going to be getting a lot of wear over the cooler months. The yarn was bought on sale for around £30ish and the buttons were £9 for 10, so in total this cardigan was approximately £40 and took 2 months to complete. Not bad at all.cardigan 4

My New Sewing Space

Hello! Do you remember me? It has been a while, so I’ll forgive you if you’ve forgotten me! Real Life has eaten into my sewing/blogging time this month as I have been packing, cleaning and moving flats. Obviously the most important part of a new place is the sewing space, and mine is almost ready to use!

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My sewing table is in front of the window for good light (in a few months time in spring) and is near the radiator to keep me toasty warm on dark cold nights. I am super excited that I have room for both flaps to be open so I can do cutting without moving my machine! And there is space for my mini ironing board to be near the machine for patchwork.

On the shelves I have some projects pre-prepared ready to sew, stored in pretty gift bags; there are 2 dresses with all the pieces cut out (and notions ready) and all my fabric for my next quilt. Hopefully I can make a start on one of these this weekend 🙂

sewing space 1On the other side of my table I have all my resources (well not quite all, there were a couple of boxes of fabric that didn’t fit on these shelves. oops). Books and magazines are sorted into sewing and yarn, since the collection wouldn’t fit on one shelf. All my sewing patterns are in cardboard folders and are sorted into two big gift bags (can you tell I can’t throw gift bags away?!) by garment type; dresses and jackets, and separates.

There are two slim full length mirrors in the corner which will be great for fitting garments, and my dress form is also near by for fitting and draping. My tools (tracing wheels, shears, etc) and notions (seam tape, binding, personalised labels, etc) are in the same hanger from my last flat. I un-hooked it and carefully rolled it up, with contents still in the pockets, and then unrolled it when I unpacked so all my tools are ready to use!

What are your top tips for keeping your sewing space sorted?

I’m so looking forward to getting back to crafting this week, as two weeks feels like ages. I have a few unblogged garments to show you, that are awaiting photos, but I’m not sure there will ever be good light for photos for a few months. 

The Great London Yarn Crawl

Some of you may remember that at the end of the summer holidays I went on a woolly day out at the zoo and gave you a teaser of something exciting I learnt. I’m sure you were all on the edges of your seats wondering what I had learnt…

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spinning spindle

Well, it was spinning my own yarn!

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I sat down for a quick lesson and got hooked! One of the organisers of the Pom Pom Parade, Allison mentioned the Great London Yarn Crawl (and actually co-created it). Despite being out of knitting action, I still decided to go along for a little tour and natter (and a goody bag!).

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Since it was a spinning lesson that introduced me to the yarn crawl, I chose a route that included spinning goodies. I was on the Red Route, led by the lovely Renee and Zoe (who it turned out I’d already met in real life), and we visited Nest, The Handweaver’s Studio, Prick Your Finger and Loop; it was an epic journey around North/East London on buses with lots of lovely chattering. At the Handweaver’s Studio I picked up a drop spindle and some wool to spin (Grey Shetland and some bundles of pink and purple merino) and I got a refresher lesson in spinning on the bus.

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Of course I got a couple of little bits in the other shops (purely to support the independent businesses!): Vintage sparkly buttons; odd ends of yarn and felt for a top secret project; and a chunky crochet hook with a soft handle (for when I am ready to slowly start crocheting again).yarn crawl 005

After a busy day of shopping we headed to a lovely pub where we met all the other groups. There were lots of generous sponsors who donated prizes, and I won a lovely skein of pink-purple yarn and matching stitch-markers from Inked Yarn. Hooray for prizes!
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It was such a lovely day meeting so many lovely knitters, spinners and crocheters. After the success of the inaugural yarn crawl, there are plans for another one next year. Hopefully I’ll be back knitting by then… (physio on Saturday to possibly get injections :-S)

Pom Pom Parade

 

The other day I told you about The Campaign for Wool’s attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for pom-pom sheep. Since it was at the zoo, one of my favourite places to visit, I decided to pop down and play with yarn.

There were lots of tables full of crafty goodies to make pom-pom sheep, and all the yarn was pure wool! It felt a bit extravagant to be making pom-poms with such snuggly wool, but the whole point of the record was to raise awareness of wool.

When I made pom poms as a child we used cardboard donut-shapes and cut them away, but here you can see the donuts are made from foam and can be pulled over and off the fluffy wool.

It was so much fun that I couldn’t resist making two little sheep. Before joining the flock, we went for a walk around the kids corner of the zoo.

 

 

 

On the way back to the woolly pavilion I bumped into Shaun the Sheep!
Then it was time to say goodbye to my super soft fluffy friends. Can you spot them in the holding pen?

I also found another activity that kept me occupied for an hour or so, but it is so exciting it needs its own blog post later on… In the meantime here is a teaser of what I was doing…

***Reminder: My celebratory giveaway closes tomorrow! ***

Thanks and A Parade of Pom-pom Sheep

I am so overwhelmed with the responses to my giveaway (there is still time to enter!) and the lovely comments from everyone so far. I got a little lump in my throat reading some of the comments and was so touched to realise that people actually like what I’m writing. When I asked for feedback, it was in no way a “I want to hear how awesome I am” thing. In the past I have had really low self-confidence and a big case of compare-itis where I always judge myself against others; I read so many great blogs, I’m never really sure what I am contributing to the big blog world.

Some people’s wishes for what they want to see more of on here are actually things I have thought about (such as fitting) but have never posted as I didn’t know what else I could add to the wealth of info on the internet, but you guys have given me a little self-belief booster to trust my instincts and share my little bits of knowledge. I have said it on twitter this week, but I can’t say enough how much I love the supportive collaboration of sewing bloggers 🙂

That was a bit deep, so now for a bit of fun. What do you get when you combine pom-poms, sheep and the zoo? Shaun the Sheep’s Pom Pom Parade!

The Campaign for Wool & Shaun the Sheep's Pompom Parade attempt Guinness record at ZSL London Zoo 3 copy

I totally missed the Campaign for Wool’s plea for people to make pom-pom sheep, which I am a little disappointed about. I loved making pom-poms as a child. My grandma would cut out circles from cereal boxes and give us all her odd ends of yarn, and we would sit winding the yarn to make pom-poms. I can remember turning pom-poms into black cats, snowmen and multi-coloured balls, and how exciting it was when Grandma cut the card away to reveal the final fluffy pom-pom. I think I am going to have to teach my new class how to make pom-poms (it will count as good fine-motor development!).

As I type, the Campaign for Wool’s Wool Room has so far collected 8,035 pom-pom sheep but they want a collection of 10,000 for a new Guinness World Record; they are having a pom-pom sheep-making workshop at London Zoo this weekend, and hope to raise awareness of how awesome wool is at the same time. You may remember I visited Wool House earlier this year (when I had just started my Basic Bella cardigan) but it was lacking in real-life animals (I missed the day when the sheep were there) so this new project sounds like lots of fun.

The Campaign for Wool & Shaun the Sheep's Pompom Parade attempt Guinness record at ZSL London Zoo 8

 

I don’t think my wrists are quite up to pom-pom making yet, but I have identified my next knitting/crochet projects when I am ready to ease myself back into yarn-work; the next Campaign for Wool project is to create a Woollen Wood and there are some very cute little patterns for butterflies, flowers and bugs that should make good “beginner” projects for me.

*Cute pictures are from Campaign for Wool but have given me inspiration for future makes!

FO: Basic Bella Cardigan

Eight months after starting (with lots of breaks) I have finally completed my Basic Bella cardigan!

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The pattern was Basic Black by Glenna C on Ravelry (also available here) and is a simple v-neck cardigan with waist-shaping. I chose this pattern to be the knitting equivalent of a basic cardigan block (ie. work out what changes I have to make to a standard cardigan before I try knitting any complicated lace/cables/patterns).

The changes I made were adding 10cm or so to the length (after the ribbing and before the waist-shaping) so it would sit well with jeans and trousers. This is the perfect length for me, as I find other cardigans I own always creep up when I move, leaving me with a cold bit of my back. I also lengthened the sleeves, making up the pattern as I went along to get a nice narrow cuff and lower arm. I think it is pretty good, for an improvised sleeve.

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When sewing I always need to do a Full Bust Adjustment, and I think that is what I need to do when knitting, but how? The size across the bust is great here, but the cardigan is a little big around the waist and hips (I took it in as much as I could while sewing it up) and the shoulders are also a little wide. On the next cardigan I will do a smaller size in the hips/waist, and am wondering if knitting a smaller size back would also work… any tips/ideas/reading about this?

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The pattern had basic instructions and at first was a bit confusing (work decreases for neckline and at same time work shoulder shaping). Once I worked out what I was supposed to be doing, the instructions actually helped me understand the process better -there was no mindlessly following instructions, but actually having to think about how the cardigan is shaped and constructed, which made it easier to work out where/how to adapt the pattern.

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The yarn I used was Debbie Bliss Bella (85% cotton, 10% silk and 5% cashmere – it glided beautifully on my steel needles) in shade 16008 which is apparently called Crimson. I say apparently because some people have called this red, some people have called it deep pink. Whatever colour it was, I struggled to find buttons that would match this shade. In the end I chose these stripy buttons, as the white broke up the colour and didn’t make the difference so obvious – from the front they look great, but the back of the button clashes a bit. It reminds me of this optical illusion where the grey looks different depending on the background.

bella 03Most of this cardigan has been knitted as I travelled to and from work, so it has taken a long time to make (not including the long break when I was crocheting crazily to finish my blanket and making Christmas gifts). I spent most of the bank holiday weekend knitting the sleeves (both at the same time) and probably spent 3 full days doing the sleeves and finishing the cardigan. The yarn was purchased last year in the sales but obviously I blogged about the costs of all the other purchases and not this one. I think the yarn cost approx £40 and the buttons cost a couple of pounds, so total cost was under £45.

Before I get started on a cosy winter cardigan, here is a sneak peak of my current sewing project…WIP

WIP: Basic Bella Cardigan

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After all the woolly goodness at Wool House on Sunday I was inspired to curl up with my knitting, even though my current project isn’t wool (it is actually Debbie Bliss Bella – a lovely cotton, cashmere and silk blend that glides wonderfully on my stainless steel needles).basic bella 03

I have been working on this cardigan (Basic Black pattern from Ravelry) since August (when I showed you my tension swatch) but had to take a few crochet and Christmas crafting breaks. This is now my commuting project and a few rows everyday for a couple of months has led to some significant progress.

basic bella 01

I have now finished all of the body and am working on knitting both sleeves. Yup, both at the same time. I was worried I would forget what I was doing, so I have joined both sleeves with stitch-markers and used another stitch marker to remind me when to switch balls of yarn.

 

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