Little things…

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Little things…

 

 

Again, I’m distracting myself from my main WIP with little projects. I finished the pink dishcloth that I started ten days ago as a portable project with Scheepjes Linen Soft in the colour Hummingbird. And I threw together a very plain grey dishcloth with some leftover Knit Picks Comfy Fingering in the colour Whisker. I triple-stranded the Comfy by using a Navajo plying method that I’ve seen on a You Tube tutorial. You do it as you go. It’s very clever.

I have to confess that the soft focus on those dishcloth photos is caused by a smear on my iPad Mini’s camera lens!    >_<    I only realised later on when I went to take a photo of my Thermos cosy.

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This photo therefore benefits from a cleaner lens! I love making things to fit stuff as I go. This shape is pretty easy to cover, though I found once I’d covered the base I had to decrease on about three of the lower rounds to get it to suck in a bit. I thought the popcorn stitches would help with grip. And I hope you can tell that that’s a teacup appliqued to the front!

I was also rather tickled that the cosy coordinates with my Christmas cactus. 🙂

I have added this to the thread in the Little Drops of Wonderful group on Ravelry, where we can post about our makes in the Cosy Up to Winter MAL.

Another couple of things I made for Christmas gifts this week are these:

They are knotted fleece blankets, each made from two metres of fleece fabric (one for each side). I cut down the bear print and the tan pawprints to make a square blanket, and the green dog print and green pawprints I left at one by one and a half metres (the full width of the fabric). I’ve seen these made before but this is the first time I’ve made some, and they are simple to do. I had both finished in one evening. As you can imagine, we sell a LOT of fleece at the store where I work at this time of year. They make cosy gifts that anyone can manage, even if they can’t operate a sewing machine.

I’m coming to the end of my medical leave now. Back to work Friday. I also work Sunday and then there’s a stretch of a few days until my next shift. Tai Chi Man and I have booked a three night retreat at a little cabin in the woods that we know of. It’s our 31st wedding anniversary on the 10th and we always have a little getaway around this time. (It wasn’t so little last year, as we had a week in Maui.) The main room has a decent kitchen/living room/bedroom set up, there’s a woodstove, heated floors in the shower room, and a private hot tub outside. I really hope that there will be snow, because we can take our snowshoes with us. It’s always extra special to be in a hot tub when it’s really cold and snowy out too.

If you take enough food, there’s no need to leave the cabin at all! Though we may take a drive up to the nearest town a little way north.

I hope you’re loving this time of the year and enjoying all the good things about it. What’s your favourite way to spend a winter day?

 

 

Hello December

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There is a chill in the air but it still feels more like fall rather than winter. Heck, I even saw someone at the Christmas market this morning wearing flip-flops! It’s more damp and cloudy than cold, and around 3 degrees, and it won’t really feel like winter until it gets to the minus temperatures and maybe some of the white stuff.

Anyway we found a lovely Christmas tree at the market. It was the first one we saw, it was full and green and just the right size and price, and so it was an easy decision. I didn’t buy anything from the vendors but it was fun to look around. Crochet figured heavily on a lot of the tables. Whilst there was still one person selling what I would call tacky old-fashioned stuff there was also a tasteful table of beanies with faux fur pompoms, scarves, mittens and so on that were made in a controlled colour palette and presented with pretty tags in an attractive way.

I know that, as yarn crafters, we make a very wide range of items, and where they fall on the tacky/tasteful scale is quite subjective. I do not claim to always make tasteful items! I’m sure some people have looked sideways at some of my FOs and thought WTF! However when making things to sell I think it’s worth thinking about current trends, what colours people tend to wear, what fashions they are following.  While I like bright colours, I think that the woman selling the well-made neutral-coloured accessories will do well, whereas the woman selling the crazily-variegated blankets and pastel baby jackets will not. Maybe that’s just my judgment. As I say, the tasteful/tacky scale is subjective.

I do love granny squares and I know there are many who hate them. The garter stitch wrap I am knitting right  now, with its colour changes every two rows, would probably make some people cringe. My friend said she admired my bravery in changing colours so often. I know she didn’t mean it in a bad way – maybe she was even referring to all the ends I am creating along one edge (which I am definitely not going to be weaving in). But I love it, and that’s what matters because I am not making it to please anyone else.

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It’s 12.5″ long now. Only 37.5″ to go! And the granny squares which will be attached along each end are still only partially made. But there’s no deadline for this, and even though it seems like it will take a long time (DK yarn is pretty thin) if I add an inch or two every day it’ll be done by the end of the month. I know I am onto a good thing if I am picturing myself wearing the item and really looking forward to it.

I took these photos outside on my deck at about 3.30 in the afternoon. Surprisingly the light was still quite good. I got another photo of the  mittens too as the indoor shot was a bit dark.

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I went to see Bohemian Rhapsody last night with a friend. I really enjoyed it. I love Queen’s music and we were singing along in places. I know there have been mixed reviews but I give it two thumbs up!

So what’s on your tasteful/tacky list?

 

Project polygamy

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Monogamy is for marriage. Not for crochet and knitting projects!

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The garter stitch wrap is a longer term project and these kinda make me antsy for some instant gratification: a quick project that will be a Finished Object really quickly. So, inspired by a podcast I was watching this week (Little Drops of Wonderful) in which I found out about a #cosyuptowintermal (AKA Cosy up to Winter MakeAlong), I made a teeny tiny crystal cover. The MakeAlong is all about knitting or crocheting a cosy for an inanimate object, something I have a fair amount of experience with! And when I was tidying up the coffee table before friends arrived, I found this piece of selenium in my yarn bowl. It now has a sort of cosy and hanging loop! It took a few attempts to come up with something that worked without covering up too much of the crystal.

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My other instant – well, short term – gratification project is this one. Two days to make these bulky mittens. The pattern is Morning Mittens from Make & Do Crew (honestly, I love lots of her patterns). Here’s a link to my Ravelry project page.

This is a knit-look crochet stitch called Waistcoat Stitch, which is single crochet worked into the body of the sc in the row below, rather than the two loops along the top. You really need to use a big hook and a loose tension with this. I caused pain in my right wrist and arm (the one I injured back in February) from working on these intensely the last two days. I also recommend a lighter coloured yarn, but I used this Red Heart With Love in Grape Jam because I wanted the mittens to coordinate with a slouchy hat and scarf that I made last year. (I didn’t find another home for those and when I went out walking yesterday I decided I would keep them and wear them.) The yarn is aran weight and used double stranded for this pattern. I did leave out a round of crochet in the straight part of the hand, and also on the thumb, as they would have been just a bit too big otherwise.

I have been enjoying lots of rest and relaxation in the week since my ear surgery. Apart from a slight bit of dizziness now and again and an occasional earache that disappears quickly I have been feeling fine. I still have another week off work. Some highlights coming up in the next few days: Bohemian Rhapsody (the Queen film), a Christmas market, brunch at a vegan cafe, and a follow-up visit to my ear surgeon. OK, that last one isn’t exactly a fun one, but it’s on the schedule.

I’m hoping that I’ll find a nice Christmas tree on Saturday. December 1st seems like a good day to start brightening up the house for Yule/Solstice/Christmas. The boys aren’t bothered about gifts this year (we’ll probably give them some money) so it’s going to be all about the experiences. Tonight after dinner I was asking the family for ideas for their seasonal edible favourites. Mine include mince pies (made my own mincemeat already), fruit cake and gingerbread. I love the long dark evenings around the Solstice and the flavours of my favourite comfort foods. (Hopefully my sweet tastebuds will have returned fully in a few weeks – one of the side effects of the surgery.)

 

In my happy place

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I love my couch. It’s one of my favourite places. It has blankets for pulling over the knees if we feel a little chilly,  a coffee table in front of it for holding giant Ikea mugs full of Yorkshire tea, a lapdesk on the middle cushion to hold my laptop for Ravelry-browsing, pattern-reading, email checking and Facebook scrolling. It has space next to it for baskets of yarn, needles and hooks. The two main lamps in the room stand either end of the couch so the light is good, and I allow Tai Chi Man one cushion’s worth of space at the opposite end for his own use. I think that’s fair!

Plopping down on the couch is so much more satisfying when I feel that I have made some order around me, so I cleaned the main floor of the house this morning, did laundry, mopped the kitchen, freshened up the bathrooms, vacuumed the living room and de-crumbed the dining room table.

I left the vacuuming of the stairs and downstairs utility room to ds2, who is the only one who doesn’t go out and earn his daily crust so he is the one who is allocated chores every day. I still need to take care not to over-exert myself with my healing ear, after all.

I even prepped a couple of dishes of enchiladas for dinner so that once I was installed on the couch I wouldn’t have to get up again for some time!

My garter stitch wrap has reached all of 7″ long, and my goal is eventually to get it to 50″. Then I want to add granny squares to each end, which I have already started making. You can see them in this photo.

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The beauty of this project is that if I feel like I’ve had enough of garter stitch I can move over to the crochet. The eight squares are 3.5″ at the moment, with an intended finished size of 6.5″.

I also have three very small FOs – these mini Christmas stockings.  I didn’t use a pattern. I wanted to take the smallest possible crochet project with me into hospital, so I picked a 3mm hook which was shorter than the rest, a few mini skeins of cotton from the dollar store, and some nail clippers and fitted them into one of my triangular bags that I sewed a few months ago.

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Two of these were finished on Thursday before I left the hospital, and the third was completed yesterday. They’re about 2″ tall.

Well, time to pay some attention to Tai Chi Man who just arrived home from work. TTFN.

 

Sunny Saturday

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Sunny Saturday

What a beautiful day! I haven’t been out (at least not further than my deck) but I am enjoying the sunshine that’s pouring in through the window.

I unpinned the shawl from its blocking mat today and got a couple more photos of it looking more finished.

My new WIP is not, after all, the Wayfarer Ruana, but it is inspired by it. I cast on with big needles and two strands of DK yesterday and started knitting, but really didn’t like the look for something which I intend to wear. For a scrappy blanket, maybe, but not a garment.

What I finally decided to do was to knit a wrap in garter stitch, in DK with 4.5mm/US7 needles, for which I cast on an indeterminate amount of stitches for the width, just going by eye. I am leaving a long tail on the right side whenever I start and finish a colour (every two rows) which will probably remain as a fringe (unless I change my mind about that too). When I have made a large rectangle, I will crochet some granny squares to attach to each end.

It will be like a small version of the Wayfarer, so I am calling it the Wayfarer Wrap on my Ravelry project page.

This photo was the initial choice of yarns from my DK stash, aiming for a blend of soft colours.

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I think it’s working out well so far.

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A very different look to the brights/jewel tones I usually use, but I love it. And the garter stitch is perfect to accompany You Tube or Netflix!

Post-op

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I am grateful and relieved that the surgery on my right ear is now behind me. As I explained in this recent blog post I have an inherited hearing problem that can be remedied with surgery. Well, Wednesday was the big day.

I went in early Wednesday and had the surgery that morning, and the rest of the day involved mostly sleep, nurses monitoring my pulse, BP and temperature, and an intimate relationship with a bedpan! Couldn’t get out of the bed the first day, which is understandable as a certain amount of dizziness and loss of balance is normal with inner ear surgery.

I have to say, the dizziness is way less acute this time, which made things a lot easier. And Thursday morning, my specialist did his rounds and was happy with my status and confirmed I could go home. Since being home, I have mostly sat on the couch, crocheted, messed about on my laptop, and drunk tea. Ate a small amount but didn’t want to overdo things.

Ah, the joys of sleeping in your own bed and using your own bathroom!

So of course I made plans for the perfect “recuperation project” to do while I am off work for two weeks, and I loaded up my nook next to the couch with DK yarns and opened up a tab on the computer for the Wayfarer Ruana. But first I wanted to make a shawl from a cake of Lion Brand Mandala, for which I chose the Echo Caves colourway. After some deliberation, I chose the Chic and Strong Crescent Shawl (link to my Ravelry project page which includes pattern link).

This took five days from start to finish, and that’s without working on it while in hospital. The first part is mindless half double crochet, increasing at each end of every row, and the lace edging is a more mindful seven rows of paying attention. Quite a good balance, really. I’m not sure about the foundation row, which was foundation double crochet, which makes for an odd shape across the top. If I made this again, I would do a chain start and go straight into the hdcs.

This took less than one cake, though I cut out some of the whitish colour to get to the green for the edging, which meant that I had to steal a little more green from a second cake to finish the last few inches of the last row. But that’s ok, because I had four cakes in this colourway.

Pre-blocking:

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During blocking:

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For the foreseeable future, I will have to keep my right ear dry so will be enlisting Tai Chi Man to help me with washing my hair and supervising me in the bath (in case of dizzy spells). I am now the proud owner of three titanium implants (two stapes and one plate in the wrist). While I would love to claim to be the Bionic Woman, I would rather avoid any more surgeries, thank you very much!

Winter is coming!

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Hello, lovely people. I hope all is well in your world.

There has been lots of yarn in mine, as usual. And some sewing too. First, I have to show you why it’s important not to take life too seriously and to laugh at yourself sometimes. Do you see the obvious mistake here?

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(Evening shot taken without any thought of styling!)

This is an awesomely warm, comfortable fleece onesie with a hood that I sewed for myself. However I didn’t realise until I was attaching the very last pieces that I had cut it out with the one-way Hello Kitty fabric running the WRONG WAY! I didn’t even think about it being one-way until that point. However, I had it finished just in time for the cold weather and I love how cosy it is. That’s the important thing, right?

As for crochet news, there are two FOs. The first is this one:

The link to my Ravelry page is here, and it contains the You Tube link for the tutorial. This is a yarn-eating cowl. It used a whole cake of Caron Big Cakes, all 300 grams/600 yards of it. (I know, I’m mixing my metric and Imperial.) It looks very odd during construction, with the loops sticking out, but you loop them through each other along the length of the cowl and then the last loop in each row becomes  a buttonhole.

I doubt I will be making another one, but if I did I’d probably make it with DK rather than worsted and also add some length. It will certainly be warm though.

Another project that is hot off the hook today is this one:

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My project page – Cuddly Cat crochet Scoodie This came out looking just like the one in the designer’s pattern photo, and I am pleased with it. (Direct Moogly link.)

Again, if I were to make this again, I’d tweak the pattern a teensy bit. The hood comes out a tad too far at the back for my liking, so I think I’d stop increasing a bit earlier, work straight for a few rows, then do the decreases. This is a gift for a friend – hope she likes it.

I need to toss both of these FOs into the washer and dryer to soften up a bit. The Caron yarn has an odd feel to it – I won’t be buying it again. And the Scoodie is Red Heart Super Saver which always benefits from a bit of rough handling in the laundry!

We have had strong winds whistling around the house the last couple of days. The windchimes on my deck have been clanging away. As the temperature has been hovering around 2 – 5 degrees Celsius, you can imagine with the windchill it’s starting to feel a little chilly around here. We have had a tiny amount of snow which melted straight away, but we can see the snowline moving down closer and closer. Winter is coming! Make yourself a fleece onesie!!

 

Hat FOs: almost-instant-gratification

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Hat FOs: almost-instant-gratification

Hats are relatively quick projects that are enjoyable and allow a lot of opportunity for creativity. Yes, you do have to make them to fit somebody, but there’s a lot of leeway there if you’re not attached to having them fit a particular person!

I finished two more hats, one crocheted, one knitted. The first is a free pattern from Yarnspirations called Cable Twist Hat. I haven’t done many crocheted cables, but they are pretty straightforward. However I can’t help feeling that the cable crossings would have been a lot simpler done right over left, rather than left over right. Also, I thought that the stitch count for the first round seemed way too big, so I took out a 12-stitch pattern repeat and worked on 60 stitches instead of 72. Bit of a mistake, really, as I failed to account for the “sucking-in effect” of the cable pattern, so ended up with a hat that would probably fit a ten year old rather than an adult woman.

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It fits Sally the Styrofoam Head perfectly. Shaun the Sheep is rolling his eyes at my thoughtless pattern adaptation!

The tension on this was quite tight with the Red Heart Super Saver and 5mm hook. I think if I were to make this again, I would keep the same stitch count but perhaps use a 6mm hook.

My other hat wasn’t made from a pattern. I wanted to use a new colourway of Bernat Pop that I found at Walmart. It’s called Candy Cane and has two shades of red, aqua, grey and a pinkish-white. I had two cakes, so started knitting the hat, pulling the yarn from the outside of one cake, and when I got to the Fair Isle pattern (which is in Alice Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting) I used the second cake, pulling from the inside.

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The hat is definitely slouchy, and with the big pompom on top Sally didn’t want to stay upright. I had to use a yoga block to stop her falling over.

Once I had completed the first full pattern repeat, I decided to cut out a bit of the white so that the aqua would come into play for the second repeat. And then did the same again with the grey. I used all the colours in the pompom, which is the best one ever because I made it the old-fashioned way, the way we learned at school back in the 60s.

You need two circles of cardboard, cut about 3″ in diameter, with a centre hole cut about 1″ in diameter. (I didn’t measure, I just drew around a couple of things in my sewing room that looked about right. I don’t know what the perfect cardboard proportions are to come out with a perfectly spherical pompom –  mine is a little elongated – but it’s easy to trim it down if necessary.) One wraps the yarn around and around the cardboard, holding the two pieces together, until one can’t get any more yarn through the middle (a darning needle is an essential piece of kit here), then one cuts the yarn by inserting scissors between the two pieces of cardboard around the outside edge. Tie a piece of yarn tightly around the middle, then remove the cardboard, and hey presto! One has a fabulous pompom, full and squishy and awesome, not limp and scraggly like some I’ve seen.

It was a very busy weekend at work. I worked Friday, Saturday and Sunday and I guess the sale got the people out, despite the huge (for us) amount of rain that’s fallen in the past week. Saturday was the busiest I’ve seen it in a long time. After three solid days of pounding the touch screen till at work, cutting fabric, and tidying up the store, my wrist is hurting, so today I decided to buy a basic support for it. I should probably have graduated to this after quitting my full wrist brace months ago, but have been managing without. However even eight months after the break/surgery I am not quite back to full, pain-free, use of my wrist. And I need to be careful not to overdo things and set myself back.

Today was errand day and I stopped in at a few places including Costco and a couple of bulk food stores. I was excited to find a Moo Free vegan chocolate advent calendar (made in Britain no  less) for December! I think that this year I will resurrect a tradition that has fallen by the wayside for a couple of years – that of making mincemeat ready for mince pies at Christmas. The recipe I have is vegan, and has no added fat, and you make it and put it into jars and let it sit in the fridge for six weeks. I love mince pies!

It looks like we will be having a low-budget Christmas this year. The boys are all young men now and are quite happy for us not to buy them stuff for the sake of it. Tai Chi Man and I buy what we want, when we want, throughout the year, so aren’t bothered about gifts under the tree. We will have to plan some great meals and some good fun entertainment. Maybe go to the movies, see a Christmas show, things like that.

I have ear surgery coming up in a couple of weeks time. I had the left ear “fixed” in 2015 due to a hereditary gradual deafness issue called otosclerosis. My mum had the surgery on one ear back in the 80s but never did have the other ear done. It involves a general anaesthetic; the eardrum is opened up, the calcification drilled away, and the stapes bone (one of the three teeny tiny bones in the ear that are supposed to vibrate together) is replaced with a titanium prosthesis. This surgery will be on my right ear, and my third piece of titanium (left ear, wrist and now right ear)! I am turning into the bionic woman. Just as well it doesn’t set off airport security scanners!

I have two weeks booked off work, which was an adequate amount of time in 2015 for me to feel sufficiently recovered to get back into the usual routine. I know what to expect (a mixed blessing: the vertigo is horrendous at first) and I am confident of a good result. I will be able to say goodbye to the remaining hearing aid, which will be wonderful. I will need to keep that ear dry for months afterwards, not to mention being very careful not to topple over at first, so Tai Chi Man will be back to helping me shower until I am steady again.

Hope you have a happy crafty week. Back soon!

Wonderful weekend

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Wonderful weekend

Weekends off are so much more precious when you have to work some Saturdays and/or Sundays. This weekend, I have been off both days. Yesterday we enjoyed some of the simple pleasures of a typical weekend, like going to the library, picking up groceries, going to the gym, and making and eating simple vegetable soup for dinner while gazing out at the lovely carpet of fallen leaves in our backyard.

Today Tai Chi Man and I went to the gym again, followed by a long leisurely cup of tea at our favourite tea shop, which has such a warm, welcoming vibe. Some more downtime at home this afternoon, during which I have put the finishing touches on the latest crochet hat project, and then we’ll be taking the family out to dinner.

So, to the crochet projects. The scarf and hat each use a skein of Loops & Threads Barcelona, colour Sky. The scarf is just your basic C2C stitch pattern, which I find very soothing and addictive. The hat is from a pattern by Make & Do Crew. It is called a 1.5 hour beanie, though I know it took me longer than that to make it! The pompom is huge and floppy, and I made sure to tie it on in such a way that it can be removed for washing or if the owner just doesn’t like it. I put a large button inside the top of the beanie for stability.

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This yarn has been in my stash for over a year. I know that because I made a C2C scarf and coordinating hat with a different colourway last September. And I still have two skeins of a pink colourway yet to use. I think I may have to make another C2C scarf with that, and a different style of hat, just for fun.

I did knit a little on the sock at the tea shop today, but at 9 stitches to the inch and infrequent activity the first one won’t be done any time soon.

I have also made progress on the Fair Isle hat and will show you that next time. Maybe finished!

Hope you are having a great weekend. TTYL

Fun Friday

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A little diversion from the current WIPs….two pairs of earrings. The first pair are mini peacock feathers from a pattern I found on Ravelry (project page link) and the second pair are mini pumpkins that I just made up as I went along (though they are very similar to these).

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Crocheted with a  2.5mm hook and some sport weight cotton that I bought at a dollar store (cute 10gram balls). I wore the peacock ones to work today and tomorrow I will wear the pumpkin ones. Fun!