2019 – what else?

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Having just written the post about my knitting and crochet exploits this year, I then looked at the awesome round up of 2018 I did at the beginning of 2019, and thought I’d take a quick look through my blog posts of this year to see what the highlights were.

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Well, it was a good year for travelling. In September, Tai Chi Man and I travelled to the UK, where we stayed in London, Ilkley and Jersey. London was a brief whirlwind of catching up with cousins, and touring the city. Ilkley is in Yorkshire and was our base for visiting YARNDALE! And Jersey is where most of our family members live (in case you haven’t heard of it before, it’s a tiny island in the English Channel, closer to France than England). And of course in December we revisited Maui for a week of fun in the sun.

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It was also a good year for sewing. I made pyjamas, an apron, fleece neckwarmers, infinity scarves, fleece armwarmers, a snowman quilt, a crazy hippie wonky log cabin quilt, napkins, bags (totes, knitting project bags, upcycled denim bags), tops, a cartwheel skirt for my great-niece…altogether a very satisfying collection of creations.

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I was also approached by a yarn company to feature one of my free patterns on their website. It’s my Frond cellphone cosy and they created a pdf of it to include on their site. They sent me a link. However I can’t find the email they sent me so I shall have to hope they get in touch again so that I can let you know where to find the pdf.

I am going to have a giveaway very soon. I shall let you know what it is and how you can be in for a chance to win in the next few days. It will be open worldwide.

For now, Happy New Year to you all.

Ravelry review

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One of my favourite makes this year

I love to look back at my year’s knitting and crochet projects on Ravelry every December. Even when I don’t think it’s been a very productive year, I am usually surprised at how many Finished Objects I made.

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One of my few yarn purchases

This year was a good year for using stash. I signed up with the British Banter group on Ravelry to join their Bash the Stash 2019 challenge. The plan was not to go Cold Turkey and buy no yarn at all. My goal was more Lukewarm Sheep. Curb the acquisition of 100% synthetic yarn. Allow myself to mindfully purchase yarn which had at least some plant fibre content.

And, you know, I did pretty well. In January, I bought that pack of Scheepjes Stonewashed and Riverwashed mini skeins. It’s so pretty and I still haven’t found the perfect project for it. But it is on display in my sewing room and I know I will really enjoy using those amazing colours some time in the future. An LYS was going out of business in a nearby town and I bought some cotton yarns from them too. And then…nothing until November, when I went into Michaels and fell for some clearance yarn.

My totals at the end of the year, as posted in the British Banter group, are;

Total out this year: 8115 grams (knitted or crocheted into finished objects or given away)
Total in this year: 3700 grams (purchases and a few gifts)
Net output: 4415 grams (stash reduction)

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I love the finished item even though the garter stitch got tiresome!

Ravelry tells me I made 56 projects this year, but in fact some project pages include more than one item, so it was more like 77.

The summary:

18 hats, 16 dishcloths, 13 decorations/ornaments, 7 cowls/scarves, 7 bags, 6 shawls/wraps, 4 blankets/loveys, 3 toys, 2 headbands, 1 pr socks

and a partridge in a pear tree!!

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My favourite blanket of the year

I have four Works in Progress right now. The pink and grey sparkly shawl which I started in Maui. The Moe of Change blanket which I started in October and then neglected because it requires careful attention to the pattern. The scrap blanket that I’m knitting in the round on a huge number of stitches, which I think will get more attention now that the granny blanket is done. And finally, the cardigan, which was being made from a Secret Yarnery YouTube tutorial and which I had high hopes for. But even though I still like the colourway of the yarn (Lion Brand Mandala Baby in Echo Caves) and even though I actually ordered more yarn to get this cardigan finished, I think it’s going to be frogged. I can’t see myself wearing it and being happy in it. So officially that leaves me with three WIPs to carry me into 2020.

Considering my enthusiasm for sewing right now, three yarn WIPs is plenty. (Perhaps we should talk about my fabric purchases….or maybe not!) I really need to keep a good notebook for my sewing projects the way I do on Ravelry for yarn projects. Past notes tend to be scattered throughout various small notebooks and loose bits of paper, which means that if I want to make another version of a bag, for example, and want to know what size pieces I had to cut, it can be challenging to remember or remind myself what I did.

So that’s my year. What are your crafty highlights of 2019? Did you knit or crochet or sew something you were particularly proud of? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

Boxing Day

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And in the blink of an eye, Christmas is over!

After our big lunch out on Sunday, we had a very simple dinner on Monday. Tuesday was Christmas Eve and I had decided that that was going to be our main Christmas meal. So I cooked a lentil chestnut loaf, potatoes oreganata (sliced potatoes with oregano, sundried tomatoes and olives) and lots of roasted Brussels sprouts and cauliflower! We had apple crumble for dessert with vegan ice cream. And then the boys, Tai Chi Man and I played Cards Against Humanity. I know, very non-PC, but very funny, once you get over the fact you’re all mentioning body parts and unnatural acts in front of your parents/children. Our children ARE in their 20s now!!

Christmas Day was lovely and easy. I rustled up some blueberry pancakes around lunchtime, of which most of us partook. And Tai Chi Man and I went out for a neighbourhood walk in the afternoon. It’s been very mild around here, hovering around zero for some time, and there’s snow on the ground but no new precipitation for a few days. Dinner was equally simple, as I made a large fruit salad, which we ate with more vegan ice cream, and there was fruit cake for those who wanted it.

I baked a gluten free mince tart in the evening as I had a friend coming over for tea the next day. It seemed to work out okay.

And Boxing Day…another day at home. My friend came over for a cuppa and a piece of aforesaid mince tart, which was nice. I did a bit of tidying up, and some sewing on another project bag (#11 in the series). Dinner was shepherd’s pie and salad.

With the end of the year approaching, I am aware of my need to review. And the big pile of WIPs in the living room was begging for attention. So today I picked up the crochet granny blanket and added a couple of rounds of black and called it done. I needed a Finished Object and this is about 700 grams out of the stash. YAY!

It’s about 41″ square, and a good size for a lap blanket.

The centre is mostly different colours from the outer rounds because they were small scraps of yarn which I had to use up early or they wouldn’t have been enough to complete a full round. For the first time, I switched direction each round to avoid the skewing that happens in the centre of large grannies, and it worked well.

Now I am at the end of a five day stretch of no shifts, and I have work tomorrow. New sale, so my brain will have to be on full alert! And then Saturday, lots more cooking, as we’re hosting a potluck. Whew!

Christmas is imminent

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The 22nd, eh! Nearly there. The lead up to Christmas is always so long and drawn out, and then BAM! it’s all over. What with going away for a week earlier in the month, I am not feeling very organised as far as Christmassy things are concerned.

I did sew more bags – a total of ten so far – and gave two of them away. The tenth one is for me (and I spent a little extra time on it and added internal pockets). I have also invested in a big pack of batting from work so I am well set for bag padding for a while.

Today was our first “big meal” of the season, rather appropriately right on the Solstice. I spent the morning cooking cashew nut roast, sweet potato casserole, roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts, gravy, a large mince tart and a jam tart (to please the kid who doesn’t eat dried fruit) with coconut cream. I packed it up and we drove to our friends’ house and had lunch with sparkling apple juice and soy nog (which I am now calling Neggnog because there’s no egg in it)!!

We got the tree set up yesterday (there are benefits to buying it late; it was half price). It is beautiful and I will leave it up probably until mid-January!

My plan is to go all out on Christmas Eve, and on the 28th when we have friends over for a potluck, but the other days will be kept simple, because I don’t want to spend my entire days off cooking. I do still need to bake fruit cakes though, so that will probably happen tomorrow, after I’ve been to the gym.

I recently participated in a secret Christmas cracker swap in a British group on Ravelry. There was lots of amusing chatter about the relative size of different brands of toilet roll tubes. The instructions were to stuff a loo roll tube with a knitted or crocheted item, some treats, and  a cheesy joke, decorate it, and send it to your swap partner. The person who sent me a cracker was not the same person to whom I sent one.

I had a lot of fun thinking about what I would stuff into the cracker, and because my swapee likes owls I made sure to include a crocheted owl in the package. The joke above was one I found online (you may have to click to make the pic bigger to read it).

You’ll see from the photo at the very top that I wrapped my cracker in a piece of sequinned fabric which can be reused. I crocheted a gingerbread heart and a mini stocking, made some stitch markers and a beaded bracelet, and added some other little things that I managed to squeeze into the tube.

Now that everyone has opened their crackers, I can show you these pics, which have been lurking on my phone for a few weeks. In return, I received a cracker with a little knitted beaded sweater inside which I now have hanging on my tree.

It came with a joke and some stitch markers. Apparently there were supposed to be chocolates inside but they wouldn’t fit in the tube so my sender ate them herself! I was a bit disappointed about that. When I sent my cracker, I included some chocolate but just put it in the padded envelope alongside the cracker. Ah well! It’s not like I need the extra calories.

Some more fun mail arrived this week. I won a prize from Hannah of The Cozy Cottage Crochet. She has giveaways on her podcast all the time and I received these lovely cotton pastels from Paintbox Yarns. They are 50 gram balls, DK/#3 weight.

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Not great light at this time of the year, even right in the window facing south!

The cracker thing has inspired me to make one for each of my immediate family – there are five of us – and yes, I know I have left it to the last minute yet again. I need jokes (easy to find online), cash for the boys, and some small gifts which will fit inside loo roll tubes. And maybe some nice pieces of Christmassy fabric to wrap them in.

Those are my festivities so far. I hope you are enjoying this time of year, whether you celebrate the Solstice, Yule, Christmas, Hanukkah or nothing. Stay warm, stay safe.

 

 

On a roll

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Since my last post, I have made four more bags. I managed to get daylight shots of all five, just before it got too dim outside.

I love sewing days! No outside commitments (except I will go to the gym tonight with Tai Chi Man to counteract my sedentariness). No need to do anything except throw my fleece onesie over my PJs, drink tea, eat a bit, and sew. I set up my laptop on the table behind me so that I could listen to YouTube videos while I played with fabric.

The process is getting quicker, once I’ve made the decision as to which fabrics to put together. First bag today took two hours, the last was more like an hour and a half.

These three use the same range of fabric, but are all different…

And this one uses some cat fabric which has been in the stash for a long time…

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I started out by boxing the bottom corners with a 2″ square, but I changed it to 1.5″ and find it looks better. I also now use 32″ of ribbon instead of 36″ as it’s plenty long enough and will make my ribbon go further.

I’d like to keep going with these. Now that I have the method memorised, I am getting more efficient.

And now I need to get back to my bread dough which is rising in readiness for hamburger buns. I have black beans cooking in the pressure cooker to make beanburgers for dinner. Ta ta for now.

 

Projects and productivity

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Despite the fact that I had only a crappy few hours of “airplane sleep” Saturday night, I felt OK on Sunday and was even motivated to clean my house. I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be, and I couldn’t face just spending the whole day on the couch, so I vacuumed, cleaned bathrooms, watered plants, and did three loads of laundry.

I also started sewing another drawstring bag. (See above)

After a very refreshing 11 hour sleep, I was ready to tackle the grocery shopping today. The meal plan was made, the shopping lists prepared, and after a cup of tea at our favourite tea shop (to settle back into our home groove) we hit four different stores to stock up on food. Bulk foods, health food store, Costco and the supermarket. All have their strengths and we did ’em all today. It took all afternoon, and it was dark by the time we made our way home with a car full of food, but it felt good to restock the fridge and pantry.

After a simple dinner of soup and biscuits (scones to you Brits) I went back to the sewing room and finished sewing the bag, just in time to go to the gym with Tai Chi Man.

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This is the same tutorial by Erica Arndt that I’ve made three times before. This time, I used three coordinating quilt cottons from the store where I work. This range is called Knit Happy and came in two years ago and has been on clearance for some time. It still wasn’t cheap but I decided to go for it anyway. I had a Christmas gift certificate to spend.

The strap is made using the selvedge, because it was too nice to throw out. It has little sheep in all the colours that were used to print the fabric. The lining is a yarn ball print that I’ve had for some time and, while it isn’t designed to coordinate with the outer fabric, the theme is the same.

Of course I took yarn and hooks on holiday with me, and I completed this market bag while I was there.

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Of course I had to pose it on some lava rock and sand! This is made from a hand-dyed cotton. I didn’t use a pattern though I was inspired by someone’s design on Ravelry. I started out with a circle for the base, then just did a mesh for the body of the bag, and some solid rounds for the top.

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After I finished the bag, I started crocheting this shawl. I’m using some stash yarn – Cascade Sunseeker – one of which is a pink/grey multi, and the other a solid grey, both with some sparkle. I took this photo at Kahului (Maui) airport the night we were leaving, including my Skechers in the picture because they went well with the yarn! Both have pink and sparkly bits!!

I wanted to keep it simple, so I started with 3 stitches and am increasing on one side every other row. It’s all half double crochets. The idea is to start incorporating the grey in stripes once I’ve used about three-quarters of the multi. And then keep going with just the grey for the last bit.

Well, I see it’s 10pm and I have work tomorrow, so I’d better be going. Hope you have a great week.

 

 

Maui

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79177087_3663593460318240_1518541689579372544_oTwo years ago, Tai Chi Man and I went to Maui for the first time. We timed it to coincide with our 30th wedding anniversary. This year, we decided to go again. We went for a week, and did our best to come back with a tan without getting burned, and we succeeded!

It’s a 5.5 hour (or so) flight from Vancouver, and the time difference is only 2 hours behind our local time, so it’s not as tiring as going to Europe. Unfortunately Westjet doesn’t have fancy in-seat video screens like Air Canada does, so if you want to watch movies you have to download an app before you get on the plane, and my iPad Mini is too old. It’s still running iOS9.

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I received lots of compliments on the hair colour!

Tai Chi Man has a good camera and is our official photographer, though I took my basic phone out with me most days to grab a photo here and there, because if it’s on my phone I can upload it to Instagram.

We stayed at the Aston Ka’anapali Shores, which is north of Lahaina on the west coast.  It’s a big resort with many rooms curving around a central area with pools and hot tubs and a grassy area for sunbathing. And it’s right on the beach too.

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Christmas and hot weather just don’t seem to go together!

We explored new areas this time, driving around the north-west coast road (very winding and windy and narrow in places), also up along the north coast to Pa’ia and Haiku, and inland to Kula to visit the botanical gardens there.

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We also revisited Kihei, as the swimming is a little more friendly. The ocean has quite a swell, and in places is so rough that only the bravest surfers can manage it. One day, we found a beach that seemed to be dedicated to the kitesurfers and windsurfers.

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Lots of crabs were running over the rocks at sunset in Kihei

We mostly self-catered, though Down to Earth in Kahalui is one of the best health food stores we’ve found, with groceries and a hot bar and a salad bar and many other food options made to order. The last day we ate lunch and dinner there because it’s so close to the airport. And there’s Fork & Salad in Kihei, where you can build your own salad (it’s huge and very reasonably priced) depending on your dietary preferences.

We enjoyed seeing some of the local wildlife, including a resting Hawaiian monk seal on the beach near our resort, turtles at a couple of different beaches, sleeping on the sand, a humpback whale one morning out in the bay just before we started our open-air yoga class. (We did three yoga classes – Monday, Wednesday, Friday – and two Qi Gong/Tai Chi classes – Tuesday, Thursday.)

We also revisited Ono Gelato in Lahaina, which has non-dairy options and also sells tea and coffee.

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It’s a beautiful place. The temperature at this time of the year is pretty steady – in the 80s most days – though it did drop to low 70s when we drove upcountry to Kula. And we had wall-to-wall sunshine except for the last evening, when the clouds rolled in and brought a bit of rain.

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And now we’re back to cold and snow and warm clothing.

Snow, sewing and soup

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Today turned out to be a snow day. The flakes were flying horizontally and I was very grateful to have zero outside commitments so that I didn’t even have to change out of my PJs!

I spent most of the morning and afternoon in my sewing room, with just a couple of breaks to fetch lunch and hot drinks. I made another of these drawstring bags (tutorial from Erica Arndt on YouTube), using up more of the snowman fabric that I made the quilt with. This is a very easy bag to make and I could just go on and on making more and more! (And my new walking foot works beautifully!)

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I managed to get daylight photos of the bag around lunchtime, but the two projects I finished this afternoon were completed after dark, so indoor shots in artificial light only.

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Both this easy zippered pouch above and the drawstring bag below are from video tutorials by WhitneySews. (That’s my ironing board with the cute cup and mug print.) I added a turtle charm to the zipper.

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This bag coordinates with the zippered pouch, as I used the same spool fabric for the main part of this bag, and also lined the zippered pouch with it. The fabric on the outside of the zippered pouch is the lining of the drawstring bag. It’s a pretty big bag, though when I boxed the bottoms I took quite a chunk out, so it is probably a bit smaller than it could have been.

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Once again, the ribbons used for the drawstrings were from stash, ones that I bought when I was doing the farmers and crafters market about 5 years ago. The skinny teal and orange ribbons were a bit thin to use on their own, but as they both coordinated perfectly with the spool fabrics I used them together.

I’m hoping to convince Tai Chi Man to go out for a walk after we’ve eaten our root vegetable and lentil soup (good warming comfort food) and then if I have time I might just have to do more sewing.

So many tutorials, so little time!

Happy December!

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Do you love this time of year? So many people grumble about the cold and the snow, but my attitude is that the weather is not something you can change so you might as well enjoy it. Or at least accept it with grace! (Or move south, I guess!)

Yesterday was Sunday December 1st and we had our first proper snowfall. It wasn’t very deep but it was enough to make the roads a little slippery and turn everything into a prettier version of itself.

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Cold weather makes you count your blessings – we have a warm house, cosy beds, plenty of food, appropriate clothing. The temperatures dropped well below freezing in the last week and I know there are people in my town who are sleeping outside.

The drawstring bag I showed you a couple of posts ago was part of my Secret Santa gift for last night’s work’s Christmas Party. I also made a couple of coordinating gnomes (the two in the centre of this photo).

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I’m happy to report the bag and gnomes were much appreciated and were “stolen” twice in our Secret Santa game. The bag ended up with a knitter for her projects and the gnomes ended up with another person for her grandkids. It’s nice when people make a little effort for these things because there’s always someone who you feel sorry for because they ended up with a crappy thing!

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Another of my favourite things this season is that my Christmas cacti, of which I have about six, are flowering beautifully. I have found that if I put them outside on my covered deck in the summer, where they get a reasonable amount of light and fresh air, and then bring them in when the nights start to get cold, they flourish.

I had my sewing machine serviced this week and also invested in a new walking foot. The old one was about 20 years old and was loosening so much when I sewed that I kept breaking a needle when it hit the foot that had shifted below it. It is sewing like a dream again and I finished this little bag yesterday.

It’s small because I was limited by the length of the zipper. It’s called a Continuous Zipper Pouch and the tutorial is here. It’s a nifty way of using one side of the zipper (if you want, the other half can be used for a wrist strap) but obviously you need a zipper that’s twice the width of your intended bag and I only had short ones.

I love watching bag tutorials. WhitneySews is a channel that’s new to me (she has been making tutorials for ten years, so I don’t know how I missed her before) and she has lots of useful videos.

I also experimented with this Scandinavian fabric star. It’s a photo tutorial and after the first step, when you flip the piece over, it took me a minute to figure out what I was supposed to do, but I did, and it worked, and I managed to finish a reasonably neat star.

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I won’t post a photo of my Advent Meditation CAL ornament yet as I don’t want to spoil the surprise for others who haven’t got around to making it yet.

I think that’s enough of my warbling for now. I hope you are having a great day. Talk to you again soon.

Advent Meditation Crochet-along

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(Image courtesy of Pixabay)

What a great idea this is! The blog, Crochet Between Worlds, is running an Advent Meditation Crochet-along throughout December. Starting today, for four weeks, they are releasing an audio tutorial for a seasonal ornament. There is no written pattern or picture of the final item, so you have to listen carefully as you crochet and follow along.

This sort of focus makes you forget any other pressures or concerns you have, which is perfect when so many people are stressed out over so many issues.

Here’s the first post about it.

I’m doing it. Are you?