Tuesday, 30 October 2012

October Wishlist

The Hedgehog -  Illustration print (size 4.7" x 4.7")

1. Estrid by marias garn. I wish this pattern was available in English!
2. The Hedgehog Illustration by Majali Design & Illustration on etsy
3. Stripey Socks by fair trade company People Tree

Monday, 29 October 2012

An Autumnal Blog Makeover

I spent the better part of Sunday updating my blog's header, no easy feat on a netbook with no mouse! But my little netbook is my best friend on a drizzly, cold Sunday morning when I just can't seem to roll out of bed. In place of photoshop, I used pixlr to make my Autumnal collage. I found all of the images on the web from royalty free sites. My favourite, and by far the most abundant in vintage images, is Graphics Fairy. I'm not sure if updating my header will become a seasonal exercise, but I'm really glad to have learned a few new skills. I might be making a few more tweaks throughout the week, and expect to see an About Me page soon!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Report Back: The Knitting and Stitching Show

 A week ago I blogged about the tragedy of loosing my knitting bag on Oxford Street in London. Such a tragedy was difficult to face in that big ole hectic city, but I managed to soothe away my grief (and replace my needles) at The Knitting and Stitching Show. How on earth I managed to live in London as a knitter for more than 4 years and not attend this show before is truly beyond me. And I'm so glad I made the effort this year, despite now living 150 miles away.

Now, we usually stay with my brother-in-law when we visit London, which means coordinating coming and going and juggling only one set of keys between a scatter-brained knitter and a band of five boys. So naturally I left my camera locked in the house as I made my way to Alexandra Palace. Damn. But the truth is that a knitting show needs to be experienced first hand. The colours of fabric and textures of tapestries and laughter of friends and the occasional waft of lanolin just won't come out in pictures. Still, I managed to capture a few snaps of the knitted village with my camera phone. And I think it's really sweet!

It's difficult to sum up a whole day at a convention, but there were many personal highlights. I came across a stall by The Village Haberdashery and actually squealed with delight out loud. I've been following Annie Barker's blog for most of the year, and I felt a little star struck! Her online shop is full of the most beautiful and up-to-date quilting fabrics, and I've already requested this Anna Maria needle point cushion kit for Christmas. My poor husband!

The swooning didn't stop there. I picked up 200 grams of tweed sliver (rhymes with diver) from the Bronte Glen Craft Collection. My attempt to learn to spin is coming along slowly and definitely isn't deserving of their 100% cashmere fluff. Maybe next year. Speaking of luxury fiber though, I was really impressed with Cashmered, a labour of love that supplies 3-ply cashmere milled in Italy to make up vintage patterns that require this yarn weight. 

I spent a good piece of time browsing the books at St Cyr Vintage, stockists of old crafting and sewing patterns. I would definitely love to visit them in the Camden Stables on my next London trip. I picked up a leaftlet for Knit for Peace and bought a set of sweet Christmas gift tags that feature a knitted Christmas pudding! Of all the stalls holders, I spent the most time talking with the WI. I'm tempted. So tempted. Are there any of you WIers out there who want to tempt me more? 

After a lovely 30 minute workshop on the art of batik, I set out to find knitting for the long bus ride home. A major mission was to replace my Knit Pro interchangeable needles in 5mm and cable, which I fortunately found at the Knitting4fun stall. As I mentioned last week, I selected a skein of Black Hills New Zealand wool, grown by Penny Cole, which I used to knit up a bubbly hat. It's not quite cold enough to enjoy the fruits of labour yet, but I suspect we'll be pumpkin carving in hats and scarves this frosty weekend!

Monday, 22 October 2012

One Weekend Fingerless Mitts

A few weeks ago, our building at work started to get really, really chilly! I can't concentrate when my wrists are cold, and typing in gloves is pretty much impossible. On a particularly nasty Friday afternoon, I found a solution in Susie's Reading Mitts. The free Ravelry download is really quick to knit up and required only one 50g ball of Rico Design Essentials Merino DK. The mitts are ever so slightly large - perhaps because I just have tiny hands or perhaps because I used the magic loop method rather than double-pointed needles. Maybe my gauge was off - I rarely swatch. Still, I'm very happy with the results. And the heat was turned on in the office the following Monday!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

When your knitting goes missing... And the Bubble Hat!

The more you read my blog, dear readers, you will become familiar with my love/hate relationship with London. I lived there for four and half years, only popping back home to Austin, Texas once in a while to pick up a new visa and gather up some strength to face the big city once more. My husband had lived there for eight years when we finally decided that we could either spend our entire lives dreaming of a simpler life and wait until we were retired to make a move, or we could escape to the country now. And we've done it! Except... that his band is London-based. And the more in-demand they get, they more we find ourselves climbing aboard the Berry's coach early on Saturday morning with mixed emotions - from excitement to see our friends (or attend a knitting show!) to dread of the crowds and unseen forces that bog down your day.

Last weekend I was particularly looking forward to a day out alone on Oxford Street to top up my wardrobe with some wintery goodness. I spent a lovely few hours drooling over the haberdashery and Winter Shop in Liberty before buckling down and picking out some affordable basics in H&M. New clothes in hand, I crossed the street to John Lewis in search of a sewing pattern for a cape. As I paid for my successful find, only then did I realise that at least whole hour earlier... in the H&M fitting room.... I had left behind.... my knitting bag!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That horrible simultaneous hot and cold feeling flushed over my skin. I paid as quickly as I could and made a mad dash for H&M, where the staff were surprisingly lovely and helpful for Central London staff. They tried not to laugh at me when explained that it was knitting I was so desperate to recoop. They did a quick search of the store and took my details and then very gently, in hushed voices, just explained that lost items in London should really just be considered stolen, gone forever. But who would steal knitting?!?! I can only hope it was some opportunistic soul in desperate need of a blood-pressure calming project to occupy their hands on the tube ride home.

That's one of the reasons I started knitting so ferociously when I lived in the city - to calm my poor nerves. I love that tote bag that says "I knit so I don't kill." I think that might be true in my case. Not that I'm a natural born killer, but a bad day in London can drive me to be a nasty person. And I don't like being that.

You might be asking how on earth I managed to recover from this horrible incident. Well, with no spare needles or wool in my handbag, I just hopped over to The Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace the next afternoon and indulged in some woolly retail therapy! The results of which you see on the post today. I'll write a proper report back from the show later, but today I'd like to share what I started on my bus ride home to Somerset.

This is The Bubble Hat, a free pattern on Ravelry by Vridd Vrang. It's knitted on 5mm needles that I picked up at the show on lovely aran weight wool. I managed to knit up the most of the hat during the Great British Bakeoff final - so it's a quick one. I used a twisted single rib as I prefer the look of it to a regular rib. The bubble pattern is a cinch once you've got the hang of it, and the rest is all stockinette. I hope my family member like this pattern because I think everyone should expect it for Christmas!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Brighton Beret

It's not quite woolly hat weather yet, but winter is beating on my door by way of a relentless Autumnal rainstorm and it seems like a good time to refresh my winter wardrobe. In between showers one miserable day last week, my husband was kind enough to snap a few shots of my Brighton Beret. Here is yet another knitting project that I made a few years ago yet never got around to adding to Ravelry. There are so many!

I call this hat the Brighton Beret because my friend (and husband's cousin) Ruth gave me the wool for Christmas in 2008. She was living in Brighton at the time. I was stranded in England, unable to travel home to Texas due to a student visa constraint. Ruth graciously invited me to stay with her family in Brighton and spend the Christmas holiday with them - no small offer during what is usually a stressful time for most people! 

I was so grateful for the prospect of a family Christmas (I had spent the holidays alone before, and it's beyond not so fun) that the last thing I expected was a gift! But knowing I was a keen knitter, Santa filled my stocking with cable needles, a row counter, stitch holders, some Rowan 4-ply, and other bits and bobs. I made the Brighton Beret out of that Rowan wool, which I supplemented with some acrylic stuff in my stash.

This was my very first attempt at Fair Isle, and I was pleased with how easy it was. I followed a pattern featured in the book you see pictured above, The Traditional Sweater Book by Madeline Weston. Originally published in 1986, some of the sweaters are pretty retro in their shape. But Weston's histories of the Fair Isle and Guernsey and Aran patterns are a delight to read, and the colourways would be no less popular to knit up today than 26 years ago.

The beret pattern calls for a few inches of black single ribbing before the Fair Isle pattern starts. This is meant to be rolled or folded up, but after a few years of the extra material just making the hat look downright dowdy, I sewed it up into the hat all together. It makes the opening of the beret tighter, which is good because I have a small head. The beret has now had a hand wash and re-block (a few days drying wrapped around a dinner plate), and I think it's ready for several more years of wear. And to be uploaded on Ravelry at last!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Someday Knitting

Shallows Cowl or Scarf Knitting Pattern


I have a huge project on my needles right now. I'm about half way through my very first cabled jumper, and I'm trying to be disciplined about not casting on something else before I have the jumper done. We'll see how that goes over the weekend, when I get to attend the Knit and Stitch Show in London! Meanwhile, here are a few beautiful knits that I'm dreaming about....

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Moving to London Hat

 My Ravelry updating continues. I have finally pulled out all of my winter gear, and now I'm trying to make a concerted effort to update my Ravelry profile with knitting and crochet projects that I have made over the years. I'm forced to reflect on why I haven't shared many of my projects on Ravelry, and here's what I conclude:

1. I'm a perfectionist. If I don't like a project, or if I want to make changes to a project, it doesn't get posted.
2. I start projects and then don't finish them for years... Surely we're all guilty of this!
3. There are so many beautiful blogs and glossy websites out there, that I'm afraid my snapshots just don't do justice to the projects that I spent so many hours making. I'm borrowing an SLR from the college where my husband works for most of my blogging. Otherwise, I've got two broken digital cameras in the drawer - a serious stumbling block when it comes to sharing photos!

I'm sharing with you today the very first hat that I ever knitted. I genuinely can't remember if I made this hat in 2007 or 2008. I think it must have been 2007, and I remember making it on the plane from Texas to London on one of many trips back and forth over the years. I purchased the wool and pattern at Hill Country Weavers in Austin, Texas knowing that I faced a long haul and a cold winter. The lady who helped me pick out the pattern was so patient to help me pick out an appropriate yarn and needles. I can still remember being nervous about getting it all right - and apparently I was afraid to pick out a color that was different that the one used for the original pattern. Not that that would have made a difference to the gauge!

Using a ggh pattern, the hat is made with either a Malabrigo Worsted or Chunky in a kettled-dyed colorway. It's incredibly soft yet durable, and it is still beautiful after years of hard wear and abuse. It's been dropped on many a pub floor, crammed into my handbag, and worn under a bike helmet around dingy ole London. I wear this hat so much that I'm completely sick of it come spring. And then, come Autumn, I pull it out again like I did tonight! I finally got around to tacking the sides of the flower down to the hat, as it was really floppy and kinda crazy cat lady. I'm hoping now it just looks a little bit romantic and vintage. I'm still pleased with this project after so long.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Baby Sweater Greeting Card Pattern

Following on from yesterday's post featuring my Baby Sweater Greeting Card, here is the pattern to knit a miniature sweater for your own 2D projects.

  • a sheet of heavy paper, cut and folded to your desired dimensions
  • DK weight yarn in any fiber (I used cheap acrylic yarn from the post office!)
  • thread in a similar color to your yarn
  • a sewing needle
  • a darning needle
  • straight knitting needles in size US 1 or 2
  • an iron (optional) 

With your knitting needles and yarn, cast on 10 stitches.

Rows 1,3,5,7: Knit all stitches.

Rows 2,4,6,8: Purl all stitches.

Row 9: Cast on 3 stitches. Knit all stitches (13 sts).

Row 10: Cast on 3 stitches. Purl all stitches (16 sts).

Row 11: Knit all stitches.

Row 12: Purl all stitches.

Row 13: K8, (pass 2nd to last stitch over last stitch, K1) 4 times, K remaining 5 stitches.

Row 14: Bind off 6 stitches purlwise, leaving enough of a tail to sew into your work. Reattach your yarn and bind off the remaining 6 stitches purlwise, again leaving a long tail. 

Using the darning needle, sew in all 4 tails to the back of your sweater.

You can add a decorative ribbon, bow, or button to the sweater. I found that quickly pressing it with a hot iron helped to shape the sweater and make it flatter.

Using your sewing needle and thread, sew the sweater onto your card using triple knots at the beginning and end of your work for security. You could opt to glue a piece of paper to the inside of your card so as to cover up your stitches. 

I have only been writing knitting and sewing patterns for a few months, so please feel free to leave a comment below or message me on Ravelry if you have any questions or suggestions for improvement. Thanks!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Baby Sweater Greeting Card

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my Knitted Newborn Hat with you and that post was an internet success - probably thanks to several dozen Google searches for a commonly knitted project. Well, I'm happy to report that one of several new expected additions to my extended family was born last week, and I've sent off one of many newborn hats that I whipped up with my stash after writing that post.

Today I'd like to share the sweet little card that I made to send with the hat. I'm not usually a greeting card maker, but this idea sprung into my head after coming across a few miniature sweater Christmas ornaments that I knitted last year. I've adapted the mini-sweater to a 2D version so that it would lie flat on a card, which I made out of acrylic paper. Please note that the paper itself is not made of acrylic, but rather it is used for acrylic paints! Any heavy-weight paper would do the trick, such as card stock or watercolor paper. 

After fold and trimming my greeting card to my desired dimensions, I simply sewed the knitted sweater onto the card with a sewing needle and closely matching thread. I didn't bother covering up the sewn stitches on the card, but it would look more professional if you were to glue a thin sheet of paper just on the inside of the card so as to hide your handiwork. 

Tune in tomorrow for the knitting pattern for this teeny weeny 2D sweater! 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Introducing Letterfest

Carrying on from Tuesday's post after our anniversary trip to the Brecon Beacons, I'd like to share with you my anniversary gift to my husband - and who are we kidding, to myself! I found this lovely company sometime last year when I registered for wedding gift at Not On The Highstreet. Letterfest is a small company based in nearby Devon, and their website has a range of beautiful products.

I clocked their personalised illustrations as being the perfect first anniversary gift since, traditionally, the couple is supposed to give each other a gift of paper. All these months later, I couldn't get them out of my mind. I just had to have one! Or two!

We didn't have a professional photographer at our wedding as our budget wouldn't really allow for one, and it is truly one of my biggest regrets. Consequently, there aren't many nice photographs of our wedding and reception venues. So when I came across the highly stylised Letterfest illustrations, I thought this would be a great way to capture our venues.

We were married at the beautiful Guildhall in Bath, and our reception was held in a small village south of Bath at a Tudor pub called The George Inn. The most brilliant thing about the Letterfest illustrations is that I sent them two very different photos that I found of the venues on the internet. And now they are drawn in the same style, are matted and framed, and will be hanging together in our home forever in a very special way.

I would definitely recommend this sweet company to anyone looking for a personalised gift. Their customer service was great, and the turnaround time was outstanding. Thank you Letterfest!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

For Love and Fiber

Ah.... It's always nice to get back home from a holiday, but our little visit to the Brecon Beacons in Wales this weekend was just way too short. Olly and I tackled a 9 mile ridge walk along the peaks of Pen Y Fan (the highest point in South Wales) and several other mountains on Saturday afternoon. Unusually and fortunately, the sun shone all day.

We treated ourselves to an absolutely beautiful B&B called Whitehall, located just outside Crickhowell. I would highly recommend this fledgling business if you're in the area. Sue and Glyn only opened their doors in August, and they are magnificent hosts. Their Grade II listed Georgian house is elegant, casual, and perfectly appointed.

On Sunday we braved the more Autumnal elements to visit Raglan Castle on our way home, and boy was I grateful for my cosy upcycled aran cardigan! As brief as it was, the weekend was a perfect way to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.

Featured above is my little gift from Olly, which he brought back to me from a recent trip to Barnsley for a festival gig with his band. He felt bad for travelling on our actual anniversary weekend, and I benefited with this sweet gift of fleece from the Wingham Wool Work, a bottle of Mitchell's luxury hand soap, a wooden drop spindle, and The Wheel magazine. He knows I'm a sucker for nice hand soap. I'm always trying to slip the fancy stuff in our shopping cart!

I can't think of a more romantic souvenir if work must take my husband away, and now I can't wait to watch the spindling class I paid for on Craftsy several weeks ago. Tune in to the blog again this week to see my gift to Olly!