Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The tale of a hat: Newhaven (FO)

I'm a hat knitter and a hat wearer. I'm wearing one now - sitting at our dining table, typing on my lap top - sitting inside. It's a bit chilly, and I'm going out again in a short while, so I decided just to keep my hat on when I got in. 

I seem to come from hat wearing stock. My dad used to wear tweed flat caps in the 1970s and 1980s when I was growing up, and my brother wears something on his head most days, usually one of the scrap hats I have made for him.

To go back to the story: I wear hats a lot in the winter, and over the last few years I have made quite a lot of hats for other people. My own hat stash was wearing fairly thin. I have a green, striped scrap hat - the original prototype and starting point for my scrap hat recipe (but the tassle fell off last year) - and a lovely red hat, knitted in a soft red yarn (Rowan Kid Classic) using a pattern from a dim and distant Rowan magazine.  If it's cold I wear them both. 

Some time last winter I decided that I need to augment my hat collection. I wanted a blue hat to work with all of the blues in my wardrobe. I put it down on my shopping list for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, and came home with a skein of completely on-message Wollmeise DK and a copy of Ysolda Teague's Newhaven hat pattern. Tick and tick. 

I also snagged a skein of Ysolda's kitten soft yarn, Blend No. 1 which I bought at the same time as the pattern. Naughty, but very nice. 

Obviously, as the grey yarn wasn't on my shopping list, I wound that first, and then used that to make my first Newhaven hat. The hat has short rows and charts and texture, but before you know it you are at the top and trying to work out how to turn the thing inside out for the 3 needle bind-off. 

Once I figured that out, I put it on my head and I haven't really looked back. It's my new favourite. I can't remember if I have washed or blocked it yet (why bother?!). 

I was wearing the hat the other morning when I saw Ysolda herself, having her morning coffee. I waved and pointed at my hat, and she waved back and gave me a thumbs up. Then she wrote about it on her blog. Ah. Light and love and things to cheer us up. Happy knitmas one and all. 

Thursday, 8 December 2016

2016: a retrospective

2016 has been a challenging year. 

Brexit and Trump mean it will have a lasting political impact on the world, but there are other things too. Smaller things about my own life which have been difficult and challenging and which will have ongoing and long-term effects. And, just like Brexit and Trump, these things are also changes that I do not want, that I do not support, and which I have done my best to resist. 

It seems - sadly - that I will have to learn to live with them. To work round them and to rethink my future. 

To get back to the other challenges for 2016, I set myself several crafty objectives earlier in the year, and it's time to take stock. 

1. Tame the stashes 
I did a good job of reducing the yarn stash, and knitting from stash a wee bit (tank top or two, plus a few other accessories), and then bought a sweater's worth of lovely yarn from Skein Queen to make myself a jumper, and two skeins of yarn for hats. 

I did sort the fabric stash, and move a few things around and get rid of some fabric I thought I would never use. But, that didn't shrink it much, and then I found I needed to order some more for a project or two that I had planned, so I don't think I am any further forward. 

2. Use the stash!
Knitting: I made a cowl for myself, a tank top for the bean, another scarf for myself, and a lovely hat. I used the stash to remake a hat for my brother, and knit a Christmas hat for my daughter. I made a slightly too big pair of socks that ended up going to my dad. My needles are currently clacking away on a pair of fingerless mitts for my brother's girlfriend. 

Newhaven Hat by Ysolda Teague
knitted in Ysolda's Blend No 1 

wee scrap hat (own design)
modelled by little bean

scrap hat revisited - own design
I made this for my brother using some frogged yarn from an old scrap hat of his, which was disintegrating from use/wear and washing. 

Sewing: I have made myself two jersey skirts suitable for work, three very small raglan tees for a friend, two pairs of school leggings and a nightdress for the jelly bean. I also made a few upcycled projects using fabric recovered from old t-shirts.

3 x recess raglan tee (See Kate Sew)
made with upcycled fabrics; the fire-engine motif was rescued from a toddler t-shirt and attached using bondaweb

4 x upcycled dusters or polishing cloths. Made from old t-shirts

3. Make some things to fill gaps in my wardrobe: 
I made a cowl, a navy jersey skirt, a lovely raspberry coloured scarf, and a grey hat. It is so satisfying to make things that fit right in to the palette and styles that I wear everyday, and which immediately go into rotation. I also made a gorgeous multi-coloured skirt which didn't really fit into my careful plans, but has been a useful me-made addition nevertheless. 

 Bias stripe scarf (Purl Soho)
Knit with some lovely but anonymous raspberry sock yarn from the stash, and striped with some odds and ends

4. Finish the UFOs
There has been progress here. My WIP pile has reduced significantly. I think I just have one long-range UFO in my knitting bag, which I am eyeing up as a Christmas gift. My sewing UFO pile ebbs and flows, but I think it has reduced in size a little. 

5. Continue to work on mending. 

There has been a lot of mending this year. I have darned, sewn, embellished, and ironed-on patches. I even managed to do some of that with friends. 

I haven't blogged much.  But I have been stitching. And I made myself some things. I might not have achieved everything I planned, but I can happily tick quite a few things off the list. Hurrah for that. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Itchy Fingers

Ah, September. Something about the shift in light and the cooler temperatures and the back to school vibe are making my fingers itchy. 

Life has been a bit challenging here lately with one thing and another (hello chicken pox, hello full-time workload). Our University semester and first teaching block has begun and I'm setting some boundaries early on to try and keep myself sane/well. 12 weeks of teaching is exhausting - particularly as our model of teaching insists that we all work as single traders - that doesn't really suit my style of working or teaching at all well. Sigh. 

In the middle of all that, yarns have been tumbling through my fingers and I have been eyeing up patterns here and there. There are some small projects to finish off too, and a few deadlines coming up that I'm working towards. But, the main thing that has been happening is sewing. 

I've realised that waiting until all three children are asleep means that my evenings are fairly short. So, I have been snatching little pockets of time here and there to move projects along. The other day I cut out a nightdress for the jelly bean (now 7!) while the little bean was having a bit of quiet time. Later in the afternoon I sewed it together, during the post-supper play and homework slot, and quickly did enough during bath time that she could wear it that night. 

A couple of days later, during another playtime lull, I rummaged in my stash for t-shirt fabrics to make up into shirts for a soon to be 1 year old friend. I cut three sets of sleeves, three backs, fronts and neck bands. Batches really are the best when you are short on time! I'd love to hear other people's strategies for sewing/crafting when time is tight.

So, it's September and my creative juices are flowing. I'm stitching here and there and doing my best to make in-road into my stash which is still (ahem) generously proportioned! I'll be back again soon. Promise. 

Wednesday, 29 June 2016


Although this blog is not about politics, I don't think I can avoid saying something about Brexit, given my very public support for the European project. 

On Thursday night I stayed up to watch the results of the referendum vote. I was expecting it to be close, and hoping for a majority to remain in the EU. About 3.30am it became clear to me that it was lost, and I went to bed. 

Since then I feel as though in a daze - so much has changed, but everything remains the same. The UK government has not yet triggered the leaving process via Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. It is not clear who or how the Labour party is going to respond to this situation, and the only politician that appears to be doing anything is Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. 

I am utterly dejected by the Leave victory. It is increasingly clear that the Leave campaign was predicated on several claims that turn out to be at best misleading and at worst knowingly deceitful. 

1. Control of borders and immigration - this is unlikely in European terms because continued membership of the single market and European Economic Area requires the free movement of labour. I cant see that the UK government will get far by demanding that this changes. 

2. The £350m per week for the NHS.  A huge whopper of a lie because the contribution that the UK makes to the EU is actually much less than that, and in the context of our overall national budget, it is only buttons. And of course, there has been lots of very hasty backpedalling on that particular promise. It is unlikely that the NHS will receive any additional funding as a result of Brexit, and is likely to suffer significantly in terms of its capacity to recruit and retain excellent clinicians. 

3. Regaining our sovereignty and reducing the burden of EU regulation - great, so now the UK can decide about glyphosate for itself. Except it probably can't because again, if we want to be part of the single market and EEA, then we will also need to play by the same rules as the rest of Europe - so it looks as though we will still need to adopt EU regulations, but we wont get to influence any of those requlations through our representatives in the European Parliament and Council of Ministers. Norway and Greenland are not part of the EU - but they are part of the single market, and as a result have to accept EU regulation and small details like allowing the EU fishing fleet to fish in their waters.

Almost everything I can think of seems worse if we are outside the EU. We have already heard about UK researchers being asked to withdraw from European research projects and consortiums. Architects are losing projects. People in the finance sector are being told that their jobs will be relocating to other centres within European (Paris, Brussels etc). Incoming students from the EU and overseas are concerned or reconsidering their options and then there's the palpable rise in the confidence of the white power, far right fascism and racism.  I don't need to say that I despise this and will do my best to speak up for and support everyone's right for a life without fear or discrimination. 

You might not have seen a very powerful and moving perspective on Brexit for Northern Ireland, which has a 'hard' border with the EU and faces the prospect of returning to the not very distant and troubled past that people thought they had left behind. It was little discussed in the referendum campaigns, and seems likely to remain as a marginalised side issue. 

So, Brexit - poorly articulated and completely mis-sold to an electorate rightly concerned about jobs and housing. Carl Gardner has written an excellent piece on this, and why the UK parliamentary democracy needs to step up to resolve the situation. That does not necessarily mean overturning it, but it does mean scrutinising the options available to the country and forcing the leavers to be very clear about the path they wish us to take. 

Thursday, 23 June 2016

I'm IN

I interrupt this blog for a partly political broadcast.

It's referendum day, and I'm in*. 

That's all. 

* After 4 years of writing a PhD about Europe, its policies and ideas on territory and spatial planning, and almost 2 years of living and studying in other EU countries, I am a very firm believer in all the brilliant things that being part of the EU makes possible. I am not going to give them up in the vain hope that this will magically fix all of the 'problems' we have in the UK. It is a vain hope. I can see no rational justification for thinking that quitting the EU will solve anything. It will (in all likelihood) make a lot of things very much worse. 

Monday, 2 May 2016

Mending Monday #4: Kapow

Ahoy there. Apologies for the slight delay. Work happened, or life, or something. 

Anywayz. It's May! Just how did that happen?  One minute it's snowing, and then the sun is shining again and summer is just around the corner. Amazingly, the springiness of the weather, has also returned my sewjo, and over the weekend I blitzed my mending pile like a crazy mending ninja. KAPOW!

Just like that, I stormed through:

  • 2 pairs of boys trousers that needed a button replacing (for those waistband elastic adjustor things, you know)
  • One girls frilly tutu that needed a bit of waistband stitching to be redone
  • Repairs to a toddler grobag (sleeping bag thingy)
  • Two mummy-made girls tops that needed fixing in the under arm area
  • One pair of boys trousers that needed patching and fixing 
  • A school cardigan that needed an under-arm repair (oh - I see a pattern here - something about that girl and her armpits!)
  • 7 dribble bibs that have been waiting for poppers
  • overlocking the internal seams on dress I made in sometime in the late 1990s.  

That dress I mention, I did really make it in the 1990s. Probably 1997 or 1998 when I lwas a student. It's some kind of rather loose weave viscose, which frays badly, and which I bought from the absolutely fabulous Abakhan Fabrics in Liverpool. I still have a couple of other bits of fabric in my stash from that time too! Overlockers hadn't been invented when I made the dress, and although I probably knew about finishing my raw edges, I didn't. I didn't have pinking shears until after 2003... Anyway - despite being rather see through and having a wonky hem, this dress is still in my wardrobe, still fits and is still the sort of thing I like to wear. I can't work out if that means I have timeless style, or just no style at all. Sigh.

After that flying start, who knows what the rest of May will bring? What are you mending today?

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Things I realised this week: why I like knitting

Ah spring. There you are all green and springy, making things start to grow and inspiring me to start All. The. Projects. 

This week I realised just why I like knitting so much. Sure, it takes a relatively long time to get from a ball of string yarn to a finished sweater - but: 

1.  it's pretty portable. You can do it on the bus, on the sofa, in bed and standing up (and in most other places and positions, although please don't knit whilst driving or operating heavy machinery obvs).  

2. it's also highly pick up and put downable: you can do it for a few hours or a few minutes at a time. Just pick up the needles and knit a row, or two. 

3. Knitting is quiet - you can do it on your own, or in company.   

4. knitting is easy. If you go wrong, you can tink back (or frog) and put it right. 

Sewing on the other hand. Well, it's not quite the same. I want to sew, and to make all of the things, and I have lots of fabric. But:

1. Sewing requires quite a lot of preparation - getting the machine, scissors, rotary cutter, cutting mat, thread and fabric all together. 

2. Sewing has lots of stages: pattern tracing, cutting the fabric, making a toile, adjusting the toile, adjusting the pattern, cutting out the real fabric, sewing it up, adjusting it, finishing it off. 

3. Sewing often involves multiple gadgets (sewing machine, overlocker, iron, ironing board, tailors ham, tailors dummy)

4. Sometimes sewing requires all of those gadgets at almost the same time. 

5. Using the sewing machine and/or overlocker is not compatible with watching TV. 

6. Cutting fabric is final - although mistakes in stitching can usually be retrieved. 

Note to self: if you want to finish that quilt you actually have to do some sewing. Just thinking about it does not appear to be having any actual effect on the number of blocks which have been trimmed to size and stitched together.


Pass my knitting bag. 

Monday, 21 March 2016

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016

I had the briefest, fleetingest, shortest imagineable encounter with the Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016 on Friday, and I was utterly charmed. 

I wandered around the yarn market for an hour or so, with a stop for tea and most delicious cake part way through. It wasn't really long enough to do the place justice, or really have a good rummage and browse for the things I wanted.

I spied a few well-known faces from knitterati: Tom, but no Kate, from Kate Davies Designs, Ysolda, Stephen West - who was impossible to miss in his extraordinary outfit. I was trying to describe it to the jelly bean (age 6). She didn't believe me!

I stayed mostly on-message - with some rich blue DK yarn from Wollmeise to make myself a hat. That was definitely part of the plan. 

I also picked up some gorgeous DK weight yarn from Skein Queen - also part of my me-made plans. Stupidly I convinced myself that 2 skeins would be enough! It might be close, but I doubt I'll manage either of the two patterns I have at the top of my queue.  And, as you can see in this photo, the two skeins I picked seem to be subtly different in tone/colour. That is probably the fault of the 'show' lighting in the Corn Exchange - I did have 4 skeins to choose from! But it's not insurmountable. 

The extra thing I brought home was this little haul from Ysolda - two patterns and some of her kitten-soft silvery grey undyed yarn. 

The other pattern is her blank slate sweater. I had to pet the yarn a little bit yesterday, and hand wound it whilst drinking tea and chatting to the little bean. It's seriously nice. Silky and soft, and a lovely pale grey. I'll be casting on for that hat as soon as I can find the right needle, and, I can see a blue version coming along just behind it. 

Monday, 7 March 2016

Mending Monday 2016: #3 it's a holey-holeyday

Way back in the mists of time, before the internet and Taylor Swift were invented, I knitted myself a cardigan. It's from Rowan magazine 21, shown on the front cover. 

I have always rebelled it seems, and I knitted it in a nice wool based yarn (Jaeger wool DK I think), not the cotton yarn the pattern was written for. Anywayz. I have worn it a lot - for a long time it was the sort of thing I wore to work. Then the elbows started to develop holes and I patched them up and it became a cosy old friend to wear around the house. Gradually more and more bits of it are wearing thin or coming apart, but I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to it yet. 

Before Christmas I started knitting something for the bean, and realised that the yarn was pretty much the same colour as this cardigan of mine. Last week, I sat down to do some mending and spent a little bit of time patching up the holes and frayed cuffs.

Five or ten minutes, sitting in the light and stitching away. I was talking to my daughter at the same time - you can see her feet in the bottom picture - she is wearing handknitted socks that I made for her older brother a year or two back. That's the sort of housework I like!

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Cowlowlowl (FO)

Howsyoudoing today, people?

The sun is shining here, putting a spring into my step (ha, ha). It's still cold and windy though, so I'm hoping I'll get a bit of use from my newest neck adornment, this plain and simple cowl.

I knitted it on a circular needle, using 100g of sock yarn - Regia Highland Tweed. I used a provisional cast on, then knitted until almost the end of the yarn before grafting the two ends together.  

You can see that it has some subtle colour gradations from purple through to pink. I have a lot of blue in my wardrobe, and some pink too, so it should go well with lots of things. It was one of the projects I identified in my New Year list of things to do, so I consider that to be my first me-made wardrobe filler!

It has been for a quick wash to help even up the tension of the grafting, and now it's ready to wear.

plain and simple cowl (no pattern)
cast on Jan 2016
completed Feb 2016
yarn: Regia Highland Tweed

Monday, 29 February 2016

Mending Monday 2016: #2 Visible Mending

It was Kids Clothes Week last week. I did my best to fit in some kids clothing related crafting each day. 

On Monday night I spent a lazy hour or may be less, darning the knee in a pair of toddler trousers. The trousers are old - handed down to us, and no doubt used by several children before they came to live with us. There are worn and cosy, in a useful muddy green needlecord, with a snuggly jersey lining. 

The first knee went into a hole a while back, and I used some embroidery thread to patch it up. Rather than attach a patch on top of the hole, I just stitched the two layers into a place in a messy jumble of stitches. The lining fabric didn't have a hole - just the outer layer. 

The second knee had the misfortune of developing a hole whilst at nursery, so there was plenty of time for small fingers to enlarge the opening - but, as before, the hole was only in the worn corduroy, and not the inner lining. By the time I got them off the toddler in question, the rip was quite large. I approached this hole in the same way - using embroidery thread to anchor the two layers together. 

Neither repairs are neat or tidy. But, they seem to be working. The first repair is holding up well, and we are ekeing out a little bit more wear from these well worn and well-loved trousers. I think they will do until the little bean grows out of them. 

Friday, 26 February 2016

Bag Lady (FO) Take #2

Yay! A finished project for February. I managed to polish off that fat quarter shopping bag I cut out before Christmas. You know, the one I cut out wrong...

Having made this pattern three times already meant I had a vague idea of what I was doing. It was still a bit fiddly sewing and pressing and turning and top-stitching - but the result was rather pleasing. IBecause I ended up with an extra (centre) seam owing to my cutting mishap, the facings were slightly out of whack. I just added a little pleat/fold to the facing when I pinned it in place. I am mistress of the lazy way. It worked pretty well, so, a worthwhile fudge, and I like the fact that each side of the bag shows two fabrics. 

Here are some awful phone pics. It was dark and late when I remembered to take a photo (note to self: neither of those things makes for good photos). It's gone off to live with my brother, along with the other green one I made earlier. 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

In the interests of transparency: quilt festival haul

Despite my feelings about spending lots of ££ on fabric, I did come home from the Quilt Festival with a few fat quarters in my bag. 

Most are destined for some Christmas projects, and were all reasonably priced at £1 per FQ. Dontcha just love those penguins?

Then there were a few fillers/neutrals (also £1 per FQ)

And finally, I splashed out on some half-metre cuts from Kaleidoscope Fabrics for a special project I am planning. These cost a bit more...

They go perfectly (as I hoped) with these jelly roll strips. The project will be for our bedroom. One day. 

Monday, 22 February 2016

Things I realised this week: about quilting

On Friday last week, my mother-in-law suggested that I spend the afternoon at the Spring Quilt Festival being held on the outskirts of Edinburgh. She went in the morning with the ladies from her sewing group, and came over afterwards to look after little bean while I skipped off for the afternoon. 

I had never been to a quilt show before. I've read a lot about QuiltCon and those mind-blowing American quilt shows with millions of breathtaking quilts and booths and yeah, and I've seen all the lovely pictures of the Quilt Show at Malvern and places. But, it was nothing like any of that, and it was not at all what I expected. 

There were lots of forbidding signs saying that you Must Not Take Photographs, and Dont Touch the Quilts. And then the exhibition itself was slightly underwhelming. There were some small pieces displayed downstairs, and some full-size quilts upstairs. Some of it was very lovely and impressive, but there just wasn't very much of it. 

Above all, the festival seemed to be about the stalls. Crammed with fat quarters and quilters gadgets and bolts of fabric in every colour under the sun. Fat quarters were this price on one table and that price on another, and there were Frozen fabrics and Star Wars fabrics and Japanese fabrics and batik and flannel and prints and solids and cottons and tweeds. There was some very lovely stuff. I'd show you some photographs, but all those forbidding signs put me off. 

I was rather overwhelmed. I looked at the quilts. There were lots I didn't really care for. There were some I admired (wow, you  collected 205 colours of silk, and appliqued them with invisible thread; you quilted that amazing design with a regular sewing machine: respect) but none that really made me want to study the colours and techniques and patterns and then rip it off the wall to take it home. 

As I wandered round and round looking at this and that, I had a few thoughts. 

1. It seems vaguely completely ridiculous to me to spend many many ££ on fabric to make a quilt, when I have oodles of fabric scraps and old clothes which could be repurposed into equally beautiful quilt tops. And, it seems completely ridiculous to spend many ££ on fabric to make quilts when there is so much textile waste in our society. 

2. I love the bright and modern and clean looks of modern quilts. I like quilts with space. I don't like the traditional flowery and busy designs involving lots of piecing. I also like improv quilting and quilts which are given meaning because of the fabrics included in them: uniforms from soldiers lost in conflict; clothes from people we love - the things children wore when they were small; a life time of scraps from a grandparents house. 

3. I have one quilt top in progress (and not finished yet), so what do I know?

Of course, I didn't let the opportunity pass me by, and came home with a few fat quarters in my bag. I managed to resist the sparkly Frozen fabrics, and the cool Star Wars prints, but bought a few Christmas sorts of things to make something festive. There's nothing like long-range project planning is there?

Monday, 15 February 2016

Making Stuff Happen: Feb update

It's bright and crispy outside, and I've been working hard on that 2016 to-do list. I thought I might do a little Feb update to record progress. 

1. Tame the stashes 
Progress: after halving the yarn stash, I have done a bit of fabric organising. It's in a new place. It's more accessible. I've also bought some more fabric for very specific projects. The fabric stash cull is yet to come, but sewing plans are being made.

2. Use the stash!
Progress: I'm doing really well with the yarn - and several new WIPs on the needles which all come from the stash: some new socks; a cowl and a tank top for the bean. 

3. Make some things to fill gaps in my wardrobe: 
After ordering a pattern, I have now ordered and received some blue jersey to make a navy skirt. The cowl I planned to make is all but finished, it just needs grafting.... 

4. Finish the UFOs
Progress: one pair of socks has been repaired, and the fourth (and final) fabric bag has been sewn. 

5. Continue to work on mending,  exploring different techniques and making mending a social thing too by doing it with friends.
Progress: the invitation to come and mend still stands, but we haven't managed to find an agreeable date! Meanwhile the mending pile keeps on growing...

Tuesday, 26 January 2016


It's the bean's birthday! Happy Birthday to you, sunshine. 

My how you've grown!


Friday, 22 January 2016

Comfort knitting

It's cold out, and grey and damp (we had some snow for a day or two, but now it's gone), and I need something to sustain myself through these short January days. So I've got me a bit of comfort knitting, it's very plain and simple. 

I'm going round and round on a circular needle, with 100g of sock yarn. It's meditative and sort of slow, because you can't see it growing.  Before you ask, it's that famous brand can't remember, in the colourway no idea. 

I'm knitting a loooong tube  - and will just keep going until I run out of yarn (I weighed things this morning, there was still 46g of yarn left in the ball). When I do run out, I'll graft the two ends of the tube together to make a soft and purpley cowl. Yum. 


Monday, 18 January 2016

Mending Monday 2016 #1

Hello chaps.

The new year has heightened my desire to mend stuff. Or, maybe it's just that I'm in tidying up mode and have been sorting things out like a demon. Anywayz, sometime in the Christmas melee, I got my sock needlez out and rummaged in the darkest corners of my knitting bag for a pair of socks that needed repairz. 

(Sorry about the z thing, I'll stop now. Promize)

Here they are in all their newly knitted glory sometime ago (2011 I think!). But they were getting dangerously thin on the ball of the foot, and needed some repairs. Of course, I decided not to darn the darn things, but rather to reknit a goodly portion of the foot.

I chose the spot, snipped a single stitch and then carefully picked up the live stitches with my needles.

As the original socks are striped using two yarns, I picked out two sympathetic yarn colours from the stash and got to work. They aren't a perfect match, but hey, these dudes will be on my feet and unless I am at home, they will be inside my shoes and Noone Will Ever Know.  Okay? 

This time I alternated the colours stitch by stitch rather than round by round to give a thicker and more durable fabric. I did this before with my socksperimental socks
and the man socks with a squidgy toe. Scientists have not yet reported on the outcomes of these important sock trials; an independent commission has been established to examine the reasons for the non-reporting. It is expected that resignations will follow. 

Where was I? Oh yes, re-socking: a surpisingly short time later (silent witness anyone?) the blighters were done and on my feet.  Hurrah for mending. Hurrah for hand-knitted socks. Hurrah for extensive sock yarn collections. Hurrah for me! 


My reward for mending these socks is to make myself a cowlowlowlowl. Not sure about the pattern yet, but have picked out the yarn...

Friday, 15 January 2016

Bag Lady (FO)

Christmas was a bit of a crafting disaster this year.  I don't think any of the craft projects I planned actually came to anything, so the only things that got made were fudge and peppermint bark (which were both excellent by the way).

No-one noticed about the crafty stuff. 


Even if I didn't finish anything in time for Christmas, I did start a few things, and one afternoon -  before the big day - I cut out a wee pile of these fat-quarter shopping bags. I was given some fat quarters by my MIL a year or two back, and this seemed like a perfect project for those particular bits of fabric. 

Last week I summoned up the effort to get the sewing machine out and start stitching. For something so simple, there seemed to be a lot of sewing to do, and it took me two whole evenings to progress from a pile of fabric shapes to three finished bags!

Let's just go through the details then. These bags have a handle facing, which is finished at the raw edge (2 seams), attached to the bag fabric (6 seams), then joined at the handles (2 seams), and top stitched (3 seams). After that the sides and bottom of the bag are finished with French seams (6 seams) and the corners bagged out, again with French seams (4 seams). 

Add to that pressing, turning inside/outside and pinning (where required). All together it's a lot of small seams to stitch and restitch, and takes a bit of time. A 20 minute tote this ain't. 


I  cut out 4 bags, but because I am very stupid a design visionary, on the first one I omitted to place the fold of the pattern piece on the fold of the fabric and ended up with some different shaped pieces. I decided to leave my hacked version to last, and made up the other three as per the instructions. 

I say that as if I followed the instructions to the letter, but I didn't. We'll just gloss over the other mistake I made with the French seams shall we, oh, and the fact that I completely forgot about the elastic loops too? Ye-es. 

So, here they are: three pretty cute bags. 

The flowery ones have been sent off to live with my parents. The green one is for my brother, and should soon be joined by the design hacked alter-ego version (when I get off my a*se to sew it up, ahem). 

So, my overall verdict: a nice project to do if you don't mind spending a bit of time sewing seams, and you have some fat quarters to 'use' up. Things might go a bit quicker with the overlocker perhaps, so I might try that for bag four.  (I did pink all my raw edges, just because). 

I like the integral handles and the handle facing - because, well I might be over those webbing or self-fabric handles that most shopping bags have and which inevitably break/wear through. 

I guess the bottom will fall out of these first...

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Stash. Bust.

Howdy folks. 

Some kind of crazy tidying and organising bug got me over the holidays, and even before the New Year bells rang, I began whittling away at the accumulations of things around me, those little drifts of stuff that collect here and there, in a drawer, on a window ledge, above a fire. Then when the rain stopped long enough for me to sprint across the garden to the shed, I tackled a stash. 

[Side note: not The stash, but A stash - more specifically my stash of yarn.]

Last year, we remodelled our bedroom and substituted a gargantuan built-in wardrobe for something slightly smaller. While all of that was happening, my stash of yarn - organised into 4 clear plastic boxes - was sent to the shed to await repatriation. Over the summer my knitting mojo has been fairly elusive and not much has happened (see this if you don't believe me), but with Christmas and all, I picked up my needles again and the mojo was back. 

Kondo's approach to tidying/decluttering is to discard first and then organise. She advocates gathering things into one place, and handling everything as you decide whether to keep or not. Her test involves asking yourself if something gives you joy. For the stash I used a 'do I want to knit with this?' test. 

It was surprisingly easy to part with a lot of stuff: novelty bobbly yarns; squeaky acrylic; single balls of chunky yarn; half a pack of green wool yarn - I used the other half to knit a nice cardigan, but couldn't imagine making anything else in that colour; a whole pile of slubbed cotton yarn in bright pink, and something similar in black which I've had since the 1990s, Habu paper yarn which I've had for about 5 years but never worked out what I would do with...

I also let go of two very lovely handknit Aran sweaters that my maternal grandmother made. They were made for my dad, and I have had them for at least 10 years. I tried them on (again). They still made me look like a lumpy sausage. My husband tried them on too. They made him look like a badly dressed schoolboy, wearing a too small hand me down. I hope they find good new homes with people that they fit.  

Other things were definitely on the keep pile - all of my nice hand dyed sock yarn, and plain 4 ply for baby things, small piles of nice DK yarn, some odds and ends of mohair, and some cones of grey and teal yarn that I have distant plans for. I managed to hunt out all the little project bags concealed around the house and gather them together. 

The end result was a big pile of things 




We donated it to a local charity shop later that day (the Bethany Shop next to Summerhall in case you are interested). 

And, the rest of the yarn was organised into 2 clear plastic boxes, and stowed without drama in the wardrobe. Tada! 

One box is mostly DK or heavier weight yarn, and the other is 4 ply, sock yarn, lace weight and other special skeins. 

It's nice having my yarn nearby again, so I can squish it whenever I want. It feels like a good to be clearing out and clarifying like this. 

My next target is books, and then after that I will have to take on 


Cue scary music.  

Saturday, 9 January 2016

2016: making stuff happen

The theme for this year is making stuff happen. It's easy to make plans, but this year is about really doing it.

There are a few big things that we are trying to do which will affect the whole family (to do with where we live), and there are lots of crafty goals too.

This is the crafty list (believe me, you don't want to see the Other List - it's very long and very dull):

1. Tame the stashes (yarn and fabric, oh and patterns and craft books)
Progress: The yarn stash has already been halved; fabric is up next...

2. Use the stash!
Progress: one knitted WIP

3. Make some things to fill gaps in my wardrobe: 2 jersey skirts for work, one black, one blue; make a cowl and a new hat; use some of the jersey in the stash to make some tops for work.
Progress: pattern for skirt ordered.

4. Finish the UFOs
Progress: currently working on some sock repairs and some sewing that was cut out before Christmas but not completed.

5. Continue to work on mending,  exploring different techniques and making mending a social thing too by doing it with friends.
Progress: have invited a friend to come over for a mending session after she complained about holes in the knees of her son's trousers.