Sunday, 27 January 2013

Year of Projects update 27th January

Last week I shared some pictures of my progress on the Crest of a Wave Baktus I've been knitting. Here's it's current state:

I've finished!! I cast off yesterday morning, with 9 grams of yarn left to spare. Charly has suggested it would be perfect for hexipuffs, but I'm not quite sure I'm ready to dive into that scale of project! I know a few other knitters who have already fallen down that particular rabbit hole, so when I get a chance I might send these leftovers in one of their directions - I think this yarn would look gorgeous as hexis!

Of course, I've not had a chance to block it yet - I was busy yesterday out shopping for bridesmaid dresses. So perhaps next week, although I'm not promising anything as next week is set to be the busiest week of the year so far work-wise; I may not have any spare evening to craft in at all.

Which would be a shame, as I have cast on another project from the list, using up another of my gorgeous stash yarns.

1000 yards of heaven

Once again, I am combining gifts to create a fabulous project. The yarn was a birthday present from two of my friends and the pattern is from the book Jamie got me for Christmas. It's the Light of Earendil shrug, and it presents me with some new challenges!

For starters, it's got a provisional cast on. I am not getting on well with provisional cast ons in fine yarns. When I did it with chunky yarn, it was ok, but I've struggled to do it with 4ply and now lace. I managed to get this one done ok and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything will be fine when I come to start sleeve 2!

Secondly, it's knitting with laceweight yarn. I tried this before with the Easy Lace Stole at the start of our first Year of Projects. I really didn't get on with knitting such fine yarn. I had more success crocheting with it, when I made my Jane Austen Shawl, so when I was given this skein of Fyberspates for my birthday I thought it would be fine, I would just find a crochet pattern to use it for. I didn't think I'd end up falling in love with a knit pattern that calls for laceweight!

Thirdly, it involves beads. I've not used beads in my knitting before, and this project was almost stopped before it even started when I realised I just didn't own a crochet hook tiny enough to get through the holes in my beads.

1 kilo of seed beads

I flailed around in the house yesterday evening until I hit upon a workable solution - I'm using one of those cheap needle threaders you get in sewing kits. I'm four rows in and so far haven't had any problems getting the beads in position.

This is going to be a frustrating knit, especially once I reach the sleeves proper and have to start knitting in the round as well! Juggling DPNs as well as the beading could be too much for me. But the finished object is going to be so pretty it's got to be worth it!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Cook from a cookbook: Croque Madame Muffins

As we were stuck inside the house for most of the weekend thanks to the snow, we ended up watching a lot of TV. Jamie had the food channel on for most of the day, so we were subjected to an awful lot of food porn. On Sunday morning, we caught the beginning of an episode of The Little Paris Kitchen and watched Rachel Khoo make Croque Madame Muffins. Jamie immediately decided that he wanted them for lunch. Handily, we were given the cookbook from the series as a housewarming present earlier in the year, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to dig it out and give it a try.

I found the recipe inside and noted down the ingredients before we ventured out into the snow to get provisions.

It's a really simple recipe; the only complicated part is making the Mornay sauce, but as I have plenty of experience in making bechamel sauces, this wasn't a problem. Jamie had lots of fun preparing the bread (you have to cut the crusts off and then squash the slices of bread with a rolling pin, before slathering melted butter all over both sides), while I got to cover myself in egg white trying to reduce the amount of egg white that ended up in each muffin.

They were absolutely delicious. We left ours in the oven a bit too long, and the egg yolks had cooked through, so the next time we do them we will not cook them as long. A great side effect of cooking this dish is that we now own a muffin tray as well as our cupcake tray, so I can see lots of experiments in muffin baking on the horizon.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Snappy Happy Monday

Haven't done one of these since the start of December! Here's a round up of some of my favourite Instagram shots I've posted in the last few weeks.

I was given the most awesome notebook by my Secret Santa

Fidget doing his best to fit into the space left on the sofa

We had 12 red kites all circling overhead the other weekend,
it was incredible! Normally we only see two or three at a time.

I'd been wondering why my pillow always seemed to be covered
in cat hair!

We sorted out our wedding invitations at the weekend.
Of course, Mr Fidget wanted to help out.

Bird tracks in the back garden.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Year of Projects update 20th January

No more finished objects for me this week! I haven't had time to get my Cwtch Shawl on the blocking mats, and they have now been tidied away to make room for wedding invitation preparation, so it's unlikely to happen this week either.

What I have done, is lots of lovely garter stitch in beautiful rainbow colours.

I am almost at the halfway point of my Baktus, and am keen to get on to the decreases so I can start taking it with me everywhere again. I've been chained to my weighing scales with this one as I approach the halfway point, as I want to use as much of the yarn as possible and have to keep weighing to see if I can stretch to another repeat. I think I shall manage the 19 specified in the pattern with ease, but not 20.

I think it will be big enough though, as at 19 repeats it is a decent length and a decent width too. It's so interesting to see the way the colour changes react to the different length rows. I started out with lovely regular striping, before hitting a section of serious colour pooling in the middle.

At first I wasn't sure about it, but now it's gone back to regular striping again I quite like this section of pooling. Hopefully it will be repeated as I reach this width again on the decrease half.

I'm already thinking ahead to what I shall cast on next once this is off the needles. Sarah's sock KAL is making me think of my Candy Skein Yummy Fingering, and whether or not now would be a good time to strike out into a new challenge there. I've knit one pair of plain vanilla socks (cuff down) so far; should I branch out into patterned socks or try plain vanilla toe-up this time around? I have looked on Ravelry for a pattern, but I really don't know. That said, I may not have much time for sock knitting in February, so doubt I'd be able to keep up with the KAL anyway!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

When I went to bed on Thursday night, my head was filled with dire forecasts and weather warnings. Snow was coming. Imagine my disappointment when I looked out of the window in the morning to see this:

Not a single white flake on the ground! I felt cheated. It started to snow lightly while I waited for my lift to work, but it wasn't until after 9am that the snow started to fall in earnest. I left the office at about 1pm, and it took us an hour and a half to do the twenty minute journey back to the house.

This is what I saw when I got home. That's how much snow we had on Friday morning! Inches and inches of the stuff. Sadly, I still had work to do, so didn't get to go outside and enjoy it properly while it was still light.

These icicles were on the front bumper of our car

It snowed pretty much all day. This morning, thankfully, there hadn't been any more snowfall, so we are just dealing with everything that landed yesterday. There is no chance currently of us risking getting the car out of the cul-de-sac, although the main road itself is clear. There is just too much icy compacted snow on our road to risk it. Luckily, we have enough food and don't desperately need to go anywhere!

Fox tracks!

The back garden looks very pretty though. It's the first proper snow we've had in our new house, so it was great to wake up this morning to see fox tracks all over the lawn. I caught a glimpse of one of the foxes out the front this morning while I was in the kitchen making bread, but haven't seen them out the back today.

I put extra food out for the birds, though, so we've had a squirrel in the garden pretty much all day. At first, he was climbing up the bird feeder to get to the peanuts:

but eventually I felt sorry for him and put a large supply of peanuts and sunflower seeds on the lawn for him to collect. They are all gone now!

Mr Fidget is not a big fan of the snow. His usual route around the garden is impassable, and his usual drinking spots are all frozen over and covered in a thick layer of snow. He's been outside a few times, but the snow is so deep he can't walk through it comfortably.

He only ventured onto the lawn because I was already there, sorting out the squirrel's food. He kept to the fox tracks, and lasted all of about half a minute before deciding to go back inside!

I hope we don't get any more snow, and this all melts away before Monday morning. It's a sad state of affairs when you realise you've become so much an adult instead of a child, that snow fills you with dread and not excitement.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Year of Projects update 13th January

I shared my finished Ishbel beret on Friday; today it is the turn of Momijigari!

Project: Sunshine Shawl
Pattern: Momijigari by Beth Kling
Yarn: Wollmeise Sockenwolle 80/20 Twin in Sonne WD
Needles: In a fit of uselessness, I don't appear to have recorded what size needle I used on Ravelry. I think they were 4mm.

I've had this Wollmeise in my stash for ages, over a year in fact. I bought the skein from a friend who was having a destash, having already fallen in love with the other skein I had previously bought on eBay. It needed the right pattern, as I wasn't sure how the colours would work once knitted up.

Then I found Momijigari. The samples are knit in a similar colourway to my Wollmeise, and I thought they would go together well.

I felt sure I'd made a good decision once I wound the skein and saw for the first time the length of the colour changes. Once I'd started knitting, I knew garter stitch was the right choice.

I flew through the main section, but hit a stumbling block when I realised I had to pick up and knit 195 stitches to start the border! Once the increases were done. I had nearly 400 stitches on my needles! The border was only 20 rows, but it took forever.

I was so pleased when I finished! It then sat in my basket for a week or so, before I finally decided to get the blocking boards out and start working through my pile of finished projects. This shawl was the obvious choice to be done first.

I cleared the dining table, and set up my alphabet blocks. I only just had enough to create the space needed for this shawl - it is a shade longer than my dining table which is five feet long. Two days later, and it was ready to unpin and weave in the ends.

I love the finished article. Such a warm, bright colour; perfect for cheering me up through the dull grey winter months ahead. The Wollmeise is a lovely yarn to wear around your neck too. I'm also really pleased I found the white balance setting on my camera (all thanks to the lovely Eskimimi and her photography tutorial) as it meant I could take decent photos of it despite it being late and dark.

Friday, 11 January 2013

FO: Fairy Tale Beret

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I finally got around to blocking my pile of finished projects. I've got two to share so far, one to show you now, and one for my YoP update on Sunday.

Forgive my appearance, I had just been for a swim!

Pattern: Ishbel Beret by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: Knit Picks Capretta in Fairy Tale
Needles: 3mm and 4mm circs, 4mm dpns

This beret has caused me an awful lot of trouble. I told you some of my troubles last Sunday... provisional cast on nightmares, misreading charts leading to increasing too much and then forgetting to move a stitch marker one critical stitch to the right.... fortunately, since making that last mistake I didn't make any others, and raced through the rest of the hat with joyful alacrity.

I cast off on Monday night, and as I had already set up the dining table for blocking, decided there was nothing else for it but to chuck it straight in the sink and get it blocking too. I wanted to wear it at once! It didn't actually look too bad unblocked:

but I wanted to get it to drape more effectively. It took me three goes before I found a plate that was probably the right size - in fact, I could have used a slightly bigger one, except that it was in the dishwasher!

I have nothing but love for this hat. It is a culmination of several people's generosity. You see, the pattern itself was gifted to me by the lovely Mattymouse, who I got chatting to after getting involved in a UK Swap group that she helps to run on Ravelry. She gave me the PDF for Whimsical Little Knits, as I really wanted to knit the Ishbel shawl.

The yarn was included in a swap parcel I received from Paula as part of the Blog Hub Swap on Ravelry. It was, I believe, a relatively new yarn in the Knit Picks line up at the time, and as such completely unavailable here in the UK. In fact, I've just checked, and the UK's only stockist of Knit Picks, Great British Yarns, still doesn't have it. Paula chose this gorgeous pink colourway called Fairy Tale, and it is perfect. It knits beautifully and blocked like a dream. The merino/cashmere makes it oh so soft, but the nylon should also make it fairly durable. I know this hat is going to get a lot of wear!

The great thing is, there is enough left over from the three balls I was given to knit an Ishbel shawl to match!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Real Progress at last!

I'm on some sort of roll this week. Another project off the needles! This time it's the Ishbel Beret. After all my complaining on Sunday about how difficult this project was being, the rest of it knit like a dream. It practically flew off the needles, eventually getting finished on Monday evening while I had the house to myself.

My Ravelry project page now looks something like this:

Two current WIPs, and five projects in the blocking pile!

Well, five is an over-exaggeration. The pile is actually now three, as I also took advantage of the space on Monday night to get Momijigari on the blocking boards. Ishbel also came straight off the needles and straight into the sink, and is now happily drying out on a dinner plate next to the shawl. I'm hoping to get some nice pics once they're dry to show them off.

I'm torn now, between finishing off those two last WIPs or casting something else on. Karina Westermann released the patterns for Baskerville and Baker Street, so I have downloaded the ebook and am now itching to cast on. I've been watching a lot of Sherlock Holmes lately (both the Robert Downey Jr and Benedict Cumberpatch versions) so I'm properly in the mood for these Holmes-inspired patterns. I'm also keen to knit the Ishbel shawl with the rest of the Knit Picks Capretta, so I have a matching shawl for my new hat. What do you think?

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Year of Projects update 6th January

I had hoped that by today I would have some lovely photos of blocked and finished projects to share. After all, it's been at least a week since I cast off a number of my YoP projects. Sadly, there hasn't been a lot of time spare time this week. New Years Day was taken up with our now traditional (we've done it two years in a row, that makes it a tradition, right?) trip to Kew Gardens and I was far too exhausted from all the walking around to do an extensive pinning out session when we got back. I've been too tired or busy in the evenings to get it done, and yesterday I had to take a trip up to Northampton to try on my wedding dress, which meant I lost most of the productive hours in the afternoon!

I am hoping to get Momijigari on the blocking board today at the very least.

What I can show you is pictures of my two new projects from the list! I posted about my pattern ideas for some of the skeins on the list a couple of weeks ago, and this week I cast two of them on.

First up, this gorgeous skein of Skein Queen Squash was paired up with the Crest of a Wave Baktus pattern.

I was very excited to see the skein once it had been wound into a cake. Look at those colours! One thing I realised once I had the yarn on the swift was how short the colour changes are. I really had no idea how it would knit up, so it was with some trepidation that I cast on and started knitting. I needn't have worried!

It's knitting up a treat! Garter stitch was definitely a good choice for this yarn. It's so bright and cheerful, I just know I am going to love the finished scarf.

The other project I decided to start was the Ishbel Beret in my lovely pink Knit Picks Capretta. In a complete contrast to the joy of knitting the baktus, this hat has caused me nothing but trouble.

First up, I had issues with the provisional cast on. I've done it before, and had no issues. I've even done it knitting in the round! But for some reason I had a real problem casting on and then knitting 108 stitches. I tried twice, then gave up in disgust. I decided to knit the hem flat, and leave myself enough of a tail to sew the hem closed once the hat was finished, rather than knit the hem together as I go.

Terrible, terrible iPhone photo. Sorry.

I was almost done with the third repeat of the vine pattern when I realised..... I was doing it wrong. You're only meant to repeat rows 3-10. I'd repeated 1-10. There was nothing for it but to rip back to the hem and start over.

Luckily, the yarn held up to being frogged pretty well, and I had no trouble at all stopping at the final knit row of the hem and getting all my live stitches back on the needle. I powered through the first repeat, until I got to row 8 and realised that yet again, I had made a mistake. This time I'd forgotten to move my stitch marker on row 7, so I'd knit row 8 in the wrong place. So now I am methodically tinking back the last row I knit so I can carry on.

It's funny, isn't it, how two different projects become two completely different knitting experiences.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The first WIP Wednesday of 2013!

It seems right, somehow, that my first WIP update of 2013 should be about one of my last WIPs from 2012 getting close to completion. As I mentioned on Sunday, I was torn between casting on a new project and finishing off my last long-standing WIP. In the end, I decided to do both, and have been alternating between Momijigari and my new project, Ishbel Beret.

When I picked up the shawl yesterday afternoon, I only had about 5 rows to go.

I knit steadily all afternoon and evening, while we watched our way through both Sherlock Holmes movies. About two rows from the end I realised I'd made a mistake several rows previously, which meant the lace pattern had gone a little wonky on one side. I briefly toyed with the idea of ripping back, but in the end I couldn't face it. Besides, little mistakes prove the finished object was hand crafted!

I eventually finished the bind off at around 11pm. A fourth project for the blocking pile! I really need to get involved with that this week.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

FO: Football hat and gloves

One of my colleagues at work is in the unfortunate position of having a birthday which falls just a few days after Christmas. A few weeks ago, while she was on leave, we began plotting ways to celebrate the day, as we were all in the office over the Christmas period. As she's a huge football fan, we tried to come up with ideas that tied in with that (my favourite being having her picture come up on the big screen at a game she went to just before Christmas, but the game was called off due to weather conditions). We spent an age browsing the online shop of her home club, Wycombe Wanderers. The others really wanted to get her a branded beanie to wear when she goes to games in the winter, but they only had baseball caps. Of course, the suggestion then came up that I could make one instead!

I spent a whole evening on the laptop, hunting for a suitable pattern, Googling for pictures of the Wycome Wanderers strip and comparing yarn colours from the Deramores website to ensure I was buying the right shades of dark and light blue!

I chose Sirdar Supersoft Aran. Buying yarn online is always a risk when you are colour matching, but when it arrived I was pleased. I thought they were a pretty good match for the pictures I'd seen online of the club's kit. 

The pattern I chose for the hat is a crochet pattern (for speed), crocheted as a rectangle then seamed to make a hat. I wanted one worked sideways as it would allow me to easily incorporate the colour pattern from the shirts, which is quarters.

Pattern: Easy Sideways Hat by Lion Brand
Yarn: Sirdar Supersoft Aran
Hook: 6mm

The crocheted rib and colour changes meant I didn't get bored while I was crocheting! It was a really quick project, taking just over one evenings work. Rather than sew the hat up, I seamed it with single crochet through one loop from each end of the rectangle, then cut a long tail to sew through the edge of the top of the hat to pull tight to gather into the beanie shape. I had planned to put a pom pom on it, made in both colours, but felt it didn't need it once I was done. The rib stitch is nice and stretchy too, which makes the hat very comfortable.

I had so much yarn left oveer, I decided to make her a pair of matching gloves too. Keeping with the quarters theme, I crocheted one glove in the pale blue, and one in the dark blue.

Pattern: improvised, but based on the stitch pattern of the hat above
Yarn: Sirdar Supersoft Aran
Hook: 5mm

I used the same rib stitch pattern from the hat, starting with a chain of 40 as I wanted them to come right up over the wrist and down the arm. I crocheted until it was wide enough to wrap around my wrist, then seamed up the side. The top part of the seam above the thumb was sewn shut using the yarn tail from my cast on edge, while the bottom part of the seam was done using sc in one loop from each edge. I left a hole for the thumb, and crocheted two rounds around the thumb hole to keep the base of the thumbs warm.

They were well received by my colleague; she remarked on how well I'd matched the colours too, so I'm glad I got that right!
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