Sunday, 30 June 2013

Year of Projects - Year Three!

Can you believe it! It's July again (well it will be tomorrow!). That means it's time for round three of the Year of Projects! I've been thinking about my list for a couple of weeks now, trying to take some learnings from the experience of the last two years to create a list that is challenging but also achievable.

I've created a new page for it, click on Year of Projects 3 in the bar under my banner. It's a mix of current WIPs, projects carried over from last year's list that didn't quite make it through, and some more stash to use up. It's shorter, and hopefully I'll get better than about 50% completion rate this year!

It's not too late to sign up, head on over to our Ravelry group to check out the guidance and meet the rest of the team!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Warhammer Scenery - Heldrake Base

Back in October last year, I took some time out of my knitting/crocheting schedule to help Jamie out with his Chaos Space Marine army. See, the deal we have is he paints the models, but I do the bases. I did a few funky rocky bases, but was then struck with the inspiration to make some proper scenery.

Serious crafting requires artistic vision

I started small, just some interesting embellishment for the flying base of his heldrake model and a simple rocky outcrop to use as terrain during a game. The building part didn't take very long, but I lost interest when I was stuck with the endless painting.

Now we have an airbrush, the painting part is a lot easier, so I've pulled it all back out and set to with a will! First to finish, the heldrake base.

After placing the flying stem and gluing it down, I used cork sheeting and a hot glue gun to add some height to the flat base.

I filled the rest of the base with plain old boring basing material (I think this one is labelled as "lava").

Next up was the fun part. The rocky spur was made from polystyrene sheeting, cut and carved to fit with a hot wire cutter. I love my hot wire cutter, it's so much fun! I had to cut two separate chunks to get it to fit around the stem.

Carving it to look like rock is a real skill!

The ground around the spire was decorated with smaller stones and some carved boulders.

The stem was then masked with tape to protect it from paint. All of the rock parts were painted with textured masonry paint (a couple of coats) and then the whole model was undercoated with black spray. At this point I got fed up of the painting aspect (it takes ages to dry!) and the base remained in this state until last week.

After just half an hour with the airbrush (most of which time is spent cleaning the damn thing between colours, and hunting for the right bottle of paint) the rocks were done! All over spray with a dark grey, then an almost all over spray with a lighter grey, finally targeted highlights with a light grey.

The sand was sprayed dark brown, then highlighted up with two lighter shades of brown. I wanted the model to fit the colour scheme of the other bases I'd painted last year, sandy bases with grey rocky outcrops.

The finishing touches were the greenery. Some twigs robbed from the back garden, pushed into the polystyrene behind the stem become trees, with clump foliage (from the model railway section of the model shop) glued on with Copydex (which smells of fish, by the way, it's horrible stuff). Some additional clump foliage around the base of the tree and to hide the hole where I miscut the rocky spire to fit the stem, and some static grass on the sand to cover the gaps.

I really love the effect of the tree. I'm also really pleased at how closely my finished base resembles my initial visualisation!

Jamie has since bought a second heldrake, so I will be putting my thinking cap on again to create a second base that matches but is different.

In the meantime, I'm going to finish painting the rocky spires terrain piece, and a gothic ruin piece I started at the same time as these. With the ease of painting provided by the airbrush, I can see myself making a lot more scenery over the next few months!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Speed Crochet

I've outdone myself this time. Last week, after returning from a LRP event, I decided to attempt to make a tablecloth in under 4 weeks. For an 8' round table. Using filet crochet. Crazy, I know.

But, somehow, I've pulled it off.

Ok, so I'm cheating a bit. I've crocheted the centrepiece, which is about a foot, foot and a half across. I plan to sew it to the centre of a large red tablecloth I've found on eBay, as the prospect of crocheting an entire tablecloth in this fashion is not an appealing one!

I'm hoping the cloth will arrive in the next few days, so I can sew it this weekend while I've got the house to myself.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Green fingers

A couple of weeks ago, we treated ourselves to an ice cold jug (well, bowl actually as we didn't own a large glass jug at that point) of Pimms. We couldn't find a bag of cut mint in the supermarket, so Jamie got a growing plant instead. Ever since, it has been sat in the kitchen on the windowsill looking a bit sad because I keep forgetting to water it.

I decided I wanted to plant it, so that next time I wanted Pimms I would have mint on hand. This reminded me that I had a few very well established herbs in the garden in the last house, and it was a shame we didn't have that here. So earlier on in the week, when I was rushing about doing a variety of home related chores, I popped to Homebase and picked up some more herbs.

Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, Basil and the supermarket Mint

I tried to find plants that were already looking pretty healthy, as I have a bad track record for killing off herbs. I tried to grow basil from seed once and that didn't go well. The sage was on it's own, but the rosemary, thyme and basil were a multipack Jamie Oliver branded thing. I had to swap around the pots between the various sets they had on display before I had three plants I wanted to take home (yes, I am that person who swaps out the eggs in the supermarket to make sure I take home the biggest ones).

They haven't died yet, so I have high hopes at the moment!

In order to free up the troughs I had to repot my sycamore seedlings. Probably just as well, as they were growing like you wouldn't believe and would soon have outgrown the troughs.

They now have their own pots, and will hopefully do a lot more growing before the winter.

This one is doing particularly well

This one not so much.

I did pick up one other thing in Homebase which I am very excited about - a grow-your-own mushroom kit! I've wanted to give this a go for years.

I'm going to set it up this weekend, as I'm trying to time the crop of mushrooms to be ready after we get back from the next LRP event. I'll let you know how I get on!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Getting Sidetracked

I made some wild promises to myself last week that now I was back in my normal routine, I'd get back to blogging on a regular basis. But I seem to have thrown myself so wholeheartedly into doing things I can then blog about, that I run out of time to actually blog about them!

Last weekend I went back to LRP for the first time this year (having missed the first main event on account of it happening the weekend before the wedding, and knowing my luck, I'd have broken my ankle or something if I had gone). There are a surprising lack of photos of me from the event, although thinking about it I wasn't out and about as much as I usually am, on account of having thrown myself down the stairs in our house the night before we left for the event!

One of the things I got up to while I was there, was get myself invited to an In-Character tea party on the Saturday afternoon, hosted by the lovely ladies of the Arthurian-based faction, known as the Lions.

Photo shamelessly stolen off Facebook, I am sure my friend won't mind.
That's me in the bottom right corner - I was late so got stuck with a tiny chair!

Much tea (of the long island iced variety), sangria, Pimms and cake was consumed and it was an incredibly good laugh. So much so, that we're doing it again next event. I foolishly joined the ladies on Sunday afternoon where we discussed the possibilities for making it even cooler, and wound up volunteering to make a girly, Lion themed tablecloth for the Round Table so it looks more ladylike when we're having tea.

I hunted around the internet for ages after I got back, and couldn't find a decent pattern to use. I wanted a rampant lion, as that is the heraldic device used by this particular Faction. Something like these. Unfortunately, despite every effort to take a black and white image and use this rather funky chart creator I couldn't get a chart I was happy with, so settled instead on using this one which is free on's crochet pages:

The lion will form the centre of the tablecloth; I will cheat and use fabric for the rest, as I only have three weeks till the next event and I said I would have it done by then. I'm using the same crochet thread I bought for my filet daffodils which are in hibernation, as I reckon I have spare. I'll use red fabric, and I haven't yet decided to cut a hole in the middle or to just sew the filet panel on top. I may even do a crochet border, if I start feeling cocky, but given the table is 8 foot in diameter I may not!

So, not a project from my current Year of Projects list, not even one from my new Year of Projects list, or a current non YoP WIP. I've let myself get completely sidetracked again.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Getting back into old habits

We're finally settling back into a normal routine. Last weekend we blitzed the house and did all the housework that had been left while we dashed about getting married and going on holiday!

Gorgeous welcome home flowers from our friends

Having a nice, comfortable living room and no urgent tasks for the evenings is good news for my knitting. I realised it's been ages since I took any progress photos of my current WIPs, so as it's Wednesday, here's where I am with them.

Obnoxious Socks

I took these to America with me, to knit on the plane. I actually got more knitting done in our hotel in Vegas than during the flight, as it was a great way to relax during our chill-out hours between sightseeing and eating in the evening. Can you see how matchy matchy they are? They're not quite identical, but they are close enough. They will be knee high socks, so I still have quite a way to go!

Mrs Tumnus
Mrs Tumnus also came to America with me, but didn't make it out of my carry-on case for the whole trip! I'm still working through the border, so at most I manage two rows a night. I reckon I'm about halfway through the border now.

I'm hoping that now things are back to normal I'll actually start to see some real progress on these projects over the next couple of weeks. Not that I'll need the finished items until the Autumn!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Year of Projects 2 - an early roundup

The second Year of Projects comes to an end on the 30th June. Immediately afterwards, we will plunge recklessly into a third year! I'm rounding off my second year a few weeks early, as I want to have some time to carefully consider what to do with my list this time around. In the first year, I focused on a list of patterns that would push and challenge me, teaching me new techniques and skills to broaden my knowledge and experience as both a knitter and crocheter.

In my second year, I took a different strategy. I went through my stash, and put together a list of yarns I wanted to use. Now the year draws to a close, so it's time to see what that approach yielded.

These are the yarns that made it onto my list. A mix of fibres and weights, gifts and self purchases. A slightly broader colour palette perhaps than I am used to, but pinks and purples still dominate. I seem to be developing a taste for blue as well!

I think when I put the list together I was being very optimistic. My hope was, with so much to choose from, I'd never get bored of it. This is what I turned it into over the course of the last eleven months (well, more like eight months or so, as I've not got much crafting done in the last few months between the house move and the wedding!).

Nineteen finished projects, using eleven of the yarns I added to the list. In addition to these finished items, I have three projects still listed as WIPs in my project page which come from the list: Starlight, a beaded lace shrug using the gorgeously purple Fyberspates Scrumptious Lace, which is nowhere near finished, the Cwtch Shawl in the Natural Dye Studio Scheherazade, which needs to have its bind off undone and re-done in a stretchier stitch, and Peerie Flooers, in the Rowan Fine Tweed, which has been finished since Christmas but needs the ends weaving in and blocking. I hope to get that done by the time winter knocks on our doors again!

The other projects not displayed here represent my failed efforts. I tried to make a start on the Ishbel shawl once I'd finished the hat, but didn't get anywhere with it. I picked up the Artesano 100% Alpaca DK and tried to knit the Baskerville hat, but obviously wasn't concentrating well enough on it as I went wrong so many times I gave up in disgust. I still want to knit them though, so they might find their way onto the list for year three!

Nineteen beats my eleven from the previous year, although I think I was less distracted this year because of the way I designed the challenge for myself. Last year's list has so much revision, so many patterns crossed off and added, whereas this year I felt far less guilty about doing something else. A quick look at my Ravelry page shows thirteen finished projects alongside the above, completed since this second Year of Projects started, but most are small, quick distractions. The only things I did that weren't were the sofa bed afghan and our Christmas stockings, but that was ok because I'd planned for both of those to take time away from the list.

I'm not sure which is my favourite project from the year. I wore Phannie and Ishbel beret alternately almost every day through the winter and early spring. I can't choose between the three shawls I knit this year, as they are all fabulous, but I think the Lazy Katy just might win, on the basis that I knit it so quickly and it's such a quirky shape. I'm proud of knitting my first toe up socks, and the hot water bottle platypus was the difference between a good night's sleep and hypothermia when I went camping last November.

What I do know is that it would be a lot harder to stick to the challenge without all the other wonderful people who are challenging themselves right alongside me. Year two saw a lot of new folks joining the group and getting involved, and it's been great to share this journey with you all again. Looking forward to seeing you all back for round three!
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