Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Year of Projects 3: update 30th July

Ok, so I'm a few days late on my update, but it lines up nicely with WIP Wednesday over at Tami's Amis! I've been working fairly steadily on a couple of YoP projects since I last posted, although in a surprise turn of events, not the ones I had planned on working on!

Apologies for the dodgy iPhone pic!

I screwed up the courage and sewed my tortoise shell together. Never again, I have promised myself, will I be making anything that requires this much sewing up. This pattern is totally worth it though, because the end result is so cute! Currently missing all its limbs and head though, so no FO quite yet.

I tried to drag these socks out of hibernation the other night, but my ninth DPN appears to have gone walkies! I know I have knit on these recently, so I'm assuming the needle has fallen into the sofa and I'll have to go looking for it at some point, as I don't have a tenth I can use.

Dragonfly Wings has reached the lace section, which means I'm done with all the casting on oodles of stitches at the start of the rows. I finished that part quite late on Saturday night, and haven't been focused enough to start the lace yet (I'm also worried I miscounted somewhere along the way, and will find myself out on the stitch count).

All of which left me in a bit of a quandry the other day. I wanted to knit, but didn't want complicated. I would have loved to do more on my socks, but couldn't find the needle. Nothing for it but to cast on something new!

Say hello to Wingspan! Oodles of lovely garter stitch and short rows, with gorgeous changing colour yarn. Perfect for when I don't really want to have to concentrate!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Pick-a-Boo KAL update

So many people have already finished their first Boo Knits shawl in this KAL; many of them have started a second as well! I however am not that quick a knitter, especially when I've been distracted by kit making and other knitting projects over the last couple of weeks.

I've knit the easy bit of my Dragonfly Wings, and have now reached the point where I have to cast on extra stitches at the start of each row. I have to admit, the instructions in the pattern had me slightly flummoxed. Luckily, I'm knitting this alongside a great many other people, some of whom fell into the same confusion over the instructions. There was already a thread in the Crafts from the Cwtch group on Ravelry asking exactly the question I wanted an answer to. I asked for more clarification, got an answer back from the designer the same evening (as she is taking an active part in the group during this KAL, which is fantastic), and have been able to motor on with the next section.

I think you can just about see the sparkle
in the yarn in this picture

For me, this was a great demonstration of what is so fabulous about joining in a KAL/CAL. Even if the designer herself hadn't been around to help me out, I am certain someone else who had already got past that section of the pattern would have been along to give me some advice.

I'm hopeful that now I have got over my "I don't know what the pattern is telling me to do next" wobble, the rest of this shawl will fly off my needles and be done by the end of the KAL at the end of August.

Monday, 22 July 2013

FO and New Pattern Release!

In my haste to get sidetracked by even more new projects, I spent my Saturday crocheting not one, but two new bits of kit for my current LRP character.

First up, a new snood. I've been wearing the old blue one at every event since I first made it two years ago. While perfectly serviceable for normal daily wear, it doesn't really pass muster any more for a special occassion. As we are holding a coronation at the next event, and I've been talked into wearing a "proper" dress (this one, if you're interested), I decided I needed a new snood in the right colour. I picked up a ball of bright red Patons 100% Cotton 4 ply and got to it.

As it turns out, I modified the original pattern quite seriously when I made the first one, but didn't make any useful notes. I had to get the old one out and keep comparing the two to make sure I was doing it the same. I think I've achieved that! I also made notes this time, so when I come to make a third one (I'm thinking yellow/gold next time) I won't have to figure it out again.

To go with the new snood and the fabulous dress, I decided I needed matching gloves. I had intended to go back to the Afternoon Tea Fingerless Mitts and do another pair of those, but I don't seem to have a copy of the pattern (and I certainly don't remember having to pay for it before!).  A new plan was needed. I had a look on Ravelry but couldn't find anything quite like I wanted. Luckily, inspiration struck and half an hour later I had a brand new pattern flying off the hook.

Aren't they fab? The construction is quite interesting, working into both edges of a foundation single crochet chain before adding the button band and button holes seamlessly. Then it's join in the round and within a few short rows the entire glove is done. The best bit is that they are ridiculously easy to modify for size!

To help explain the construction of the cuff, I even drew up a chart. The pattern is available for free in my Ravelry store here and I can't wait to see if anyone else decides to knock up a pair.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Year of Projects 3: July 21st update

I haven't done so well at staying on track this week. Between getting sidetracked by exciting sewing projects and the heat, I've not touched Dragonfly Wings or started test-knitting my Game of Thrones charts. I have completed two new projects, including a new design which I shall be releasing this week!

My distraction knitting this week has been a new project as well, but thankfully one from the list. A few weeks ago Chrissy suggested she might host a KAL starting in September, with the aim of making us go back to our bookshelves and actually knit/crochet from one of the books we've had but haven't ever used. Everything about the KAL appealed to me, from the timing (starting after the Pick-a-Boo KAL has ended) to the fact that I already had my eye on a book on my shelf to help me fulfil my Christmas gift knitting I'd added to the list, for all my friends' children.

Of course, once I got hooked on the idea.... you understand perfectly of course!

I dug through my stash to find this gorgeous selection of colours, to knit the Patchwork Tortoise from Zoe Mellor's book Knitted Toys: 25 Fresh and Fabulous Designs. I only had a couple of colours where I had enough yardage to be sure of completing the main colour sections, which forced me into this pink/purple theme.

It looked a bit like roadkill at this point

I've done all of the knitting. Now all that is left is the mind-numbing task of sewing the damn thing together. Seriously, this thing is in way too many bits.

That's not even all of them.

If I'd thought ahead, I'd have planned the colours for the shell in advance, and knit the hexagons in strips, rather than doing each one individually. That would have saved me some sewing up time. I expect it will still be in this state by the time Chrissy's KAL officially starts!

Not to worry though, I've already lined up another pattern from the book to knit during that KAL, the Roaring Dinosaur.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Getting sidetracked (again!)

When I came back from the last event in June, I found myself suddenly needing to crochet a giant tablecloth in less than four weeks. Having succeeded at that, I have returned from the most recent event last weekend with an even more complicated project in mind! Luckily, there is more time between now and the next event (August Bank Holiday weekend) so I should be alright.

I've decided I need some more costume. I have one vest that I wear all the time because it is so comfy and goes with everything.

Photo by Nikki Flynn

I decided I needed more of them. I don't have a pattern, so had planned to reverse engineer from this one (which was I believe originally from Next, although I got it on eBay). Then I found some old cardigans from New Look that I thought I could adapt for a lot less hassle.

It's a nice drapey viscose fabric, which has the added advantage of not fraying when you cut it! I hacked the arms off just below the shoulder seams, and cut the length down to get rid of the very modern-looking pockets.

I need to find the right material to trim the bottom hem and sleeves, to match the style of the other vest. In teh meantime, I've turned my attention to the motif I'm going to embroider on the back. I've designed a symbol based on my character's current allegiance to two different factions.

The dragon represents my current faction.
The lion represents my new faction.

I made a stencil and quickly mocked up the motif in paint on a different black fabric, just to check it looks ok in my chosen colour scheme.

I'm quite pleased with it. I've sprayed the stencil (in reverse) on the inside of my vest, and an slowly embroidering the image on using some white and red embroidery thread that I had lying around. So far, I've done most of the lion and it's looking pretty good. I think I might have to match the trim to the red embroidery thread, which could be difficult. It's a much more winey red than the paint I used.

Will share some progress when I'm done with the embroidery!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

FO: Lion Tablecloth

I did it! I finished the tablecloth before the event. I was so pleased when it was done, because it looks awesome.

The above was taken when I was still partway through sewing the damn thing on. In the end, I only sewed around the main motif in the centre, and left the border to do its own thing.

Photo taken by Nikki Flynn

Here it is laid out on the Round Table, just before we set the tea party up. I think I gauged the size perfectly!

Photo taken by Nikki Flynn

And here we are enjoying our tea and cake! The tablecloth was very well received, so I'm glad I spent so much time on it over the last month.

I have another crazy project on the go now, ahead of the next event in August. I have six weeks to pull this one off though, and it's a sewing project rather than crochet or knitting (although, I do have a couple of things to crochet as well). More about that later in the week!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Year of Projects 3: 14th July update

I hadn't intended to order the yarn for my Game of Thrones blanket quite so soon after picking the charts back up last week, but as there was so little designing left to do I needed to get hold of at least some of the colours so I could test crochet/knit one of the charts to see how they worked. Earlier on in the week, I received a wonderfully large and squishy parcel from Deramores.

All Stylecraft Special DK apart from the orange on the top left,
which is Hayfield Bonus DK (Stylecraft didn't have the right colour!)

Ok, so I couldn't stick to buying just a few colours. Besides, it's worth spending more to get the free delivery, which is how these two ended up falling into my virtual basket on the way to the checkout.

Rico Essentials Cotton DK, in preparation for another KAL in September where I will be knitting a toy from a book I've had for years and never used. Fortunately, it also fits in the Year of Projects, as it is destined to be a Christmas present.

Anyway, back to my blanket. Just looking at the yarn above, it seems like a really odd selection of colours, but to help explain the colour choices, here is how they pair up in the ten House sigils I am including in the blanket.

The yellow looks a little bright compared to the other colours, but with the exception of House Baratheon, it's a motif colour rather than the shield colour, so it should be alright!

I'm going to pick one of the two colour shields to test, probably Stark or Frey as they have the most sensible motifs (and having done the lion chart I'm using for Lannister fairly recently in thread crochet, I'm not entirely happy to be making it again quite so soon), and I'm hoping to test it in both knitting and crochet, to make sure the chart works in both crafts. Should have something to share in a few weeks!

Friday, 12 July 2013

FO: Mrs Tumnus shawl

Back in February, Eskimimi release a gorgeous shawl pattern inspired by C.S. Lewis's Narnia book, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, specifically by the character Mr Tumnus and his red scarf. As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to knit it, so when Mimi decided to host a KAL I jumped at the chance.

Skein Queen Blush

I decided to get my yarn at Unravel, as I didn't have anything suitable in my stash. The lovely Nat over at Misadventures in Craft helped me choose this gorgeous red merino/cashmere blend. I was worried about yardage, as it's a sport weight rather than fingering and to get gauge I had to use 5mm needles. A few people in the KAL talked about running out of yarn, or almost running out.

Turns out I shouldn't have worried! I ended up using only 363 yards, including my excessively over-estimated long tail cast on.

The shawl is knit from the outside in, which meant the cast on and first few rows were tortuous. It took hours to do just a couple of rows! Which explains a lot why I cast on in March and when I picked it back up a couple of weeks ago, I had only knit about 15 rows.

Fortunately, as the border grew, the pattern suddenly made sense and I sped up significantly.

The shawl is an interesting horseshoe shape, which is created by using short rows to knit the body once the border is finished. I whizzed through the short rows and the closer I got to finishing the more I wanted to finish. Even before blocking it was beautiful, but now... well, I just love it to bits.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

I hate ironing

There is a reason I don't do a huge amount of sewing, and that is ironing. The tedious task of ironing every piece of fabric before you even get to cut out a shape or thread your needle. I am not the biggest fan of ironing; I hold to the philosophy that if you take clothes out of the machine as soon as it's finished, and hang them up, you don't even need to iron your good shirts. So it was with some trepidation that I embarked on the next stage of my lion tablecloth project.

The last time I shared this project I had just finished the main section of the centrepiece:

The plan was to crochet the lion, then sew it to the centre of a large red tablecloth. I found the perfect cloth on eBay, but when it arrived it had two issues. One, it was a lot bigger than I thought, or rather the lion was too small. Two, the cloth had clearly been folded up in its packaging for some time, because it was incredibly creased.

So I had two problems to solve. The lion came first (anything to put off the dreaded ironing). I trawled the internet looking for inspiration for a border I could use to make it bigger. In the end, I sort of made it up as I went along!

It doesn't show up well against the blocking tiles,
but you get the idea.

The first seven rows are simple chain loops. The rest of the border is stolen adapted from the All Shawl by Doris Chan. Fully stretched out, my centrepiece is now 26" across, which should fit much better into the centre of my 70" tablecloth.

Last night I finally dug up the courage to get out my ironing board and tackle this enormous tablecloth. I won't lie to you, it was not fun. Especially not when my darling husband appeared with an armful of shirts (which, against my usual practice, had not been hung up immediately after washing), so after getting most of the creases out of the tablecloth, I then had to carry on and iron a whole load of clothes!

This evening I absolutely have to sew the lion to the cloth, as on Friday we will be driving up to Staffordshire to go to the next LRP event, where I will be presenting the cloth as a semi-surprise gift to a group of friends. They've seen the first photo, but nothing since! Fingers crossed I have no issues with the sewing element of this project, and I'll be able to share some great pictures of the tablecloth in action when I get back from the event.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Year of Projects 3: 7th July update

One week into the new Year and I am full of enthusiasm about my list. Enthusiasm which has translated into some real progress.

I've been working on two of the items on my list this week. First up, I started a shawl using my Stash Addict Dark Arts Sparkle.

I chose to use this one to join in the Crafts From the Cwtch Pick a Boo KAL, to knit the free Dragonfly Wings pattern by Boo Knits.

I'm 27 rows in and have just reached the third garter stitch ridge. I'm enjoying this so far, the yarn is great to knit with although the stellina is taking some getting used to. I'm also struggling to keep my increases in the centre neat, but I am ever hopeful that a good blocking will sort out my dodgy stitches once I'm done!

The other item on the list that I've dug out is the project of doom. I knew I'd seen the charts I'd already drawn up for the Game of Thrones blanket design when we moved in, so I went on the hunt to see how much work I'd already done.

As it turns out, I'd done all ten of the charts I need for the house sigils, so this week I have been mostly transferring them to the computer and rendering them in colour, to see just how they will look. The next job is to actually make one, and see if my charts do translate properly into actual crocheting and knitting. I'm going to test both crafts, as I'd love to write this up as a pattern for both.

I need to order some yarn first though, as I don't have the right colours in my stash. I've matched up colours to the Stylecraft colour range, so at some point I will place an order with Deramores to get everything I need. I'm in two minds about whether to try and learn proper intarsia, or to just decide to back the whole thing with fabric so I don't have to worry about carrying my colour changes behind the work!

Friday, 5 July 2013

FO: Cwtch Shawl

Last summer I was given a gorgeous skein of Natural Dye Studio Scheherazade in the colourway Wisteria, as part of a swap package.

Such a hard colour to capture. It's pink, not lilac!
About a month later - during Wimbledon I think, so pretty much exactly a year ago - I decided it was destined to become the Cwtch Shawl. I worked on it irregularly, and it was the end of October before I had finally finished.

This is more like the colour

Unfortunately, the bind off suggested in the pattern was nowhere near stretch enough, and I couldn't block it. At the time, I wasn't up to the challenge of unpicking the bind off and finding a stretchier one. Fastforward to now, and I've got a few more shawls under my belt and a lot more understanding/experience in knitting generally. So I decided it was time I did something about it.

I had to go back to the pattern to remind myself how I had bound off (on a purl row, p2tog, pass stitch back to left needle, repeat) and what stitches I should have on the needle when I was done. Once I'd got my head around it, the rest was easy.

I re-did the bind off with a crochet hook, adding a chain stitch between each bound off stitch. Lazy Katy uses a similar bind off and the results were amazing, so I was confident I'd get the bind off I was looking for.

Isn't that better? And for some reason, it looks purple again.

As soon as it was bound off, it was in the sink and onto the blocking boards. The end result is beautiful.

I increased the size to include two more hearts in the border, but screwed up the maths as the pattern has a mistake in the stitch counts. So my centre point is a little off on the border and I had to fudge it a bit. I suppose I could have tinked back to add more stitches but I really couldn't be bothered. It's barely noticeable anyway.

The heart pattern is adorable! And in this yarn (a camel/silk blend) it is a dream to wear. It's so floaty.

There is a part of me that is kind of sad I didn't get around to doing this sooner, as I think it would have been a lovely shawl to wear on my wedding day. Given the temperatures on the day (and the rain!), I'm glad I didn't though, as the shop-bought pashmina I ended up with was a lot bigger than this!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Memories of America

When we were in San Fransisco, one of the things we did was go shopping. In Union Square we had the opportunity to wander around some of the big American chain department stores, like Macy's and Bloomingdales. As we wandered around Macy's, it occurred to me that it was kind of like an American travelling all the way to the UK and then wasting their time visiting the nearest branch of Debenhams.

However, there was one thing I wanted from Bloomingdales that I wasn't leaving without. My very own, authentic Little Brown Bag.

I thought it would be weird to just find a counter and ask them if I could just have the bag. So we wandered the floors trying to find something small and cheap that I could buy, to have a genuine reason to get a bag. I had to try really hard to contain my joy when the man at the counter asked "would you like a bag?" and didn't mind at all that I had to pay 10 cents for it! What we bought was this:

A burger press. But not just any burger press. This one makes normal burgers and stuffed burgers. It's specially designed and everything! And look - made in the USA!

You get two plastic discs. The top one makes the stuffed burgers, one side to create the patty with the space for stuffing the other to seal two stuffed patties together to create an enormous stuffed burger. The other one just does plain round burgers, and for some reason, square burgers.

You take your ball of ground beef, and you squish it

Now you have a patty with a dimple in the middle

We stuffed ours with mozzarella, because that's our favourite

Next, lay an empty one over the filled one and squish
with the other side of the press

Et voila! one stuffed burger ready for cooking

Arty shot of my stuffed burger, complete with rocket and pesto

We had enough spare beef to test out the normal round and square press as well. The round one works really well, but the square one didn't really stay square during cooking! I can see it coming in very handy for mass production of burgers for barbecues. As for the stuffed burgers, they were delicious. Massive, but delicious. The press created a seal that stayed put during cooking, and the patties were the right thickness to cook through perfectly.
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