Monday, 21 April 2014

Year of Projects 3 - 21st April update

Happy Easter! I hope you are all having a lovely long weekend. I have been busy, doing traditional bank holiday activities such as gardening, and cleaning the house. However, I have found time to catch up on some YoP knitting!

Remember the charts I designed for my Game of Thrones inspired blanket? Now the show is back on the air I have been inspired to start working on this again. When I last put it down I was so close to finishing knitting up the first chart. And now I have!

I am now working on the chart for the name Stark, which is proving to be even more irritating than the shield motif. I am using a blend of intarsia and stranded colour work now, as to do this part wholly with intarsia would involve far too many separate bobbins of yarn and it would drive me crazy.

The other thing I have done is finalise the layout of the blanket. I have a large section in the middle which is still to be designed, and I have no idea what I am going to put in it! Originally I was thinking of having it say "Winter is Coming" but the other day my husband suggested something that involves the phrase "valar morghulis" might be cooler. We shall see. I am more inclined to make it an image rather than lots of words as I think that would be less annoying to knit. He did also suggest a picture of the iron throne, but I'm not sure that would work either.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Adventures in book binding

With the new LARP season rapidly approaching (our first event is only a few weeks away!) I decided to take a break from my usual crafty pursuits and learn something new. I've been planning to make myself an in character diary for some time now, but it would involve skills that I've never tried before.

Firstly, I had to write the damn thing! I'm not usually all that interested in writing fiction, but thankfully the act of writing up my character's thoughts and experiences from the four years that I've now been playing her was easy, as I was actually recording memories of events rather than having to make it all up from scratch! I started writing it after getting back from an event, so I was still very much inside my character's head at the time. Before I knew it, I'd written over 30,000 words.

To turn my words into an actual, physical book proved to be more of a challenge. I spent a lot of time on the internet, researching bookbinding techniques and trying to decide what I wanted my finished diary to look like. I eventually settled on the long stitch technique, after seeing this tutorial for a leather bound journal. I had in my sewing chest a suede skirt that I've been holding on to for a long time, waiting for the right project, which I decided would be perfect to use as the material for my book cover.

Printing the pages to create the signatures for my book proved to be another challenge. More research online unearthed this fabulous guide to printing Word documents in book format, and after a few trial and error attempts I finally had my pages printed.

I did a test of the bookbinding techniques on a set of signatures that hadn't printed out right, and then launched straight into stitching my actual pages into my actual book. It was really straightforward, although I did manage to stab myself quite a few times with the needle as the suede was quite thick, particularly where there was more than one layer.

I deliberately left the flap that will close the book quite long, as this is going to be a living document that will grow with each LRP event. I have bound in some empty pages so I can jot down notes during the event, and then afterwards I will type up the diary entry and replace the handwritten signatures with a printed version. The more events I survive, the longer my book will get, but there is room for at least twice as many pages before this one gets full.

To close the book, I have added two ribbons, and attached a gorgeous bead I picked up in my local haberdashery. I'm really really pleased with the finished article, and can't wait to show it off at the event in a couple of weeks.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Planning ahead

Last weekend I went on a bit of an online spending spree. It started out fairly innocently; I'd seen a pattern in a magazine that I wanted to knit, I had the yarn in my stash but didn't have the right needle. Usually, what I do in this case is go to eBay and find myself a needle in the correct size and length. However, I didn't find anything in the right size apart from the really cheap bamboo needles with those nasty thick plastic cables. While I do have quite a few pairs of those in various sizes, since I started buying nicer needles (like the Addi turbo needle I bought to make my Christmas Stockings, and the KnitPro Novas I used for Mrs Tumnus) I don't really want to go back. But it would cost a fortune to stock up on every needle I need buying posher needles individually.

Once I came to that realisation, I spent a good hour or so browsing the web and reading reviews of the various interchangeable needle sets out there to try and help me decide. I was very tempted by the KnitPro Symfonie set, particularly after reading several comparisons between them and the Addi set (I do like my Addi needles, but looking at the interchangeable set, the needles are nowhere near pointy enough for me). However, my ultimate decision came down to my preference for metal over wood for circular needles.

In the end, I bought a set of Nova interchangeable needles from Hulu Crafts. The set comes with needles from 3.5mm up to 8mm, and four different cables in three different lengths.

For a deluxe set, I have to say it doesn't come with a particularly nice case. It's perfectly serviceable, but having seen the gorgeous cases you get with HiyaHiya needles (see here, Deramores stock them separately to the needles themselves) I feel like I should have a better case for mine! I've had a look around and there's plenty of inspiration out there. Of course, I won't stop with just a case for these, I will figure something out for my fixed circulars as well!

My shopping problem really kicked off once I started wandering the rest of the Hulu Crafts website to see if there was anything else that could slip into my basket while I was there. Sadly, I couldn't quite justify buying more Lily's Sugar'n Creme so I ended up checking out with nothing but the needles in my basket. Not satisfied, I headed straight over to Deramores and started filling my basket with yarny goodies.

There's a lot of black yarn in my parcel, which is completely unintentional! There are two balls of Rico Fashion Fur, which is going to be used to knit this cat which is in a pattern book my husband gave me for Christmas. The ball of Red Heart Baby in brown next to them in the picture above is also for the cat, to do his nose, ears and paws. I am uncertain whether I have enough yarn, as the pattern is not specific about yardage, gauge and size, and there aren't many finished projects on Ravelry either.

The black Bamboo cotton is to supplement the remainder of a ball I already have, to be paired with the half skein of Cascade Ultra Pima Paints cotton I have left over from my trip to San Fransisco.

The rest of the yarn is Stylecraft Special Aran. It has the same gauge as the Cascade 220 I used for $5 in Paris, so I should be able to replicate the project quite easily. This time, I will use three colours, black, red and silver-grey. I haven't decided on the stripe pattern yet, but I do know I want this one to be longer in the body and have longer sleeves than my first version.

Now that I have new yarn, and new needles to play with, I am going to have to try very hard to make sure I finish what I've already started before casting on something new!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The art of procrastination

Those of you who know me well, will not be surprised to hear that instead of working on my current projects (including one with a deadline to meet!), I have in fact cast on something new. I've not been very well this week; some sort of horrible virus is doing the rounds and I have spent the last four days lying on the sofa in a cloud of misery.

With my brain in such a fog, there was no way I was going to handle delicate lace or knitting on DPNs. I didn't even think I had the brainpower for dealing with my Game of Thrones blanket square, although the trickiest parts of the intarsia are over for now. I needed something simple.

To me, nothing says simple and rewarding quite like working with chunky yarn. I've had this in my stash for some time now, and decided that it was time to use it. I initially planned to crochet it, using this Lion Brand pattern as inspiration for a stripey beanie. I've used it before, and was quite pleased with the results. However, I wasn't enjoying it in this chunky yarn, so went back to the drawing board (i.e. the Ravelry pattern search) to find new inspiration.

This is the result. The pattern is Sulka Scarflette by faerybabys and it is knitting up a treat. It's 13 inches long now and there's still plenty of yarn left. My plan is to knit until I run out, and then attach the buttons in an appropriate place after it's been blocked and I've had a chance to try it on.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

FO: English Paper Piecing Pincushion

A couple of weeks ago I posted about a new experiment I was undertaking, learning to do English Paper Piecing.

I chose to make a pincushion because I thought a small project would give me a chance to see if I enjoyed the technique enough to do it again, without running the risk of starting a project that I wouldn't finish if I didn't enjoy it after all. I'm pleased to say that I did enjoy it, and the end results are fabulous.

The only real issue I had was when I got to sewing the two halves together and then turning it right side around. But to be fair, I have issues doing that whatever I am sewing, so not a problem unique to EPP!

I love the incredibly neat edge between the hexagons. It's a relatively simple (if fiddly) technique but it produces wonderful results. I've already been nosing about on the web to see what else I could do with it. I'm not quite close to wanting to make a full quilt or anything, but I've already started pinning some great ideas to my Sewing board.

I will have to find another project that uses hexagons, though, as I still have plenty left from the selection I was given last year.
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