Saturday, 28 December 2013

Post Christmas musings.

This will be another of those posts of many parts I think. I sit here in Boxing Day looking out of my living room window at the start of a beautiful day. It's nearly 9am and the sky is still tinged with sunrise pinks and oranges. The ground is covered with a hard, white frost. I wonder if we might have snow later?

I'm snuggled under my log cabin blanket. It's cold in the house this morning. Matthew cleaned the fire out last night and I think the lack of residual ash meant it burned out quicker. It's stubbornly refusing to give out any significant quantity of heat at the moment. No matter! Between my blanket, my PJ's and my stripy socks I'm good. Coupled with a brew, my knitting and a book, I'm sorted.  

So far this morning I've finished cleaning the kitchen following last night's epic dinner. I've also sterilised and filled a couple of Kilner jars with the scary amount of goose fat that was produced! I'll pick over the carcass later and make stock from the bones. I'm not sure if it'll make good stock, but I'll sharpish find out!

Week in review and feeling the love - 
Christmas Day came and went. Dinner was served on time,(ish) but the goose took a little more carving than I originally anticipated, so I think the accompaniments could have been warmer. Ben had a great day, I think he got what he wanted, and he spent it equally divided between his Xbox and  us.  Matthew took the dog out for a walk on the fells while I got dinner started. It was a lovely day. 

I read a book called 'The Husband's Secret' by Liane Moriarty this week. It was a pleasantly unchallenging read. It's been ages since I read a book. How bad is that!? I picked it because it was the first book at the top of the best seller list on iTunes that wasn't soft porn! Honestly!! I nearly died when I saw the top 2 titles!? And me, a good convent girl and all!!? *cough* 

The story follows the lives of seemingly unrelated women as their lives become entwined by the secret of one man. As the book progresses you can sense the threads coming closer until the book reaches it's conclusion. It was a 'no-brainer' read. I knit and read and was entertained. It was just the kind of read I needed this week. Nothing too complicated, but enough going on to keep my interest piqued. It's not Liane's only book, I'm not sure I'll read another any time soon, but it would make great holiday reading. 

On the knitting front I still aim to clear my WIP's from 2013. Matthew's socks got finished yesterday morning 3 and a bit days after they where cast on. A record for me. He likes them and they fit fine. 


Next on my hit list is Annie. It's a cowl I cast on ages ago. Remember? From that pink Louisa Harding silk blend yarn? I pick it up and put it back down regularly.  It's not that I hate knitting it, it's just that it won't grow. It's a DK weight yarn, but I keep knitting and the cake doesn't get any smaller and the cowl doesn't get any longer! I'm thinking it's going to finish as a scarf rather than a cowl. I bought 4 or 5 skeins and I've got one and a bit left. The fabric is only 32 inches long so I'm thinking I'll just knit until I run out and leave it there. I don't think I can face grafting the ends together, but we'll see. 

Time has passed and it's now Saturday and Annie is finished. I knit until the last inch of yarn. I actually over cooked it slightly and I had to graft a few inches I cut off when joining the last ball to the end of the project to finish the cast off. Now that's cutting things fine! I know I could have ripped back a row and finished that way, but I wanted to get as much fabric as I possibly could. Needless to say I've decided it's going to be a scarf rather than a cowl. Life's too short. It may be that this scarf is too short as well, but when it's washed and blocked it's in the gift drawer for next year! 

This leaves three WIP's - Jean's vanilla socks, the Silver Birch socks, and Mara's mitts. I'm now concentrating on the vanilla socks. I've finished the first one and I'm working my way to the heel of the second  as we speak. 

I'm onto another book too. I'm reading Rachel's Holliday by Marian Keyes. I'm approaching half way. It's a story about Rachel. She's a drug addict in rehab at home in Ireland. Again it really isn't my usual read. I'm not sure how I came to have it on the iPad. It must have been a freebie as I really can't see myself buying it. It's not bad actually. The parts of the story about her time in rehab and what goes on in group therapy are interesting. I see many traits of the addicts I work with- the denial, the blame etc. Rachel's thoughts on therapy are interspersed with memories of her life in New York. Some of those memories are a tad raunchy, you have been warned! I'll let you know next week how the next half progresses. 

On the horizon - 
Another bitty week. I'm in work Monday and Tuesday although I'm hoping to get away early on Tuesday. We're closed on Wednesday for New Year and then normal service is resumed on Thursday. 

I hope to get the vanilla socks done by the end of the year. I can't see me finishing the silver birch and Mara's mitts by then, but I think it's likely to be the mitts which next feel the love. 

Until 2014, have a great new year. 
PS - if any of you have ideas for my next book, let me know. I'm open to suggestions. 

Ellen x  

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Looking forward

Just a quick one. 

I've been thinking -

I'm going to run another KAL over on the knit to stay sane group on Ravelry. 

In 2014 I'm going to knit from stash. Often, my problem is indecision. So you guys will get to make my decisions for me. 

At the beginning of the KAL post a skein or skeins you want to use from your stash
Next select a few patterns you fancy knitting
Make a poll in the Lets KAL thread and let folk vote on what you should cast on

I'm going to run the KAL every 2 months.

It's open to everyone in the group. Post your poll in the "lets KAL" thread and knit from stash

Feel free to use your projects in other groups if they will allow it

I'll open a chat thread and an FO thread. 

There will be a prize at the end of each KAL - probably a pattern or stitch markers unless something else fall in my lap. 

I hope you guys join in  It'll be fun! 

Have a good week

Ellen x 

Friday, 20 December 2013

Happy anniversary!!

Week in review - 

I sat down to write to you on Sunday but put it off because I wanted to finish the gift knitting. Then I sat down to write on Tuesday night to celebrate completing the last infernal wrap  I put it off again because it dawned on me that today is my blog-iversary! It's now a year since I started!

Where did the year go?

This time last year I hoped to share my year with you, the highs and lows of crafting. I wanted to put out some patterns. 

I've had many more highs than lows and in a year that has been difficult in places, knitting has kept me sane (it's all relative mind you!). I published 2 patterns which gave me a deep respect for those guys out there who do the job properly! I've never begrudged paying for a pattern, but now I feel every penny I pay has been earned by that designer and then some! 

This year I've created some beautiful projects. I love the evenstar I gave to my mum. I created some functional projects too. Ringo and Rusty the rats love their hammock! So far they haven't chewed it to death! 

I've set myself realistic targets and I achieved them all. At the beginning of the year I wanted to finish the evenstar and publish patterns. I managed both so what now? What are my goals for next year? I'm thinking I'd like to do another evenstar maybe I'll cast on that Viajant√® I've been threatening for so long. I'm not sure yet. I'll try to crystallise some ideas for the new year blog. 
 But what about this week? I've been off work and it's been great. Monday saw me suck up my courage and go into Ben's bedroom! Those of you who follow me on Instagram or Twitter will have seen the before and after shots! It ruined my back for a couple of days, but the result was worth it! And even better than that, today the room is as tidy as it was on Monday ! Now THAT's a miracle!!

Tuesday was a bitty day. The car had to go to the garage to have a wheel bearing replaced. I walked the 4(?) miles home and worked on the gift knitting as I travelled. My goal that day was to get the last ballet wrap done and blocked as it needed to be in the post on Wednesday. I did get it finished, but not a lot else happened until that last stitch was cast off !  The evening brought knit night. That night we relocated to the pub. We had a great evening chatting, knitting and setting the world to rights. We had to be politely told to go home by the long suffering barmaid ! We also discovered our host Mara's dark, dirty secret ! It's so dark and dirty I'm going to tell you guys too! Mara has the worst case of castonitis EVER! I mean ever!! In the whole world I'm sure!! She coughed to having 32 scarf projects on the go!!!!!!!  That night she cast on 2 more projects ! We decided she should start a new business casting on for folk seeing as she's so addicted to the process!  

One of the projects she cast on was a pair of gauntlets. I know she hasn't got a snowball's chance in hell of finishing one let alone 2, and this leads me nicely to Wednesday. I got to sit down and catch up with Mel on the Singlehanded (!!!!!! SQUEE!!!) knits podcast. Mel showed us a new pattern she was releasing and I knew instantly it was meant to be. Mel has graciously give this pattern to her blog readers. All she asks in return is that you knit a pair for someone who needs them! I decided then and there that Mara needs a pair! Her gallery is cold, and left to her, she's only going to make a pair of gauntlets if she seams up all those cast on edges!!

Wednesday also brought the end of the school term. Ben's school finished by putting on a Christmas event at a local church. It's a beautiful little church a few miles deeper into the country and it just fits the school kids and some parents. The children put on a lovely performance about the Christmas story and we all sang a couple of carols. They make me cry. Every time. I wonder why that is? 

Any how, next came Thursday. Yesterday I travelled down to my mum and dad's. It wasn't the most pleasant of journeys, the weather was most uncooperative. But we arrived safely and that's what counts. We  exchanged gifts with my sister and caught up a little. I cast on a pair of Hawaiian Snowflake mitts. The pattern is great. I'm struggling with my yarn choice though. It's a gradient coloured merino single. The single is splitting easily and at the moment I'm on a dark red/brown shade which is making it difficult to see the stitches especially when the light is so bad in my mum's. I think I'll set them aside until I get home. I want to do the job properly. 
You can see how the pattern is getting lost a little in the dark colours. I'm loving the fabric though, and the garter stitch is gorgeous!! 

Something special happened too. 

No! Calm down!!! It's my RIGHT hand!! It is my wedding band though. My mum and dad gave it to me because they where tired of fretting over it. This is such a special ring. It's made from my mum's, my Nana's and my great-grandmother's wedding rings. They were melted together and split into 3 new rings. My mum has one, my sister got hers 8 years ago when she got married and I got mine yesterday because my parents got tired of waiting for me to tie the knot!  Matthew and I have been together 20 years now and he's in no rush to make an honest woman of me!

Today is Friday. Today we'll exchange gifts with mum and dad and my aunty will pop over. I need to drop off a huge bin bag of clothes to a friend's house that Ben has grown out of (a dirty habit in my opinion!) and we'll make our way home. 

On the horizon - 
Christmas approaches! I hope you all have a great festive season however you chose to spend your day. 
On the domestic front, I'm still thinking happy thoughts about that goose! It'll be fine! I hope. 

On the crafting front, I'd like to start the year with a clean-ish slate. I'd like to finish up as many WIP's as I can. My WIP list isn't too bad. I have the Annie scarf and 2 socks on the go. Not forgetting Mara's mitts. 

Have a lovely Christmas. 

Speak soon! 
Ellen x  

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Child 1 - 0 Mother

Pester power wins. Today I put up the tree. Sigh!

I usually try to put it off a little longer, but next weekend I'll be busy. 

Week in review - 

I'm working hard. Things are getting busier by the day. But all work and no play...... When I get a lunch break or 5 quiet minutes, I like to catch up with my podcasts and my blogs. This week I want to share Mel's blog with you. Now, I'm sure that you all already know Mel, she's huge! Rad! And has more talent in her little finger than I have in my whole body! But in case you've missed her blog, you should head over and read all about it. 

Mel talks to two lovely ladies called Jane and Shannon this week. They have just put out a new book called Journey. From what I've seen it's a work of beauty. It's more than a collection of 6 patterns. It does what it says on the cover. It's a journey. An over used word these days, but the photography is stunning and the patterns flow with purpose through the book. 

Mel, Jane and Shannon have a copy of the book up for grabs. Check out Mel's Ravelry group. Mel is also offering you the chance to win one of her mum's project bags. As the proud owner of a "sew buttons on icecream" bag I can assure you they're worth spending your hard earned cash on. 

I took the dog out for a walk on Sunday. We went up onto the fells. It was a beautiful day. Cold breezy and crisp. 

As I walked and the dog ran I worked on Jean's vanilla socks. I got a fair bit done. It's was a beautiful day. It was so quiet up there. I loved the combination of the open space, the gambolling of the dog and my knitting. I came home calmed and invigorated. Is that even possible!?

Feeling the love - 

Apart from the bit of work on Jean's socks I've mostly been working on Sophie's wrap. 

It's nearly done, I'm trying to keep the motivation going and I'll cast on Mollie's version. I've done a little work on Alex's dodecahedron too. 

On the horizon - 

I've managed to complete one wrap in a week, so doing another larger one is doable yes? Well, it's jolly well going to have to be! I need to get these gifts wrapped and posted by next weekend! No pressure. 

Do you think I'll get Christmas knitting done in good time next year!? 

Probably not, but hey ho! 

If I do get my wraps done, and my dodecahedron I'll work on Jean's socks. With any luck I'll work on the silver birch too. 

Wish me luck! 

Have a great week. 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Did you miss me?

Gosh darn it!  I'll start again then! Just been merrily typing away and the iPad had some sort of hissy fit and I've lost the lot! 

So, did you miss me? I missed you guys. 

Week(s) in review - 
Last weekend saw me come to blog and wonder what I'd achieved in the previous week. I'd been busy all week and, on reflection, I had nothing to show for it. Don't you just hate it when that happens? 

This week is the week when my Christmas spirit starts evaporating. I'm not a 'Bah Humbug!' type ofperson by  nature, but there's only so much grumpy, bad tempered-ness  I can stand before I start to lose my festive happiness. Don't worry folks, the weekends do recharge my Christmas batteries, running around town trying to finish my gift shopping, writing my lists and checking them twice sees my spirit levels replenished. Or maybe that's just vodka!

I missed knit night this week. I had a meeting on Tuesday night in Carlisle. It was a compulsory meeting  for pharmacists who offer needle exchange and addiction services. It was billed as an update. I hoped it may refresh my knowledge about therapy rational. Nope. It was the new trust who runs the service in the northwest telling us all about an error reporting programme that I can't report to nor access the results of.  So, not only did I waste 4 hours of my life, I missed knit night! And that really messed up my week. I had no idea that the 2 hours I spend around a table with my knitting pals with a cup of tea had become so important to me but they have. It's the only 2 hours that are selfishly mine, and it turns out that I really don't like to share them! 

Feeling the love - 

I'm trying to be a good girl. Honestly. Trying is the operative word here. I'm attempting to remain focused on the Christmas knitting. I've now got a mere 2 weeks to get 2 ballet wraps and a stuffie finished so that I can get them posted off. Is that motivating enough for me? Nope, my attention is constantly wandering to non-urgent knitting. 

On the plus side though I do have an FO. And it is a gift! I finished Kittie's wrap. 

I need to wash and block it, but it's essentially done. I did discover, however, why it came out small enough to fit Kitty rather than Sophie. When I came to cast on for the second wrap, I had 2 circular needles floating around not in their cases. I knew one was the needle I used for the wrap, but I couldn't for the life of me remember what I'd used the second one for. So I got out my needle gauge and they're both 4mm. That is bad guys. I got one out of a 4.5mm case. I'm sure I did. But this is why you're supposed to swatch! Did I swatch? Nope! And I paid the price. An extra wrap to knit ! "Bum" said Ellen. There is a second problem which leads on from this though, I did use 4.5mm DPN's  for the sleeves. I don't think you could tell though. Well, I mean a fellow knitter would see, but the recipient won't notice. So it's staying as it is. 

I did cast on a second wrap. This one is definitely Sophie's. I'm still using the 4mm needle, and I've gone up a size. I'll use 4mm DPN's this time, and I'll hopefully only knit the tie once (Kitty's got ripped out and done again, as I noticed that halfway though it I reverted back to stocking stitch rather than garter for reasons best known to myself!)

On the Christmas knitting front, I've also cast on for Alex's present. He's getting a dodecahedron. And why not!? 

It's made out of sock yarn scraps and I'm loving it. You make each point one at a time, but link them together as you knit. I'm halfway through after just a couple of days. With any luck I'll get it finished this week, so that at least one set of gifts is ready to go. 

I haven't been all good though. I have been distracted by selfish knitting. I cast on the Silver Birch socks from Pom Pom Quarterly.  I'm using rainbow sock yarn from my LYS Jan & Cecelia dye it up in gorgeous variegated colours. LOVE!  It is sit down and concentrate knit though. So it will get attention when I can fit it in. 

I've also cast on a travelling project. Plain vanilla socks that, if they get done in time, will form part of my MIL's gift. They're made using Rico Superba country. 

I've spun some too. I've put aside the batt from Monica. Only because I wanted to spin thoughtlessly. Monica's batt needs my attention. It's full of lovely things that come out in the single in ways I've never seen before. It's going to be a lovely arty yarn. I'm thinking that it's going to stay a single. I don't want to lose any of the character. 

So I've started some merino/silk from Wingham Wool Works in various shades of brown. It's spinnig up thin and easily. I'm going to spin straight through and then N-ply it. I'm hoping to get enough for socks. Fingers crossed. 

On the horizon - 

Christmas knitting. Nothing else. Just that. 

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ah ha ah ha

Have a great week