Tuesday, 23 December 2014

You wouldn't swatch for socks........... Would you?!

Well you wouldn't, I mean honestly! The joy of sock knitting for me is that I know that for my foot I cast on 72 stitches and knit away on size 2.25mm needles and my socks will always fit. I must confess, that my mother-in-law may have received a lot of socks at the beginning of my sock knitting career until I hit the formula I needed to perfectly fit my foot. But still. Hey ho!

So I've decided to design some colour work socks. I'm using the yarn from my secret sock club as my base colour from Natalie Fergie and the leftover Araucania Ranco from last month's sock yarn club as the contrast colour. Now I've knit these yarns before and I was confident that I could just knit away with no problems. 
I'd charted the colour work, cast on using DPN's, knitted an endless inch of ribbing and set about working the pattern. I knit 2 pattern repeats and sat back to admire my handy work. 

Hum I thought. 

I transferred my stitches onto a large circular needle to try it on. 

Did it fit?

Nope. Not even close

It was so tight it wasn't even funny. 

It would appear that my tension while knitting colour work in the round is MUCH tighter than I anticipated. 

Needless to say I've ripped it out and gone up 2 needle sizes. We'll see if that helps. 

So do you swatch? I must confess that despite completing a great course on the joys of swatching by MSkiKnits I'm still not enamoured with the process. For a large project that I'm going to spend a great deal of time and money on I will swatch, but for something little like a sock, nope, STILL not a chance ;-)

I think of each sock as a learning curve. When I come across a new technique or process, I knit according to the pattern and see what happens. I suppose each pair of socks are swatches in their own right. I'm happy to work like this, because I know I have a very deserving recipient of all socks a tad too small for me. And if they turn out too big? Well, then they're boot socks. Problem solved. 

This might not work for you, and I can well understand why. So I think I'm trying to suggest you swatch. If you've never done colour work in the round, never cabled in the round, never worked in the round at all! Swatch. Because your gauge is highly likely to differ from what you're used to producing when you work flat. 

That said, I'll keep chugging away at my socks, and they'll be published in the new year at sometime. 

Still on the subject of socks however, I've been asked to do a workshop on sock knitting for beginners. So my question is this- if you've never knitted on a sock, what would you want to know about? 

So far I've got a section about your equipment- yarn and needles; a section on the construction of the sock; one on cuff down and one on toe up. I plan to get the attendees to knit teeny tiny ornament socks to demonstrate each version relatively quickly. I plan to design each little sock with a different
 heel (heel flap and gusset, and short row) and toe (wedge and a round toe of some sort). This way they will have the wherewithal to make 4 different socks when they go home. I'll send them off with a couple of patterns for grown up feet too. 

Have I missed out anything obvious? 

Feedback would be gratefully received. 

There are only 2 sleeps to go until the big Ho Ho Ho!!!!

Are you ready? 

I am. 

And if there's anything not done - tough! It's staying not done!!! 

Feeling the love -

I have been a good girl. I concentrated on finishing both pairs of socks I had on the go last time I wrote. Steph's are wrapped and are now sitting under her tree. Jean's are also wrapped and ready to go. I must confess to being a little worried about the colour. As I knit it, especially in the rib sections I fancied it was looking 'dirty'. A kind of grubby cream colour and I wasn't keen, but now they're washed and blocked I'm happier with the whole thing. If Jean doesn't like the colour, I can always dye them for her. 

I also made a crocheted hat for Ben. I used chunky yarn from Hayfield. I love the speed of crochet. Especially when you're using a 6.5mm hook! A couple of hours and it was done. 
Ben wasn't up for modelling it, so here's a rather odd selfie 

With what was left I made a new rat bed. Ages ago I made them a hammock and it's been washed that much it fell apart, so making a new on has been on my to do list for ages. Thankfully James from the DancingGeek podcast did a live episode the other weekend. The 4 hour marathon (yup FOUR hours!! And each minute was great fun) gave me ample opportunity to start and finish a new bed. This time I decided to make a tunnel-type thing. I figured having a roof would keep them warmer in the winter. 

It's a hit!

I've also been working on the Sun Ray shawl. Remember it?! It's been languishing for ages, but I'm cracking on with it now. I've completed chart D and I'm now slogging my way up chart E. I say slogging not because its unpleasant to knit, it isn't. But I'm now up to 880 stitches and over the next 100 rows of chart E my stitch count will grow to an eye watering 1520!!!!! 

Holy Stitch Markers Batman!!!!

So needless to say, progress is slow! And it's only going to get slower!! I think I'll just keep you updated each time I complete a chart. Otherwise you'll not see much difference from week to week!! I do lovel how it's turning out though! It's going to be utterly stunning when it's finished. 

I may have has a little sock withdrawal after finishing Jean and Steph's socks. So I cast on a pair of vanilla socks using Opal in the Kongo Sally colourway. It's a fab colour with purple, fuchsia, lime green and slate grey. I'm thoroughly enjoying knitting it. 

As I mentioned earlier, I'm also on with designing another sock. It's nothing fancy, but I've been itching for colour work for ages. There's not a lot to see yet, seeing as how I had to undo my first attempt, so I'll show you more next time. 

33 weeks to 40. 

Erm?! I've miscounted somewhere!! 
Last time I wrote I said I'd increase my activity. I've continued to swim and I've walked the dog further than normal. Not great, but baby steps. Yes?

On the horizon -   

Santa's coming!!!!!!!!!

I wish everyone out there a wonderful, restful and happy Christmas

I'll be chillin', knittin', eatin' and drinkin'. 

I'll be working on my socks, the shawl and on the workshop notes and patterns. 

On my count down to 40 I think I'll just sim to keep moving. I don't think I'll get a swim in this week, but I'll try to do some exercise each day. Wish me luck!

I'm also going to do some research. In the new year I'm going to do TeaPigs matcha challenge, so I'm interested in finding interesting things to do with green tea powder. I can't wait to start the new year with a bang. 

So I wish you all a Merry Christmas and I'll write again soon 

Ellen x 

PS - this is my 100th post! And my 100th project was listed on Ravelry this week. Whoop whoop!!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

40 weeks to 40

I've been thinking llllooooonnnngggggg and hard. For weeks in fact.

I've written to you guys umpteen times.

Each time I pressed delete not publish. 


Because I had nothing to say. I spent ages wracking my brain and came up with what I thought was drivel.  

Self editing can be extreme. 

In all fairness, I'd written some good stuff, some could even be classed as witty. 


I read some wonderful blogs. With stunning photography and thought provoking prose I looked back at what I've put out recently and decided I fall short. 

I thunk and I thunk. 

And I've come up with a cunning plan. 

I am going to blog, but I'm not going to beat myself up about the frequency of my publications. I
enjoy sharing what I've been up to. But on the whole my life is rather average. I often feel that my writing falls short of entertaining and you've better ways to spend your day than waste it here with me. 

I've also been thinking about my future. As the title suggests there are forty weeks until I reach my fortieth birthday. 

Well, in actual fact there are only 38, but that doesn't sound quite as snappy. 

Part of my reflection over the last month or so has involved a lot of inward searching. Where am I going, what do I want to achieve, how am I going to get there and will I like myself when I get there?
Lots of questions, and frankly I've been flailing about trying to find the answers

Baby steps

Each week I hope to focus on one goal. Be it finishing a sock I'm knitting, losing 2lb of arse lard, or exercising just that little bit harder. 

It's the little things that add up to a massive elephant sized achievement. 

Basically I want to hit 40 running.  Who knows, I might even RUN!! I want to look in the mirror and not want to cry and hide. 

I'm already the thick end of 2 weeks behind, but that's ok. My first 3 tasks are - 

1- make the commitment to pull myself up by the boot laces
2- swim hard. 
3- get a move on with Christmas

Number 1 is easily done. I've publicly made the commitment. Now you can hold me to task if I slope off and hide

Number 2 is started. I'm swimming twice a week at the moment. I swim for about an hour each time and I do sets of 20 lengths of drill. Different combinations of strokes, arms and legs. I do work hard, but I must confess that I rarely push myself past the pain threshold. Well, on Tuesday I made a change. I decided to cut out a lot of the drills and focus on swimming hard. I changed my set to 100m of front crawl, 100m of Breast stroke,100m front crawl arms only and 100m of back stroke. I added in tumble turns. Oh dear lord!! It's so weird how just changing from touching and turning to tumble turning increases how tired I feel at the end of a set! The one thing is that I need to get a nose clip, it's most unpleasant getting half a swimming pool rushing up into your sinuses. 

Number 3 is a bit wishy washy sorry. It's hardly SMART. But until today I've been rather lethargic
about the whole festive season. I blame Ben. He's grown up a lot over the last year and this one is the
 second Christmas since he found out THAT thing (I'll not say more in case there are little eyes looking at this page). It didn't affect me last year, I think I wanted to make it as magical for him as the year before, but this time I don't know. It just feels average. It's been compounded by the fact all he really wanted was an Airsoft gun. We've discovered he needs to be 18 and accredited to have one. So that's put the kibosh on most of his Christmas presents he wanted. I'd be eternally grateful for any ideas of what to get an 11 year old boy for Christmas. My mind is completely blank. His mind is too caught up in the agony of waiting 7 years to get his gun!

In an effort to gain some festive momentum Ben, his Nana, and I went to The Winter Droving. It's a wonderful celebration of the season held in our town.

(Ben hates having his photo taken - can you tell!?)

This year was the third year it's been held and it was nothing short of stupendous. The weather held, the town as filled with wonderful vendors selling their produce. The air was filled with gorgeous smells - mulled cider, fresh baked pizza, curry hot roasted chestnuts (we're very cosmopolitan!). Local folk sold their handicrafts from baking to art it was amazing. The whole day was topped off by a candlelit, masked procession through the streets. wow! Ben wants to take part next year, so I've been looking for masks to make. I think I've found just the thing, and I'll keep you posted with my progress next year. 
Here is my video of the procession, if you're near Penrith at the end of November next year, you should definitely come and spend the day.

Feeling the love -

Gosh it's been ages since we spoke about what craftiness I've been up to. 

So here it is. 

I finished Lefie by Martina Behm. It was a fabulous knit and one I think I'll cast on again. I'm thinking handspun next time.

Did you notice the artful angle of my photo?  I've been reading Stephanie the chief Space Cadet's blog posts on improving your project photos. She says to shoot ACROSS your project. 

This is Maddie from my knitting group modelling Leftie. Can you see the lovely artwork in the background? There are so many beautiful things in the gallery. I could happily go broke there!

I've also finished my first sock club socks. My first yarn was Opal from their Little a Prince range. I decided that as far as possible I would avoid vanilla socks for my sock club, so I went for my Scalloped a Tulip Socks. I know I shouldn't be quite so delighted with myself, but the combination of yarn and pattern is lovely. 

Since I last wrote, I've knit another sample of my Thankful shawl. I knit it because I wanted to test my re-writes of the pattern. I published it and I'm delighted with it. A few people have even queued it! I'm eternally grateful to my test knitters HarryCat1 and Kateblu2001. Their input has been invaluable. 

It's will be soon on it's travels and I hope Mel likes it. I used Nimu yarn again. This time I picked her Torva base. A rather delectable blend of merino, cashmere and nylon. It was a joy to knit and it's blocked out a treat. 

I've cast on new socks too. My second sock club yarn is Araucania Ranco Solid in a natural cream colour. I'm knitting Cookie A's Kai-Mei socks for Jean for Christmas. It's a satisfying knit and surprisingly the ribbed leg didn't completely sap my happiness! The foot has an interesting pattern that's easily remembered. I really need to motor on, I've finished the first one and I need to guard against second sock syndrome. 

I've finished the first of Steph's Christmas socks too. I really need to pick the second one up and get it finished. I'll need to drop it off at Steph's shortly. There just aren't enough to hours in the the day are there?! 

I have also worked on the In Dreams shawl. I think I've just about worked 2 rows in a month, so it's hardly worth showing you a photo, but I'm hoping to get back to shawl knitting as soon as I clear some socks! 

On the Horizon - 

A return to blogging with regularity 

Putting up the Christmas tree. Ben is pestering. But I've no idea where it's going to go. Matthew keeps putting large pieces of furniture in tree sized spaces!

Finish 2 pairs of socks

The matcha challenge - heard of it? Matcha is a green tea from Teapigs. It's been ages since my last order from them (bulk buying is great!). Teapigs make the most divine teas. They use real leaves, not that icky dust that you usually find in teabags. I digress, back to their green tea. Matcha is a concentrated green tea powder you can make into a simple brew, or add to shakes, juices and you can even bake with it! It's packed with antioxidants and other goodies that will help give you a kick up the bum and help you feel fab. 
I'm thinking of giving it a whirl. Who knows?

Week 37 of my 40to40 challenge. I'm going to increase my activity. Hold me to it guys!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

I need a rest!

Good evening good people

How the devil are you all?


I am, I could do with a lie down as I've hinted at already, but I'm well.

In a couple of hours I'll retreat to my bed and before I know it, it will be time to get up and get back on the hamster wheel of life.

Once again my weekend is a blur.

I finished work on Friday, went straight to the leisure centre where Ben does karate and did a 30 minute swim while he trained. Once he finished, we went home and had a very quick tidy around the house while we awaited our guests.

This weekend our friends the Fisher's came to visit. It's been ages since we've seen them, so it was great to catch up on. We had a wonderful night chatting and a smidgen of alcohol may have been consumed. I had a very productive night - more on that soon.

Saturday was an odd kind of a day. The boys went out to gather wood for our worryingly empty wood store.We ladies (and Ben bless his heart) mooched about the house, psyched ourselves up for a brief jolly around town before heading to the supermarket for something to eat for dinner. Once we collected supplies we then retired back to the house to start the roast dinner. The Fisher girls where rather surprised to find me with my hand firmly inserted up a chicken's backside (well, in actual fact I was loosening the skin over the breast, but that doesn't sound nearly as funny). Chicken suitably stuffed and prepared, it was unceremoniously dumped in the oven while we went to play in the pool.

Now at this point, I should clarify that when I take kids to the pool for a fun session, it is not my habit to get wet. To me the pool is for swimming in not playing in.  I swim up and down for an hour or so and get out. The idea of playing about in the pool is alien to me.  When I suggested taking the Fisher females to the pool I had forgotten that the junior-most Fisher is only 6 and therefore needs to be accompanied in the water. I gave serious thought to leaving Mrs Fisher in the water with her two girls and Ben while I sat in the spectators area and knitted.

REALLY - serious thought!!!

But in the end I decided that it wouldn't have been the most charitable plan to leave them all to it in the water while I chilled on a bench with a brew and a knitting project.

So I got wet. To my delight and the kids' disgust the inflatable which is usually present in the fun session was broken so there was less splashing and buggering about. The pool was still busy though. Ben and Mollie (the eldest Fisher child and a confident swimmer) did their own thing, racing, diving and generally having a whole lot of fun. Mrs Fisher, Sophie (the 6 year old) and I all hung out together. Sophie is not as confident a swimmer as her big sister, but she did really well swimming her first 50 metres! Go Soph!!!

At the end of a surprisingly quick hour we got out and the kids had a slushie each to refill their sugar tanks while Mrs Fisher and I had that brew I'd been fantasizing about.

Despite my reticence I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Once home preparations for dinner where in full swing and all went well. The evening was dedicated to wine and helping Mrs Fisher get to grips with crochet.  She is a fellow leftie and had struggled to conquer crochet in a predominately right-handed world.

She did fantastically! I think she's set to crack on by herself. She made a good start on a granny square and has a crocheted teddy bear in her sights.  I wish her all the luck in the world. Hopefully next time I see her that teddy bear will have many crocheted friends.

Feeling the love -

This week has been all about the crochet.  My knitting and spinning projects have been mostly ignored.

The wheel has had a couple of rotations. My socks have had a couple of needles filled.  My shawls have looked longingly from their bags at the outside world, desperate to feel the love.

My attention has been almost exclusively aimed at my sock yarn blanket. On Friday night it was finished.  I say Friday night, but in actual fact it was silly o'clock on Saturday morning when the end got woven in.

By later on Saturday morning the kids where already fighting over who was going to snuggle under it! I mean, there is no shortage of crochet blankets in this house! But the newest one is the favourite.

Saturday I faffed.  I faffed on my sock club socks, I faffed with my shawls (both of them!!) I even spun some. But my focus was on Mrs Fisher's crochet hook, so not a huge lot was achieved.

Today is Sunday.  I have mainly been doing the housework I should have done over the last couple of weeks. In between loads of washing I've been flitting over many of my projects.  I even felt my fingers twitching towards the bag which contains my Hana Hou remains!! Don't hold your breath, but it may get cast on again soon.

On the horizon -

Next week is a week to survive.  I am on holiday the week after, so I'm definitely on the countdown.  So is Ben bless him, it's half term while I'm off. To start the holiday we'll be heading down to my mum and dad's house for their 40th wedding anniversary.  After that, I'm not sure what we'll get up to. I can assure you that I should be catching up on the month's worth of housework I've been ignoring over the last few weeks (I'm a social butterfly! What can I say?)
However, I'll probably take Ben somewhere for a couple of days.  We'll see.

On the crafting front, it'll be a minor miracle for anything to get finished any time soon.  I'd love to get chart 3 finished on the In Dreams shawl.  I've made some progress on Leftie,wouldn't it be great to cast that off!?
Wouldn't it be a minor miracle to get a sock or two finished!

We'll see

Hopefully it's going to be a really short week, followed by a really restful one!

Fingers crossed!

Have a great week guys!

Ellen x

Monday, 13 October 2014

A blog post of Two Halves

Last weekend I wrote to you. Honest, I did!!!!

I saved it and neglected to press the publish button! 

There are days I worry! ;-)

So, here are last week's thoughts - 

Ailments are like buses-

You're waiting at the bus stop for ages, then two come along together.

My back continues to annoy me, then WHAPPOW!!! I get slammed with Ben's back to school cold! 

Where's the justice in that?!?

I'm not playing this game anymore!!

On the life from I have nothing to report. The boys are settling into the school routine and all is well. At work, the flu vaccine season has started and I've been stabbing anyone who'll sit still long enough ;-)

Feeling the love- 

Do you remember my cunning plans from last week? Finish Hapa and finish at least one of my opal socks? 

I've achieved neither! 

It's not that I haven't been knitting. I have. But not on those projects. 

Mostly this week, I have been working on the In Dreams shawl. It's a thing of beauty. I'm approaching the halfway mark on chart 3 of 9. The beading is time consuming, and given that it happens on what on other shawls would be the rest row, it makes for slow progress.  

Despite this though I LOVE it! In all fairness, I'd make faster progress if I didn't stop every couple of rows to admire my work!! 

I have worked on Hapa mind you. I'm now on the final stripe before the split. On reflection, I think I should finish it before I work any more on In Dreams. 

Then of course there's my sock club. Those poor Scalloped Tulip socks haven't even made it out of the bag this week! Bearing in mind Wednesday is the start of October, I should get motoring on them. 

So this week's blog is short and sweet, sorry about that guys, but virus DNA is affecting my crafty mojo and all I want to do is take a couple of paracetamol and go back to bed!

On the horizon - 

I'd really like to say that I'll put In Dreams down and work on Hapa and my socks. 

I'm not sure I can though! 

It's such a lovely project. 

Who knows. Maybe when you come back next week I might surprise you all with an FO. Maybe even a HO!!

But don't hold your breath!

Shamed into writing - 

This last week saw me conquer that evil virus. Not without taking casualties mind you. I'm still plagued by a cough. But I'm better. So I'm not complaining. 

Today during my lunch break I caught up with Mel over in North Carolina. I'm sure I've mentioned her new blog before, but just to remind you, Mel is no longer a single handed knitter and to reflect this she's focusing on her new blog WithMelDotCom. Mel mentioned my blog and I thought that I'd better write something quickly!!  

Thank you Mel for making me get my finger out and write again!! 

So onto the nitty gritty. 

This past week has been busy. Flu vaccinations continue apace. This weekend we joined friends for a jolly to Blackpool. For those not in the know, every autumn Blackpool puts on an illumination show down the promenade. It's a must visit at least once in your life. Let's just say that you can see all life there! Blackpool is something of a Mecca for hen and stag weekends. My eyes were opened I can tell you! 

Moving swiftly on!! 

We went to the Sealife centre, we went up Blackpool tower, watched the sun set in the Tower's coffee shop and looked at the Illuminations from the tram. 

While sipping my tea I chatted with a lovely old chap. He was also admiring the view, whiling away some time until he could enter the Ballroom. He had travelled all the way up from Cornwall to fulfil his dream of dancing in the Tower Ballroom. I hope he had a wonderful evening. 

While we ambled down the beach I took the time to google local yarn shops. Funnily enough, I found one! My good friend Steph and I couldn't resist. So with the aid of google maps we found Johnson's Wool & Needlework. An Aladdin's cave of yarn, buttons, ribbons, fabric and all things you could wish for. It's run by the lovely Suzanne Johnson. Her passion for her craft is obvious. Not only that though, she has a passion for her town. She's heading up a team of shop owners who offer niche poducts and services. Not to miss out we also visited a shop selling diecast models (Matthew bought an airfix Landrover kit) and a rather fabulous comic shop (Ben bought a Walking Dead Comic).

Me? What did I buy? Well restraint is my middle name as you all know! I bought 3 rather lovely balls of cotton and a tatting pattern. Once I got back to our room on Saturday night I soon realised that my tatting knowledge is not nearly good enough to be able to read a pattern. 

Note to self - invest in a learn yerself tatting book ;-) or bob down to Zena 's for a quick lesson. 

It is compulsory to buy rock in Blackpool. The North is the home of rock in my opinion. Rock must only be pink, mint flavoured and contain the name of the place you're visiting. No other flavours or colours or seniments can be tolerated!  There's a gent who uses my pharmacy. I'm sure he won't mind me telling you he's a grumpy old git with a heart of gold. He walks past my counter on his way to his doctor and shouts "Morning Ladies" regardless of the hour. He gives me dogs abuse and expects nothing less in return. Whenever I have time off he complains bitterly that I didn't buy him a stick of rock. Today I gave him a stick of rock and told him to get his laughing gear around it and quieten down..... I love the bones of him really ;-)

We left Blackpool early on Sunday morning because Ben had a karate competition. I must thank Hazel of Le Papillon Hotel for getting up at such a horrible hour to see us off with bacon butties. 

This was the first competition I'd been to where the whole club was participating. Before it had only been the youngsters. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the brown and black belts spar. The fights were astounding to watch. 

Before we get onto the knitting, here is a quick montage of the weekend. I hope you enjoy it

Feeling the love - 

In the first half of the blog, written a little while ago now, I wanted to finish Hapa. I did finish it but I ran out of yarn. So the split at the bottom of the shawl isn't nearly as long as it should be, but I love it. It's kept me snug and warm this past weekend. Winter is getting a grip on Cumbria and wooly handmades are becoming essential once more.

Huge apologies to Stephanie of Space Cadet Creations for the rubbish "bush" background!! In my defense I took this photo before I read your blog! - a must read by the way.

I have a HO too. I finished the first of my yarn club socks. 

If you recall I'm making my Scalloped Tulip socks. I knit the first one as per my original pattern. I do like it but I felt the urge to tweak it on the second sock. This time I'm adding  a slipped stitch detail to the central stitch. I'll see how I like it in the finished sock and update the pattern. So far, though, I'm liking it and the slipped stitch isn't proving to be a chore to work.

I'm not sure you can really see the difference in this picture, but from where I'm sitting it looks good - honest. 
The love has been liberally spread around over the past few weeks, so I thought I'd do a quick recap. 

My sock yarn blanket is perilously close to being finished. A long time ago I made 3 huge magic knotted balls of sock yarn. I'm onto my last one, and when it's run out I'm calling this project finished. It's plenty big enough to snuggle under while I work on it. There's no photo as it's currently living in my office and it's my lunchtime project at the moment. 

Once I cast Hapa off if felt the urge to work lace. So this week, I've added a few rows to both the Sun Ray shawl and the In Dreams shawl. 

Sun Ray is now almost halfway done. I'm at 800 stitches per round, so progress is slow but still very satisfying.

 As always lace looks like nothing on earth until it's blocked and sadly it's crushed onto a woefully short needle. 

In dreams is also progressing nicely. 

It's so pretty! I just want to look at it! The beading is slow going, but I do enjoy it. I'm loving watching the pattern emerge. A stunning creation 

Because I was travelling I decided to cast on a vanilla sock. I cast on using Opal Sweet and spicy 2 in the Star Anise Colourway. I didn't make huge progress, but it did serve its purpose keeping my hands busy while leaving my brain to socialise. 

Whenu has seen some action too over the last couple of weeks. She's had the second half of the Nunoco Jewel Bug Batts on her for months now. 
I chain plied it to preserve the colours and got a heavy fingering weight yarn measuring 170 yards out of the 50g batt. It's still waiting to be washed and thwacked, I'm hoping it helps it chill out a bit because right now, it's got a full twist worth of energy when you hold up the skein. 

The fact I've already agreed to give up the In Dreams shawl has been playing on my mind. I've been paying close attention to the Ravelry threads in my group and there are some stunning projects on the go. Some folk are spinning for their shawl!  This got me to thinking. What if I could spin for this shawl too? To that end I've put some BFL/silk I dyed ages ago on the wheel. I'm checking my consistency regularly. I'm going to spin the 100g straight through and then ply it with another nunoco product. This time it's top. It's a stunning blend of merino,silk and firestar in the Cobweb colour way 

I'm excited by the contrast in colour. I'm hoping that it will barber pole nicely and I'll get some lovely colours shifting throughout the piece. 

On the horizon - 

Well it seems that my WIP numbers continue to increase despite my best efforts!! Next week I'll probably focus on a couple of my projects in an effort to have progress to show you next weekend. 

Oh, by the way! My social butterfly status continues as we have guests next weekend. I'll write to goy as soon as I can. 

Have a great week.  

Ellen x 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

I Can't Think of a Good Title, So This Will Have To Do!!

Good morning good people 

How the devil are you?

It's a beautiful day in Cumbria. The sun is shining and the sky is a gorgeous blue. I look out of my window and I can see fog burning off the Eden Valley below me. The birds are singing their hearts out and I feel all is well. 

Last week when I wrote to you I had just been signed off work. I felt posistive that some rest would sort it out and all would be well. 

How wrong I was. 

On Sunday I decided to cheer myself up and dye my hair. I was so careful washing the dye out. Taking extra care with my back. I felt chuffed with the colour and leaned forward to wrap a towel around my hair and BANG!!!! Something went. Big time. 

I stood there and didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It was so ridiculous. 

The consequence of this was that I spent the week trying to recover from the excruciating back pain I caused on Sunday rather than the just plain bad back pain I had on Thursday. This means that when I went back to work on Friday I actually had more pain than when I went off the week before. 

"Nuts" thought Ellen. 

I've given up on the painkillers as they make me sick before I can take enough to help with the pain. 

So essentially I'm no further forward. But the physiotherapist and doctors agree it's not sciatic so I don't qualify for a scan. Basically I'm none the wiser and neither are they. 

So I get on with it. There are folk out there worse off than me. Enough about the back then. 

But thank you for your well wishes over the past few days, they were greatly appreciated. 

Feeling the Love - 

You'd think that a week off work would mean I have lots of progress to show you today. Bless your heart 😉

The consequences of taking the painkillers was a very fuzzy brain which was unable to focus on anything for a decent amount of time. 

I had it in my head that I wanted to finish Hapa. I'm making the largest size and my erratic counting of garter rows means that my shaw is likely to turn out somewhat larger than Mel planned. I have plenty of yardage so I've no worries about running out of yarn. 

I kept slogging away at it and I'm very close to the end. I've got the last couple of stripes to do before the split. I think that I may have gartered myself out. I was struggling with the fact that there were just too many stitches on my cable. I've swapped to a 150cm cable now and it's less crushed and I'm hoping that by next week it should be done. Fingers crossed 

Monday  was the cast on for my "Knitstostaysane Sock Club".  I may be a little obsessed with my new sock!  I'm using Opal sock yarn, a yarn with blues and pinks from the Little Prince range. 😍 and I'm knitting my Scalloped Tulip Socks - a free pattern on Ravelry 
I'm sorry but I may have spammed Instagram a little with progress pictures!! 

What can I say?! It's pretty!! 

The only other project to see any action this week is my 'I Dream of the Sea' shawl. What you see here is my second attempt. I started using 3.25mm needles as instructed in the pattern, knit until the beading was supposed to start and pinned it out. 

I'm using recycled yarn from a commercial sweater and I'd put it at a cobweb weight. Consequently the sitches looked too wispy, too pulled out of shape when I pinned the work out. I asked the girls in the Evenstar Ravelry group for their opinion and in the end I ripped back and started again with 3mm needles. I'm much happier now. 

You probably won't see this project often, only when I reach milestones. I've no plans for finishing it any time soon. I don't want it to become a chore. It's far too much work to get sick of it and let it hibernate. 

On the Horizon - 

I'm hoping to finish Hapa this week. 

I'll definitely finish one sock. It would be great to finish the pair, but honestly it's unlikely 

I'll work some rows on the In Dreams shawl 

I really need to cast on another sample and re-write my new shawl pattern. 

Have a great week guys 

Ellen x 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

A New Slice of Crazy Pie

Good morning folks

For the first time in 12 years I have been signed off work. I'm gutted! My back has been bothering me for ages now, and finally I've given in to peer pressure and gone to the doctor. She gave me some pain killers and told be to go home for a week.

So, here I am, lying on my bed a little bit puddled but feeling better.

Let me catch you all up on the last couple of weeks.

Ben's start at new school has gone well. He's happy as a sand boy and doing great. He's loving his new school, all the new subjects he is taking and is thriving. I'm still having kittens each day, but he's taken the whole thing in his stride and seems frankly confused by my worry! That's the way to be though, yes?

Last weekend was our local Village Show in Askham. For the first time ever I decided to enter. I put 4 entries into the Handicrafts section and one into the Photography section. Matthew entered too. He put in a turned box he'd made.

Considering it was our first time out, we did rather well!

Matthew got a first for his box, and I got 3 firsts and 2 seconds. I'm really chuffed.  I'm delighted for Matthew, he always sees the faults in his work. No one else can see these faults, but he's never totally happy. It was lovely to be able to prove to him that his work is great! Someone completely neutral thought his handiwork was excellent.

I'm already planning next year's entries. My sensible brain tells me that  there is little point seeing as how I've no idea what the categories will be next year, but my competitive brain says "Get crafting!"

In other news, tomorrow Sunday 14th September is the next grand cast on in the Evenstar KAL group on Ravelry. We're all casting on In Dreams by Susan Pandorf. Feel free to join us in a huge slice of crazy pie! I've completed the swatch ready for tomorrow and I'm really happy with the bead and yarn combination. When the beads arrived I was worried about how blue they were. But when they're threaded on the yarn they look great. I can't wait to cast on. 

Feeling the love -

Another slice of crazy pie was started on Monday this week. A friend tagged me in a photo on facebook.

It seemed that I just had to 'knit' this for her husband. After I finished ranting about the differences between crochet and knitting I found the pattern and mailed it to her (it's free on Rav, so don't panic about copyright infringement!).

However, the more I thought of it, the less I could resist the gravitational pull of that lump of crochet! (That's no planet!!!) Before I knew it I had some sock wool and a hook in my hand and a Death Star was under construction!! The simplicity of the pattern was ideal seeing as how the pain radiating down my legs was quite distracting and I just couldn't concentrate on my other projects!

I finished it on Friday. I don't think it looks too much like one of those Pinterest fails you see, but I think I'll need some lighter grey yarn for the stitch details next time. It was fun to make and Ben quickly decided it was his! I have, however, discovered that lots of folk need crocheted Death Stars in their lives so I now have a waiting list for them! Saints preserve us!!!

The enforced inactivity has made me think long and hard about my WIP list. I really need to clear the decks somewhat so I also finished Ben's socks. I had been hovering around the heel turn for ages and seeing as how he wanted them to be ankle socks, they were so close to being done it was silly to leave them any longer. Besides which, the rate Ben's growing at the moment, he'd be out of them before he got to wear them!!
It's an awful photo, sorry, but to be honest I just couldn't be faffed! How bad is that? My artistic mojo seems to be being squished by painkillers. Harrumph. 

The next WIP on my hit list is a project I haven't even told you about!! It's a great pattern by my good friend MSkiKnits. This woman's talent knows no bounds. I love this shawl. It's called Hapa and it's a lovely blend of two yarns. The colours are combined in a way completely new to me, so there's no carrying yarn up the sides of the piece, no floats, and no ends to weave in. Joy of Joys!!

I'm using  2 hand spun yarns that I spun ages ago. They are by no means perfect - thick and thin, over and underspun, erratically plied. They really don't have much going for them! Someone once said you should use your hand spun quickly, or else as you get better you won't want to use it because you'll only see it's faults.
How right that person was! As I'm using these yarns I'm seeing nothing but their flaws; but despite this, I love how they're knitting up. The crispy, overspun areas seem to be softened in the fabric; the thick and thin areas add character to the rustic garter stitch pattern. I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

What amuses me no end is the fact that despite me being a reasonably accomplished knitter, I still can't accurately count garter stitch rows!!! I kid you not! I actually had to watch a YouTube video! Any how, after that confession, I'd say that I'm probably about a quarter of my way through the knit. I think it'll become my mindless knitting. The soothing regularity of the garter stitch may become my salvation in the weeks and months to come as my other lace projects progress.

I have also worked on the Sunray Shawl. I've been faffing around with needles for ages. I had been using brass finished Addi needles. I love my Addi's but I was finding the brass finish too 'grippy. I like my lace stitches to slip over the needles. I was also finding that the 100cm cable was just too short now that I'm over 600 stitches in the round. I decided to go back to my Knit Pro interchangeables. Now, I now the wooden tips are more grippy than the brass, but I have a 150cm cable for them and I thought that some of my problems stemmed from the fact my stitches where becoming crossed over as they were crushed on the cable. I transfered the stitches over on a rest row and then tried to knit the next pattern row. Disaster!!! the Knit Pro interchangeables are just rubbish for lace! The join where the needle tip meets the cable can best be described as a canyon where lace stitches fall in never to be seen again! I'm now slogging my way through this round and waiting for a new needle to arrive in the post - another Addi but this time with a 150cm cable and nickle finished tips. I'm hoping that this will solve my problem.

When I decided I needed a longer cabled needle, I of course went shopping. I do like to spend my money locally whenever possible, but my LYS owner (bless her cotton socks) doesn't like knitting on circular needles so she doesn't stock many and those she does stock are Pony (bleugh!!!) so the internet was the way forward.  I usually shop at either Deramores or LoveKnitting, but neither had what I was looking for. I searched Addi on Google and came up with Addineedles.co.uk. WOW!!! All the Addi needles you could every desire are there! I was very restrained and just got the one I needed, not the umpteen I wanted!!
So now, with some good luck and a following wind, I should be able to make good progress.

On the horizon -

The big deal is, of course, the In Dreams cast on tomorrow. There is no time pressures in this KAL, so I'll probably just keep you posted with my progress as and when I reach milestones.

I have come to a decision - I have lots of sock yarn..... I know!!! Shocker!!!!

It sits in a large supermarket shopping bag. Mostly I've no idea what I want to do with it. I bought it because I liked the colour, or the feel or (coughs) the smell!

Well, I've made a decision. I've made my own sock club. This is nothing new, I've read about it or heard about it on other blogs. I pulled out 12 random skeins of yarn. Placed them in bags marked 1-12 and used a random number generator to decide the order 'they arrive'.

The first yarn I'm using is Opal in the Little Prince series. It's a blend of blues and pinks and it's just lovely. The great thing about pulling out all my yarn is that I've found things I'd forgotten I had!
The other thing I decided to do for my sock yarn club is to knit patterned socks. I've been knitting mindless vanilla socks for ages. I love the portability of the vanilla sock, but I think I'm falling into a rut with them.

So my sock yarn club works as follows - I will use the yarn in order that my random number generator dictated. I will search Ravelry for pattern ideas based on what others have made with the yarn. I will commit to using at least one club yarn a month. I will NOT buy sock yarn until I've used up these 12 skeins

This way I've got a year to knit 12 pairs of socks and use 12 skeins of yarn which would otherwise be languishing in my stash. I'll probably have the odd pair of vanilla socks on the needles too over the coming months - sometimes vanilla is the only way forward after all!

I'm really hoping I can get the last of the Jewel Bug fibre off my wheel in the next week. It's been languishing there far too long.

So, until next week.

Have a good one

Ellen x

Sunday, 31 August 2014

New starts

Good morning. 

Happy Labour Day weekend to you all in the States. 

Happy Sunday to those of us who aren't! :-)

As the title suggests I'm looking forward to new starts this week. 

My baby (11 years old, but he'll always be my baby) starts secondary school on Wednesday. I'm a nervous wreck. He's completely nonplus. 

September also sees the start of a new epic KAL over in my Evenstar group on Ravelry. There's a thread entitled 'The consequence of Evenstar' I encourage you to check it out. We will be casting on In Dreams, another of Susan Pandorf's stunning patterns. This one is a half pi shawl with a measly 5000 beads. 

Yes, that's right! FIVE THOUSAND BEADS!!! No pre-stringing here, each one is placed individually. I'm not sure if this pattern will break me, but I'm going to thoroughly enjoy finding out!

As with the Evenstar KAL, there are no time pressures here. If you complete the pattern in a week (?!?!?) or a year that's great. The group is there to motivate, inspire and listen to your howls of frustration. 

Why don't you join us for a little slice of crazy pie this autumn?

Last weekend was a bank holiday weekend here in England. We had good friends come and stay with us. They have a whippet called Floyd and while we walked our pooches down the lane our boys cycled. It seems that while the boys cycled they were also searching in the hedgerows. 

They found these three ma-hoo-sive mushrooms!

Which I promptly fried up for dinner! They were gorgeous. So fresh and mushroomy. I know it sounds daft, but the mushrooms you buy in the supermarket don't really taste of much. But these suckers taste divine!!

Feeling the love- 

Since I last wrote to you I've finished my It's All xraymd's fault socks. 

I'm sorry for the less than inspirational photo. I know I promised no more sofa shots, but I just realised that I didn't take a glamorous shot, and now they're in the wash!!

I also finished the With Mel shawlette. I was a little worried when I was knitting it that it would be a little small on me. Mel and I are poles apart size-wise! Once I'd cast off I felt a little better about the wingspan of the shawl, but I decided to block it hard too. 

It wraps just nicely over my shoulders, but I think I'll mostly wear it as a scarf
This is how I wear most of my shawlettes. I love how it turned out. I'll be knitting it again I'm sure. Check out WithMelDotCom for the pattern. 

 The Sun Ray shawl has also come out of hibernation this week. It dawned on me that September and the In Dreams KAL was looming. I thought I should clear off as many big WIP's as I can. I've made some progress up chart D. The snag is I spend an inordinate amount of time just gazing at the shawl! I'll knit a row and just look at it for a while! It really is lovely. However, I need to accept it's beauty and crack on with it! I'm no way near half way and looking is not progressing! 

I've also discovered the joys of washi tape..... I know, I know, I'm always last to the party! 

I have astigmatism in both eyes and even with my glasses I sometimes struggle to keep them going the same way (I'm special! I know ;-) ) when I look at complicated charts, sometimes my eyes will wander down to the row below or above. When I'm using the iPad and PDFexpert I can highlight the row I'm on, or enlarge the image so that I can only see the row I'm working on. This pattern is from a hard copy book though. I photocopied the pattern and I've been crossing off the rows as I knit, but sometimes I still wander off. Now I've put a piece of washi tape on the pattern though, I'm finding it much easier. Can't find washi tape? Well a low tack masking tape from the DIY store will do just as well and no doubt be a damn site cheaper too! 

I've worked some on Ben's socks, but not a whole lot. 

I've worked on that blasted sock yarn blanket. That ball just refuses to get smaller!  The only consolation is that it's now plenty big enough to snuggle under while I work on it. The weather has turned positively autumnal this last week. Dewy mornings and a distinct chill in the air. We've had the fire lit on more than one occasion. 

I've spun too this week, but again, I've not made a huge amount of progress. 

It's been one of those weeks when I've dabbled at lots of things and got nothing to show for my efforts! 

Hey ho

On the horizon - 

I'll be dabbling again I imagine! I could really do with winding my In Dreams yarn into a cake and swatching. Cast on is the 14th of September, so I've got a while yet. 

I'm hoping and praying that Ben survives his first days at big school. This is a huge leap for him and I'm sure he'll have a great time. I'm such a worry wort

Have a lovely week guys

Ellen x 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Can you spare a minute?

If you wouldn't mind, would you please read this blog post:


It's from my good friend Mel.

It's an emotional post, it made me well up while I was in work (that'll teach me to sneakily read blog posts at work :-&)

If you can, and you want to please help.

Spread the love 

Thank you
Ellen x

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Only Lefties are in their Right Minds

Happy Sunday folks!

I last wrote to you at the very beginning of my holidays, and here I am already at the end of them! I'm not quite sure where those 14 days went, but this time tomorrow I'll be knee deep in work, the memories of the last two weeks fading fast! ;-)

It has been a busy two weeks, I've lots to tell you about!

I've ticked many things of my to do list.  Sadly most of them are housework related and therefore far too boring to tell you about. Suffice to say, my cream carpet was returned to it's original glory for all of a week, now, sadly there are dirty marks on it again from a welding project brought into the house by the other half - sigh.

We went to a local exhibition centre called Rheged. There are a few shops there selling Cumbrian wares. The exhibition hall changes frequently. At the moment there is a Lego exhibition on by Warren Elsmore.

The Olympic Park in London

The Trevi Fountain in Rome

It was quite a sight to see - buildings from around the world made of Lego. The centre piece was St Pancras Station. Stunning. 

 My only complaint was that it wasn't very inspirationally displayed. St Pancras Station sat in the middle of the room with the other buildings under glass set on plinths around the room. It felt like they'd been plonked there. The room wasn't decorated, there was no flow, odd. There was, however, a couple of tables in the entrance to the exhibition where children could build their own Lego sculptures. Over all it was ok, thankfully it only cost us £1.50 each. If it had been any more, I'd have been a tad miffed.

There has been much crafting this week, so let's get to it!

As promised last time, here's a photo of my completed fulled single yarn. I'm really rather happy with it, but lord knows what it'll become.

Feeling the Love -

What a fortnight it's been. I've made progress left, right and centre, but there has been only one FO! My Enforced Monogamy socks are done. All hail sport weight socks I say!

There is quite a lot of yarn left over. I think that together with my other Regia 6 ply, it may make a rather cute stuffie!

OOOH! OOOH! OOOH! I lied!!! I have another FO!!!!!!

I'm really rather pleased with myself! I made a skirt!!!! I know!! Get me!?!?
(sorry for all of the exclamation marks, but I'm really chuffed!!)(sorry again)

This is one of my Camp Aloha Friends projects. I'm delighted with the results.
It's an A-line skirt with an invisible zip. It fits a treat. I'm so happy with it I might even be tempted to try my hand with another project sooner rather than later.

Definitely done with the FO's now. Promise.

I do have a couple of HO's though. Both Ben's second socks and my It's All Xraymd's fault socks have felt significant love. Ben's second sock is still a toe, but my second Thanks sock is racing down towards the toe.

The Thanks socks have been an interesting knit. I'm knitting along with Andrea and I'm helping her wrestle with the chart aspect of the pattern. I'm having to knit and conciously think about what I'm doing. Rather than blindly following the instructions, I'm thinking about what I'm doing and why, how can I best describe this in plain language to someone who's never knitted from a chart before. It's been an eye opener and seeing as how I have a pattern out at test knitters now, I'm thinking about how best I can change the instructions to be more clear. Stand by! In an effort to describe the sock to those who've never knitted it before I made a quick YouTube video.

In other Camp Aloha Friends news, a little while ago I made paper beads with using a tutorial from Zena. I knew I wanted to make stitch markers with them, it just took me a while. So Friday I got out my equipment and had a play.

Now, our Camp Director, Mel, wanted us to take a step in her shoes. She wanted to think about what it is to teach or coach someone. She asked us to put together a tutorial, she told us to think about anything, any task, and work out a way to present the information to someone else. "Stretch yourself" was her only guidance. So, I thought that making our beads into stitch markers would be a nice tutorial. I set up the camera and started. Sadly, however, I neglected to factor in the disruption two 11 year old children can have on your plans! It took many takes, and in the end I settled for the best of a bad bunch! The end result sees my hands wander out of frame often, but you can't hear the kids hollering and having fun, so it's the lesser of two evils!

It's been a fortnight filled with helping. At knit night a couple of weeks ago, one of the ladies came in wearing a Leftie by Martina Bhem. Much cooing over it ensued and Karen decided she must make one! It is, after all, an excellent way to use up all of those sock yarn scraps. Karen got stuck! She emailed me for help with the pattern. So, I brought up the pattern on my ipad one morning, got two balls of sock yarn that hadn't been put away yet (*coughs*) and cast on. I followed the pattern past the first leaf, making notes as I did to clarify the pattern instructions and emailed them to Karen and ripped out the swatch I was playing with. Karen informed me she is flying with the pattern now. I was left thinking of all the colour and yarn combinations that Leftie would look good in. I was reminded of the yarn I used to make Inspira and Mara's Mitts. How lovely would the body of the shawl look in that dark fading black colour of my Inspira? And those leaves would look great in Mara's yarn. Hmmm, I thought. All of my sock yarn scraps have been made into gigantic magic cakes for my sock so new yarn may have to be purchased (*coughs* again). A quick trip into town saw me return with a black ball of Jawoll Magic and a gorgeous 50g ball of bright rainbow happiness that I promptly lost the tag of! Both are singles, and are knitting up lovely. I'm happy with the results, but picking up wraps when your yarn is a single who's sole purpose in life is to split and cause probems has proved tricky! But I'm inspired to keep on knitting, both Zena (littleyellowuke on rav, instagram and twitter) and Deb of the World of Imagination blog are also knitting it and their progress photos are inspirational.

I'm loving how the leaves are slowly changing colour. I'm also weaving in my ends as I go. The idea of leaving them all to the last minute fills me with dread.

I've spent a great deal of time on my sock yarn blanket. I'm about halfway through one of those giant magic cakes I mentioned earlier. I've got another two made and I'm thinking that when these are finished, I'm going to call the blanket done.

Since I last wrote, Mel of the Single Handed Knits blog and video podcast has had a revelation. She's moving away from that blog and has started another. With Mel Dot com is a thing of beauty. The photography is nothing short of stunning and, as always, Mel writes in a wonderfully inspirational way.To celebrate her new blog, she's designed a lovely shawlette. She has been giving the instructions for the pattern in weekly instalments. I did some stash diving and came up with a ball of Opal Say it with Flowers. I'd scored it a while back on ebay for a song, but didn't really know what I'd do with it. It's a hand dyed effect yarn with red and blue mixing in the middle to make shades of purple. I wasn't sure how it would knit up in Mel's pattern Menehune. It's knit with an applied edging and I was concerned that I'd end up with odd striping as I knit that edging. As it stands, I'm really happy with my progress. Here I am, Sunday afternoon, and I'm already waiting for the next set of instructions just hours after Mel released this week's video.

On the Horizon -

I'm hoping to at least finish my Thanks socks this week, I hope to make progress on Ben's socks too.
Mel has thrown another WIP-shaped spanner in the works! Tomorrow sees her release another pattern. Hapa is another garter stitch shawl with fabulous colour work. I've caked my yarn ready.

I'm using two skeins of hand spun. The blue is spun from BFL batts I bought at Woolclip a while back. The red is Merino from Forest Fibres.

So between going back to work and having new shawl goodness to work on, I'm not sure that my existing WIP's will see much action!

Have a great week,
See ya!
Ellen x

P.S. This week's photography is courtesy of Ben. He wanted to help. I think he did a good job! naks Ben x Love ya!! ;-)