Sunday, 27 April 2014

I blinked and missed it!

Ok, where did my week go? I know I had nearly a whole week off, but it seems to have passed me by.

I had plans for that week! And poof! It vanished and I was back to work quicker than a quick thing on a very quick day!!!!

In all honesty I did get stuff done. My list of things to do in last Sunday's entry did have some things ticked off. I cleaned my house from top to bottom (although, looking at it now, you'd question that! Men!) I spun some and knit quite a bit. The sewing machine, however, didn't move from it's spot on my lounge floor. 

Ben had a great couple of days with his friends. It was so lovely to go outside and find the three of them on my back decking whittling sticks. Don't get me wrong, they did spend a significant amount of time looking at TV screens eliminating vast numbers of aliens etc! It's good that they still enjoy going out to play though, you know, like when we were kids?

Sadly though the flying trip didn't come off. The weather on Tuesday was awful. We had low cloud, gusty winds and persistent, big, fat rain. All of which do not get on well with light aircraft. Dad has promised Ben a flight in the summer. I'm off for a fortnight in August, so we should have plenty of opportunity to get up. 

You may have noticed a blip in the blogging schedule this week. I bit the bullet and entered Deramores' blog competition. I thought about it last year, but I pontificated too long and missed the cut off date. I thoroughly enjoyed writing that entry. Thinking about a specific theme was both challenging and rewarding. I'm thinking that I'll try to make an odd entry every now and then that is specific to one thought. Following my week in craft must sometimes be dull yes? I live my life and sometimes find it dull, let alone reading about it!! 

I was so excited to see that my blog is top of the list on Deramores website! I'm sure this is just because I was one of the first to enter, but still it gives me a warm, fluffy feeling inside because I'm silly like that. 

To all the folk who have found me through Deramores - welcome! 

Feeling the love - 

Considering the fact I haven't been at work for the majority of this week, I feel I haven't achieved much on the crafty front. I finished the Dragonwheel shawl at knit night.

Not the most elegant of photos! Something more arty will show up on my project page! 

 I needn't have worried about running out of yarn, I've loads left. I suspect it will become a piece of my sock yarn blanket. I came across a couple of places in the skein where I'd knotted ends together. If you remember, this skein had suffered an epic yarn barf a couple of years ago. Despite my infinite patience in untangling, there had to be sacrifices. When I was sorting the barf I just knotted the ends together. As I knit and came across them I cut out the knot and replaced it with the magic knot. I'm really pleased with the way it turned out. I can't find the knots in the finished piece now. Happy days. 

After casting off the shawl, I'd planned to work on the red onion socks. Sadly, I managed to bring the completed sock with me, rather than the WIP! Eejit! But no matter, I'd brought my logwood BFL to spin too. Ah ha! I thought, I'll spin for the rest of the night. Sandra, however, had other plans! So I spent the rest of the evening making moose antlers. I kid you not!! Sandra is knitting a moose. It's a lovely pattern with WAY too many pieces for my liking, but it is sweet. I'll think on and get the pattern details for the blog next week. Unless Sandra comments below and tells us what it is! ;-)

Speaking of the sock yarn blanket, I may be having a wobble. I'm starting to think that trying to knit these hexagons together may be more work than is fun. I'm thinking that I might rip it out and go for a mitred square blanket instead. What should I do? I've got a hexagon I need to rip out anyway, because I've picked up the stitches incorrectly. Should I rip out the lot? Should I persevere? 


I spun some too. The Nunoco blue jewel bug batt is spinning up a treat. The silk noil isn't making my OCD itch nearly as much as I thought. I'm trying very hard to keep the single as consistent as I can. My aim is to chain ply it, this method of plying accentuates inconsistency something wicked. I'll have to make sure that when I ply, I alter the chain length. I don't want to have 2 plies containing noil in the same chain. I think this would make that area of yarn really bulky compared to the surrounding yarn.

This is not a great picture, but it illustrates the point - here is a length of single I spun thicker than I'd wanted. When I plied it I didn't pay attention to the chain length, so I ended up with a chain which essentially contained a circle of thicker single and I pulled through a thin length of single. When they twisted together, the thicker area is doubled up making a really thick area. The yarn then becomes visibly thinner as I ply 3 thin lengths together. As it was, these inconsistencies were not obvious in the finished piece - all hail garter stitch. It hides a multitude of sins. 

But plying the jewel bug is a while off yet. I'll finish this single, spin the orange jewel bug, then go back and ply the blue one. The key to chain plying is letting your singles rest. As I learned to my cost in the Bah Humbug merino, energised singles make chain plying tricky and I ended up with stray pigtails spun into my yarn! Doh!

I'd clearly had enough of spinning this yarn. What with thick bits, thin bits and pigtails, you'd think I wanted it off the wheel!!

Yesterday was the first Diddy League gala of the season. Diddly League sees 9-11 year olds from different swimming clubs in Cumbria compete. Historically we haven't done very well, but over the last 3 years we've been steadily improving. Yesterday we had our best gala yet. At one point we were second. In the end we came fourth. It was such a shame for the kids. There was less than 10 points between second and fourth in the end. We got disqualified from a couple of swims. If we hadn't been we would have come second. So near yet so far! But we've got a month to work on things, and with a couple of tweaks, I'm sure that second place will be ours next time. 

The gala was in Kendal. It's a good hour on the coach, so needless to say knitting was in order. I managed to get to the heel of the red onion socks and it turned it last night. I'm thinking that I should make quick work of the leg this week. Could there be another FO next week? Here's hoping. 

On the horizon - 

Finishing those blessed red onion socks. 
Spinning the beautiful jewel batts
Working on the peacock shawl - STILL!!! Yes, yes, I know! I say it most weeks!!
Working on Hana Hou - Woolfest is creeping up quickly and I want to wear it!

Hoping you all have a great week! 

Ellen x 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Pass it on!

Once upon a time I was a knitter. I wasn't a very accomplished knitter, but I could cobble a jumper together if the whim took me.

An old friend invited me to her Hen Do. 

Lots of her friends are knitters. We were talking about all things wooly and one of them looked at me incredulously "you aren't on Ravelry?!" I felt I had to remedy this immediately. Knits to Stay Sane was born!

OH! MY! LIFE!!!!!

My eyes where opened to a whole new world of possibility. My knitting took on a new life. The oportunities now available miriad. 

I decided to knit a lace shawl. 

It was a pi shawl based on Elizabeth Zimmerman's formula. This took me so far out of my comfort zone. I learned how to knit in the round, how to read a chart; and, with a little help from a lady called LaLa on YouTube, I learned how to add beads to my knitting with dental floss - get me!

It turns out that finding LaLa (one half of The Knit Girllls) was the turning point in my crafting career. I found podcasts, I learned new skills. I found crochet, spinning and dying. 

I learned how to be brave in my crafting. To take leaps of faith, to trust in my abilities. To accept failure as a step on the path to success. 

I made friends with people I'll never meet. I took part in KAL's and SAL's.  I learned what a KAL and SAL was!

I blogged

One of those special virtual friends passed on a gem of an idea to me and I'd like to pass that on to you too. 

The joy of Journaling

Throughout all this change in my crafting life I wrote down my thoughts and ideas. I was new to the idea of journaling. Lots of folk record their lives on paper, but it's not something I'd ever felt the need to do. Although, with my goldfish memory, I probably should have started years ago! 

I still don't record the details of my life, but the details of my craft are meticulously saved in my journals now. I use my journal to save my progress and thoughts on projects both current and future. How yarn, needle and pattern meld together. I record what I've learned from a project, what I'd change next time. 

I keep swatches, bits of yarn, I note pattern ideas, shapes and textures that take my fancy. I jot down thoughts for blog entries, things I'd like to achieve. 

There's a fairly huge portion of my note taking dedicated to enabling. Yarn other folk have used. Patterns I covet, projects I just have to have in my life. 

I suppose the purpose of this entry is to encourage YOU guys to do the same

R E C O R D!!!!!!!

E N A B L E!!!!!!

I have grown as a person and as a knitter through the enabling of others. I've experienced so many things that I could never imagined just two years ago. 

More than anything I'd like to do the same for you. 

Open your mind, your heart and your eyes to a plethora of possibilities.

SHARE your hopes, your dreams and your knowledge

PASS IT ON! blog entry is my submission to the Deramores Blog Awards 2014. Deramores is the UK’s number one online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies. 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Happy Easter

Today is Easter Sunday. For those of you who celebrate, I hope you have a good day. For those of you who don't, I hope you have a good day too!

This entry is brought to you by a cracking cup of English breakfast tea and a couple of slices of Soreen. I went shopping yesterday and found the Soreen. I had to buy it! I haven't had it in years. If you've not heard of Soreen, it's a malted fruit loaf. Very sticky and gorgeous. Now it comes in pre-sliced loaves which is great. So much less faff. It proudly declares on the packaging that it's low fat. Well, it was until I smeared a generous amount of butter on each slice! Nom nom. 

The week has been nothing short to manic. The days leading up to a bank holiday usually are. Easter seems to be worse than others. I think it's because the dispensary is shut for 4 days on the trot. Patients are convinced the world will stop spinning and disaster will strike!  

Somehow or other I managed to survive the week and now I'm off work until next Friday. My plans for my time off involve some serious house work and some serious crafting. 

Last Friday was Good Friday. It's was also Ben's eleventh birthday. It's taken 11 years for his birthday to fall on Good Friday again. He had a lovely day. We bought him a new digital TV for his bedroom. His Xbox had previously been hooked up to our old TV which was huge and the picture quality wasn't good enough for some of the games he wanted to play. We bought a new digital arial too, so now he can watch TV in his bedroom. I managed to maff up the purchase of the TV though. Matthew had been instructed to look online for a TV and tell me which one to get. He picked a JVC model which was a smart TV with £100 off. Bargain! I managed to buy the next model down though. The price was the same, but it didn't have the smart capability so it won't record. Sadly no once noticed this until the thing was fully installed in Ben's room! Gutted. But Ben isn't, he's as happy as a lark with his new equipment!  

Yesterday I started the epic clean-a-thon. I'll carry on today. I'm hoping that I'll be pretty much done by the end of the day as Ben's having 2 friends over to stay on Monday and Tuesday, so there'll be little time for cleaning. Weather permitting, my dad is going to fly into a local airfield and Ben and I are going to meet him and go for a flight. I think Ben's best mate Charlie will come too. I've said we'll buzz his house!

This is my dad's plane. It's a year or so since Ben and I last flew with him. Ben is much taller now! I still hate having my photo taken though! 

The weather has been beautiful for the past few days. I finally managed to take some decent photos of my mum's Evenstar. It's only taken me a year to get around to it!

One day I really must make one for me too. 

Feeling the love - 

This week I have mostly been spinning. I've worked on the logwood BFL a bit more, but most of my focus had been on the Nunoco watermelon. It's finished! I had an epic spinning day on Friday. I finished the second single and stayed up to stupid o'clock to ply it. I spun each batt into a single ply and hoped that the transition from green to pink would match up. For the most part it did. I ended up with 520yds of a heavy fingering to sport weight. The green part is 160 yds. I'm hoping to make a shawl with it. I'd like the green to be the lacy edge. So far I'm thinking of knitting another Multnomah. If you have a suggestion you think would fit, please comment below.


Next on my wheel was some silk my friend had given me to try and spin up. She's wanting to learn how to spin and wanted to know if the silk she'd bought at Woolfest last year is spin-able. 

It's beautiful stuff. It's very matted, but it still drafts easily enough. I tried it on my wheel to no avail. I backed off all the tension and treddled like billyo but I couldn't get enough twist in.  I'll try using a spindle and see if that helps. It may be I have to admit defeat for a while until I research spinning silk a little more. I'll be reading my Ply magazine cover to cover to see if I can glean any juicy bits of advice. 

So as not to have a naked wheel, I plunged my hand into my fibre stash bag. I came out with another pair of Nunoco batts. This time I'm spinning their Jewel Bug batts. These were a special they made for the PhatFibre boxes. They're stunning. 

How divine are those colours!? The batts contain 21 micron merino, tussah silk and silk noil. So far I've avoided spinning anything with bits in! They offend my OCD! I'm trying to be good though and leave the silk noil where it is. I'm spinning the blue batt first. I zig-zagged the batt and I'm spinning it straight through. My thoughts at the moment are to chain ply each single and retain the gorgeous colour progressions. I'm hoping to spin it much more evenly than the Bah Humbug merino I chain plied last. Once again it's beautiful fibre and I'm loving spinning it. 

I have knitted too. I've been pretty much monogamous working on the Dragonwheel shawl. It's coming along nicely. I've worked 16 teeth so far. Just 20 to go! 

On the horizon - 

This week I'd like to - 
Clean my house
Spin like a whirling dervish
Knit my heart out
Sew (the fabric for my project bag is looking at mope sadly as I write)
Cross stitch. 

Fingers crossed

Have a beautiful week

Ellen x 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Expanding my horizons

I'm late with this post, sorry guys. 

My weekend schedule was a little mucked up because I went to visit my Mum and Dad. It's was my mum's birthday on Saturday so s visit was definitely in order. I had planned to write to you on Sunday morning as usual, but life got in the way. 

As the title suggests I'm going to try to expand my horizons this summer. To that end I've already started!  As I write to you I'm sitting on my mother-in-law's swing seat on her top lawn. From here I can see for miles. 
In the distance on the left you can see Penrith (not very far - only 3 miles). The middle distance is the Eden Valley. And in the very far distance are the Pennines. 

I can hear unteem species of bird singing their hearts out. Most mornings I can hear a woodpecker too. That's a first for me. There is a gentle wind which still has quite a chill to it so I'm sitting well wrapped in an old cardie I knit years ago and my Ullswater shawl by Vicky at Eden cottage yarns. 

I'm not idle while I write. 
Murphy wants me to play ball. 

I have plans when I finish writing too 

From the top I have a whiskey tube. I'm not planning on drinking myself into oblivion honest! It contains my spindle

 The spotty project bag (one of my trusty wash bags!) contains more fibre. I've been spinning this fibre for almost a year now and I'm spinning it on my trusty homemade spindle. The fibre is from the Woolclip. Jan & Cecelia dyed it, it's BFL dyed using logwood. I love how it's spinning up, I wanted to see how thin I could get it which is one of the reasons it's taken so long. Unfortunately one of the consequences of that is the roving has become badly felted. Originally I was drafting straight from the braid, but now I've stripped it so that it's almost like pin roving. It's fluffed back up a treat and the spinning is progressing nicely.

 I can't remember how much fibre I had originally (65g sticks in my head for some reason) but I weighed what I had left to spin the other day and I've got another 29g to go. I was starting to struggle with keeping the single as thin as I'd like now the spindle is getting really full, so I decided to wind it off onto my ball winder. 

My plan is to spin the last 29g, join the two ends and then make a plying ball by pulling from both the inside and the outside of my ball. I'm hoping sincerely that I don't end up with barf, wish me luck folks. You'll hear my sobs of anguish if it all goes wrong! 

Next in the photo is my gorgeous Sew Buttons on Ice Cream project bag. It contains my DragonWheel shawl. It's coming along nicely. I dispair of my early spinning. In places this yarn is nothing short of crispy, in others there's barely enough twist to hold the fibres together. Despite this, however, it's knitting up nicely and I'm happy with how the project is coming out. 

Next is my happy, happy surprise. Once upon a time I re-tweeted a tweet. This tweet came from @MagicalWorldJournals. They were offering the chance to win one of their journals and I did!!! It arrived in the post early last week and I'm so pleased with it. The journals all have a theme. Last Christmas I bought Ben and my friend and avid journaller Mel a TreeMan journal each. The cover has the face of the TreeMan on and inside each page has a lovely sketch of imps and other mystical creatures. As you can see from the photo I received the Unicorn journal. I can honestly say it's beautiful. The artwork inside is stunning

I've decided it's going to be my craft journal. I'm planning on writing in it most days, recording my trials and tribulations with all things crafty. 

I have a funny feeling that there may be some journals appearing under Christmas trees this year. 

Lastly I've just started a cross stitch. It's been a while since I last worked on a cross stitch project. There have been lots of photos from folk on twitter and Instagram of cross stitch projects, so my fingers have been getting itchy. 

I've no time scale for finishing this, but when I do, I'd love to frame it and put it in the lounge. 

Feeling the love - 

As predicted I've mainly been working on the DragonWheel shawl. It's taking some knitting. I thought progress might be slightly quicker, but the stitch count decreases much more slowly than I'd originally thought. It could be a while!! 

Other projects have been languishing untouched. 

On the horizon - 

Will I ever get the red onion socks done?
Or Hana Hou?
Or the watermelon merino?

Who knows I've got so many fish to fry now! 

Have a lovely, sunshiny week. 


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Addendum - notes on a dog walk

It's 9 o'clock and it's dark now. The dog needs a walk and it's my turn. 

I've got my equipment. I'm eternally grateful for it being dark and I'm unlikely to meet anyone. I'm wearing a particularly attractive head torch and I'm armed with my trusty octopi project bag with my red onion socks inside

I don't really need the torch other than to check I haven't dropped a stitch. I can see where I'm going; the half moon is bright tonight despite the odd cloud in the sky. The brightest stars and planets shine out despite the clouds' best efforts. 

As I set off the air is quiet. The birds are asleep and all I hear is the crunch of my feet on the gravel. I can hear Murphy walking with me. His feet are silent but his name tags tinkle on his collar. 
We are joined quickly by 3 of our cats. I can't hear them, but their eyes reflect in my torch light. I know they'll only go so far with us before their territory runs out. 

We turn off the gravel track onto the Tarmac lane which leads through farmland to the nearest road. Even my feet quiet now, and I can hear my needles click. The slightest breath of wind rustles the trees. In the distance I hear a quiet hum of traffic from the motor way. The wind must be from the east tonight. 

I walk down the lane, occasionally stopping to check the dog is still with me. He's easily distracted by smells! I pass a lambing field. The new mums call their lambs to them as they sense me pass. 

As I walk by a laming shed I hear the restless ewes pacing. 

I love spring. 

Restraint. Not my natural state.

Happy Sunday.

Today you find me sitting at a table in Rheged. I'm enjoying a cup of tea and knitting on something I really shouldn't have cast on last night! 

I've not just come here on a whim. Today Rheged are holding their first Knit and Stitch show. There are about 35 vendors here selling yarn, fibre, buttons, patterns and all sorts of shiny goodness. 

I wanted to come and have a look but was definitely NOT in the market for yarn. Or fibre for that matter. But as I write I'm looking at a bag of alpaca fleece. Oops. But, in my defense, this bag only cost me £2.50. My tea cost me £1.95! I'm not sure if that makes the fleece really cheap or the tea really expensive.  

My fleece comes from Mainsforth Alpacas. More specifically this bag contains the fleece from Xavier and Bolero.

They are a gorgeous blond colour. As I drink my tea, I'm thinking about how to spin this. I toyed with washing and combing it, but it's not like there's huge amounts of muck that I can see, and there's no lanolin to remove, so now I'm thinking I'll spin directly from the locks and wash the yarn well afterwards. What do you think? 

There are vendors from near and not so near. Two of our local craft shops are here - Just Sew whom I mentioned last week, and my LYS Shades of Wool. It was great to see them out and about meeting new shoppers. 


Back home now. I've resisted the urge to spin my acquisition. I needed to crack on in the kitchen. I've made ganache puddings, flapjack and cupcakes. Snag is I've run out of icing sugar, so I'll have to nip out soon and remedy the situation!


And I'm back. I've iced my cupcakes and just sat down to write to you. It seems I've acquired 2 more kids since I've been out. The cupcakes are being eyed up. If they last the day, I'll eat my hat!

Feeling the love - 

A little while ago I re-tweeted a competition tweet. I often do this to spread the word. If it wasn't for bad luck, I'd have none at all!  This tweet was from Jen Best of Beaker Buttons. She offered one of her button making kits. And bugger me, didn't my name come out of the hat!?

Jen sent me a lovely package containing the wherewithal to make 3 Dorset buttons. For those who haven't heard of these buttons; they were made from the early 1600's until mechanisation in the mid 19th century wiped out the industry almost completely. Historically the button were made using circles of horn which were stitched around making beautiful patterns 

Jean's kits come with full instructions including a potted history of the Dorset button, 3 brass rings to make shape of your button, a darning needle and a length of hand dyed yarn. 

I was so excited to open the packet and start. The colour of the yarn happened to be SO me - purple and green. The instructions were clear and well laid out, with photo tutorials throughout.

Is it wrong to like the back of the button more than the front?

I can't recommend these kits enough! Check out Jen's website and see for yourself. 

Most of the love this week has been given to my Bah Humbug Piper's Journey. I had an unanticipated day off work on Friday. I had to spend the day on the Paediatrics Ward at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle. I'd taken Ben to the doctors on the Friday morning (I slipped out of work so that I could take him) next thing I knew I was given a note to give the hospital and told to take him straight there. I went back to pharmacy and spent 5 minutes ringing around all the folk I knew who were pharmacists and local to get some cover for me. In the end a good friend stepped up to the plate, I told the girls to close the dispensary until the new pharmacist arrived and I beetled the 30 or so miles up the motorway to the hospital. The upshot of all that was I managed to get the last half of the edging done and cast off while Ben and I waited for tests to be run. 

This is an awful photo! I'll take a decent one once it's blocked! 

Never before have appreciated just how well knitting keeps me sane. I sorted Ben out with a film to keep his mind off the fact he was nil by mouth until his ultrasound, but that left me alone with my
thoughts and worries. It was the longest 7 hours of my life. But my knitting truely kept me sane. The edging had just enough detail to keep my mind focused on the task. I still worried and fretted, but it kept me back from the edge!  Ben's fine, home, and back to his usual self and I am truely grateful to all the staff there for all their care and attention. 

There has been other progress, but nothing exciting. I worked a little on the second single of the watermelon merino from Nunoco. I worked perhaps 6 rows on the Peacock shawl. I worked a couple of rounds on my red onion socks.  Oh, and I may have cast on something new on a whim last night. 

I loved knitting using my handspun. I'm wary of 'wasting' my handspun! I'm still in awe of the yarn I create and loathed to knit it incase I don't do it justice. Using my Bah Humbug yarn was great. I'm only sorry I didn't have the courage to keep knitting a bit longer on the body as I have quite a bit of yarn left. I'm ok with it though, as I've re-caked it and put it in my Six'es blanket bag.

I wanted to keep on with the handspun knitting, so I pulled out a skein I spun up in August 2012 for Mel from the Single handed Knits podcast's Sock the Vote. As it happened I managed to turn my 700yards of a light fingering yarn into the barf from hell and I couldn't face untangling it. 
It took a full week of fiddling and a couple of sacrificial snips to rescue the skein by which time I'd found new yarn to knit my Sock the Vote socks. I decided I needed to rescue this skein from stash and as I put it on the swift I realised this yarn was NEVER going to be socks. In my efforts to spin it quickly I made a complete hash to plying it. Some places are barely plied at all! I could have run it back through the wheel again but frankly I couldn't be faffed. That and in my inexperience I'd knotted it in places! 

So any hoo, I cast on a new shawl. It's called the Dragonwheel shawl by Ursa Major Knits. It's an interesting construction. You cast on a frightening number of stitches and work from the outside in. There are short rows to give shape, and garter, reverse garter and stocking stitches to give definition. 
I'm enjoying how the yarn is working up and I love the pattern. It's written clearly row by row with charts if you'd prefer. There are also great photo tutorials if you need techniques explained. All in all a beautifully written pattern. 

You can see my fourth edition of ply magazine in the background. I haven't read it properly yet, so I'll try to think on and tell you all about it next week. I need to make a decision though. My subscription is up for renewal now. It's been a great year with Ply. The magazine is truely an inspiration. I need to decide whether or not to renew though. I've just discovered Mollie Makes. It's a great all round crafting magazine the issue I have now is number 38 and looks at all things spring and Easter. It's a great combination of sewing, crochet, knitting and other crafty goodness. 

I'm torn. I don't have the budget for both. Do I stick with Ply or do I spread my creative wings with Mollie Makes? 

All advice great fully received. 

On the horizon -

In theory I should finish spinning the merino.
I should finish the red onion socks
I should continue to work on the peacock shawl
I should work on Hana Hou (remember that cardie from ages ago?!)

More than likely, however, I'll wind up knitting on the Dragonwheel shawl!

Have a great week guys

Ellen x