Sunday, 30 March 2014

Silence is golden

Dear 'Readers'

On Friday I sat talking to you while the boys where at karate. Then I uploaded the file. Then I had an epiphany of sorts. I talk to you on Friday, I embed that chat to the blog on Sunday and it doesn't really add anything. The blog is essentially becoming a transcription of the audio file. When I look at how many downloads there are of the audio version compared to how many page views of the blog I'm thinking that the space I'm taking up on line could be better used. 

So from now on, the written word is all powerful.  I'll still add the odd video or audio link if the need arises, but it won't be a regular thing. 

That said how had your week been? Mine has been good. I've had a busy week at work (no surprises there) and a productive week at home. 

I'm starting a new course.

As a pharmacist I have to do Continuous Professional Development. I have to be able to show that I'm keeping up to date with current goings on in the medical world. I love learning new things and clinically I learn constantly. My soft skills often get left behind. I find fluffy, wishy washy things frustrating sometimes. It's all to do with the methodical nature of my mind I think. 

There is an organisation called CPPE who's role is to facilitate CPD for pharmacists. They do many courses and workbooks on all kinds of subjects. They're piloting a management course which involves 4 study days. Normally their courses use e-learning platforms or use workbooks. I thought that participating in this pilot seemed like an interesting thing to do. The idea of working on my management skills with other people intrigued me. I think it might make an otherwise dry subject more interesting. 

The course starts on Thursday. I've got a lot of reading to do before the study day which I've started, but I need to focus a little more and get it done so I'm well prepared. I'm a great starter, but I do tend to lose focus towards the end! 

Feeling the love - 

This week has been all about handspun. I've almost exclusively worked on a project that's new to you. I cast on Piper's journey in my bah humbug handspun from last week. The pattern calls for 540 yards of Quince and Co's Chickadee sport weight yarn. Bah Humbug is probably tending towards a heavy fingering weight and I got 520 yards. The pattern also says that the applied edging takes around a third of the yarn. So I thought I'd work the body's until I had 40g ish of yarn left because I want to use up as much yarn as I can. I reached the stitch count written in the pattern and weighed my yarn. I still had over 60g left. I carried on. I added just 2 more repeats of the body increases before I bottled it! I had searched Ravelry for other projects which used handspun. So many people had run out of yarn and had to rip out the whole edging and some body rows. That filled me with dread, so I'll stick to the stitch count I have and I'll maybe add what's left to my Six'es yarn pile. 

I stayed up late last night because I wanted to start on the edging. It's looking lovely. 

I've also spun quite a bit this week. I finished the first batt of my Nunoco Watermelon fibre. It's a dream to spin. I've started on the second single and I'm just at the point of the batt where the green gives way to the pinks of the watermelon flesh. LOVE!!!! I can't wait to see how it looks when it's plied. 

Once upon a time (at least 12 years ago!) I bought a sewing machine. I've no idea what possessed me to such a thing because I am the worlds worst seamstress. But hey ho!  I decided I was going to make myself some maternity tops (that shows how long ago it was - that baby is 11 in a week or so!). Needless to say, that didn't happen. I'm going to blame the nasty pregnancy I had for that. 

The machine was loaned out to a friend for a year or so, and when it came back it was put on a shelf. I found it last year and thought I should really make something with this, but I couldn't find the bag I'd put the foot and the instructions in! So it languished on the shelf for another year. Last week Matthew found the bag with the missing parts! I was spurred into action. I'd been wandering through Craftsy's new iPad app (a must! Did you know you can download your courses onto your iPad and watch the videos off line ?!?!? Genius!!!) and I'd seen a couple of mini classes on making project bags. 

So yesterday I went to my local fabric shop Just Sew who's staff were great. You may have gathered by now, that I'm a complete novice when it comes to fabric and thread. The pattern calls for 2 fat quarters. I panicked! What is this fat quarter? Is it 26 cents worth of fabric?!?! 

I introduced myself to the nice lady as a pleb who needed help. She smiled and taught me all about fat quarters and eighths! She showed me a bench full of half yard lengths of beautiful fabric, a huge box of bundles of 5 fat quarters. I was dumbstruck by the array of fabric loveliness. In the end I bought a couple of 1/2 yard pieces of fabric. This shop is great. They are part of the buy local group in our town and when you spend £10 on fabric you get a free bobbin of thread! Fabulous! I was ready to go. I went home armed with enough fabric to make 2 bags and a burning desire to crack on and get sewing. 

Once the epic laundry-a-thon was done for the day I set up the machine. I was impressed by the fact I could remember how to thread the thing. Well, ok, so it's pretty much printed on the casing of said machine, but I'm having that win ok!?

I printed out the directions from the Craftsy class and set about cutting out my pieces. At this point I panicked. What if I ruined this lovely fabric?! I decided to stop there and have a dry run. Remember that fabric I bought 12ish years ago?! I dug around for an hour to try and find it to no avail. I think I must have binned it ages ago. But I did find a bag of maternity clothes I was keeping for some reason! There was a red top that I thought had enough fabric to make a bag. 

At this point I should point out that this top is made from Jersey material. Dear Lord in all creation! This was NOT a cunning plan! Those of you out there who have done any kind of sewing will know that Jersey isn't the best fabric to learn on (as do I......... now!). It stretches in all manner of ways when you're trying to measure it or cut it or sew it! 

Put it this way, it took 2 hours to measure and cut out the pieces for the bag. The air was blue with expletives! By the time I'd got all the bits cut and ready to go it was dinner time. I must confess that I had a couple of glasses of wine to soothe my nerves. I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and left the actual sewing of the bag for today, when with a fresh brain and a better temper I can have a go at sticking these bits together. 

Wish me luck! I'm going in! Hopefully I'll have something half decent to show you next week. 

On the horizon - 


I'd like to get Piper's Journey off the needles if at all possible. 

I'd also like to finish spinning the Watermelon singles. I'll probably not get around to plying next week, but it would be nice! 

Other projects probably should feel some love, but is it likely? Possibly not! 

Have a great week guys! 
Ellen x 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

First world problems

It's 7am. I've been up an hour after a fitful sleep.

This blog post will be silent. Again. Last night our power went off at just gone 11. I live about 3 miles out of our nearest town and the group of houses here have their own electricity sub-station. A couple of weeks ago that sub-station broke and we were without power all day.  In the end they brought us an industrial generator which kept us going for the couple of days it took them to 'fix' the problem. 

It seems that 'fix' didn't work and once again we're plunged into darkness. 

It's incredible how much we rely on power. My land line doesn't work because I have a digital phone,  my freezers are merrily warming, I have no hot water or central heating. And worst of all, I promised myself a bacon and cream cheese bagel for breakfast and now I've no way of toasting the bagels! 

All is not lost though, I have a camping stove so I can make tea. I am a crafter so I have lots of warm things to snuggle up in and under

The silence of the episode is because I don't have enough charge in my phone, to upload the recording I made on Friday night. I don't have wi-fi either! I'm hoping that 3G will be sufficient to upload this blog file! (I haven't thought this through have I?!)

I'm hoping I have sufficient battery life on the the iPad and phone to get this written at least. If push comes to shove I'll go for a drive in the car and charge my phone then. 

Thankfully the boy is at his friend's house for a sleepover at the moment. Eugh! A 10 year old withdrawing from electricity is a hideous sight! Hopefully the electricity company will either fix the problem or arrange a generator before he gets home and before my freezers defrost!

Feeling the love- 

This week I've been twitchy. Unable to settle on any one project. 

I cast on the second of my red onion socks on a particularly windy dog walk earlier in the week. I didn't get far on it as the wind was making my eyes water and I could barely see! 

I've worked a lot on the peacock shawl. It's coming along nicely. I'm starting to get to the stage where I can knit a row without following the chart stitch by stitch. Once I've started I can get to the end of the row by reading my work. The pattern isn't set enough in my brain to work out what I need to do on the next row without consulting the chart. I doubt I'll ever get that far, but it's making my progress easier now. I don't think I'll ever love it enough to keep it  but you never know, after a good hard blocking it may be stunning and I won't want to part with it!

I started a couple of new projects too this week. The first was on Monday. I spent most of Sunday caking my sock yarn scraps. I've decided to do the Six'es blanket. I've been humming and harr-ing over how to use up my scraps. The hexipuff blanket looked good, but I have this nasty allergy to seaming - it brings me out in hives. Then there is the mitred square blanket, but I'm similarly allergic to weaving in ends! So the Six'es blanket it is. I aim to make an afghan. I'll need about 200 whole hexagons and umpteen part hexagons. 

Needless to say, when I read the pattern my heart sank. It asks you to knit individual hexagons and seam up after blocking! Not a cat in hell's chance thought Ellen! I'll pick up and knit them together as I go. How hard can it be!? Erm, well quite hard. If I'd thought ahead and planned my attack it would have been much easier. As it was, I piled on in and knit a few hexagons without really thinking where they would fit into the blanket. I'm now working on making rows with what I have. I'm going to run a few more half-hex's along the bottom and put a corner hex in before I continue along the row. I figure that working row by row will be easier than starting in a corner and working diagonally (hang on, maybe diagonally would be easier! Re-think pending)

I also have a hankering to knit with handspun. Most of my hand spun is a light fingering - heavy laceweight. I spent a while yesterday looking through my patterns to find something which took my fancy and I had the yardage for. In the end Magrathea took my fancy. Now, my handspun doesn't fit this pattern at all; but my hand-dyed yarn does! So I caked up 100g of my violent violet yarn and set to work. 

I cast on last night while watching Seven Psychopaths. Big mistake. That film is odd. Really odd. Weird in fact. It took most of my concentration to follow what was going on, so needless to say there was little brain power left to dedicate to the pattern! I'm making some progress now, and I'm enjoying the pattern too. The yarn is knitting up nicely.

I finished spinning the brown bah-humbug fibre from Wingham Wool Works. I plied it back on itself using the Navajo technique. It became blatantly clear to me early on that I'd rushed the job towards the end. The singles broke frequently where there was insufficient twist in the fibre. As I wound it on to the niddy noddy I found a couple of pig tails too where I'd not had enough tension on the single as I plied. But over all I'm happy with it. I got 520 yards of a fingering weight. 

I was desperate to start some more fibre too. I'm spinning some of my Nunoco stash. It's the Watermelon colour way and it's a thing of beauty. The batts are beautifully blended and start at a dark green for the skin and become the fruity pink of the the flesh. 

I zigzagged the batt to give me a continuous strip of fibre. I'll spin it end to end and repeat with the second batt. I'm hoping that when I ply to two together I can preserve the colours and there won't be too much barber poling. I'm aiming for a sport/DK weight. 

On the horizon - 

While I concentrated on Seven Psychopaths and Magrathea last night I got a tweet. I'd won a Beaker a button kit from Jen Best! Wow!!!! I'm wondering if it will go with Hana Hou? It needs a big statement button, this might just be what I'm looking for. I can't wait to see what the kit involves. A huge thank you to Jen for running the competition. 

I should therefore work on Hana Hou so I have a cardie to pin the button on!

I'll work on the red onion sock while I walk the dog (weather permitting)

I'll work on the Peacock and Magrathea shawls

I hope I'll finish spinning the first of the Watermelon batts

I'll probably end up frogging the stitch surfer socks. I'm just not feeling them. I'm worried about the wrap and turn section being on the bottom of my foot. There's a lot of friction there and the sock seems under a lot of tension and I think I'll end up with holes sooner rather than later. I don't want to waste Sophie's lovely yarn. 

So until next time

Have a great week

Ellen x 

Friday, 14 March 2014

Girl interrupted.

This week I have mostly been trying to blog. 

But life kept laughing at my plans. 

So today, no matter what, this is getting published. 

I recorded an episode last Friday. It's been languishing on my phone all week, waiting for me to find time to write. I've deleted it now because a lot has happened since then. 

Week(s) In Review- 

Last week was uneventful until Thursday. On Thursday I decided to make fish cakes for tea. I had cobbler in the freezer and left over savoury rice. I defrosted and minced the fish and mixed it into the rice with an egg to bind and some seasoning. After making patties and chilling them in the fridge, I shallow fried them for a couple of minutes on each side. I soon realised that they would fall apart if I turned them too much so I put them in the oven to finish up. After 15 minutes at 200'C they were cooked to perfection. I took the pan out of the oven and set it on the hob. 

I quickly realised that I'd left the handle sticking out and thought "someone will grab that handle and burn themselves". So I moved the pan so that the handle was over the hob top. Snag was I forgot to use a tea towl and burnt myself! Properly! Holy Moley! At this point I should state that I have a high pain threshold, but Strewth, that was something else. I took pain killers that didn't make a dint in the pain levels and had a very long, sleepless night. 

I had a horrible day at work on Friday. It was ridiculously busy and I was a dispenser down (ptchar to holidays I say...... unless they're mine! ;-) ) Trying to work with one hand was difficult. Everything took so much more effort and planning! Mel - you are more awesome than I ever thought. 

Worse than the pain, I didn't knit for 2 whole days!!!!! I know!!!! I think that's what distressed me the most! Never mind the pain and the blistering. No yarn therapy for 2 days was the killer. 

Sunday was an odd kind of a day. I took Ben to his first ever karate competition. We were told to register at 9am and fighting would start at 10am. We arrived at the leisure centre just gone 9 to find a queue out of the door. It seemed that the little inter-club competition I was expecting was actually a huge national competition! There where clubs from Edinburgh,Cardiff, Blackpool, Hull, Stockport, and Workington. It was huge. 

We quickly realised that Ben wouldn't be fighting until 12pm, so I settled down, cast on a toe and watched the other kids. They where great! 12 o'clock came and went. 1 o'clock came and went. Then 2pm. Ben got on the mats at 3:15 and fought one match. It was his first ever real fight, and he did ok. He landed a couple of punches and lost. That's fine, I thought. We can go home now. But no! He was in the team event too! So we waited. And waited. And at 5pm I text my other half and told him to hightail it to the leisure centre to take over. I had to be on poolside at 5:30 to coach! 

So I left the house at 8:30am and got home at 8pm. Tired and hungry. The saving grace for the whole day was that I cast off that sock I started at 9am that morning. Bargain. 

Ben's socks are finished. 

This week has been similarly busy. On Monday Ben said he had a sore throat. I said "Yes dear" and gave him a paracetamol tablet. On Tuesday he had a work experience day at the secondary school he'll be going to in September. He said his throat was still sore so I gave him another tablet and sent him off to school. I picked him up from school that afternoon and he'd had a great day, he'd been in the science labs and had burnt magnesium and used a scalpel to cut stuff! He also said his thoat was really sore so I bought him some anti-inflammatory throat lozenges and left it at that. Wednesday morning he came into my room as white as a sheet and feeling wobbly. I made him a doctor's appointment and my other half took the day off university (thankfully Wednesday is a quiet day for him). Turns out Ben has exuding tonsils and a rampant dose of tonsillitis. Oooopppsssss!!!!!! So now he's on PenV and is getting better each day. I managed to get locum cover, so yesterday I got loads of housework done while Ben wallowed on the sofa and I spun loads. Today my plan is to bake. And knit hopefully. 

Feeling the love - 

Since I last checked in I've finished the first of my red onion socks. I didn't cast on the second because I wanted to get Ben's socks finished first. Now they're done my stitch surfers have taken my attention. 

This is my second attempt. The first didn't get further than the toe as I didn't get the tension right and it seemed like the two halves where drifting apart. Diane of the Knitabulls podcast has done 3 tutorials on the stitch surfers. She's an expert. I think she's on her 12 pair now! After watching the first 2 I've mastered the wrap and turn section and I'm happier with how it's going. 

That white stitch marker is a dropped stitch. I realised I'd done it as I packed up at the end of knit night. The girls where delighted. Me, less so. They say it makes me human, I say it makes them mean! ;-) I'll go back and catch it when I've cast the sock off. If I'd dropped it on the sole stitches I might have ripped back, but on the instep, there won't be much friction so I'll just catch it and weave it in. 

I've also been working on my peacock shawl. I've made reasonable progress and I'm becoming happier with how it's working up. I can see the pattern emerging and I think a vigorous blocking will bring it to life. I will have to read the pattern for each stitch though. It's not going to sink into my brain. I've come to terms with that and I'm ok with it. Ish. 

Yesterday I spun my heart out. I'm well over half way through the 100g now and the bobbin is filling nicely. I can't wait to get it done and work on something with a little more colour. 

My needles have also felt the love. For a long time they've been crammed into the case one of my Knit Pro interchangeable sets came in. The bag won't zip shut and it frequently falls over spilling my needles everywhere. The last time the dog knocked it over I could have cried! I'd just sorted the bag and spent ages with a micrometer working out how big each needle was and sorting them into size order. 

At this point I should let you know that the Harmony tips from Knit Pro are often not the size they should be! My micrometer frequently told me that the smaller diameter needles weren't the size on the shaft. 0.2mm difference might not sound much, but on a project the size of a sock that will make a difference. The moral to this story is to check your tension and use the same needles throughout your project. More than once I've used 2 sets of needles to work 2 socks at a time. I think now, that's not a good plan. At least with wooden needles. 

Any how, back to the plot. I'd been thinking about getting something better for my needles. I was in my local stationers and they had a display of photo albums. There was a cute one with pockets which opened at the top. I decided that this could be what I was looking for. 

Each pocket has a slip of paper in telling me the size of the needles inside. The album won't shut, but it makes it much more stable now, so I'm happy with that. 

I've had a bit of a wobble on the stash enhancement front. I bought 2 balls of self striping from Twisted Limone. She updates her Etsy shop on a Saturday afternoon. The yarn is gorgeous snd I'm desperate to cast on. But I must be good and finish another pair before I start another toe! 

On the top is 'Bitter Sweet' is lovely cream, pink, grey, grass green and a lime green. On the bottom is 'Island Hopping' grass green, lime green, sky blue, deep blue and a fab purple. They make me happy just looking at them. 

On the Horizon - 

I'd love to get the merino/silk off the wheel this week. I'd also like to get a stitch surfer finished. Then I'll cast on one of the second socks. Either the red onion socks or the second stitch surfer. 
I'll work on the peacock shawl when I can. 

The burning question is - will I be able to resist that self striping? Or will I cave and go back to having 3 pairs of socks on the go. 

I should really work on Hana Hou too. It hasn't had any love at all this week. 

Have a great week guys 

Ellen x 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Did you win?

Hey there!

How has your week been?

Mine has been average. An average amount of work got done on averagely busy but wetter than average days. 

We're all settling into a new routine at home. Matthew's mum has gone away for a month. Every now and then she goes on an epic journey.  This time she's off to the Bahamas with friends. She's done St.Lucia and she heading for St.Vincent. Matthew's parents do so much for us. They babysit the dog and the child while we're both out at work. It makes such a difference to our day to know that they're so close and so helpful. I appreciate them both so much. When one of the links in the chain is missing you really notice it!

I'm dropping the boy off at school, so I'm getting to work ON TIME. It's weird how much difference it makes to my day. Normally I'm about an hour early. It gives me chance to get settled, dot i's and cross t's before the shutter opens and the madness starts. It's been a week now, and things are fitting into place again. 

It's March already! Where is the year going? Yesterday was allegedly the start of spring. We had a lovely sunny day. It didn't last though, and by the evening it was persisting down again. However, this morning it's dried up. The sky doesn't look overly promising though. There are lots of clouds and I expect it to be raining again before the day is out. 

A new season also heralds the end of our first KAL. This one ran for January and February.  There where 9 entries in the finished object thread. I used a random number generator from 2-10 and it came up with entry number 6. This was filipamc - Filipa from Portugal. She had crocheted a couple of lovely beanies for charity. It's fitting that her charitable work is rewarded by winning something for herself! So, Filipa, please PM me on Ravelry with either a pattern you'd like up to the value of $7 or your name and address and I'll get some stitch markers off to you. 

The next KAL starts too. Again it runs for 2 months - March and April. Post your poll in the 'lets KAL' thread. What are you undecided about? What pattern do you want to knit but can't pick the right yarn? What yarn do you want to use but can't pick the right pattern? What KAL from another group should you join? Indecision takes up so much time! Let the group decide for you! 

I've opened another prize thread. Please use this thread for pictures of your FO's only. Chat in the chatter thread. One FO per post will increase your chances of winning! 

The decision you guys need to make for me this time is whether to frog the peacock shawl. I'm not feeling it. Mainly because I'm not working on it! I don't think I've got the tension right to be honest. I'm struggling to see how the pattern is working up. Coupled with the fact that the pattern just doesn't seem to be setting in my head I'm not inclined to work on it. I need to have peace and quiet to read the pattern stitch by stitch and such quiet time is rare in my house. So, do I persevere or do I frog it and start a new pretty pi shawl I've found?  The decision is yours! 

Feeling the love - 

Once again this week has been mainly about Hana Hou. I've finished the right front now. My next taks it's to cake up another 3 skeins. 

I have 3 tiny balls left from the first 3 skeins once I'd finished the fronts. I think I'll use them when I do the pattern band or the collar. My thought is that if I have to seam, I ain't weaving in ends too! So the odds and sods will be used up on smaller sections of the project. Makes sense, yes?

I had also worked on my Pair 7 socks. I mention in this week's episode that I would like to get the heel turned. I managed to do that on one of my dog walks yesterday. 

All this dog walking means that my mobile project is feeling some love (when the rain isn't falling that is)

I spun some this week too. The bobbin doesn't look that different. Just a little bit more full, so no picture. I'm trying to do a little bit of longdraw. You can't call it true longdraw really, because I'm sat on my sofa when I spin and there isn't really anywhere for my arm to go, so I'm playing with the technique. Also the fibre preparation isn't right to be able to do a true longdraw and get a true woolen prepared single. I'm attempting to move away from ├╝ber controlling inchworm drafting. I'm pulling the working fibre back and allowing twist to move into the drafted fibres rather than inching my way through the top. It's nice to loosen up a bit. And so far the consistency of the single hasn't really suffered.  I did notice that my treadling rate is affect by what I watch on TV. I knew that sport and thrillers make me treadle faster. It seems that watching The Voice does too! Exciting stuff. 

On the horizon - 

I'll continue to work on Hana Hou. The back is next and I'm debating  whether or not to continue using 3 skeins at a time and alternating every row. The back should give a better opportunity for the colours to blend with it being twice the size of a front. I'm thinking it will still stripe though. I'll probably just use the 3 skeins. It saves having to rip out the back and do it again if I don't like the look of 2. 

I'm waiting to cast on another pair of socks too. I'm knitting a pair of stitch surfers with my Friendship Fetish February pal Sophie. Sophie and I have exchanged half a skein of our hand dyed yarn to make these socks. Sophie used elderberries from her back garden to dye her yarn. It's a beautiful silvery grey colour. I can't wait to see how it pairs with my purple yarn.

 I posted her yarn at the beginning of the week and it hasn't reached her yet. How long does it take 50g of yarn to cross La Manche!?

Have a great week folks. 

See you next week

Don't forget to join the next KAL. 

Ellen x