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Sunday, November 30, 2014

In the quilting groove again

This recently resurrected quilt dates back more than ten years. I started it for my mother's 75th birthday. It was meant to alternate nine-patch blocks with appliqued heart blocks in her favourite colour, blue, but as usual I didn't plan it. When I laid all the blocks out, I was dismayed to discover that it was about half the size of a tennis court. So, I quickly formulated plan B: use the heart blocks alone. I managed to finish the quilt on time (midnight the night before counts as 'on time'!), and Mum loved it. (There's nothing like handmade for getting maternal brownie points.)

The leftover blocks languished for years, but a while ago I put them together into an Irish Chain pattern. I started quilting, using pearl thread, and got a fair bit done during the London Olympics, but then my hands became problematic, and unhappily I downed tools for many months.

When my hands finally recovered, I got going again. The patchwork design itself is fairly plain, so I branched out from my usual strictly utilitarian quilting and did a design in the centres of the white squares ... 

... plus a scrolly white border.

I didn't use batting as I wanted a light quilt that's suitable for the cooler summer nights when a sheet alone isn't enough but a proper quilt or blanket is too much. It has already had some use this summer.

When Mum died, I gave the heart quilt to my cousin Karen, Mum's favourite niece. I think Mum would have approved.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Operation S.A.B.L.E.

After eighteen months of silence, I'm reviving this blog – all because I had a tidy-and-sort session last weekend and was appalled yet again by how much stash I have. There are drawers and bags and suitcases full of yarn, and about five boxes of fabric for both dressmaking and quilting.

A colleague told me there's an acronym for this syndrome: 'S.A.B.LE. – Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy'. This struck a resounding chord, so I have vowed to go on a stash diet, and buy no more new yarn and fabric until I get rid of the old. 

I'm starting with yarns. Those I'm keeping for special projects have gone into one drawer. The rest are in a bag by the sofa, and will be used for TV knitting – scarves, hats, slippers and other things that I will give to charity. I made a start with this scarf, which I finished in about a week:

One 200-gram ball of 8-ply Alpaca from Bendigo Woollen Mills
5 mm needles
I used a favourite stitch, a slipstitch rib:

        Cast on an odd number of stitches (45 for this scarf).
        Row 1: Knit 1, then (slip 1 purlwise, knit 1) to end of row.
        Row 2: Knit all stitches.

This stitch is one I found in Joelle Hoverson's Last-minute Knitted Gifts. She used it for a rug that I loved from the instant I saw it, and which I made as a friend's housewarming present.

The stitch is simplicity itself (no purling!), very quick and rhythmic to do, and produces a lovely lofty fabric with vertical ridges on the front and a loopy effect on the back. I've also made several charity scarves from this stitch, and I'd love to see it in a sweater.

One ball of yarn down, so many more to go...

Saturday, February 2, 2013

On the mend

Last night I did some knitting. Regular readers might think this unremarkable, but it feels significant to me. For the last few months, problems with my hands have made it painful and annoying to do many everyday things, among them craft. I haven't knitted, sewn, embroidered or quilted for six months, which is unheard of for me. 

My ailment is partly stress related, so it's been really frustrating (and quite ironic) to be unable to do craft, which has always been one of my big stress relievers. But now my hands have improved quite a lot, so yesterday at craft night I took up my knitting needles again. It was a group project – we're each knitting a strip from scrap yarns to be made into a blanket – and though it was about as simple as can be, it felt so satisfying and normal to be doing it, and such a relief.

Tonight I knitted in front of the TV for three hours, and it made me happy. Onward and upward, I hope – I have a lot of craft to catch up on!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The project-a-month resolution loses its resolve

Here it is, very nearly October, and I haven't yet posted about July's project. I think that means I should officially say goodbye to my project-a-month resolution. Oh well, it lasted half a year, which is much longer than most of my resolutions do!

I've been tinkering around with old projects in the background lately, but the things I've finished are new projects, not old ones. I completed a knitted rug recently, using a pattern from Joelle Hoverson's Last-minute Knitted Gifts.

I've coveted this rug ever since I bought the book about five years ago, but was put off making it by the expense, as it uses more than a kilogram of wool. To make it semi-affordable, I bought the wool online from Bendigo Woollen Mills. It seemed like a bargain at the time ($12.50 for a 200 g ball), and even more so when I realised how far it goes. Each ball just knits on and on and on, and is equivalent in metreage to about seven ordinary 50 g balls. I know this because I substituted another company's yarn for one colour that wasn't quite right. I bought four 50 g balls, then had to buy three more. How Bendigo cram so many metres into the same weight of yarn I have no idea – but they do, and I was mightily impressed.  The yarn I used is their 8-ply Luxury machine-washable wool, and it's lovely stuff – soft and easy to knit with.

The stripes are all the same width, even though they don't look it in the photo. The ombre effect is produced by knitting with two strands of wool together, and successively replacing one of them with the next colour.

It's a slip-stitch pattern with only two rows, and is quite easy – until you make a mistake in one of the slipped stitches, in which case it's hard to work out how to fix it. There are a few fudges in this blanket, but I don't mind. I enjoyed making it, and it knitted up in less than two months, which is pretty good for so large a piece. I'm really pleased with it – it's soft and thick and plush, and I think it looks good.  So good, in fact, that I've bought enough wool to make another one.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Second blogiversary

This month marks two years since I started this blog. Has it been worth it? I think so. I often feel that I don't accomplish much, or as at least not as much as I could (if I put my mind to it), or should (if I were more diligent), or would (if I didn't spend so much time dreaming and faffing about). Keeping track of my crafty goings-on on this blog has made me realise that I do get quite a bit done. Not all of it always gets finished, of course – if it did, there'd be no reason for me to have a blog. But being answerable to someone, even only notionally (because the blog police really don't care about my craft output), has been useful.

I haven't always kept on track, of course. Various events have overtaken my project-a-month resolution this year, but still, over the life of this blog so far I've finished various long-neglected projects, including four quilts (soon to be five!),

For to my friend Diana.
On my sofa.
For my friend Bob's baby.

For no one, so far.

and two jumpers, both of which I gave to charity.  

I've also started several other projects from scratch: quite a lot of scarves,

For me.
Also for me.

For my friend Louise.

For me.
For me.

For my friend Paul.
For my friend Mark.
For me.
A prize on this blog, won by Kitty.

a cardigan for myself, 

and too many little novelties and accessories to include photos of. 

And I've extended my skills – I've become moderately accomplished at lace knitting, and I've also tried my hand at fair isle (though I haven't posted about that project yet).

This exercise has also made me much more aware of how much is in my stash.
I've organised it, and I'm even considering getting rid of all those half-balls of leftover yarn and skeins of impulse-buy novelty yarn that are taking up way too much literal and mental space. 

It's also made me realise I need to focus more on things I really want to make, instead of making bitty projects as fillers between the more interesting ones. I do a lot of that, and end up with more fillers than main projects, which is really just a waste; why waste time on projects you're half-hearted about when you could be spending it to make things you really love?

So in that spirit I recently spent $150 on pure wool from Bendigo Woollen Mills to knit a blanket that I've coveted for several years, from the moment I first saw it in Joelle Hoverson's Last-Minute Knitted Gifts.

It's an ombre effect, shading from cream through various neutrals and
browns to dark brown. Eventually!

And you know what? It's really, really satisfying to be making something I've wanted for so long. More on this project another time. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Project-a-month resolution: June

Well, I wrote this post a while ago, but somehow failed to actually publish it. I blame my total technical ineptitude.

Anyway, this is what was happening in June ...

With winter here, I decided I needed a couple of new scarves more than I needed yet another quilt, so this month, unfinished projects have taken a backseat to new ones.

First up, I wanted to use a yarn I've had for about five years. I bought it to make socks with, but I've since realised that a) I'm unlikely to make socks any time soon, and b) if I do, it's probably a bit dumb to use nice yarn for my first effort. So instead I made a scarf from Joelle Hoverson's excellent Last-Minute Knitted Gifts. It's a very easy-to-remember chevron pattern.

Because I'm a symmetry freak, I made it in two pieces, then grafted them together in the middle. Knitting guru Maggie Righetti says that stocking stitch grafting is so easy that even a beginner can whizz across a row of it in no time. I'm far from a beginner, but grafting baffles me at every attempt. I have to consult books (note the plural) and have about six goes at it before I get it not-quite-right. So it was with this scarf, but the two bits joined up eventually.

Normally grafting is done with the knitting still on the needles, but I can never follow
the rhythm of the stitches that way. This time I threaded crochet cotton through the
stitches and taped the cotton onto a board, which made it easier. 

In progress...

And done.

It was pretty crinkly when I finished it, so I did some steam-blocking with the iron. And voila, ready to wear.

Next I wanted a pattern to show off some new Noro Silk Garden I bought recently.

It's colour 84. Slightly scratchy to wear, but very beautiful.

I experimented with some lace patterns but nothing seemed right, so I rethought it. Abandoning my tendency to overengineer just about everything, I knitted it in garter stitch, with three stitches of stocking stitch at both ends of every row. This gives a neat edge that rolls back on itself so that the scarf is reversible.

I'm pretty pleased with it. I love the autumnal tones and the way they shade subtly into each other. Some more steam blocking to iron out a bit of waviness along the edges, and it was ready to go.

And now July's challenge is to finish another quilt.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Project-a-month resolution: May

It's July already and I haven't posted about May yet. Blogging, work and everything else were overtaken by the recent death of my mother.

Before Mum became ill, I did finish the red tweed cardigan:

It's a Jo Sharp pattern knitted in Morris Woollahra 10-ply.

The pattern was easy to follow, and while I'm pleased with the actual knitting – it's neat, and I managed to finish it nicely – the fit isn't perfect. It's slightly too big for me, so I dunked it in hot water then rinsed it in cold to see if I could shrink it a bit. That worked to an extent, but the shoulders are still a little too Schwarzenegger for me, so I might have to unpick the shoulder seams and bring them in a bit. Sigh.

That's all for this post. Back to normality soon, I hope.