Hello and thanks for visiting my blog. I have been knitting on and off for 50 years and I recently learned to crochet. I love looking for wool bargains and making them into something useful. I mainly knit for charity. I occasionally knit for myself and family members if I find a really good pattern or if they ask nicely!!

Sunday 31 March 2013

This book made me laugh and cry.....

I just had to write about this brilliant book.  "The Friday Night Knitting Club" by Kate Jacobs is set in New York and tells the story of a group of women with one thing in interest in knitting.  I was going to say "a love of knitting" but that wouldn't be true of all the women.  A variety of love-hate relationships would be more accurate.  

There are a few books that follow this type of theme.  But this is definitely one of the best.  The plot has several twists and the characters are very different, well described and believable.  Kate Jacobs made me really care about what was happening to them.  It was one of those books that I really couldn't put down.  I was even up early on Easter morning reading the last couple of chapters.

One little section had me in stitches.  Excuse the pun.  Georgia is in hospital and her boyfriend has bought a knitting book and is reading it to her:

"You do one kay, then one pee, asterisk, repeat five," he read.  "Then yo, kay two tee, and yo again.  This is wild stuff, isn't it?"
"It's awesome," she said.  "You're doing great.  Keep going."

You have to be a knitter to understand the joke.  When you also know that the boyfriend is a cool dude, his "yo" is quite hilarious.

The book has a brave ending which I didn't predict.  I won't give too many details, but a box of tissues came in very handy.  Luckily, I already have Kate Jacobs' follow-up book called "Knit Two" which continues the story five years later.  

I'm always on the lookout for fiction with a knitting theme.  So if anyone has a favourite book like this, I'd love to hear about it.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Aran crochet blanket.....

Here's the completed Aran crochet blanket that I started a few weeks ago.  It is destined for Greenfields Africa which is an organisation that supports communities in Kenya and Uganda.  I have just Googled the temperatures in these countries and in winter it can drop to 12 degrees centigrade.  UK blog readers are putting up with freezing temperatures at the moment.  But at least we have blankets and duvets.

As an incentive for women to attend ante-natal classes, they are given blankets and other items for the babies.  This blanket measures 36" by 36" which is their preferred size.  When I chained the first 36" it looked quite short.  But I soon found out that 36" square is quite large. It will still fit a baby when it grows into a toddler or small child.

I used a lot of odd balls of Aran wool and was amazed at the different thicknesses of what should all be 10 ply yarn.  I actually had to use 2 different sizes of crochet hooks to try to even out the appearance of the stripes.  The finished weight is about 500g which I have made a note of in case I ever make another similar blanket.  The stitch is basically half trebles (UK) into one loop only.  It makes a lovely squishy, warm blanket.

I'm pleased with the way the colours have turned out.  I simply used what I already had.  I started and finished with a row of bright red and then crocheted more red along the other 2 edges.  The other colours were teal, turquoise, maroon, cream and a mottled red and white mixed yarn.  The turquoise and mottled yarns are finished.  But there is enough left of the other colours to make 2 or 3 hats and I am already looking through patterns for something interesting.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Preemie knitting.....

I went through a phase of knitting for preemie babies and angels a while ago.  I count myself very lucky that I have no personal experience of premature birth or losing a baby.  But I enjoy (if that's the right word) knitting for these babies.  Apart from being a worthwhile cause, these items can be knitted in as little as one hour and are a great way to use up scraps of yarn.

This collection has been ready to post for some time.  I used to send my preemie items to a London based organisation.  But the lady who valiantly tries to run it on her own is having a rest at the moment.  I belong to the Loving Hands group and could send them there.  But I am always aware that sending parcels all the way to Scotland involves a lot of road miles and so I only do that as a last resort.  

This morning I came across the Preemies UK website.  This organisation is based in Droitwich and is much closer to where I live.  It seems to be a thriving group and they are currently in need of blankets and other preemie items.   That was music to my ears.  I packed a parcel and trekked out into our unseasonal snowy weather to post it.

The little lilac cardigan was knitted from the following  pattern and I can recommend it because it is knitted in one piece with very little sewing required.  

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Time to say goodbye....

No, not to blogging; I love it too much.  But this is about knowing when you are never going to use certain wool or yarn and being strong enough to say goodbye to it.

When I returned to knitting about 15 months ago I discovered fancy yarns for the first time.  I was amazed by them and bought a few whenever I saw them going cheap.  I even used them on a few projects.  

Little hedgehog

Angel memory squares
Angel gowns
But since then they have sat in a bag at home.  I love the end results, but don't really enjoy knitting with this type of yarn.  I hate waste and I am an avid declutterer so I put them up for auction last week.  Here they are:

Off to pastures new
This morning I posted them off to their new owner who, it turns out, really loves this type of yarn.  She is happy with her bargain and I'm happy to have a couple of pounds to spend on wool that I will actually use.  That's what I call a "win win" situation.

Saturday 16 March 2013

Charity knits: thinking globally...

As I look back through this blog, there is a definite pink theme.  That is purely by coincidence and I'm not really sure how it happened!  Just to be different, I dug into my bag of bargain wool and pulled out:

  • lime green wool
  • grey and brown camouflage wool
  • cream wool that was a little too rough to be used on its own
These came in one of my bargain buys and I can understand why someone else would avoid using them.  However, I like the challenge of producing something useful from the unlikeliest of yarns.

I knitted 2 little waistcoats by combining the cream and lime green for one and the cream and camouflage wool for the other.  The cream softened the lime green and gave more of a tweed effect to the camouflage wool.  All the wool was dk weight so the end results are warm and chunky.  

The buttonholes are quite large and the only suitable buttons in my box were a plain beige colour.  So I used grey thread on the camouflage waistcoat and pale green thread on the green waistcoat.  Small details matter and I think the buttons now look perfect.

I used up the remainder of the wool by knitting 2 little baby hats.  The colours are not the obvious choice for baby hats.  But these items are destined for Greenfields Africa which is an organisation that supplies blankets and clothing to children in Kenya and Uganda.  Colours that would look strange in an English nursery will fit in perfectly in another part of the world.  

The waistcoat was very easy and quick to knit.  The pattern is called "Mayflower's Basic Bodywarmer" and it can be found in the pattern section of the Loving Hands website.

For the ribbed hat, I used the Basic Ribbed Baby/Child Hat pattern.
For the plain hat: I used the Basic Baby Hat pattern.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Another Leibster award

Elisabeth's Elizy Art Crochet blog is well worth a visit for its inspiring and pretty crochet photos.  

She recently added me to her list of Leibster Award nominees.  Here are her questions and my answers:

1. What is your favourite day of the week?
 Monday, surprisingly, as I only work on Sundays now.  That means when I wake up on Monday mornings I have a whole lovely week ahead of me.

2. If you were an animal, which would you be and why?
A horse, because they work hard and people generally love them. 

3. What is your favourite song?
Spanish Eyes.

4. If you were President/Prime Minister for a day, what would you do?
Go to work in a shop or factory to see how normal people live.

5. What are you afraid of?
I'm not keen on dogs, though I'm not as bad as when I was a child and petrified of them.  When you are 3 years old and the same height as a mouthful of fangs, it scars you for life!

6. If you could speak another language (that you don't already know) which would it be?
Polish as it would be useful to be able to speak to a lot of the people who come in to my workplace.

7. What craft do you want to learn but have never tried?
Quilting.....maybe one day though I don't think I have the patience or eyesight for it.

8. Which country do you most want to visit?

9. If you had a day all to yourself completely free of responsibilities and things to do, what would you do?
Pay a visit to Holmfirth which is where "Last of the Summer Wine" was filmed.

10. Do you have any bad habits?
No, and I lie as well!! 

11. If you could go back in time and witness a famous historical event, which would it be?
I would love to have seen the Tower of London being built in the 11th century.  It fascinates me that this ancient building still survives surrounded by modern London architecture.

I recently nominated quite a few bloggers for the award......they know who they are!!!!

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Pink baby blanket....

Do not adjust your computer.  The wool really is this pink....even pinker in fact.  The stripy ball came in a bargain joblot.  It is a random mixture of white, pale pink and shocking pink.  I loved it to start with.  But the dark pink is even brighter than the photo shows.  It is quite loud.  I mulled over what to make and eventually decided on a baby blanket.  I already had a cone of light pink wool and I am knitting with both yarns together.  This is working out nicely.  It is a great way to use up the 2 ply coned yarn and the light pink is successfully toning down the shocking pink and adding a light pink tone to the bright white.

This blanket is a simple diagonal garter stitch pattern.  I'm pleased with the way the random stripes are slightly irregular in shape.  The stripes will become narrower as the blanket grows and so the shocking pink should eventually lose some of its retina peeling effect.

Thursday 7 March 2013

Another Liebster Award...

Just like buses, Liebster Awards come along in 3s.  I blogged about 2 nominations yesterday and have just been nominated again.....this time by Jaqueline of Opening the Front Door

Jaqueline's questions to me were:

What was the last book you read?
Needles and Pearls by Gil McNeil which is a lovely book about a lady who is getting her life back by working in a wool shop.

Do you have any "hidden" talents that you would like to share?
I can wiggle my left eyebrow on its own!!

What is your favourite smell?
Fried onions.  I used to work in a building near a cafe and the smell used to tantalise us.

If you wanted to escape would it be cottage by the sea or log cabin up a mountain?
A log cabin up a mountain.

What item do you seem to knit the most of?
Hats because they are great for using up remnants of wool.

Can you knit with double pins?
Yes.  I can't remember why or when I learned but I'm glad I did.  They come in useful.

If you could spend a day with someone famous who would it be?
Charlotte Bronte.  I think she was born a century too early and quite lonely.

In cooking would you choose Mary Berry or Delia Smith?
Delia Smith, but only because I don't know much about Mary Berry.

Do you have a favourite sweetie?

Do you have anything stashed away that your husband/partner doesnt know about?
I have too many unworn clothes.  But I'm not buying any more until I really need them.

Do you write a shopping list or do you shop as you go along?
I usually write a list and usually manage to stick to it.

I have to nominate more bloggers to answer some questions and pass the award on to another 4 bloggers with fewer than 200 followers.  A difficult decision, but this time I have chosen:

Maria Nazareth for her amazing crochet at Maria's Creations
Holly for her inspiring blog Holly Marie Knits
Hilary for her pretty blog Threaded Life
Sarah for her beautiful patterns at Sezza Knits

I hope they will find time to answer some questions and pass on more questions to their nominees.  Here are my questions:

Which of the four seasons do you like best?
Do you exercise?
What is your "guilty pleasure" food?
What was the last item you knitted or crocheted?
When did you last buy wool or yarn?
Did you enjoy your school days?
If you could have only one, which would it be...dishwasher or microwave?
Do you follow any sports?
Do you have any pets?
Which is best....sea view or mountain view?
If your house or apartment had a name, what would it be?

Wednesday 6 March 2013

My Liebster Award blog

I was recently nominated for a Liebster Award by two bloggers which I find pretty amazing as my knitting blog has been going for only 3 months.

Terri at Cache-mire asked:

1.  What has been your favorite book to read?
  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
2.  If you could go back and meet your 20-year-old self, what one piece of advice would you give her?
 Don't take criticism too personally.
3.  Have you ever traveled outside the United States? If so, where?
England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Germany, Austria, Belgium.
4.  How do you spend your quiet time?
 Knitting of course!
5.  What is your favorite activity and how do you feel when you are doing it?
I love to walk as it keeps me fit and gives me time to think.

6.  What is your greatest accomplishment?
Producing another human being.

7.  What has been your greatest adventure?
Climbing a mountain in Cumbria, getting lost in dreadful weather on the summit, and getting down again safely.

8.  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose?  Why?
Yorkshire as I feel at home there.  I think I must have lived there in a previous life.

9.  Name one thing still on your bucket list.
Visit Niagara Falls.

10. What do you most want to be remembered for?
Being a good mother and hopefully a good grandmother one day.

11. Why do you blog?
Initially to record my knitting projects.  But now it is to meet other similar bloggers and get inspiration.

The second blogger to nominate me was Busybusybeejay who asked:
Favourite room in the house.
My bedroom.
Are you a lark or an owl.
I suppose I'm a lark as I get up early.
Do you like cooking?
favourite film?
Goodnight, Mister Tom.
Do you like shopping?
Not really, unless I'm in good company and we can chat over a coffee.
Travel plans for 2013?
Same as last year.....none.
Dinner partner?
Patrick Bronte so I can tell him to go easy on his 3 daughters and son.
Can you speak any languages other than english?
Average French.
Which month is your birthday?
Do you have a favourite perfume?
Anais Anais.
Are you tidy/untidy?

Apparently I have to nominate 4 bloggers with fewer than 200 followers.  It was a difficult choice as I follow lots of very deserving blogs.  But, this time, I have chosen the following bloggers for their friendly and inspiring blogs:
Linda at Chalky's World
Jaqueline at Opening the Front Door

Just for fun, here are my 11 questions for my 4 nominees:

Which of the four seasons do you like best?
Do you exercise?
What is your "guilty pleasure" food?
What was the last item you knitted or crocheted?
When did you last buy wool or yarn?
Did you enjoy your school days?
If you could have only one, which would it be...dishwasher or microwave?
Do you follow any sports?
Do you have any pets?
Which is best....sea view or mountain view?
If your house or apartment had a name, what would it be?


Monday 4 March 2013

Aran blanket experiment...

When I finished my recent pet blanket, I vowed not to make another blanket until next winter.  Well the weather is still cold and I broke my promise.

I have a bag of Aran wool to use up.  I decided to crochet a blanket or lap rug measuring about 36" square.  I'm not following a pattern, but simply doing row after row of half trebles (UK) through the bottom loops of the previous row.  This is the crochet stitch I mastered when making scarves last month.  It makes a lovely soft, squishy blanket.  

When I am knitting, I can pick up a ball of wool and judge almost exactly how many rows I will be able to knit with it.  But my crochet experience is very limited and I have no idea whether or not I have enough wool.  I'm just going to keep going and hopefully end up with the size I want.

My challenge now is to end up with a stripy blanket that looks reasonably balanced.
It's interesting planning the order of the stripes.  The biggest ball of wool is in a teal shade and that obviously has to be used more than the other colours.  I'm basically doing single rows of red, blue, mottled red, maroon, and cream.  After every fourth row, I crochet 2 rows with the teal yarn.  I'm happy with the way it's turning out so far.  I have crocheted about a quarter of the blanket and the wool seems to be lasting well.  

Here it is after 3 or 4 days:

The photo doesn't really do it justice.  It will never win a prize for fine crochet work.  But it's my first attempt and already feels like a warm, useful blanket.  I'm also working on some smaller items, so this will be an ongoing project.  Hopefully, I can finish it by the end of March.

Friday 1 March 2013

Clunky chunky....

I am not a big fan of chunky wool.  I know it knits up quickly and there are some lovely colours available.  But I am just not keen on the end result.  However, I found a few balls of chunky wool among my last bargain joblot.  I always ponder over the reasons people have for selling their unloved yarns.  Maybe someone else had the same dislike of chunky wool.

But "waste not, want not" is one of my mottoes and so I set about finding a suitable knitting pattern.  It couldn't be a crochet pattern because none of my hooks are big enough.  There wasn't enough wool for a jumper or a blanket.  That left hats and scarves.  I would personally find a chunky scarf suffocating.  So, by a process of elimination, that left hats.  I prefer to knit hats on a circular needle but, again, none of mine are big enough for chunky wool.  As I don't go out of my way to buy chunky wool, I didn't want  to buy bigger needles.

I finally settled on the stretchy hat pattern that can be found on the Operation Christmas Child webpage.  I had the right size knitting needles as I have knitted this pattern before.  Although it has to be sewn up, the pattern is so clever that the seam is almost invisible. This is a very stretchy hat pattern and it will fit most children.  I even adjusted it slightly to use up the last scraps of my chunky wool on the smaller hats in the photo.  I left off the bobbles as I am never sure how easy they are to wash.

The blue variegated wool is Robin Picasso Chunky and the other plain colours are King Cole's Magnum Chunky.  I'm quite pleased with how they turned out.  My criteria were:
  • Will these hats keep someone warm?  Yes, definitely.
  • Would I put these hats on a child of mine?  Yes, definitely.
  • Would I have worn hats like these when I was a child?  Yes, I wore similar hand-knitted hats.
  • Would my daughter have worn hats like these?  Probably not.
Three out of four is not bad and I don't really count the last one because my daughter rarely wore any type of hat.  As soon as she was able to pull off her baby hats, that's exactly what she did.

I will definitely knit this pattern again.  It can be knitted with 2 strands of dk wool together and I have plenty of that.  There are only 57 stitches per row and only 33 rows in total.  That's what I call a quick knit.