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!!

Monday 30 December 2013

My Jana vest progress report....from oops to wow!

Here is a photo of my latest project: the Jana vest.  The photo is a bit washed out as it is late at night.  I thought the holey pattern might show up better in artificial light.  In an earlier post, I canvassed opinions about whether or not I should knit the cable pattern on the back.  The "ayes" won and, as you can see, the cable pattern is now on the back.  I've reached and passed the armholes.  I mentally allowed myself until the end of January to complete the back so I am pleased at how quickly this is knitting up.

I would have finished the back already but for a major frogging episode.  The cable pattern is a 32 row repeat.  I was well into the third repeat when I realised that the very first cable in the first repeat was going in the wrong direction.  I tried to live with it but couldn't.  I want people to look at the back of this vest and say "wow!" not "oops"  So I had to rip out right back to the ribbing.  But I'm really glad I did.  It is a very complicated pattern but looks stunning...... when it is done right (!)

This will be my New Year knitting project....or one of them.  I will still knit and make things for my favourite charities.  As well as that, I desperately need some new jumpers and have decided to try to knit them myself instead of buying mass-produced knitwear.  2014 could be an interesting year!

Happy New Year to all my readers.........

Saturday 28 December 2013

Christmas knitting.....

I like to knit colourful things at Christmas and anything complicated is a no-no while there are so many distractions.  So I found a pattern for a baby kimono-style cardigan which interested me.  Here it is.  It used up only about 75g of yarn for the biggest size which should fit a 16" chest.  A great use for such a small amount of yarn.  The yarn is King Cole Comfort Prints because I had some left over and I really love the colours.  I was also able to use 2 pretty buttons from my big collection!

I found the pattern on Ravelry here.  It is basically knitted in one piece.  There is some seaming to do on the arms and sides, but it doesn't take long.  Some knitters on Ravelry comment that the neck is too small.  But the garter stitch edge is very stretchy and, from distant memory, it seems large enough for a baby's neck.

This is a lovely warm top as the front is 2 layers crossed over each other.  If the top is for a boy, all you do is cross them over in the opposite direction.  This works because the button holes are on both front pieces.  The holes on the "invisible" side are used for a ribbon tie inside the top.

I recommend this pattern to anyone who wants to try something a bit different.


Thursday 26 December 2013

That's me sorted....

I finally have my family well trained.  I dropped massive hints about how much wool would be appreciated if anyone was looking for pressie ideas.  My sister followed my instructions to the letter and bought me the bright acrylic yarn at the top of the photo.  It really is that bright and has been set aside for charity blankets for care homes.  These have to be acrylic in order to survive industrial washing machines.  

I expected Hubby to completely ignore my hints and was amazed when he gave me this very expensive yarn in the bottom of the photo.  It is 100% wool so I will use it for something for me as I know I will wash it carefully.  It is a drab stone colour but goes well with my more colourful blouses.  So I'm looking for a suitable vest pattern.  Sadly, it is 4 ply which is making the search difficult.  I've reached the stage of considering doubling it up and using it for an aran pattern.  I have a couple of other things to finish first, so this will probably be a project for late winter/early spring.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas.  Happy hobbydays!

Saturday 21 December 2013

Seasons greetings from me and the skating penguin...

Here's the fun brooch I bought to brighten up my new scarflet......a cute penguin complete with it's own snazzy blue scarf.  It captures my mood at the moment.  I can easily swap it for another brooch if I want something more elegant.  I've updated my profile photo to show me wearing the scarf.  

The photo is really small.  I'm not being shy; I just can't work out how to make it bigger!  UPDATE:  I just learned how to enter some CSS code which makes the profile photo bigger.  So I made it slightly bigger. (If I make it even bigger, all my sidebar buttons increase in size until they are too big.)  ANOTHER UPDATE:  I just managed to make the profile photo bigger without increasing the size of my sidebar buttons.  Now I really must stop fiddling with my template!

The photo has a sell-by date because I added some snowflake animations which will probably look a bit ridiculous in the middle of summer.  Hopefully, by then, I will have something else to model.

So that is it for 2013.  I'd like to send season's greetings to all the amazing people who read my blog.  When I started it, I had no idea how much I would enjoy it.  I've enjoyed reading all your comments.....I really do read and appreciate them all, even if I can't always think of a reply.

I've read some inspirational blogs, learned new skills, won some giveaways, been at the receiving end of some generous donations, and even appeared in a list of recommended craft blogs.  I didn't dream of any of that a year ago.  So I'm really looking forward to what 2014 might bring.


Wednesday 18 December 2013

Clearing the decks....

I like to get everything tidied away before Christmas.  There was a little pile of sewing that I had pushed to the back of my mind until 2014.  But I found myself with some free time and decided to finish it off.  Here are 5 mama bags.  They are basically drawstring bags made to the same size as a pillow case.  These will go off to Greenfields Africa which is an organisation that distributes clothing, blankets and other items to new mothers and babies in Kenya and Uganda.  This is what their website says about the mama bags:

"a mama bag contains a cotton vest, a knitted cardigan, a beanie and bootees, a babygrow, and a blanket, plus locally bought soap, vaseline etc. To qualify for a mama bag, the mum is required to attend 3 ante-natal clinics during the pregnancy"

So they are an incentive for the mothers to attend ante-natal classes and they give them much needed supplies for the first few weeks of the babies' lives.

They cost me very little to make.  I bought the yellow gingham material for 49p per piece in a charity shop. The drawstrings are very long shoe laces and some thin braid that I have been saving for years.   The wine and grey material has sentimental value as it comes from a duvet which I placed my baby daughter on when she came home for the first time.  Eighteen years later this same "baby" managed to burn the duvet cover with her hair straighteners.  I rescued what was left of the material to make these bags.  Its great to know that it will be useful thousands of miles away.

What did I learn making these bags?:
  • how to make a drawstring bag!  I put only one drawstring into each bag and they close nicely.  The method of putting in 2 drawstrings works well in some bags, but caused a lot of bulk in these bigger bags.
  • how to sew French seams.  These bags will take a lot of punishment.  I always intended to sew a double seam and then found an article about French seams and how neat they are.  They hide the raw edges and I will definitely use this technique again.
  • gingham is not as simple to cut and sew as it should be.  I thought the straight lines would make cutting out and sewing straight bags very easy.  I was wrong. That was probably why someone else had donated the material to the charity shop!
I've said it before, but that is definitely the last sewing project of 2013.  (Famous last words?)

Sunday 15 December 2013

Cosy scarflet....

I like short scarves.  I always knit mine shorter than a pattern requires because I tend to tuck them into my coat and I don't want lots of bulk.  I recently read a posting on Linda's Crafty Corner blog all about bow knot scarves.  These are tiny scarves that cross over neatly at the neck.  My crochet skills are not (yet) up to following the pattern for the lovely crochet version and I thought the knitted version was great for a child but a little too plain for me.  So I searched on Ravelry and found this pattern for the anthro-inspired-scarflet.

I have considered carefully whether or not to include a link to the pattern.  It is full of errors and I had to read the comments left by other knitters before I could complete it to my satisfaction.  What should have been a 2 day project extended into a third day while I struggled with the second leaf which is the part of the pattern that many knitters have had problems with.  However, the fact that over 1200 people have knitted this pattern is testament to how attractive it is.  It has enough detail to be interesting and the length and width can be altered easily.  Some knitters have made it thinner and longer to drape over a blouse.  Many knitters attach buttons or a brooch to the centre piece which makes it look really pretty.  Some even put them on their dogs and cats!

I used a navy blue dk yarn and a silver grey brushed dk yarn held together.  It is very warm.  The mottled effect tends to hide the stitch pattern but will go nicely with most of my winter jackets.  I made mine just long enough to hang loosely and it even looks good worn over a jumper indoors.  I might look for a pretty button or brooch to add to the centre.  What would you do?  If I have time over Christmas, I will update my profile photo to show myself modelling it.

I have made copious notes and corrections to my printed version of the pattern.  I will definitely knit this again and next time it will take only 2 days as I have ironed out all the problems.  Using prettier yarns and different lengths makes this a very versatile scarflet.  I can see myself making more of these for myself and also to give away as gifts.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

I'm so lucky.....

Look what arrived today; a glorious collection of yarn and unfinished knitting.  I'm in Heaven, which is quite appropriate as this was all donated by a UK convent that was sadly closing down.  The nuns contacted Loving Hands to ask whether we could make use of their craft materials.  One of the Loving Hands members, Helen, made several trips to the convent and came away with literally thousands of pounds worth of yarn, material, threads, needles etc.

Helen mentioned that there was some unfinished knitting.  I had enough wool at the time, but said that I could finish the knitting if it just needed buttons or sewing up.  I have oodles of buttons and I quite like sewing up....I know....I'm strange like that.

Well that was months ago.  Helen had a garage almost the size of an aircraft hangar and spent weeks with helpers sorting the materials and boxing it up for anyone who asked for it.  Loving Hands members knit, sew and crochet for charity so the nuns were happy that their materials were going to a good home. 

Well, my parcel arrived today.  I piled everything up on my brown sofa which was a bad choice as there is a lot of black and brown wool that doesn't really show up in the photo.  But you can get the gist of it.  There are some lovely balls of wool, some pieces waiting to be sewn together to make a teddy, and some knitting still on its needles. Seeing the needles was quite poignant.  It makes me wonder about the stories behind why the knitting wasn't finished.

The teddy pieces are complete except for the main body.  I can knit one in a different colour and make it look like a romper suit.  The unfinished knitting is a bit more unfinished than I had bargained for.  It seems to comprise jumper parts but no patterns to give me a clue as to how to proceed.  The quality of the knitting is amazing. Some of it is Fair Isle which I would not be able to continue even if I had the extra wool or patience.  I've decided the simplest thing will be for me to unravel the knitting and to reuse the yarn for my favourite hats, blankets and scarves.  Whatever I do, it will all eventually be put to a good use.

Thank you to the nuns and a big thank you to Helen for sorting all this out and even for paying the postage on dozens of large parcels.

Helen has now finished distributing everything.  But if anyone is curious about Loving Hands, now would be a good time to look at their website and to join the free forums. There is a wealth of information, patterns and the occasional freebie available.

i'm now going to spend a happy few hours unraveling and sorting the yarn.  My idea of bliss........

Wednesday 4 December 2013

What would you do.....?

I fell in love with this pattern so much that I actually bought the book.  The recommended yarn is Rowan Wool Cotton which costs an arm and a leg.  But it receives such good reviews that I treated myself to some in French Navy.  I love is my new best friend!  It is a pleasure to knit with and I am actually limiting myself to a few rows per day as I am enjoying it so much.  I also don't need this top until next spring and I have other things on the go.  But they are just secondary reasons.

Now, this is where I need your advice.  The pattern has a very eye-catching cable panel up the front of the top.  It also has it up the back.  I like it on the back.  It would be very plain otherwise and it actually gives a very slimming impression!  The question I have for all you experts is:

if you saw someone wearing this with the cable panel on the back, would you think she had her top on back to front?

I really would be interested to hear what you would do.  Back pattern or no back pattern?  I have nearly reached the point where I need to make the!!  All comments gratefully received.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

More girls' dresses....

Here is a little quintet of girls' dresses that are destined for Sew Scrumptious which is an organisation that distributes dresses and shorts to girls and boys living in Malawi, Kenya, India, Ghana, Uganda, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Philippines, Tanzania and Zambia. 

These dresses are sometimes called pillowcase dresses as it is possible to make them from spare pillowcases. They are basically 2 pieces of material sewn together with ribbon ties at the shoulders.  I have left the ribbons undone for easy packing.  I also like to add a contrasting band at the hemline.  It takes longer but is worth the effort.

I don't have any spare pillowcases, so I bought a similar pattern and some suitable cotton material.  The Winnie the Pooh material came from a market stall at a good price.  The rest of the material came from a charity shop at an even better price.  They were selling large pieces of material for only 49p.  I managed to cut the two light blue dresses from one piece of material.  What a bargain. I made the mistake of oohing and aahing so much about the price that, when I went back the next day, they had doubled and even trebled it.  They still sold their material, but not to me!  The blue theme in the dresses is my way of keeping down costs for thread, bias tape and ribbon.

These particular dresses should fit girls aged approximately 4-6 years old.  I managed to buy material in the same charity shop that will be suitable for boys' shorts and I have found some easy patterns.  It seems that less than one in 10 items sent to Sew Scrumptious is shorts.  i can just see the boys' hopeful little faces when the donations arrive.  So next year I will sew some shorts to add to my parcel before I post it.

My sewing projects are finished for 2013.  I have some knitting left to do which will fill my dwindling free time.