Tuesday, 28 December 2010

As the year comes to an end

I was surprised to see that it has been 10 days since I last blogged, the christmas period seems to have gone by in a blur (not helped by my head cold which has laid me a bit low the last few days).  I had to work right up until Christmas Eve (boo hiss) so Christmas and Boxing Day seemed to take me by surprise, and I didn't feel like I was on holiday until Monday.

We had a quiet Christmas at home, and then had the family around on Boxing Day which was also nice.  I didn't get too many crafty presents but they were mostly things I'd asked for:  a roll of freezer paper, some fabric, two sponge bars for my knitting machines, and 'coupons' from DH for chauffeured visits to a knitting shop, quilt shop, Hobbycraft etc.  I also had a lovely visit from my minis friend Anita and her DH on Christmas Eve, and Anita gave me a dollshouse construction book (in French, as she lives in France, so I am slowly deciphering that with my schoolgirl french), a tiny card of buttons for my knitting shop in my Willowcrest, and a little pretend cardigan in a box that she made herself.  Thanks Anita!

I've taken advantage of the holiday time to put together the bathroom kit for my Fairfield dollshouse, but I've also done some knitting.  I kept myself going on Boxing Day during the chit-chat by working on the sleeve for my Jaeger Natural Fleece Yoked Cardigan, and I've done a few rows on my Johnny Rotten Mittens

But mainly I was working on my Christmas Tree Tea Cosy as it was sort of time sensitive - and I got it finished!  I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, I think I like it better than the Laughing Hens original that inspired me because I made my branches 3-D and theirs are flat and droop.  It was a bit fiddly knitting all the presents and seaming/stuffing them, but they really add to the cosy.  I sewed a gold bead onto the tip of each 'branch'.  The star was a bit of a challenge to work out, and I admit it has come out a bit wonky, but the whole effect makes me smile when I see the cosy sitting on the table.  Full credit to Laughing Hens for designing the original which gave me the idea to copy, but I feel like I've achieved something to work out my own pattern for it.



I don't go back to work until 4 January, so I really want to do some sewing this week on my Hawaiian memory quilt and some machine knitting on my Sock Wool Machine Knitted Vest.  I feel worried that my week of holiday is going to fly by in a blur of sales shopping, nose blowing and sleeping.

I hope your festive season is going smoothly, and I wish you all the best for a happy, healthy and hopefully prosperous, and crafty New Year.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Let it snow

London has had snow dumped on it yet again.  I woke up this morning to a light dusting of snow, that looked like this:


but then it suddenly started snowing heavily mid-morning.  By 11am, we already had about four inches and it didn't stop until about 1pm.  DH and I dressed up in all our layers and hiked into town to run errands, through a winter wonderland.  And when we got home, DH and DS made a snowman in the back garden.  Very unusually, the snow was 'sticky' so they were able to make quite a big one, he's about 5 feet high.



The prediction is for more snow over the weekend, so I am extremely hopeful of being able to stay home on Monday, if the snow disrupts the trains sufficiently.  On the other hand, I want to be able to get over to my local knitting group tomorrow, preferably without having to walk.  So lots of snow Sunday night please.

Instead of doing crafts this week, with my free time I've been putting out Christmas decorations.  I have a lot.  We got our usual enormous tree from the tree farm, but even so  it was a job to cram all the ornaments onto it.  As you can see, I don't go for the minimalist look  :)   That's the tree skirt that I made a few years ago, underneath the tree.



The end of the kitchen table is filled up with various candle holders and mini scenes.



I went to the I-Knit Christmas party on Thursday night.  Snow was threatening, which may have contributed to the smaller crowd but there were still about 25 of us.  There was a huge spread of food with several delicious home-made cakes.  As a precaution against drunken knitting, I had taken my Jaeger Natural Fleece Yoked jumper, which is just stockinette stitch, but in the end I didn't actually drink too much so it was ok.  We did the Secret Santa, I gave away a Rowan pattern book and some cashmere lace yarn, and received in return a hand-knitted hat and some homemade earrings.  The hat is tight on my big head but I am hoping I can block it bigger as it is a pretty variegated colour in a wool/acrylic blend.

I've also finished the 'tree' portion of my Christmas Tree Tea Cosy and I've started work on the 'presents' to go around the base.  I enjoyed this 3D knitting experience - for once I wanted my knitting to bulge out in odd places!



I hope that you are looking forward to the festive season and to enjoying a relaxing break - hopefully with lots of quilting, or knitting, or dollshousing, or whatever your hobby is.  Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Downhill to Christmas

I feel like Christmas is rushing at me, like I'm hurtling downhill on a rollercoaster, yet I don't feel ready yet.  Not ready as in the sense of being prepared (although I'm not prepared either) but just not ready emotionally.  I feel like I am mentally still stuck in Autumn, and it almost seems absurd to see all the christmas lights going up on shops and houses, all the christmas ads on tv etc. Despite this reluctance, I've now had two christmas parties (one at my husband's office last week, and my team lunch this past Friday) and another one coming up this coming Friday (for my office).  Cards are starting to arrive, I've posted most of mine, and we went out to get a tree Friday night.  I suppose I will catch up eventually - it feels like the older I get, the slower I am at accepting change.

I have made a small christmas list, including useful items such as Steam a Seam 2, and small extravagances such as Roxanne's Applique/basting glue.  Even a hopeful item: new sponge bars for my knitting machines (which sorely need them) but I doubt I will get those. I've already efficiently bought myself some perfume, for my DH to give to me  :)

Meanwhile this week, in between gallivanting around parties (and nursing small hangovers the next day), I have done a few things.

I've decided the 'jungle' border on my Hawaiian memory quilt is too harsh, so I've rough cut out several palm trees and pinned them on.  I think that softens it, so I will trim around them and fuse them on.








I've continued to knit on my Jaeger Natural Fleece Yoked Cardigan, I've done the body up to the armpits and have started on one sleeve.

I needed a new portable project to take on my team away-day (actually Monday/Tuesday with one night in a hotel) earlier this week.  I decided to go for Annemor 12 gloves from the Selbuvotter book.  Instead of the traditional black design on white background, I've gone for a white design on a sky blue Jamieson & Smith jumper weight wool, because I had some in my stash.  It looks sort of Wedgewood, very pretty.  This is a poor picture because the colour looks purple when in fact it is a lovely sky blue.  Needless to say, I was the only person on the away-day that was knitting during breaks and in the bar in the evening, but it was a great de-stresser and boredom combatter (if only I could have knit during the presentations!). We had a tour of the house and when the guide arrived, he caught sight of me and told the group: "well! I've never had a delegate knitting before" but I don't think he minded.

I've also started a Christmas Tree tea cosy.  I spotted this cute design in a knitting magazine, offered as a kit by Laughing Hens. They don't offer the pattern separately, but I decided to have a go at making up something similar myself.  I am short-rowing the peaks, with varying degrees of success.  I've managed to work out how to do it without holes (eventually) but they don't look as sharp as the ones in the picture.  DH says it looks more like a green hedgehog at the moment.


It's warmed up here a bit, up to 8 degrees C yesterday, but they say more bitter cold weather is coming later this week.  Only two more weeks of work and then my office closes for the holidays between Christmas and New Year - yippee!!!!!!!!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Warm woollies weather

Even if you're not in the UK, you've probably heard about the severe weather currently afflicting the UK and Europe.  It's got down as low as minus 20 Celsius in Scotland, and down here in London we have been down to  around minus 4 C at night I think.  But what has really brought the country to a grinding halt is the snow, because we are not used to it and we are not set up for it. Earlier in the week it hit the South East, so colleagues who live east of London, in Kent and Essex, began to have difficulty coming into work as roads became blocked, trains stopped running, schools closed etc.  Here on the west side of London we were ok for a while (much to DS's disappointment who was hoping his school would close, and mine as I was hoping I would have a good excuse not to go into work) but we finally got a few inches Wednesday night.  I got into work fine on Thursday, but coming home Thursday night was quite difficult as almost every train out of London Waterloo station was cancelled or severely delayed.

When I finally squeezed onto a train, the journey was twice as long as usual so I had lots of time to knit on my Sanquhar glove. I've knit the little finger first, and have picked up to knit a few more rows up to the base of the remaining fingers.

Friday I decided not to even try going in, and I worked from home.  Hopefully my boss is not going to give me a hard time about it next week.  If she does, it will be really annoying because she has been using the snow as an excuse to do whatever hours she feels like.

I had a Finish this week!  The Freedom wool cable vest is finally done.  I am going to try wearing this to the office, because it's warm without being too warm.  The cable pattern came from a Freedom leaflet, but otherwise I pretty much ignored the pattern and just knit to my own measurements, and substituted my own twisted rib for the bands.










I've been trying to decide what to knit for my next portable projects.  I was looking in my Selbuvotter book at some fair isle gloves, and wondering if the Jamieson & Smith jumper weight yarn I have in sky blue would contrast sufficiently with the white to justify all that stranded knitting.  I also have a wonderful skein of Colinette Jitterbug in aqua, and I'm wondering about trying the Sunshine socks from Cookie A's Sock Innovations book.  The trouble is, once you start having to refer to a chart all the time, it detracts from the portability of the project and the potential for error when chatting (and drinking) at knitting group grows larger.

I've been wearing my Broken Rib socks and am quite disappointed with them as they are huge on me.  I think it is partly because the Tofutsi yarn lacks body, so even though the socks are a version of rib, they are drooping.  But I think the main culprit is the weird heel on this pattern.  Instead of a conventional heel, it has an upside-down gusset:  you increase for the gusset, then eat up the extra stitches when you turn the heel.  It just doesn't cup the heel the way a conventional sock heel does.  With the sock pulled right up, the heel looks ok, but it wants to pull down and sag outwards, like some kind of extra toe.  So even for bedsocks, they are annoyingly floppy.  I can't believe it after all the work I put into them.  grrrrr.

After the outing to the LYS with the knitting group last weekend, I sat down and quickly knit up a pair of fingerless gauntlets with the Sirdar Squiggle.  I love the colours in this yarn and as it is a super bulky, the gauntlets knit up quickly.  I didn't try to make the knitting pretty, I just wanted something warm to wear in our awful wintry weather.  After a bit of experimentation, I cast on 26 stitches to fit my arm at the elbow, and knit in 2x2 rib, decreasing four stitches to bring the fabric in for the wrist.  I seamed the long edge, leaving a gap for the thumb.  These gauntlets were wonderful for the Siberian walks from home to station, and station to office.  They pull on over my top garment and wrap me in warmth to the elbow.  I put my coat on top, and my thick gloves under the fingerless knitting.  So the knitting keeps the wind off my gloves, yet if I need to take a glove off, the knitting stops my fingers from freezing.  It's like having a big pair of sloppy sweater sleeves hanging out the bottom of my coat sleeves - wonderful. The only thing I don't like is that when I washed these after knitting, a huge amount of dye came out.  The water was bright fuschia for 3 or 4 rinses, and even after about another 5 rinses was still noticeably pink.  I would be worried about wearing these over a white shirt.

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