Cider: The new ‘expecting’ gift?

Or how I came to be asked if I was buying cider to celebrate a pregnancy…

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Making Things

This week I seem to have mostly been making things. Earlier in the week I made chocolate & cherry cookies. Today I made mint choc chip ice cream, then with the leftover egg whites I made meringues. (No photos of the ice cream as it’s not totally frozen yet).

Vegan CookiesMeringues
On the crafty side of things I did some linocutting. Linocutting always surprises me by being fun and surprisingly easy. I tend to sketch out an idea first but then just let it flow. It’s not easy to do really exact things, just kind of an *idea* of the picture. Hopefully that makes sense. Anyway, I wanted to send a thank you card and since the reason is knitting-related, sheep seemed  a good place to start.
Linocut Sheep
As well as linocutting, I got to try another craft that I’ve always been interested in but never really done before – woodwork. My parents designed and commissioned a wooden bookcase when I was little and I remember going to the studio and seeing where all these amazing things were created. The smell of wood was lovely. Since then, woodwork has always fascinated me, but it doesn’t really seem like the sort of thing you should just dive into. At least with knitting, the worst that can happen is I make a mess of some nice yarn. When saws and hammers and chisels are involved, the stakes seem somewhat higher…

In Bristol there is a woodwork studio just for women. They run classes and I’m currently on the waiting list. When I got the chance to have a go, I couldn’t wait. That’s why on Friday I made a toolbox! It isn’t quite finished, I still need to sand off a few rough edges, but other than that I made a toolbox in a day!
Woodwork Toolbox
I’m not usually one for excessive exclamation marks but I thought it was pretty amazing that someone taught to make this useful (and I think rather beautiful) object from a plank of wood. Hopefully I’ll get to do some more woodworking soon. In the meantime, it looks like I’ve got another set of tools to covet. At least a workbench is cheap compared to a spinning wheel…

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Map Bunting Tutorial

Doing work experience means that I don’t have a lot of spare cash at the moment. It was a friend’s birthday recently so I decided to use my crafting skills to make her something fun. Bunting seems to be everywhere at the moment, I had a think about knitting some, or crocheting some, but it didn’t seem quite right. Then I realised, she likes maps, why not map bunting?

Step 1: Find a map
I had a look round a few charity shops, trying to find a cheap OS Map but didn’t find any cheap enough. Then I spotted this tiny map book of London for only 50p. With sturdy pages it seemed ideal.
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Step 2: Separate the pages
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Step 3: Make a template
I used a piece of paper the same size as the pages, fold in half, then into quarters. Cut on the diagonal from the end of one fold to the opposite end of the next fold to make triangles.
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Step 4: Use the template to cut up the map
As you can see, I got three triangles (including one upside down) from each page. I discarded the half triangles.
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Step 5: Use a hole punch to make holes for the string.
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Step 6: Thread the triangles onto string, space out nicely and hang it up!
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If you’re not a fan of maps, you could use another sort of book. I like the idea of bunting made out of pages from an old poetry book… 

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Looking Forward

The final day of Knitting & Crochet Blog Week is about looking forward to the year ahead. There are two things I want to do over the next year. One is to keep blogging regularly. I’ve enjoyed Knitting & Crochet Blog Week (thanks, Eskimimi for organising it!) and want to keep doing it as an inspiration to do more photography and writing.

The second thing I want to do in the next year is more spinning. I did a spinning course in 2010 and learnt to spin using a wheel and had a go with a drop spindle. Since then I’ve been busy doing a masters course and moved house and not really had time to think about spinning. Plus, living in a flat is not conducive to spinning – preparing the fleece by washing and carding it can be quite messy and dusty. Recently I’ve been thinking about spinning again and may have had a bit of a wander round the Ashford website. I managed not to buy a spinning wheel – no money or space at the moment for something like that. But perhaps if I get back into practice with the spindle and stick at it for a year (and assuming I’ve got a job then), maybe I’ll think a bit more seriously about getting a spinning wheel…

Plus hopefully the spindle-spinning will get easier (I produced a much thinner and more consistent yarn with a wheel):
Drop Spindle

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A Tool to Covet

Today, the blog post theme is a favourite crafting tool. I’ve decided to pick two things that I like in different ways.

First up, I really like my Knit Pro Symfonie double pointed needles. They’re good looking, but the reason I like them is because they feel nice. The wood is warm to knit with and they have a nice flex. They’re not too slippy either and I find they’re perfect for sock knitting.

Symfonie

Secondly, my yarn-bowl. My mum made it for me so it’s special for that reason. It’s also good for keeping my yarn under control – preventing it from escaping when I knit.

Yarn Bowl

Right, need to post quick before it becomes tomorrow, bye for now!

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Something a Bit Different

For today’s Knitting & Crochet Blog Week challenge, the theme is “Something a Bit Different.” Since my blog is normally very personal, I thought I’d challenge myself by getting someone else involved. I asked my lovely friend Kate if she’d mind being interviewed for the greater good. She very kindly agreed, so please find below my first knitty-bloggy-interview!

When did you first learn to knit and who taught you?
I first learned to knit when I was about 10 or 11. My mom taught my friend Lisa and I basic knitting and crocheting skills for fun.

Did you continue knitting or did you take it up again after a break?
I am a very sporadic knitter, so there was a gap of about 8 years before I started really knitting again. Again, it was with my mom and also my Aunt, and all three of us went to a local knitting group in Sacramento, CA.

What do you like most about knitting?
I love being able to MAKE something!!! Seeing a recognizable shape emerging from the gorgeous wool is so exciting (and gratifying!)

What do you like least about knitting?
I think I am a bit impatient and sometimes it feels like ages before things can be finished:)

What are you knitting currently?
I am currently knitting a lovely striped baby sweater.

What are your thoughts on the knitting community (real world/online/books/etc)?
This may sound silly, but I feel connected to knitters all over and that there is a global community of knitters (I guess this sense comes from online sites, knitting books, and friends on either side of the pond). Individual friends that I have are a great support for suggestions or inspiration, local knitting shops and groups are fun for supplies, browsing, chatting and help, and globally, it is great to know that great yarns and patterns originate all over the globe.

 

Thank you Kate for being my blog-guest! I was thinking recently about how many knitters I know. I have quite a few friends who knit but sadly, having moved recently, they’re all far away. Luckily the knitting community means I can find new knitters wherever I go. A local knitting group provides company, tips and inspiration. Online there are so many fantastic blogs, websites and podcasts. Although I love knitting and making things, I do think it is the community that keeps me hooked.

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Colour Review

For day 4 of Knitting & Crochet blog week, the topic is colour. I have a definite tendency towards darker colours in clothes, mostly blues, greys and blacks. I think my knitting tends to follow the same trend. However, I do sometimes knit things for other people so these are usually knit in colours suitable for the person I’m knitting for.

So, I actually had a look through what I’ve knit in the past year and it turns out, apparently I mostly knit pink. Yup, that caught me by surprise too!

I’ve knitted two blankets and crocheted a cushion, they were all multiple colours:
Blankets and CushionI’ve knit two hats, yup, multi-coloured (I’m counting multiple shades of sheep as multi-coloured):
HatsI think it’s fair enough that stuff I knit for babies is colourful. Oh, turns out one of the baby things I knit is totally grey (he’s an elephant!) the rest are really quite cheerful though (both baby cardigans are knit in self-striping yarns, both Riot DK if I remember correctly):
Baby ThingsI have knit a few other things that fit in with the black, grey, blue spectrum, but I really was surprised how much colour I use in my knitting. I’m toning things down a bit this evening by casting on a pale grey jumper (Warriston by Kate Davies). But, to be totally honest… I’m tempted to knit a stripy pink jumper for me too. The babies can’t have *all* the colour!

 

 

 

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Knitting Data

Day three of Knitting & Crochet Blog Week is about infographics. These are the fancy graphs that newspapers and TV broadcasters use to show numbers and statistics. Have you heard the phrase; “Lies, damned lies and statistics”? I generally think infographics are a great way of lying with statistics, you can make them imply whatever you want.

You’re not going to believe my infographic now are you… I promise it’s totally accurate (ish). Having done a masters in publishing, I do find the whole concept of using different media for different publications interesting. For example, something that works in book form might not work as a magazine – but magazines tend to get to the consumer a lot quicker so can keep you updated with the latest fashions/news. Also, since I’m trying to get a job in publishing, buying books and magazines is homework, right? Therefore, I decided to do some investigative journalism and run the numbers on my crafting library.

Craft Stats

Right, onto the infographics, (because you all came here for the stats, right?) above, you should see a lovely pie-chart. It shows that I own more craft magazines (16) than any other single medium of craft publishing. This is probably because I have a subscription to The Knitter… Knitting books come a close second with 14. The categories of Crochet and Other (quilting and sewing) have 5 each whereas e-books come in last place with a dismal 2. I may be cheating though as I’m only counting e-books that are actually on my e-reader. If I counted all the digital patterns I have, it would almost definitely be the biggest category (and that’s not including my queue on Ravelry).

So, you know how I said infographics can lie? Well, the chart above is true (assuming I haven’t left any of my craft books lying around that I’ve forgotten to count), but I have neglected to talk about some of the other crafts I do. Photography books take up a decent chunk of my shelf space and recipe books are even more numerous (I think at last count it was around 50). So really, in comparison, I have hardly any craft books. Statistics are great and show that I should definitely buy more knitting books. At least, I think that’s what they’re proving…

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Monkey

It’s day two of Knitting & Crochet Blog Week, that means it’s time to conjure up a monkey-inspired project. A quick search on Ravelry shows there are 1093 patterns that are named or tagged with “Monkey”. That’s quite a lot. With my current addiction to sock-knitting, you might think I’d go for Cookie A‘s Monkey sock pattern. However, since I do tend to go for a challenge, I’m actually thinking of designing a toy monkey. Blimey, there are 485 patterns that include the word “Monkey” and the tag “Toy”.

Anyway, the monkey pattern I’m thinking of is currently flipping between knitting and crochet in my head. Crochet would probably be easier to make up as I go along, but knitting makes a smoother fabric. The most suitable style of fabric will depend on who the monkey is for. It seems like everyone is having babies at the moment so perhaps a baby toy. In that case, I would perhaps use crochet to make a sturdy fabric that can stand up to being flung around, chewed and generally attacked on a daily basis. To be honest though, I’m tempted to make a Japanese Macaque. These fluffy-looking monkeys live in cold places and some of them use thermal springs to keep warm in winter:


(Photo by Yblieb and licensed under Creative Commons).

A monkey made in a fluffy yarn (Kidsilk Haze held double or quadruple, perhaps?) would be less durable but so snuggly. I don’t think I’d like to do battle with Kidsilk Haze and a crochet hook so a knitted pattern would probably work better. Having knit Ysolda Teague‘s Elijah the elephant pattern a couple of times, I think I could modify it to make it more monkey-shaped (plus with added tail). Perhaps I’ll do some sketching and see if a fuzzy Japanese Macaque would be possible.

What mascot would you knit? Anyone knitting peacocks will impress me a lot and I’d definitely be tempted to knit a manatee!

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Knitting Style

Happy Knitting & Crochet Blog Week! If you already follow knitting blogs, you may know about the fourth annual Knitting & Crochet Blog Week organised by Eskimimi. If not, feel free to go read about it, I’ll wait here for you.

The first topic this year is about knitting styles. Eskimimi has proposed four different houses (like at Hogwarts) but there is no sorting hat here. I think my knitting style falls into the House of Monkey. I not only like a challenge but also enjoy learning new techniques. Once I get interested in something, I want to find out everything. This may explain why I’m knitting my sixth sock of the year (two pairs and one and a half singles so far). I was given the Interweave book: Favorite Socks (it’s American, it’s meant to be spelt like that) for Christmas and have been learning new techniques.


First up I made a pair of lace socks. These were nice to knit, the lace kept them interesting but the chart was simple enough to memorise once the pattern was established. The pattern is Embosses Leaves from the Interweave Favorite Socks book. The yarn is pure wool I picked up from Namolio at Woolfest last year. They are really cosy despite being lacy.

 

 

 


The lace socks were soon followed by some illusion knitting socks. Rows of knitting and purling with the pattern stitches reversed (knit on purl rows and purl on knit rows) means that the pattern is only really seen from an angle. It’s an interesting technique (though the charts require a lot of attention) and makes me want to design my own pattern… Again the pattern (Hidden Passion) is in the Interweave book. I used two colours of Opal 4-ply and now understand why Opal is so well-loved. It’s smooth and strong and the socks just feel like they’re going to last for ages.

 

 

Feeling confident, I started looking around for something to make with my leftover Opal yarn. Something that would look good in two colours but without being *just* colourwork. Searching through the Knitty archives, I came across the Diversion pattern. Designed with a self-striping sock yarn, I thought they might look good in two contrasting colours. The short rows give a striking texture. I’m pretty it will be less lumpy when blocked though this one is going to have to wait until I’ve knitted it’s pair. It’s not the sort of pattern I can do whilst thinking about other things and I wanted something more straightforward for knitting out and about or in front of the TV.

Which is where this sock comes in (and takes me back to Favorite Socks). I wanted a straight-forward pattern but I didn’t want to stop learning. This pattern (Priscilla’s Dream Socks) uses short row heels and short row toes which I’ve never done before. It also uses a new (to me) cast-on – the Old Norwegian cast-on. It’s very similar to a normal long-tail cast-on but is somehow even more elastic. In it’s relaxed state, the cast on is 7cm across (so about 14cm circumference) but easily stretches to 17cm across (32cm circumference). In comparison, the Hidden Passion sock has a relaxed cast-on edge of 7.5cm but only stretches to 14cm. This sock is a wool/bamboo/poly blend. It’s really soft and smooth with a nice shiny colour. The shop I bought it from said it was Opal but it didn’t have a ball band and I can’t find it on the internet. It looks like Sockenwolle.de do sell bamboo blend yarns but it’s not clear if they’re on sale in the UK. Hmm.

The (probably) bamboo blend feels like it will be nice and cool for Summer, which leads me onto a future sock-knitting plan. As a Scot, my boyfriend wears a kilt sometimes. However wooly kilt hose are really good at insulating. This is probably a good thing if you live in the Highlands on a croft in a time before electricity and central heating – but in wedding venues and ceilidhs it can be a bit uncomfortable. So, bamboo sock yarn could be the answer. Now I just need to invent a pattern (because following someone else’s would just be too easy) and find vast quantities of yarn.

So, what is your knitting style? Are you a monkey-brain too, fascinated by learning new techniques? A bee – flitting from one enticing project to the next? A manatee – wanting snuggly comfy projects? Or a peacock – excited by gorgeous end products? That’s the great thing about knitting, no matter what your style, whether you want something straight-forward or something complex, there is always a gorgeous pattern out there.

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