Tuesday, 29 January 2008

The Japanese Embroidery weekend (finally!)

Well, I'm curently wired up for the day to check my blood pressure at annoying regular intervals (ouch!) so I'm catching up on my blogging before knitting group. As promised, here are some gorgeous pics that the tutor had stitched (some of which I'll get around to eventually!).

This first picture is a combination of embroidery and gold paint/leaf techniques using stencils, masking shapes, cut gold leaf squares, strips and torn pieces, brushwork, stippling and painting. My version as and when I get around to showing you is much more scruffy! It's waiting for the wonderful embellishment that you can see above because I needed a spare frame to loom it up to. As the Fan picture's now complete (see below), I just need to tweak a previously stitched pic then it'll get a chance to shine.

And here it is in all its glory! This is a multi-layered piece that built up over time. The white background of the fan was first, great long stitches avoiding the bamboo leaves that were then couched down with tiny stitches followed by the bamboo leaves in flat silk. Then it was thin red grid lines stitched across everything onto which teeny oval pieces of cardboard were stuck and then embroidered over. Only once all this was complete could I stitch the gold end piece, the flowers and finally the curving cords. 'Course, now I need to pay out for another picture frame and lace the darned thing! Pretty though.

Here are two more pictures, the top one a fabulous dragon that another student was sewing and below it a much more complicated version of "Kinsai" or painted embellishment. Like the one above, all the colours have been applied in one way or another, I SO want to do this course but as it will be in London and I haven't won the lottery yet I'll just have to want!

And here's Burton Manor itself, it plain and simply isn't advertising itself enough so the courses are woefully undersubscribed on the whole, in fact my second course in Fevbruary has been cancelled due to lack of interest!

It is a beautiful place, even in the winter and the constant mealtimes are always fun, no cooking all weekend;) As I'm still attempting to lose weight, I was hopeful the desserts weren't too tempting but did fall for the Chocolate fudge cake more than once (with cream of course!).

I've had a great weekend this time too, visiting a Cheshire guild spinning day and leaving with some wicked woolcombs! And I've been driving again, this time on my own, only a local jaunt but I'm planning on building on the experience as I've some target to work up to, namely driving myself to Haworth and back at the beginning of March. More about that next time.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Questionnaire for U.K Swap

Part One: Crafting

Do you knit, crochet, or both?

I mostly knit, what I know about crochet I can write on the back of a postage stamp! One of these days, I’ll find time to learn (but I might have to lose sleep to do so!).

What do you like to make? Do you have a favourite project?
I like a variety of projects on the go at any one time so that I can still knit even if I’m in pain. I crave complicated projects but like simple stuff too for brain-dead days. I am seriously into lace knitting right now, I did 3 knitalongs before Christmas and I’m signed up for 5 so far this year! Lord knows when I’ll find the time to fit it all in. I’ve knitted a fair few pairs of socks, hats and slippers but mostly knit sweaters aside from shawls.

Absolute favourite project? Really difficult question, I loved the Mystic Waters Shawl even though it gave me a few grey hairs in the first few weeks and would have said the Twilley’s Jacket if it hadn’t been so frustrating! Though for simplicity and a quick knit (and for how fab it makes me look) I ADORE the Best Friend Cardigan by Twinkle.

Do you have a favourite type of fiber or brand of yarn?
I’m addicted to Posh Yarns silk/cashmere laceweight for special projects but I like loads of brands of wool and wool blends if they’re soft. For me, it’s more about colour (or bargains!); I love variegated yarns, pinks, reds, blues, greens, browns but not too pale, muddy or super-bright kiddy colours. For special occasions I like Noro, Colinette, Wollemeise, and hand dyed yarn or for general use I like Twilleys Freedom chunky and Freedom Spirit, Wendy Mode, Stylecraft’s new pure wool yarn (yummy brown mix!), some Sirdar, sock yarn and bargains (I can be a wee bit indiscriminate if the price is right!).

Do you have a least favourite type of yarn?
I’m not a fibre snob but I mostly steer away from pure acrylics and novelty yarns – eyelash etc. (though I do make an exception with James Brett Marble!). If you look through my blog you’ll see I have pretty eclectic tastes as far as yarn goes but the yarn I use is mostly smooth to show off pattern.

Do you do any other crafts?
I spin, dye, embroider, make mohair teddy bears (but haven’t in a while), bead and cross stitch. I’ve pretty much tried every craft once though the favourites keep sneaking back over time. Finding time for it all is another matter!

What knitting do you bring ‘on the go’?
Either small projects eg. Socks or a current project. I’ve been crawling through a wonderful Twilley’s Freedom Spirit pattern that’s pretty and exasperating at the same time so it goes everywhere with me so I can do a few rows here and there as I go.

What do you carry your ‘on the go’ knitting in? Do you want something new?
Errrmm, actually it tends to go in a carrier bag in my rucksack until the needles poke thru too much then the bag gets changed, sad I know! The poor pattern gets rather curled on the corners and squashed when the shopping gets put in the bag but I’ve never really found anything better, open to ideas though.

Are there any knitting gifts (book, toy, yarn, item, tool) that you have been lusting over?
I like unusual buttons and appear to be collecting unusual tape measures ( I got a fab one from my Aussie SP recently). I’d love to try Addi Lace needles, either for lace knitting or magic loop socks, hence 80cm or longer (2.5mm for socks). With the joys of Amazon, I have a substantial library as I’m addicted to patterns! You can find my Amazon Wish list here:
(there’s 3 pages!)

Part Two: Your Favourites

What is your favourite colour? What is your least favourite colour?

Fave colours, blues, reds (not pillar box),purples and lilacs, pinks (as an accent), chocolatey browns and greens.
Least favourite? Muddy, indistinct colours, very pale shades (I invariably spill something over myself!), super bright kiddy colours. I don’t suit beiges, bright orange on its own, ditto yellow.

What scents/smells do you like? What don’t you like?
How do you like to pamper yourself? (bubble bath, hand creams, massage, manicure)

I like a long lazy bath with a Lush Bath ballistic (but not a glittery one!) or bubbles. I get quite dry sensitive skin so use moisturizers and non-greasy hand creams. Hubby tends to massage my shoulders each night (‘cos I craft too hard!) with a Lush solid massage bar as he spilt massage oils one too many times! I’m a bad girl and don’t really do much to my hands, my nails tend to shred easily so I can’t grow them long and nail varnish fumes get to my chest.

What goodies to you like to treat your tummy with? (chocolate, biscuits, truffles, etc.)
I am a chocoholic! BUT I have had to cut it down massively so little treatsize stuff is a godsend, I can have one without feeling too guilty. I like biccies and cookies but again limit myself. Truffles? One word, yum!

Do you prefer tea or coffee while you knit? Any particular kind? Favourite mug/cup?
Bizarrely, I don’t drink either tea or coffee! I have the odd Twilleys fruit tea once in a blue moon but tend to have Diet Coke for my caffeine fix!

Do you listen to/watch anything while you knit? (TVshow-Along, movies, music, podcasts)
For lace, I like something I’ve watched before so I can just listen along, I’ve watched the Harry Potter Movies so many times, I had to replace a couple of the DVD’s ‘cos of dropout!
I’ve not really got into podcasts yet but hope to look into it more thoroughly in the future, mostly I just have the telly on as background noise while I work.

Part Three: Living & Past-times

Where do you live in the UK? (General idea not address)
I’m on the Wirral in the North West, across from big city Liverpool.

Have you always lived here, or did you grow up somewhere else?
I’ve pretty much always lived in and around Merseyside but only moved to the Wirral around 12 years ago.

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Ooh, difficult one! I’ve planned a virtual trip around Scotland, taking in Skye (Shilasdair and Teo’s);Fibre shops like Haldanes; Fair Isle (Yarn!!); Shetland (Yarn!!) along with all the wonderful scenery that makes the highlands look literally like another country. Then again, after Skip North Haworth and North Yorkshire may become my fave place in the whole world!
I’d love to visit the U.S. to trawl the yarn shops in a big city though the practicality of getting there scares me to death (not the flight, the self- drive!).

If you couldn’t go to a knitting group, what other kind of gathering would you go to? (book club, tea party, yoga class, jewelery class, etc.
Definitely second place would be a spinning group (I need more spinning time in my life!) though there’s precious little of that locally which is why I decided to start up my own group – roll on February! Alternatively, a beading group or Patchwork group would be good if not a guild thing, so you can work at your own pace on your own project.
I like to learn new things all the time so classes in any of the above are also good.

What’s your style? (elegant, traditional, glamourous, girly, natural, sporty, outgoing, etc.)
Umm, show-off? I don’t exactly have the figure (or the budget) for a “look” so I tend to go cheap ‘n’ cheerful and tie it in with one of my many and varied knits – that’s where the show-off in me gets an outing!

Final Part:
Any allergies/preferences (fiber-wise or treat-wise)?

Not a huge dealbreaker but if you are gifting yarn from your stash and are a smoker or own cats please let me know. I’m an asthmatic and cat hair and smoke make me wheeze so I’ll wash the yarn or isolate it until the smell goes away.
As to treats, I’m not keen on dried fruit, marzipan and banana flavours in choc (or out of it!).

Anything we missed that you’d like your partner to know?
I’m just excited to be “meeting” new people, it would be great to find someone as obsessed with knitting as me but finding out about new people is just as much fun!

Sunday, 20 January 2008

SP11 goodies, yarn pr0n and more!

If I've been a bit quiet over the old SP11 thingie, it was mostly because I've been waiting...and waiting... and waiting! My poor not-so-secret-pal (now revealed as the wonderful Penni) has been waiting too, for me to recieve this package. We'd both pretty much given up on it ever getting here when suddenly, on Tuesday morning, a rather stripey box appeared on the doorstep..

..Yes. an amazing FIVE WEEKS later, this Airmailled box of delights appeared with no noticeable damage except that they've obvoiusly been held in customs over in Australia and the cute chocolate bars had got a bit melty. I could have shown you the pretty box...but you really want to see what was inside, don't you? Well, I did!

Penni had put a little note with every little thing she'd packed. all wrapped in pretty tissue paper. She'd themed the box of goodies to her home, Australia. There was a pattern book crammed with designs that I desperately want to knit NOW, from Patons Australia so now I have pattern books from Canadian Patons, U.K. patons and now Australia! Excellent choice! There's also a great magazine called "Yarn" which has fab articles including spindle spinning and Ravelry (she says it's the best Auzzie knitting mag.) and a novel called "Cloudstreet" which I plan to devour in the near future. Penni says it's her favourite book so I'm interested to try it for myself.

There was a lovely knitted hat which has already had its first outing, it's been so wet over here that I'm getting used to regular soakings so it was nice to try it out on a dryer day! All the goodies were packed in this lovely Australia bag and inside were four balls of the softest commercial sock yarn I've come across, Patons Patonyle- Lovely! There was also a cute Aussie tape measure, I think I'm collecting unusual tape measures now; she said it was cheezy but hey, I LOVE CHEEZE! Plus there was a useful little tin of lip balm which Penni had recommended as a fave of hers.

But that's not all, the piece-de-resistance of the whole box was this wonderful laceweight yarn, hand-dyed from the fab named "Live to Knit", how true! It's a lovely shade of spring greens and named "Spring". Unfortunately, due to the lacksadasical postal service, it arrived too late for the Spring Surprise Shawl however I have found a wonderful pattern perfect for this lovely merino yarn..Beefields Shawl! It's an Anne Hanson cracker and the yardage is perfect. Once I'm a little less crowded with lace knitalongs, I will give it my full attention, and the much-maligned Adamas Shawl that I've been putting off picking up for a while now, so seduced by quick-and-dirty knitting patterns.

So, thank you SO much for your generous package, Penni, it was much appreciated on a dull and depressing day!

On another matter, speaking of my 2008 post, I can see that. no matter how I try to convince myself, 2008 will be mostly dominated by lace...and other things (more of that later...).

Anyway, I DO hope you haven't been waiting for the results of my dyeing experiments too closely, I just haven't had a second to post the pics before now. Still, no excuses now, here they are...

..This is the hand-dyed tops that I experimented with, sprinkling dye powder directly onto wetted tops. The top left ball in blue is the twisted Merino, the top right (which reminds me of roses, flowers and stems) is the knotted and twisted BFL whilst the bottom ball is the knotted BFL. I was quite pleased at how they turned out, particularly once I had let them dry and fluffed them out again but the dye did not penetrate evenly so they will spin paler than the outer colour. As to when I'll get to spinning them, don't hold your breath!

Oh yes and in my mad dash to collect materials together for College this weekend, I found the lovely tops from Charity's fabbo package (from SP10) which will HAVE to be slotted into my spinning schedule again shortly.

Back to dyeing, and here are two skeins that were steamed, the top one was wet dye poured whilst the lower one had dry dye sprinkled on. I quite like the "sprayed" look!

And these are the 4 skeins from Stroud Yarns. They were all kettle dyed together in the stock pot and may have already been found a project, the new shawl knitalong from Anna (of Mystic Waters Shawl fame), it's called the Mystic Light Knitalong and you can join here. Then again, I might change my mind...I'm like that!

And here's the Shetland fleece that helped shed the pounds that Sunday, racing up and down the stairs dividing my attention between it and the dyepot.

It still has plenty of lanolin in it but it IS a lot cleaner, it has gone a shade or two lighter ridding itself of the filth, it was originally a deep chocolate brown but has gone more milky now. On the one hand I can't wait to spin it, on the other, I have two fleeces ahead of it in the queue and multiple projects vying for my attention right now so it may be on the backburner for a while.

So why have I been quite so busy this week?

This is part of it, a course booked at Burton Manor a while ago which due to a number of other comittments I hadn't been able to attend for around two years. Hence the materials were somewhat scattered to the four winds and took some unearthing. I lost my precious notebook with instructions on finishing this piece so a degree of time was spent using detective skills to work out what I needed to do next! Still it ocurred to me that you've never seen any of my Embroidery (or bears for that matter) so watch this space. I hope to show you a few luscious piccies from this weekend in the next post.

Looking ahead slightly, it will be my Blogiversary on the 27th, which just happens to be a Sunday (although a somewhat more busy one than normal). I'll keep my fingers crossed that you get something good then (or close to then!). And as if life wasn't busy enough, I've signed up for the UK Swap too so the questionnaire will have to get posted too, phew!

See ya all soon

Sunday, 13 January 2008

What would you do with 6 hours (and no distractions?)

Let me explain, I'll usually have Sunday morning hubbie free with which to update the blog, except when we're meeting up with friends or otherwise engaged. So when I found out I'd have 6+hours hubbie free today, I debated what to do.

Housework? Naah! I had a choice, wash one of the two remaining smelly fleeces that aren't stored in the parents garage; lug the chair down from the computer room and do some Japanese embroidery in preparation for next Friday; drag out all the dyeing materials and have a play; pick up some of the knitting that's been sadly lacking this week or just relax and spin.

But, then again, I am a Gemini!
So, I started by filling the bath and carefully unwinding the fabulous coloured Shetland fleece. It was the nicest fleece I've come across to date, easy to unwrap properly and extremely clean, a purchase from the first Woolfest. Once that was soaking in incredibly hot water and woolwash, I started soaking the first of the dyeing materials, some 4 ply superwash wool, bluefaced leicester and Knitpicks bare. I even found time to put a washload through!

Next, I grabbed some Merino and Bluefaced Leicester tops for the second batch of dyeing and had a play...

...... Knotting...
.. Twisting and Knotting...
...and just twisting.

Most of the time I was racing up and down the stairs, filling up and draining the bathtub 3 times(quite an art); sprinkling Kool-Aid alike powder over damp wool, filling up the dyepot and kettle dyeing 4 skeins at the same time (then overdyeing the pale bits!) and pouring wet kool aid over other skeins. The steamer got good use, especially when the first batch came out then I got to muck about with the tops above. There will be pics of the finished stuff, but as the batteries were on their last legs, you'll have to do with these images for now.

Once the washing was done, the drum was free to spin out the water from the quite-a-bit cleaner fleece (amazing how much dirt there was in it!), in a pillowcase, of course, I dread to think of fleece wrapping itself around a washer's innards! and now it's suspended over the bath airing on one of those clothes airer thingies. Late lunch happened once the tops were all steamng away and then I could collapse and do a bit of spinning!

Just to show I haven't abandoned knitting altogether this week...

..Here is the knitted swatch all ready for Secret of the Stole ii beginning this coming Friday.
I finally managed to get a photo before it gets frogged as I'll need every square inch. It never photographs terribly well and on a very dull day, it either looks too bright or really weird but it's beautiful Posh Yarns cobweb weight (I'd prefer light laceweight) in colour Chocolate. I'll be using 2.75 mm needles so my version may be a weeny bit smaller than recommended but it will still be gorgeous! Watch this space..

...And I'm working my way up the right front of the Twilley's Jacket, slow going but we're getting there!

The last of the pre-new-car purchase yarn arrived this week too..

4 skeins of laceweight Eva cashmere/silk (my first choice, yaaay!)

1 big skein of Cobweb cashmere silk

and a smaller skein of super shiny cobweb that I kind of bought by mistake! It's a wonderful colour though and all 3 lots will knit a shawl, some bigger than others. I'm sitting on my hands at 6pm tonight, I'm banned from buying until at least February!

And my Knitpicks order which was lovingly transported from America arrived at knitting group on Tuesday so I've even more laceweight to add to the stash!

I've also had a wee try of the new car, I'm determined to get as much practice as I can in as and when I can fit it in. Still, next driving lesson's Tuesday if I don't get out before. Quite looking forward to it!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

I'm Spinning around....

....No pics yet, I've been sooooo busy! (edit:yes they have now!)
There's actually not a hell of a lot extra knitting content anyway, I've been a bit on the old braindead side this week so instead I've been spinning...and spinning...and spinning!

As the only time I get is in the evening and any pics I take look a bit rubbish to say the least, you'll have to wait to see the results. For now, just use your imagination. I've dusted off the jumbo flyer and worked with the stinky smelly Ryeland, apart from a bobbins worth of fleece which has had its umpteenth wash and finally starts to look clean. The rest has bloomed after a wash into a thick cordlike yarn that's taken forever to get the rubbish out of but does look pretty.

As I was waiting for the aforementioned fleece to dry, I dug out one of my first experiments in brutalist washing, namely a fawnish Gotland fleece that was extremely grubby and full of veg so in a fit of stupidity, I stuck it in a pillowcase and put it through the wool wash cycle of the washing machine...not a good idea! Luckily, it only felted the butt end so whilst it is a curly mat, with a little encouragement it cards and spins quite nicely.

Pretty. eh?
I have been reminded by certain sources that I haven't followed up on the mouse saga, well, so far, so good. I still haven't exactly cleared every corner and there are occasional settlings etc. but no sightings as yet nor extra droppings in the kitchen so I am slightly hopeful but not exactly cracking open the champagne quite yet!

After what appeared to be a bit of a comedy of errors, we finally picked up the new-to-us car on Wednesday. In typical style, it took best part of 2 hours to pay for and pick up so I was half an hour late for a specialist appointment but I still got to see the bloke once he'd seen everyone else which was funny 'cos he was the same bloke who'd sorted out my Vertigo 4 years ago with a twist of my head. Bizarrely, he remembered me which in retrospect was probably because he has a penchant for stripey shirts which draw my eyes terribly and we had this weird conversation where I mentioned I knew I crossed my eyes because I could only see magic eye pics in reverse, probably came across as a right nutball! Anyhoo, lumpie the lump has all but disappeared and hopefully that's an end to the matter.

The same evening, I contacted a local driving instructor to arrange some refresher lessons which culminated in a 2 hour lesson today where I didn't kill anyone or prang the car which was nice. I want to build upon it and try the new car though DH is somewhat reticent (doesn't want his new baby damaged, which I can understand) so it's baby steps. Anyway, there are 2 more lessons booked for next week so locals can avoid the roads on Tuesday afternoon and Friday morning ;) Longer term goals are to drive to Haworth for Skip North in March and Cockermouth for Woolfest late June but I could do a shorter jaunt at the end of this month depending on my confidence around then, watch this space.

I still haven't started the second clue of the Spring surprise shawl yet, somehow I just haven't had it in me but that's fine, I'll get around to it when life's a little less hectic!

Friday, 4 January 2008

Happy 2008, Year of Knitting Fearlessly!

Happy New Year to one and all, hope everyone had a reasonable Christmas. I'd planned to have a bit of a new Year's resolution thingie this post and then I'd read about the "Year of Knitting Fearlessly" and it all seemed to slot into place....Not like I've planned it down to the last detail, (I'm SO not like that!), but I'm formulating plans...

So far the fearless bit is actually quite true, I'm aiming to tackle stuff that I've avoided for a while...because I've been afraid of making a muck of it.

Hence my targets so far are:
1) Fair isle with STEEKS
2) Designing and creating from scratch at least 1 sweater every 3 months
3) Working increasingly more complex lace patterns
4) Designing and knitting with my own handspun (I've got boxes of the stuff and a real mental block over knitting with it!)
5) Expanding my knitting teaching repertoire

Of course, me being the craft butterfly that I am and facing the potential of 3 simultaneous lace knitalongs at the same time, I'm going off knitting... Honestly!

We've been here before way too many times, as soon as I put the pressure on a bit I go right off things, I've a desperate need to get cross stitching (which I know as soon as I get going on one I'll get frustrated with 'cos it takes so long) ; and I'll be back to Japanese Embroidery class in a couple of weeks so I'm itching to get the frame down and do some more before then. And as I've reduced the bear population by a couple I should finish a couple more...but I don't wanna...now!

I have started the Spring surprise shawl (and completed the first clue), completed one front of the Twilley's Jacket and started on an...eyelash project? Okay, I know it's passe and everything but I was seduced by this waterfall jacket pattern in a gorgeous coppery shade....

It's DEAD easy (though I will be tinkering with it!), in Sirdar Boa, a yarn type I always swore I'd never use because if you don't concentrate, it's extremely easy to drop stitches though it's a lighter weight than Wendy Shimmer, my original nemesis and so far so good. I actually don't care if I end up looking like an orange blimp, it's soo pretty! And it'll be a change from the fearless stuff, though I'll need to be fearless wearing it.

In other news, we're finally changing the car. Hub got the afternoon off yesterday and we trolled down to Arnold Clark in Liverpool where bizarrely we got the previous car exactly seven years ago bar a couple of weeks when its predecessor died, literally! In typical fashion, we've waited months but the first time we look we find the car and do the deal all in one go. It's been a mad dash organising finance today but fingers crossed it'll be ready for pick up next week. Now I'll have to pull my finger out and get some refresher lessons booked pronto!

Watch this space...