Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Happy Christmas!

At last all the knitting is finished, posted and delivered and I can sit down and r-e-l-a-x. A close call this year getting everything done - well it is every year, but this felt a tad close for comfort! Pretty much been in a knitting frenzy since the last post - I think I had good intentions but not enough stamina to see it all through! But it is all done and I think I will get myself a festive drink and some munchies and go watch a christmas film on the telly. It doesn't matter if it is silly or not, just christmassy:)

I think Willy Wonka - the original - is on later. I do like the Johnny Depp version but having grown up with Gene wilder and the oompa loompas singing, it has to remain my favourite.

So, no pics of what I've been making until after the presents have been opened - just in case:) But some of you may recognise a few things from previous blogs - ah ha, but you didn't know they would be yours though, did you!

So, wishing you all a happy, relaxing holiday with lots of good company and lovely gifts on christmas day,

elaine xxx

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Red marble slouchy

This slouchy is done as a request after my friend saw the yarn, saw the slouchy design and asked me to put them together in a beret for her sister. Since I only hunted the marble yarns out recently - for the stripey scarf - I hadn't considered using it in a beret yet. As a stripey matching beret, yes, but I haven't quite got round to that either!

Sometimes when you choose a yarn for a pattern, you have to weigh up the busyness of the pattern or the yarn. Rule of thumb - busy pattern such as mad cabling, stick to a simple yarn, solid or a semi-solid hand dyed as these show off the raised pattern well. Busy yarn with lots of colours, marls and textures usually like more simple shapes and patterns to show off the yarn qualities.
So mixing a medium busy marble yarn and a medium busy pattern with some yo's and a bit of a linear twist going on - hmmm. The jury says you can get away with it and it could be stunning but it may get too busy and confusing and lose all pattern definition. GO for it - at least you'll know how far you can push it!

So I did and I must say I am very glad I did. I was pretty confident that it would work but enough to be considered good enough for a present? I think this has worked out very well indeed and I love the marble gradations thoughout the beret as it works its way to the top. Being DK, it is a very slouchy beret but the weight of the hat sitting on the back of the head is quite comforting and cosy and looks good from all angles - in real life and not just in the best photos of the day:))

I do hope the recipient likes it but I am actually not bothered if she doesn't as I've decided to claim it as my own if its going spare - knitters perogative:)

Progress check.

Some new green mittens on the go and I need to get going on some gloves too.....

Considering starting on the knitting machine this evening - wish me luck and no more procrastination!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Liberated flower press

Just wanted to show you this find from last weekend. On a very cold and nippy sunday, we went to a car boot and market to browse for interesting stuff. It was so cold many vendors had packed up but a few brave souls were sticking it out in the blustery, icy winds debating whether they were mad or stupid - or both.

Sometimes at these things you get a lot of furniture or a lot of house clearance. Sunday was lots of small stalls with the remnants of peoples lives. Discarded items or obvious house clearance by the age of the stock. It's a bit sad really to see someones life deposited on a blanket on the ground but also in a way good that maybe some aspect of that person can live on and the items can be used by someone else who will want them and give them a new lease of life.

Anyway, this flower press caught my eye with its big bold aqua flower and it hasn't been used! Still pristine with the original clean blotting paper inside. Okay, its probably not that old but still it's nice to find a larger press. I don't tend to see them that often. Funny though as only a few days before I considered liberating a small press from its home in a charity shop and felt I couldn't really justify it as I already have one. I have too much stuff already and I do try to keep it down - although that may be hard to believe sometimes:) But I had no qualms about liberating this larger press at all - funny that!!

Progress knitwise: Machine 1 - knitting - 0

The machine is now up but knitting has not yet commenced as it took most of yesterday to clean it up. Dust and gunky oil, not a good combination! But it is now awaiting my brain to get into gear to start knitting...... I'll let you know how it goes. My brain getting into gear and the knitting!

The cat doesn't like this new machine - at. all.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Stars everywhere!

It's getting cold out there and it is definitely time for hats and gloves. Yesterday, I braved the cold donning hat, gloves and scarf and I was still freezing. I couldn't seem to stop the cold wind freezing my face and numbing my toes. As I can't do much about the weather, I can maybe help family and friends wrap up against the early cold and retain a margin of snuggability whilst risking the inclement weather:)

Just in time for christmas - the star beret. Actually two of them for you to have a look at. I may have mentioned I was having a bit of trouble with these as I followed the pattern faithfully, knitting super chunky on the recommended 3mm needles. Ok, my common sense said 'this has to be wrong'. Super chunky is usually knitted on 7mm. A drop of 4 needles?? But I thought maybe the designer knows something I don't. Maybe she is going for the super tight, really dense, warm look?! I know, I know....

But keep on knitting I did and I began hating it more and more. Eventually on completion, it looked nothing like the picture being about 2 thirds the size and fitting more like a skull cap rather than a floppy beret! And so rigid! Needless to say I have no pictures of that hat to show you!! It's been ripped back and I enjoyed every minute of it! Isn't it funny that it takes a few minutes to destroy something that took hours to create?

But instead, I have both the green mohair and the bright purple star berets completed for you to look at. I do like the crisp star shape and it is a very bold hat in the purple but soft and warm looking in the green. Perfect design really. And it is really a friendly knit once you ignore the needle size and use the normal size for what ever yarn you are using. Both these hats are knitted with chunky yarn (rather than super chunky) and the pattern still fits well.

I did knit the rib band on a smaller size needle for a snugger fit as it was too loose on completion for me. At least this is knitted from the top down so you can always change the band if you need to. Not like the slouchy I knitted before that falls past my nose when you pull it on;) I would have to go all the way back to the beginning to fix it so what's the point? Maybe someone has a bigger head than me and it will fit them better! But I did remember this lesson when I knitted another one this week. Perfect fit this time - hurrah!

I'm afraid this pattern isn't available online as it was published in the small booklet with the November issue of Let's knit in the UK. You could visit their website for back issues if you have to have it! They have some free patterns there too and a forum for advice etc. Better suited if you are new to knitting or need support on new techniques.

So wrap up warm and pics soon of the new red marble slouch beret!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

It's cold outside.....

Today is the kind of day you really want that hot chocolate with all the trimmings. It's been a day to sit down and watch a good film whilst you're knitting - except the cat decided my lap was much warmer and that my knitting was in the way. After several hours of part knitting-part cat attention, my leg finally went numb and she is now firmly ensconced on her high perch overlooking my computer.

This post was only managed after freeing up my keyboard which she likes to sit on to stop me doing anything else that would detract from 100% cat time. I was lucky this time - she didn't sit on the off button:)

Maybe there will be better light tomorrow to take my backlog of photos and to show you the beret I am trying to work on today!

Wrap up warm if you are going outside....

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Stripey scarf

Well, here is the stripey scarf, at last! I must say that I really like it and it turned out much better than expected. I chose this design as I'd seen a lovely version of the pattern using Noro silk garden but as I can't afford that at the moment, I substituted two contrasting acrylic marble yarns from James C. Brett instead. As noro yarns are so vibrant in colour and look very yummy indeed, I was preparing myself for a lesser stripey scarf with less zing or punch. Ok, the colours are more subtle but maybe that is a good thing as not everyone wants a bright blue and contrasting red scarf - really?!

So, as an idea for presents, this would work for a guy, I'm thinking. Only problem is that although it's a simple pattern to work up, it just seems to go on and on! I've read Yarn Harlots posts on how she's addicted to the change of colours and is on her third consecutive scarf but I'm not convinced that after three days of continual knitting I want to launch straight into another one! Yes, it is fascinating to see the colours subtly change and alter the colour palette of the whole scarf but it is also mightily boring knitting long stretches of 1x1 rib - on and on and on......

So, although I love hand knitting, I am also a realist and if I want to get any quantity of these done as presents then I may have to break out my double bed knitting machine, blow the dust off it and try to remember how it works! It gives me perverse pleasure to be able to make something in a day. I don't see it as cheating dear handknit, just complimenting it. You have to use the right tool for the job. When I want to relax, I can handknit away and watch tv but serious pressie making may now require more serious measures - or desperate ones!!

The scarf is quite narrow without a tassled fringe. This is hopefully more of a classy scarf! You could wear it with a long coat wrapped over in front more like a cravat rather than the bulky wrapped-around-the-neck look. Well, that's the theory. It does look good like that. It is quite long to get the most out of the colour repeats and alternates between cools and warms as you can see in the final picture.

Shame I couldn't get a pic of someone wearing it as I took it as an example for my christmas orders the day after finishing and she bought it there and then! Didn't have time to block or anything. I'm sure she won't notice but, really! There are standards to maintain:)
We can also say bye, bye to warm and fuzzy mittens, bright pink verity, petrol blue verity, blue thorpe (had to take plaits off as its for a boy!) and mosaic beret. But new orders for three lots of gloves, and one more pair of turquoise fuzzy mitts. So, I'd better get going. Shame you can't knit them on a machine:)))

Friday, 21 November 2008

Magenta with daisies

One of the hats that's been waiting to be shown. It may look a bit familiar to you. Yes, it is another pink thorpe hat but this time in a bigger size so I can wear it! I decided to make a few modifications like embroidering more daisies on the side - well, the flaps need more decorating on the bigger size - and I thought the top could manage a big daisy and some french knots.

As you can see it does look a bit big on the model's head and it is a bit long over the ears on me but at least it's not too tight anymore. A little big I can do. Anyway, the white border and plaits may look asthetically pleasing in the overall design but it looks a bit too much of a contrast against the skintone. I don't think it works for me - although I will wear it inside, even if I look a bit stupid:). The plaits are a bit Heidi too!

I do like this hat, and the model always makes the hats look great. Shame they don't look like that on me! But I am aware that I don't really have the face shape for many styles of hats. Now give me a heart shaped face and that would be perfect!! But if I don't suit them all then at least I can get the pleasure of giving them to those who do and give them a choice of hat wardrobe. Ha, ha! Sis, you'll need a new piece of furniture, a walk-in hat stand wardrobe! Rows and rows of dummy heads sporting verity berets, gretels, and earflap hats in a dazzling array of colours:)))
(If you ever do that, send me a photo?!)

Drifting gently back on track - here's the detail on the top of the hat, chunky daisy with french knots decoration. I did actually rein myself in here:) it could have been a french knot fest and the poor hat would have looked more polka dot from a distance!! But sometimes less is more (did I just say that? Shhh, don't tell anyone!)

So for now, I'm leaving this pattern for a while unless anyone particularly wants it for christmas. Suddenly time seems a lot smaller until the big day and there is still lots to do.

Oh, I've managed to finish the stripey scarf at 23.57pm! Need it for tomorrow when I go and get some christmas orders. I would've liked to have had a matching hat but you can't do everything, I suppose. Anyway, hopefully pics over the weekend. Don't know if I will catch any light for photos tomorrow and don't you know, it's meant to snow! It's not even december yet. What is the weather thinking? I have this theory. We missed summer completely. Autumn was over summer and winter is now the new autumn so where does that leave us over winter?? Maybe I shouldn't ask that. Someone may say that there are now two winters - cold winter and even colder winter!

On that cheery thought, I'll leave you for the night wishing for warm mittens and snuggly scarves to cuddle whilst sipping a hot chocolate smothered in marchmallows, chocolate and skooshy cream if you have any. Sweet dreams!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Full of sugary goodness!

Alas, no time today to take photos of star berets so here are some yummy pictures guaranteed to make you hungry! It's been such a long time since I had a doughnut and I must admit the blogging part of me eyed these up, thought 'yummy' and then thought 'that would make a good photo on the blog'. A sad excuse to buy yummy doughnuts but I'm not complaining:)

These were not eaten today alas but a week or so ago and looking at them now makes me want to go shopping again. But the mind works in mysterious ways and I took these pictures with ideas in mind for collage. You may well be thinking pink icing to collage?! But bear with me. I haven't got it all sorted out yet but believe me it will make more sense as I go. Sweets and cake decoration are very similar to working with gesso, gel medium and paint. Most mixed media artists are decorators; layers of information collated together to create a whole, yummy conclusion.

So although I don't necessarily want to recreate the pink doughnut, I do appreciate how it asthetically works with its colour palette, texture and its overall appeal. It's no good creating artwork if its not appealing enough for someone to want to buy. It works right up to a close-up level. Still has a yumminess, don't you think? Yup, still want to eat one, now!

So this attention to decoration and detail has me looking at the most mundane or everyday objects/food. Mind you, there is something about cakes and pick & mix displayed in shops. Rows and rows of pattern and detail. Like cupcakes on a tray with individual decorations. Hmmm, there's an idea.

So watch out for cake inspired collage! Meanwhile, I'm sure I have a recipe for cupcakes somewhere.......

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

warm and fuzzy mittens

I'm beginning to get a bit of a backlog here of knitting I haven't shown you! First, as promised, the fuzzy mittens. These were a trial to find a pair of mittens that would fit me. All the other patterns I've tried just seemed way too big but these fit just right. Guess my hands must be 'baby bear', as daddy and mummy seem just too big. Although they are mainly black, they have lovely magenta and tuquoise flecks that are shimmery.

The yarn looked lovely too and I've been saving it as it never looked as nice knitted as in the ball. I have that problem a lot. I tend to buy yarn on the look of the ball rather than thinking how it knits up. I am a bit of a sucker for that then I keep it for just the right project..... hence a large stash of yarn.
But this knitting for christmas is actually making a dent in the hand knit supplies. Gasp! I may even have to consider 'buying' more to get everything done!

But these mittens are a real stash buster. 2 x 50gm balls of yarn and away you go. A very simple pattern to follow and warm, fuzzy mittens to finish. I thought a 4" rib band was a bit too big so I made it 2.5" instead but feel it's a bit too short. Next time I'll go for 3". I wasn't sure how much yarn this would eat up so I was playing cautious but I had quite a bit of each ball left so I can go generous on the rib band now!
I would describe these as 'fuzzy' as mohair doesn't have as soft a snuggle factor but they are incredibly warm and I feel I may have trouble parting with these when the present wrapping comes along.

The next mittens are going to be stripey, I've decided. Just got to go stash hunting to mix and match colours with personalities now!

Back soon with the star berets I was telling you about. The photos are poor - poor light last week - so I'll take some more tomorrow and you can also get a sneak peek at the new stripey scarf I'm knitting, and knitting, and knitting...... Bye for now.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Mauve verity

It's a funny word 'mauve'. It sounds old fashioned and a bit of an in-betweeny colour. Not quite purple or rose, a bit pale and makes you think of a lavendar smell - little loveheart sachets in drawers or drawerliners. See? All old fashioned reminiscences. But the word mauve just doesn't have the same ring as Lavendar and it's been bugging me since I started labelling this 'the mauve beret' as the Rowan band calls this shade Mauve. It wasn't intended to be its name and sometimes names don't bother me at all but this does. It's as if I've given a child a really naf name they'll get teased about at school and it's all my fault! Sorry!

Anyway, this mauve beret is knitted up - as you have probably already surmised - in the Verity beret pattern by Ysolda. I'm losing count how many I've done and I think I may call it a day now. I've also found a new star beret pattern that has taken my fancy - sorry verity - and is a quick knit and ideal for christmas pressies. More to come as that pattern is a story in itself!

But this beret has turned out well despite my name and the wool twist in the yarn. This was a bit of a tester to see what a simple structured pattern would look like with a bit of texture. I think it does work but I'm not overwhelmed by the effect. It does give texture to the panels but it also gives a rougher edge to the flower shaping which looks better crisper. But saying that I think it does work, it's just a matter of preference.

I also changed the band for this one too. I kept the same textured stitch but instead of knitting it sideways with an overlap for the button, I just knitted it in the round with a loose cast off. Do you think it needs a decorative button anyway? Been considering it but it might look a bit stuck on rather than an integral part of the design.

Had to crochet the edge as the knit cast off was too tight. But that may be my knitting!! As I knew this would probably be my last verity I decided to try this band out. It could also have been motivated by a laziness as the band takes a long to do as the knitting of the hat!! And I am beginning to run out of time for all my ideas for christmas.

I have pretty much sorted out now what patterns I will be using - through trial and error - so now I can get started on the knitting mountain! More progress reports soon.......

* Just for the record, this beret was knitted watching a scary episode of Sanctuary and the end of the film 'Mr & Mrs Smith' with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.*

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Mittens update

I know, I know, I said I was giving the knitting a rest. And I have, sort of. I'm researching ideas for collage/paintings at the moment during the day and saving the knitting until the evenings so I can watch tv at the same time! Once I'd made up my mind to do this, I thought I'd better finish off those projects lying around and before you know it, the mittens are now mitts! They are still nice but I did like them as mittens better. But since I made the mistake of not reading how much yarn I needed, it's the best solution without scrapping the whole thing.

They are very thick and cosy but too big for my hands. Definitely a mans mitt pattern this one. But I did find another pattern for mittens that is perfect for those of you with smaller hands:) More on that when I take some photos.......

I've also been finishing off a few hats as well as starting on the fuzzy mittens and there is another crochet winter blanket project started too. It's modular hexagons so I can do the individual pieces and put it all together at the end. So far I've done 2. They are about 10cm wide though, not tootie ones and it took me a whole episode of Sharpe to crochet one and become familiar with the pattern.

Talking about programmes that become memories in your knitting - more mitts to go while watching the Borg tonight. 'We are Borg. You will be assimilated'. Methinks it's a bit too late for that. The knitting has taken over........

Ah, there goes Voyager and Captain Janeway getting some revenge on the borg cube. Comfort tv....

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Crossroads and Gladioli

Not that crossroads and Gladioli have anything in common but both have been on my mind of late. The gladioli because they are now dying back and it reminded me I hadn't posted to show you the lovely richness of the purples against the green stalks. They are a little light here and don't show the deep rich velvetyness of the purple petals as well as I would have liked but you take what light you can for photographs at the moment!

The richness of colour combinations always makes me want to dye some yarn or fabric - play a little with colour. And I still mean to get round to it at some point this month, along with making presents for christmas. But there are very few people I know that would appreciate dyed yarn as a present - only my mum! Something knitted up with that dyed yarn would be a different matter, I suspect! But I'm taking a hiatus on the knitting for a bit to clear my head and give me space to think about direction.

I've always loved to learn new things. Weaving, spinning, knitting, embroidery, collage, painting.... I've always avoided putting myself in a category. I trained in Textiles but I love the conceptual aspects of art too. I love print, collagraphy as well as the humble potato print. I love collage, mixed media, balancing a composition. I love the subtleties and contrasts of colour, texture and fonts. The more I discover, the more I want to explore. And although I enjoy knitting, it doesn't let me address all these facets of myself that I feel need to be taken out and looked at with a fresh eye.
But confidence and time have a lot to do with artistic development - or not. Not having had the time for a long while to discover who and what I am and where I want to go, I am now in the position where I have a little breathing space to try and find out exactly that. But being creative requires positivity and a confidence in yourself and your work. So how to rediscover that?

I'm going to work small, start experimenting and explore materials and mediums and see what happens. I may not post every day what I'm working on but I'm going to try and produce some small outcome every day - even if it is only worthy of the bin or being cut up for collage. I need to get inspired!

Friday, 24 October 2008

serious workers

Just have a look at this 40's home knitting book I found in a charity shop recently. What a gem! Usually there are only bad 80's chunky mohair knits with awful intarsia patterns to browse through but this is in quite a different calibre. Ever want to know how to knit, well absolutely any type of clothing?! This book has it all and the styled, glamour shots are true classics. (Maybe we should start presenting our knits like this again!)

A dress with pleat effects......

A knitted bathing costume?! Ummm..... Fine for posing but wouldn't it kind of get a bit saggy and lose its shape - and coverage - in the water? I hope it is a very fine gauge knit or those shorts could get a bit uncomfortable! But the picture does make it look so elegant and it would be tempting to knit it up, just to see.

The book is part techniques, part patterns and is graded to help the learner progress - "it is so laid out that the principles develop in easy stages, from the very first processes to the most advanced types of work that can possibly be needed by the serious worker". So for all us 'serious workers' out there, here are some more dashing designs to tempt you.....

Errol Flynn double modeling a natty v-neck top. Makes me want to go away and watch Robin Hood whilst knitting this dashing top. Don't know who would wear it though......

A not quite so cool picture modelling the standard cable number. You can imagine him saying why can't I get the Errol Flynn pose! Looking at the pattern though it does look a rather nice jumper with a low roll neckline and clean cable lines. I could imagine a lot more people wearing this now.

Ah! The chic, sophisticated look of the country set.. That knitted waistcoat was a 'must' in those days....

I do like the hairstyles in these plates, it makes you want to go style your hair into a classy number and make a bit more of an effort:) I like the name of this top - knitted blouse...

Now this pinafore dress I will try, I think. It looks great in the picture - literally like a thin fabric draping well on the figure. I wonder if it does that in reality or eventually turns into a 70's maxi dress down to my ankles:) It also says at the top that it 'will be very useful to wear with a knitted blouse' - so that's what I could use it for!! New outfit sorted!

And don't forget the knitted accessories. I love this hat and the way it's shaped at the sides. I think you'd have to consider your hairstyle though. It may or may not be that flattering. There are also patterns for every type of sock, hat, glove, stockings, vests, underwear you can imagine and possibly some you couldn't or wish you couldn't!! As pretty much everything was rationed or not to be had in the 40's, this book would have been an encyclopedia of basic techniques, patterns and recyling yarns but trying to help people retain a touch of fashion and style in their wardrobe.

I'll leave you with this cheery picture of a baby's pair of breechettes. I am so glad that baby knitting has made some progress over the years!


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