Monday, 21 January 2013

Creating Warmth

As the weather has become more and more wintry, how could I not find myself spending most of my spare time working away on my crochet blanket? As you can see it has grown rather a lot.
No longer portable, it has been lovely to come home, tuck my toes under the edge of it and add a few more rows. The only problem arises when I have to quickly turn it over for the next row without allowing too much cold air to get under it in the process.

I'm now working on the final few rows before I start adding the border.

But first there are rather a lot of ends to sew in....

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Style Icon

Being an enthusiastic and productive knitter it isn't surprising that I have a fair amount of hand knitted clothing to choose from and I do like to wear at least one hand made thing every day. The joy of hand made is that your clothes are unique, one of a kind pieces that last and transcend fashion. Friends will tell you that I'll always be wearing a pair of hand knitted socks inside my boots, or a pair of mitts or scarf peeking out from the collar of my jacket.
When I am at home, however my knitwear can take centre stage and I can be seen trotting around in these beauties. I love this combination of socks and clogs - they are so comfortable and to my mind are just made for each other. I recently rediscovered these clogs which had somehow got themselves lodged under the sofa. Don't ask.
As for the socks, I can't quite remember when I made them. I know they pre-date my blog and Ravelry so that means they are at least six years old. The pattern is Spey Valley from Knitting on the Road by Nancy Bush, still one of my favourite sock designers and the yarn is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Blue Jeans I believe. I can only recommend both pattern and yarn very highly as they really have stood the test of time very well.

As you can see from this closeup, whilst the fabric has developed a quite integrated surface the fit and stitch definition are still pretty good. They really feel part of me.
They really just sum up why I love knitting - I can have interesting, unique pieces of clothing that for someone like me who really doesn't care that much about the comings and going of fashion make me happy every time I look at them. I also know that I will be able to enjoy them for years to come.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Tools of the Trade

As regular readers may know, my sister and I have spent the last few months clearing our family house in preparation for its sale. The house has been in our family since it was built at the beginning of the 20th century, belonging to our Great Uncle Will before our grandparents, parents and us. Most of our ancestors were simple, working people so we have no costly family heirlooms to consider, nor do either of us have space for anything substantial so what we have kept is small, but in some way captures the essence of the person for us to remember them by.
Uncle Will was a cabinet maker. Dad had a huge heavy chest in his shed which contained all the box planes and chisels which comprised the tools of his trade. We were delighted to be able to pass these on to our cousin who has the space to keep them and the skills to use them but I couldn't resist keeping this one. It is only two inches long but has a proper blade in it and still works.
I love the patina of the wood and the fact that, as with all his tools, Uncle Will took the trouble to monogram it. I like to feel the connection with my ancestors who also made their living through the skill and creativity of their hands.

My next object, even smaller this time, belonged to my paternal grandfather, who was a quiet, gentle man from County Durham who I can just about remember although he died when I was quite small. He loved nothing better than to take himself off into the countryside and was, it turns out, quite an eminent amateur botanist. The object that I have chosen to keep to remind me of him is this, made in tortoiseshell and small enough to hang from a key ring and carry in the pocket.

It is the set of magnifying glasses that he used to examine the plants that he came across on his walks. I seem to remember it was most often used in our house for the removal of splinters but it reminds me that in my family there have been people who were happy in and curious about the natural world, and cared about the environment which is something that is very much part of my life. It also makes me think about my nephew's enthusiasm for watching birds and being out in the hills around his home. Thinking about this continuity makes dealing with the loss of loved ones much easier to cope with.
These objects give me a small amount of insight into where my creativity might come from, not just from my mother and grandmother who put the knitting needles in my hands but to all the other family members who made and discovered things with hand and eye.
It also made me wonder about the sort of small object that might remind people of me. A circular knitting needle? A ball winder? Perhaps. Useful, but not very pretty. Or maybe a lovely drop spindle, like this one from IST which, like the other objects on this page is intrinsically beautiful but also made to be used. Tools this handsome are a joy to use and I always have a drop spindling project on the go.

Do you have an object which encapsulates you and your creativity or that of a loved one?

Saturday, 12 January 2013


Although most of my crafty skills lie with knitting, I can crochet simple projects and was chatting to a few friends the other day and decided that it was time to pick up the hook again. I have quite a lot of good, hard wearing DK wool in my stash and thought that this would be a great opportunity to make it into something useful. 
 I already have a crochet ripple blanket that I made some years ago but to be honest this has been sequestered by Talsi, one of my cats so this time I thought I would have a go at the Granny Stripe blanket by Attic24. Nothing complicated, just something to do in the evening after a busy day. I gathered up all my balls of Jo Sharp DK that have been marinading in my stash for about 10 years. I bought them at a rock bottom price from a Canadian website called Elann which offered ends of line but you had to be quick. A bit of Internet shopping that resembled Supermarket Sweep and the choice of surface shipping netted me about 30 balls in differing amounts of 5 colours for about £1 a ball. Those were the days.... Not much of a bargain sitting in a box in the back bedroom though.
I cast on the recommended number of chains and worked out that each ball would yield about 4 rows so came up with a stripe sequence that would use as much of the yarn as possible and set to. I have to say that for the first couple of days all other tasks went out of the window as adding 'just one more row became quite compulsive.
I couldn't wait to see how the colours worked together and am quite pleased with the result. I never planned for them to be used together so it's a matter of luck rather than judgement!

My plan for this blanket is for it to become a cover for the lower part of my bed so it is going to be quite long and narrow. I like my feet to be cosy.

Talsi of course has other plans.

Friday, 4 January 2013

A clean start

New Year can be a very satisfying time for sorting out jobs that have been hanging around for a while. For me, this feeling doesn't always last very long so I need to take advantage of it while it lasts.
I have enjoyed knitting socks for many years now and always have a pair on the needles. I have given away a lot of them but, being someone who tends to default to black clothing, really love to have a rainbow of socks at my fingertips to brighten things up.

As you can see , my sock collection reflects my love for colours from all parts of the spectrum, including neutrals. I love solid colours, semisolid colours,stripes and variegation, commercially dyed or hand dyed, machine spun or hand spun yarn.
 Some socks have complex lace or cable patterns, others are plain and let the yarn do the talking.
Some yarns are durable and emerge from the washing machine time after time looking good. Others need to be hand washed. Having so many socks to hand it is rather too easy to allow the bag of socks needing hand washing to build up. I thought I would use some of my brief New Year zeal to good use and get them done. I was somewhat chastened as I hung up 24 pairs to dry.
That feeling soon went away,however as I folded them up and put them away in the drawer, tucking lavender bags and cedar blocks around them. As I paired up and folded I examined them and noticed that with some the fabric was quite felted. I love the way a hand knitted item can tell the story of how it has been used far better than a commercial one yet still retain its beauty and viability.
I also found one or two socks that need to go in the mending bag. Once darned there will be plenty more wears in these which is another thing I love about hand made things. After the love and attention that has gone into making them they feel worth repairing and taking care of.

Now all I need to do is decide which socks to wear tomorrow.....

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Insert suitable New Year cliche here

Well Happy New Year everyone! Yes, in keeping with half the blogosphere I am here at the keyboard, solemnly planning to be a better, more regular and interesting blogger. So today I have two offerings - one, something I certainly need to do more of, a finished project,  and the second, simply something that made me happy today.
My finished project is a pair of Hummingbird Socks from The Knitter's Book of Socks by Clara Parkes. These have been languishing on the needles for so long that when I rediscovered them at the bottom of my knitting bag it took me some time and a certain amount of research to rediscover the pattern. So old was this project that I was knitting them on double pointed needles from the top down. I have been so much converted to making socks from the toe up using circular needles that it felt quite strange to return to this technique.
 The yarn used is Yarn Yard Falkland which suits the pattern well - enough variegation to add interest but not swallow the pattern. I really like the way this pattern is written with the lacework coming to an elegant conclusion on the instep allowing the yarn to speak for itself across the foot. I also think socks are more comfortable if the part that goes inside your shoes is smooth rather than lumpy with pattern.

I enjoyed finishing these socks more than I thought I would. I wish I could remember why I stopped knitting them after finishing the ribbing on the second sock. Probably something as simple as needing a simpler pattern for public transport knitting and getting sidetracked onto a new and shiny project at home. I could resolve to finish all my unfinished projects and not to cast on anything new before they are done but I know myself too well for that sort of hostage to fortune. I know that a lot of my knitting this year will be work related so I resolve to be completely undisciplined and capricious with my recreational knitting.

Now there's a resolution I should be able to keep!

My second offering today is something completely natural that still completely made my day. It's the first day for ages that the sun has shone enough for me to want to go and potter in the garden and look what I found - snowdrops!

There will be gardeners all over the country discovering these green shoots and feeling that now the longest night is behind us we can look forward to brighter days to come. This year these little plants have an especial poignancy for me, they come from my childhood home on the Isle of Wight which, all being well will belong to someone else by the time the snowdrops are in full bloom. It gives me great comfort to know that some of them are still with me.

And should I make the mistake of becoming too much lost in thought there are certain members of the household who would like to point out that it is long past lunch time.