Autumn quilt: funky owl 2. And a new project!

I think this is autumn block 44. Not my favourite, but as mentioned in my last post I’m at the stage where I know there are blocks I want to make so that there’s a balance of blocks in the quilt as a whole, and I have one other block that uses this fabric so felt I needed another so it isn’t all alone. It was retrospectively an unwise choice of fabric being so different from the others (though I do have a small repeating cartoonish hedgehog in a few), but a couple in amongst the others is okay and maybe gives it a bit of added ‘interest’! I’ve tried to tone it down by using quite quiet fabrics for the rest of the block, with only the four small inner squares having anything other than a blender-style pattern, so I think it works okay.Owl 2

I had a hunt through my photo library (boy does that need a clear-out!) and found the photo of its friend. Both had been in blocks I did earlier in the project but had to take apart and do again to make them work better in the quilt as a whole, both having been way too ‘busy’. The first one still was, a bit, but I think there was a limit to what I could do with the pieces.

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In other news, I’ve started making the sleeveless summer top I bought the fabric and pattern for last year. It’s taken me til now to get over the mental angst involved in making the first top I’ve ever sewn, which was year ago! So this is the second one. Apart from darts, which didn’t feature in the first top, this is going to be easier (famous last words…). I cut the pieces last weekend and did the darts and the top and side seams this. The darts aren’t brilliant, I had to unpick one and redo it because when I changed the stitch length as I neared the end (following YouTube advice) I must have somehow knocked the fabric skew and got a dogleg in the sewing, which means there are little holes you can see (though if anyone was that close to my bust I’d punch them). Then I forgot I’d changed the stitch length down and did the whole dart at length 1.0 instead of 2.5! I debated doing the same for the other one for consistency, but in the end decided not to and I don’t think you can see the difference. Stripey fabric with darts so of course the stripes then don’t line up – not a good idea, or doesn’t it matter?

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From top no. 1 I learned that, for me personally, it’s not worth the difficulty of trying to do the overlocking stitch (have I got the right word?) to finish the edges of the seams, but just to use the pinking scissors. Last time trying to do the overlocking stitch I got it all snarled up and had to unpick bits and redo it by hand and the end result was messy, whereas pinking scissors do the same job but without the hassle, so long as you don’t mind the serrated effect, which I don’t. I had to alter the length of the top to fit to where I like it best, allowing for a bit of uptake on the hem, and have sewn the side seams nearer 7/8 inch than the 5/8 on the pattern, by the time I basted exactly on the line then sewed to one side of it, but the pattern size was slightly too big so that’s worked fine when I’ve tried it on. Happily the positioning of the darts in the pattern seems to look okay on me, because I’m really not up for trying to alter bust sizes on these things, that’s far too advanced! I now need to put bias binding at neck and armholes, which will be taxing and is for next weekend unless I have a burst of energy midweek (doubt it, in this heat and with an allotment to water), and then of course the hem to do. Be nice if this time I finish it in time to wear this year! The fabric’s a lovely Kaffe Fassett one, perhaps more subdued than some of his others! Cotton, but woven (I think), nice and light, and drapes better than standard cotton. And I love the colours!

Top before binding

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Autumn quilt: block 43 and taking stock

I designed this simple block just before I went to stay with my family last month, so that I had two to do, even though I always take two but only have time to do one, and so it proved on this occasion! But I’d rather have too much than be ‘caught short’ with no sewing to work on. The purple fabric is from Moda’s Thistle Farm range, called Primrose Thistle, so tones with the tan fabric from the same range. I’ve made just a few blocks with dark purple in them, partly because that is the main colour in Lewis and Irene’s harvest mouse fabric I like, and partly because I think of the purple in berries and on copper beech trees as being autumnal, or at least the prelude to autumn.

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On Sunday I laid out all my blocks on the sitting room carpet and am now glad I have these few purple blocks, as they are the ones that ‘pop’ and stop the rest blending into such a mass of orange and brown, which was a problem I had. (Taking apart approx. 12 of the blocks which were too ‘busy’ and reusing the pieces to make simpler blocks also helped, though talk about reinventing the wheel the hard way!). I didn’t place them carefully so they aren’t lined up and the two designs aren’t placed alternately as will be the case with the finished item, but it gives an idea of where it’s going.

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As I’m past the half-way mark (or perhaps the two-thirds mark, we’ll see) I also wanted to see what needs to be made. I decided I needed another with the cartoonish owl that you can just see at the top left, as it’s an oddity and one stands out too much whereas a second will balance it but be more than enough. I’ve designed that one and am working on it this week. I’ve also got one to make using a fabric that’s been rescued from a dismantled block but is otherwise not to be found anywhere. Then I think one more with the stag from the naturalistic woodland fabric in the central square, as I’ve two with the fox from that fabric and one with the stag, so that will balance out; then at least one more with the fussy-cut pumpkins in the four small squares in the middle of the block. So that’s a few where I’ve got something to work on rather than a blank canvas, which at the minute I think is good. I think I’ve got 43 blocks completed (the one I’ve just finished is at the front of the picture but without the last row sewn on, which is why it looks badly proportioned to the eagle-eyed observer). Plus one in storage I’m undecided about.

Down on the allotment, we’ve problems with the fruit trees which we’ll just have to ignore until October, but otherwise we’re doing lots of watering to combat this prolonged spell of dry weather, and have our first potato crop! Very exciting, for me at any rate.

Squash are doing well, though I mustn’t speak too soon…

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They’re a newish thing in Britain and I don’t think they’d grow too well in the north of the country, though maybe they’ve bred varieties that would cope, I don’t know. There’s a lot that we planted too late this year because we didn’t have time to prepare the soil, but we’ll hopefully do better next year.

And the flowerbed is looking good, due to an injection of new plants at the weekend and a pick-up in watering now that I’m over my fear of drowning them and recognised that there’s not much chance of that in this heat! I managed to kill a lavender plant, maybe two as one’s on it’s way out, I think, through underwatering, so it’s been replaced and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Be great if the sweet peas flower, and if the lupines and delphinium make it through the winter be even better next year when they’re taller. Good to have things to look forward to, and jobs to do that don’t involve dusting and ironing!

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A new block and some new projects started

It’s been a busy few weeks, particularly with work to the allotment, but the week before last I was lucky to have a nice peaceful week staying with my parents back in Northumberland, and managed to get this block finished. I like the design, autumnal but quite cheerful, and managing not to use too many fabrics!

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The second shot shows the true colour of the fabrics better but the frames of the windowpanes put half of it in shadow!

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I’m struggling a bit with the lack of space in new flat for cutting and planning, with circular table pushed up against a wall with no windows, but am going to have to get used to it. I do have a new block planned and am working on it. I think this is block no 42 or 43, probably of 60 (I may scale down from an earlier thought that it should be 80, but theis remains to be seen). The Moda ‘Pumpkin Pie’ fabric in some of the flying geese in the inner square, has been repurposed from an earlier block that went wrong so it was harder to get them to be as neat as I’d like, but I keep thinking you won’t notice too much once it’s quilted (one day!).

At home, I resumed the attack on my first-ever sock, for which I need maternal help. If you’d seen me frowning, muttering, and trying to concentrate with my tongue sticking out lick a three year old you’d get the picture. This is a project I’ve taken home with me for I think the last 3 visits but not got beyond the cuff. This time I got more into my stride and finished the straight bit, Mum had to rearrange the stitches in place for the heel flap, but that’s it for now until I can find the online instructions on how to continue with the heel, picking up stitches down each side of the flap, apparently! When I’m feeling strong I’ll see if I can do it.

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As usual, doesn’t bear too much close scrutiny, I don’t know what happened here…

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… but I can’t foresee a circumstance in which, when I’m wearing it, anyone will have their face that close to my ankle!

(The plural ‘projects’ in the title refers to a top I’ve started knitting, for another post when I’ve taken photos, or maybe even finished it. It’s lightweight but for spring, I think, one would have to be mad to wear wool in weather like today’s in London, even if the top does have short sleeves!)

New block and a new hobby

That’s the second blog post title in a row with an ‘and’ in it, I think I may be squeezing in my crafting around other things at the moment. This is the first block finished since we moved flats, though I started it before we moved, so I reckon this one’s been nigh-on two months in the making, yikes.

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I’m pleased with it, though, particularly being able to use the last of the dark brick red fabric in the centre. These are pieces I salvaged from an early block I took apart because I didn’t like it so I’m glad to have put them to good use and to have used more of the acorns and berries fabric (brand unknown), it’s one of those I discovered belatedly falls into the ‘less-is-more’ category! It’s got a fair bit of purple in it which I’m afraid I try to cut round so there’ll be some wastage but it’s too much of an in-your-face purple for this quilt. Again, the Moda Prairie Cactus has proved its worth, and the brown fabric that I rely on but is discontinued. This is block 41, but I had to go back to the last blog post  wrote featuring patchwork to work that out.

The new hobby that is taking me away from both patchwork and finishing unpacking the flat is the allotment we’ve rented. When I knew where we’d be moving to I was a bit anxious, as you are when moving somewhere not of your own volition and under some time pressure,  so it’s not like you’ve got time or more importantly the budget to look for your ideal place, but woke up one morning and remembered there are allotments in the village we were moving to. This cheered me up immediately, as I grew up with a garden and had been really missing having somewhere outdoors to go, particularly in the summer. I like walking, but being outside for a different reason, having somewhere to cultivate our own plants, would be fantastic. Looking it up online, I saw they are on the street where we live and there were some available to rent, which is amazing because in many parts of Britain there is a waiting list for them, and as we’re in commuting distance from London that could have been the case for us too. We looked round with the deputy clerk to the parish council and chose a half-plot, more manageable for two working people. It was overgrown and hadn’t been cultivated for some time, and unfortunately the previous occupant had left some ugly plastic waterbutts and other big bits of rubbish we can’t get rid of ourselves, so that’s an eyesore until the council organises removal (which could be a long, long time, if ever), but we’ve put them at the far end of the plot and it’ll be a while before we work our way up to that end anyway.

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This is a quickly-snapped ‘before’ shot. You can just see the edges of some fruit trees to the right of where I’m standing, and there’s a bit of ground behind. What you can’t see is how hillocky the ground is, and all the bits of wood and broken paving slabs the grass has grown over. Don’t know who that strange bloke at the far end is.

Later, the lovely apple tree to the left of the plot was covered in blossom.

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That was before we’d got the petrol lawn mower and my husband had mowed the grass. In the background is our neighbour’s tidy plot!

Since then, we’ve planted potatoes and the lovely weather means they’re growing well, so far. I’ve been out most nights watering them, and am just sorry there’s still grass growing through in the bed so we should have dug it more thoroughly, even though we’d done lots and lots of digging and put about 3 bags of compost on it. Yesterday I planted marigolds round the edges, they’re meant to be more attractive to potato bugs than potatoes are. I’d be so sad if after caring for them the bugs got to them first.

Potatoes and marigolds

Under the group of fruit trees the previous occupant had put plastic sheeting to keep the weeds down, but the grass had grown through it and the plastic was visible for some inches round the edge of it, really ugly, and I did want to plant flowers under the trees. It took ages, but we got the plastic up and have planted a wallflower, some dahlias (some as plants in flower, some as bulbs to come up later) and some pinks / carnations, and covered the rest with two boxes of wildflower seed. I’m curious to see what comes up (and how to keep the grass down while letting the flowers grow).

Potatoes and flower bed Sunday

In the little greenhouse are some seedlings that if we’re lucky will grow into butternut squashes and purple sprouting broccoli. We grew them from seed on the kitchen windowsill. I’m impressed by these mini greenhouses, it’s worked well so far. Last weekend we started digging a bed that I’d started in the course of the week, and I dug over again on Thursday and Saturday to try to get more grass and other roots out, and yesterday planted it with carrot seeds and onion sets.

Carrot and onion bed

Again, can’t take credit for the smart plot in the background! My husband bought these little polytunnels to protect the carrot seedlings from carrot fly, though the test I believe comes when it’s time to thin them out.

I’ve been really enjoying it so far, particularly checking each night to see how the potato plants have grown, I can’t believe how quickly they’ve come on. It’s lovely having a robin come to check on our progress as worm-providers, too!

Next weekend we’ll just keep on top of weeding and watering and devote a bit more time to sorting out stuff in the garage, as we need to try and put our car in it and it’s now not only full of ‘stuff’ but there are also gardening tools and a lawnmower, whoops! But I mustn’t forget my patchwork with all this new excitement, or it would be the mother of all WIPs, so I’ve opened my boxes of fabric and will start planning the next one, promise!

New flat and a new jumper

We moved into our new flat a month ago but aren’t properly settled yet, there’s too much to do in terms of unpacking, but at least I feel we’re getting there. We lost our sofa, because it was too big to move into the new flat, and given that the new flat is smaller have paradoxically acquired new shelving and a new flat-pack wardrobe, the last after 3 weeks of fighting with the catalogue company to deliver it in its entirety instead of leaving us with 2 of the 3 boxes needed. 2/3 of a wardrobe not much use to anyone! It snowed when we were moving, so lots of cleaning of the old place to do after we’d all tramped in and out gathering up our boxes, gulp…

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The nearest I got to crafting before we left was finishing this jigsaw, which took me I think over a year!

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When packing I was keen to have patchwork to keep me going until the move was complete, but I’ve actually barely touched it. Partly because when I went for a job interview – which I didn’t get – I went to a bookshop afterwards and found a great book that I’m enjoying reading, but partly because I know when I finish this block I can’t move on to another one because haven’t enough space cleared for me to start cutting fabric.

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The weather when we moved in

Happily, I’ve finished the Noro jumper, and am pleased with the result. The only thing I don’t like is the sleeve length, which I should have made shorter.

When I went to start the sleeves I found they were missing from the English version of the pattern I’d bought from a German company. While waiting for them to send the missing part, I had a crack and trying to translate the German version, being impatient. I did A’ Level German but that was a shocking 20 years ago and oddly, it didn’t include knitting pattern abbreviations! Amazing what you can find online, though. When the English version came I found to my surprise that there were some differences between the two. The German version was to cast on 44 stitches, the English to cast on 45 and decrease one in the middle of the first row. Why? Different arm lengths too, is that because English people have longer arms than German people?!!!

Because I’d made the body in 6 mm needles instead of 5 mm, there were, as Mum predicted, problems with the sleeves. Fortunately there was no top of sleeve shaping to contend with. The pattern was to increase at each end of every 10th row to 74 stitches, which I started doing and realised it was going to be too long, but for some reason kept going, to prove it to myself, way after I knew it to be the case. I put it on a holder and started the second one, increasing on every 8th row, and that worked better. I got to 70 stitches and realised it was fit for an orangutan, so pulled it out and went back to 68, then pulled out sleeve one and knitted it up the same. I wish now I’d gone back to 66, but was nervous of making it too different. Still, it’s done now, and it’s okay. The neck was done on circular needles, which I’m not sure I’ve done before.

I’ve been able to wear it for two days before the weather here took a turn for the hot – it’s jumped to the mid-20s (celsius) in London, very confusing.

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Shame the ribbing’s twisted here, but I like the size of the neck, round but quite loose so can wear a shirt under it, helpful when your neck reacts badly to wool! (The colours here are over-exposed, they’re bright as shown in the photo of the whole jumper)

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Sadly didn’t make a great job of sewing on the sleeves – I did try, honest!
I’m now starting a new Noro jumper, a short-sleeved one using sock yarn, and all done on circular needles, which I’m not used to but we’ll see how it goes. It’s a beautiful yarn so I hope it goes okay!

Birthday present to self featuring funky animals, and the snow’s been and gone

Two more autumn blocks finished – one a couple of weeks ago but I waited until I’d finished the next one before posting. These are blocks 39 and 40 (of the ones I’m keeping, I did more that haven’t made the grade), and I turned 39 yesterday so now have more blocks than years in my life – sometimes it feels like that’s exactly how long it’s taken to make them!

Prairie Cactus

I love the colour scheme on this one, when I saw how well the Moda Prairie Cactus went with the green autumn leaves one I had to make something that put them next to each other, and I could actually visualise a whole quilt made just of these blocks. I do realise that despite the autumn leaves on two of the fabrics it doesn’t actually look all the autumnal, but I went ahead and did it anyway. It’s slowly dawned on me that it’s not so much the patterns on a fabric that give it a certain theme, but the colours and how they’re put together. I can see it on professional ones I see online and on other people’s blogs, but haven’t got there myself yet.

This next one took ages to design! I really wanted to make one using this orange fabric with animals as the centre square, because I have the fabric and love the animals, but of the other blocks I’ve made with it only one has worked out ok because the colour is difficult to match to other fabrics; the others I’ve either taken apart or will include because they’re just about okay but I don’t love them. I think ‘autumn’ when I see the woodland animals, and like the spot-the-animal-in-the-quilt idea, but struggle to design blocks with it that look autumnal. I think the problem’s partly the shade of orange and partly the animals are bright white, whereas my palette’s more muted and has a lot of tan in it now. With the fabrics I have I think this is the best I could come up with, after about 10 variations were laid out and photographed. I finished it yesterday, hence the birthday present to self comment. Perhaps it would have been better with something plainer than the bright acorns and berries, but there you go…

fox and badger

I saw on a Moda blog a little YouTube clip of a lady who clips the fabric slightly at the back where there are bulky joins so I tentatively tried that here, but I think I didn’t  do it right because it hasn’t made much difference. Where the points of the triangles created by two adjoining flying geese on the outer edge meet the inner block there is always a lot of bulk, and at the outer corners where you’ve essentially got 6 pieces of fabric meeting at a point, and it is a problem. I’m nervous of snipping as I sew by hand so there are gaps between stitches for fraying to work its way through, whereas sewn by machine it shouldn’t be a problem; as the Moda blog said, it’s done when making garments (sorry I forget who posted, perhaps Carrie Nelson).

The snow of late last week (here at work):

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has all gone now. Saturday morning there was still a fair bit in my soon-to-be-former landlord’s garden, and this pheasant sat for ages on their bird table, looking bemused:

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If we hadn’t been packing I would have gone out and taken photos, but my walk had to wait ’til the afternoon, by which time the thaw was well underway. By Sunday afternoon all the walks in these photos were deep in mud and sloshy meltwater, less attractive. (And yes, the wide photo was me trying to use the digital panorama setting, hence the dark streak down the middle where the clouds changed while I tried to line it up!)

Landscape

 

Knitting with Noro

Snowing in London this morning! A fairly rare event, despite what Hugh Grant and Richard Curtis films would have you believe.

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A while ago the knitting and sewing shop in the village where I lived closed down its main shop, focusing on online sales and leaving a small shop tucked off the main street and not open on Saturdays, so I can hardly ever go in. When it was selling off its stock I bought some Noro Kureyon yarn in a gorgeous shade of exotic pinks, reds, and less exotic navy, with a little turquoise and oddly the odd speck of white mixed in.

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I found a pattern online for an entrelac jumper, which I’ve never done before but really fancied, particularly as I remember Mum having one when I was younger which I loved. This December I decided to start work on it, but the more I looked at the photo of the finished item on the front of the pattern, the more I thought it looked square and blocky and wouldn’t suit me. I’m basing that on a jumper I knit before in Noro Kureyon of a similar shape and it just doesn’t hang right on me, partly because it’s quite a thick yarn and felts a bit after washing, so doesn’t drape well. Also, the sizings were enormous, with a 40 inch chest being the size for an 8-9 year old! Even liking a loose fit as I do, I’d be swamped in it unless knitting a child’s size, which I thought would get confusing to adjust for sleeve lengths and maybe arm openings. However, the pattern’s here and free to download:  Entrelac pattern (https://www.loveknitting.com/entrelac-jumper-in-noro-kureyon).

After you’ve no idea how much searching online, I eventually found an alternative pattern I liked. Part of the difficulty, I should explain, is that in one of life’s nasty ironies I’ve developed a reaction to wool so that the back of my neck gets an itchy rash, even if I’m wearing a wool coat, so I can’t wear rollneck jumpers any more, which cuts out a high proportion of the patterns available. This one is designed by Claudia Wersing, in Germany, but there is the option of having instructions in English and one can download it as a pdf, which is great.

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Before I decided not to make the entrelac one I’d already knitted a tension square, which was 24 stitches x 18 rows to a 10 square, on 5 mm needles as per pattern, which was a bit big so moved it down to 4.5 mm needles which was perfect. Which is why I was surprised to find the tension square on this pattern 15 stitches to 25 rows to a 10 inch square, on 5 mm needles. It was about the right height but way too narrow, even after going up to 6 mm needles. Any bigger needles and I thought it would start to look like chain mail! I’ve ended up using 6 mm needles and knitting to the biggest size, which according to the instructions should finish at 47 1/4 inch bust but in fact is nearer 38 inch. This took a lot of trial and error, knitting past the rib to the first bit of pattern then measuring it to see what it came to and then pulling it out to try again. And what I’ve just realised typing this is…. could the pattern simply have got the stitches / rows the wrong way round? Should it have said 25 stitches to 15 rows? Not sure I want to think about the time I could have saved myself if I’d worked that out!

Anyway, I’ve finished the back and as of last night the front. This is the front yesterday afternoon, before I’d finished it but taken when it was still daylight to get the colours more accurate:

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The second one with the flash shows up the pattern better but gives a worse idea of colour:

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On the flat-moving front, packing is NOT fun… yesterday I had the depressing task of taking my stash / bags of shame

and squeezing them into two of those extra large vacuum-pack bags to get them into a holdall and the plastic box ready for the move. We’ve got boxes stacked to the ceiling and are trying not to fall over them and each other, but I don’t want to pack away my patchwork fabric and cutting mat until I’ve got another block or preferably two designed and the pieces cut, to keep me going until we’re in the new place in the middle of next month. Though mind you, in the midst of this I have a job interview two days after we move in, so have a lot of preparation to do for that! My head’s spinning….