‘Extreme’ Knitting rug

When on holiday in the Pennines in October I started making a rug with the ‘extreme knitting’ kit my Mum got me the previous Christmas, and was quite excited to be doing so. The kits are by Rachel John, a textile artist. The idea is that you use giant needles with several strands of yarn, to make big things. The kit Mum selected for me was, happily, in autumn colours because she knows I like them. It fitted nicely using the autumn colours when it actually was autumn. I don’t know whether they’re natural dyes, but it’s definitely 100% wool, it smells strongly of sheep, which makes my husband sneeze! It’s worn off a bit now, though. The instructions were quite vague, I think deliberately because you’re supposed to get creative, but she did give tips on the size needle to use for ‘x’ number of strands of yarn. I do have big needles, but they aren’t very long, so I went with her first suggestion of 15mm needles and 6 strands of yarn, with 36 stitches to the row. I wanted to knit stripes of different widths, and pretty much did that as I went along, doing some stripes then laying it out to see what would look good next. I didn’t want to have stripes of the same width next to each other, and tried not to do too many repeat colour combinations, though some do naturally go better together. The blue and the lighter yellow stand out, so I wanted them to be reasonably evenly spaced along the length of the rug.

 

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A practical problem was that the kit consisted of 28 balls, 4 each of 6 colours (a light and dark yellow, brown, green, and 1 shade of blue), so to do stripes with 6 strands of yarn I had to make 6 balls of one colour by unravelling some balls, cutting them, and tying them together to make six. Knitting with 6 strands also meant that when it came to colour changes I couldn’t do as usual and start a row knitting with two colours for a few  stitches, because that would mean knitting with 12 strands for a bit! So I had to just knots, and there are a lot of knots mid-way through rows as well because I didn’t work methodically making the six balls of each colour. I made sure the knots were at the back and fortunately they disappear into the thickness of the rug quite nicely. I regret not leaving lengths of yarn where there were colour changes near the beginning to weave into the back of the mat, and just snipping close to the knot, because they are now really obvious. I changed this after the first few colour changes, so there are only a few, but it’s a shame.

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I’ve never made tassels before, but husband helped me and they turned out okay. They’re simple ones, no cardboard involved. I finished the rug itself just after Christmas but it took me til last weekend to do the tassels. It was a struggle because I’ve had a bad cold which really got going last weekend, so I did tassels on the Saturday with a hacking cough, but they’re done now! The cold’s still there, but going (more slowly than I would like). Glad I didn’t get the ‘flu, touch wood, but by Sunday afternoon it was edging in that direction and I took to my bed for a bit and had to take Monday off work.

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The rug is lovely and soft to walk on. While knitting it I was sorry as it became apparent that 36 stitches equals a long and narrow knit – its finished size is c. 6 ft x 2ft, but am glad now because it’s nice in our corridor thingy. It would probably be good by a bed, running along one side, but our bedroom is almost too small for the bed, we have it pushed against the wall and you can only walk between the wall where the door is and the bed by walking sideways crab-like, hence why all the chests of drawers are in the corridor, so no room for the rug in the bedroom. But I make these things with my ‘one day’ home in my head, so hopefully one day we’ll get there! If you had a two-storey house it would look nice on an upstairs landing, I think.

Back to my autumn quilt, as well as finishing a cross stitch cushion cover, getting on with  a new jumper I’ve started, and planning a new (winter) quilt! Oh, and making some pyjama bottoms… wouldn’t like to get bored, or actually finish my backlog before starting something new!

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Christmas bits and pieces

We bought and decorated a tree at the weekend and I do like having it in the corner of the room, smelling all pine-y and nice! We got a Norwegian spruce so the needles will drop everywhere, but it was cheaper, smells stronger, and looks bushier so I like it, though it’s a shame the thin branches can’t hold the weight of bigger decorations. I think it looks better in real life than in the photo.

Christmas Tree

The prosecco on the mantlepiece, by the way, was given to my husband allegedly by a pigeon, for rescuing it from the chimney of his office at work… something to do with it being stuck and him putting a light underneath to lure it down and release it, when the works department wouldn’t help. The tag is written in very small writing and says he – the pigeon – has 20 baby pigeons who would have missed their daddy at Christmas. Someone in his office has a sense of humour! (I think the prosecco was left over from an office function, maybe the one he missed when we got snowed in).

I finished a hat I started knitting when staying with my parents. The directional knitting was okay until right at the end, when there would have been a strange lump so Mum and I just cut it off in its prime and pulled it through the last few stitches to finish it off. I also had a big old to-do when it said to keep knitting until it measured 20 inches, but that that had  to be on row 14 – it was too long when I got to row 14 and no amount of fiddling about with stopping it on a different row worked. I pulled out loads and now can’t tell you whether I pulled it back a whole repeat, or knitted it up again with a tighter tension. The yarn (acrylic) was a brand called Bergat that I hadn’t heard of before. Anyway, it sort-of worked except that it’s too big for me so I have to roll up the brim and with my round face it doesn’t suit me at all! The last hat I knitted wasn’t great either, but I got used to it, then I lost it. Perhaps I should give up on hat knitting.

Hat

Lastly, I made this cross stitch Christmas card kit for my brother, with beads. I really like the design, it’s effective yet simple (if a bit fiddly). This kit was in a sale but still really more than I should pay for a Christmas card, but I’ve kept the pattern and it should be easy to get the fabric and threads to make again. The worst part was putting it into the card holder using double-sided sticky tape. Only in the photo (which is on my mantlepiece at home for display purposes before I sent it) have I noticed the top of the pot looks wonky, I don’t know how, perhaps the fabric stretched when I stuck it to the card. Oh well, too late now. It’ll remind him of me at Christmas, like I’d let him forget (hee hee)!!!

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Card

Work Christmas carol service tonight then drinks and nibbles. Maybe having it on a Monday is to dissuade us from staying too late!

 

Changing seasons

We went on holiday to the North Pennines a month ago, but it doesn’t feel so long ago; so much crafting has been going on since then! Before we left, I finished this autumn jumper, in Rowan British sheep breeds boucle:

jumper

It’s perhaps a size too big (the last two having been a size smaller than I would have liked it seems this time I over-compensated), but I like it.

I took projects with me on holiday that I can’t do on the train so don’t get much attention unless I’m on leave… an ‘extreme knitting’ rug, the quilt back and leaf shapes to do applique, and my cross stitch cushion cover. Also the pieces for the next autumn block, the wool to knit snowmen Christmas tree decorations, and even some pieces to make cathedral window Christmas tree ornaments. Good to have a choice! In the end, I focussed on the cross stitch, though mostly when on the long car journey, and the rug. Neither are finished, but are close, if I could have continued to focus on them when I got back.

Had some nice days when away…

And some less nice…

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… but it was great to be away.

When we got back, I did finish the autumn block:

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This reused the dark orange fabric in the centre that came from a block I’d dismantled, and used most of what’s left of a fabric I bought on ebay at the beginning of the project and which is best used for ‘fussy cutting’ because the motifs aren’t close together. It is an old fabric, thin and frays easily, so I’m a bit worried about how long it will last in the quilt. It’s quite hard to sew fabrics of different thicknesses together and I know this has ‘issues’! The tan coloured fabric is Moda and is very useful for autumn projects.

A last burst of colour in a London park a couple of weeks ago  (complete with dustbin, sorry!):

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Since then, I’ve been working on a Christmas present which I really need to have finished by this coming Friday, when I’m getting the train to stay with my family for a bit as sadly I won’t see them at Christmas, so if I have it finished in time I can take it with me rather than trusting it to the post. It uses the sewing machine so really I can only do it at weekends – evenings in an emergency but I’m tired when I get home from work and make mistakes – but these last few weekends have been busy, with my husband’s family visiting and other things, so it’s not gone as smoothly as I’d have liked. I should finish it by working on it these next few evenings, it’s just something I’ve never done before so I’m doing a lot of reading and re-reading of instructions!

Then these little fellows have kept me occupied… They had to be delivered to church yesterday, to be put with other items to be sold at the church Christmas Tree Festival next weekend. So early! I feel like Christmas is over with before Christmas Day is even in sight, it’s so confusing and the day itself a bit of an anti-climax, I guess that’s getting older but with no children of my own – sorry, that’s a bit depressing. I’ll have to get used to it, because that’s the way it’s going to be now, best make the most of it. My in-laws will come to us on Christmas Day so at least it’s not just the two of us. I’ll try not to stress out about the cooking, when people are older they have fixed likes and dislikes which take precedence and that makes me anxious, but I should calm down and try to get a sense of perspective, because it’s okay really. At least on home turf I can have a glass of wine with Christmas dinner, which they don’t do. Anyway, here are the finished snowmen, which took me an insane amount of time to finish, the earliest I went to bed each night last week was 11, past midnight some nights, and I get up for work at 5.50. Crazy little snowmen!

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Stripey jumper, two new autumn blocks, and a trip to Wiltshire

I finished the jumper made from a self-striping Noro yarn (a silk mix) that I’ve been working on quite fast because I wanted to wear it when the weather cools down, but to be honest am disappointed. The colours are still lovely but I wish I’d made it a size bigger, and all is not well with the neck. I’ve included a photo from the pattern book to show what it should look like, but in reality it’s far too high and I don’t know what I did wrong; I followed the instructions!

Patchwork-wise, I’ve finished another two autumn blocks, and am pleased with the colour combinations on both. I thought the mouse one might be too ‘avocado and aubergine’, but actually it’s fine. On the other one, I wanted to showcase the rosehip fabric, following on from previous blocks when a more heavily patterned fabric stood out against plainer ones, giving a better effect. In the end some of the other fabrics are reasonably heavily patterned, but it’s still okay. The orange fabric is new and the best I could get to be close to the orange in earlier blocks that was more rusty than bright, despite being covered in gold sparkles!

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When I finished it I laid out all the blocks I’ll definitely use, and as a whole the quilt is looking much better, though sadly weeding out the unsatisfactory ones leaves only 30 blocks! Sorry the photo’s dark (though it’s really bright sunshine outside) and of course as I’m standing on a chair with the camera stretched out up and in front of me, at a bad angle.

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Of the eleven discarded blocks left, I can see how two can be taken apart and some colours changed to make them usable, two won’t be used at all, and of the remaining seven I’ll take some apart and hopefully use some component parts in new blocks, and may keep one or two as they are. It’s a pain, particularly as the awful truth is there are some fabrics I should just never have  bought or used, which is a waste of money as well as time and energy, but there’s no point crying over spilt milk – I can be  more sanguine now I’m happier with the overall project!

We went to Wiltshire on Sunday and stayed for 5 nights, one night in a B&B near Malmesbury and 4 in a self-catering cottage near Salisbury. It’s a county I’d never visited, and am so pleased I went. I wanted to visit some of the sites associated with people I studied in Medieval History, so was really pleased to see Malmesbury Abbey, which was built on the site of an ancient holy place, and Old Sarum, the site of a now-ruined cathedral and castle, as well as Salisbury Cathedral, which was built in the 13th century when the cathedral at Old Sarum was abandoned. But there was so much ancient history, too. You felt it all around you because although Stonehenge is the famous stone circle and we decided not to visit because it is such a tourist hub and so cordoned-off that there might not be much pleasure to be had, there are actually lots of other, ‘smaller’ stone circles too, as well as the white horses etched out of the hillsides which you can see just driving along. We visited the stone circle that runs through the village of Avebury, and although there are only 30-odd of the original c. 150 stones standing, the scale of them is amazing. They reckon the stones were put there in 2600 B.C.! My photos don’t do it justice, but you can see the scale from the ones next to houses and people.

 

Photos of parts of Malmesbury Abbey:

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Stunning gardens at Stourhead, designed in the 18th century (having first diverted a river and dammed some medieval fish ponds, of course!), complete with grottoes and follies. Now owned by the National Trust. Must look fantastic in the autumn!

 

Lastly, Salisbury Cathedral – great place to see stunning embroidery! I somehow managed to omit taking a photo of the central aisle down the length of the nave, which was very long. There is an incredible font in the centre, commissioned in 2008, with constantly flowing water. The Chapter house dates to 1260 and has an amazing frieze running round it, above the benches were Chapter members sit, carved in stone and showing biblical scenes.

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Rosehips block

For the next block of my autumn quilt, I wanted to make a block that showcased the fabric with the rosehips on a brown background. After the last few blocks I did with the bold autumn fabric flanked by less conspicuous ones, which I thought worked well, I thought I’d try it with another bold fabric alongside less in-your-face ones. In the end, to get colours that went well together, I included the fabric with a woodgrain background and naturalistic animals, but I hope it doesn’t detract from the rosehips too much. I’m afraid it is a bit bland, but I need some bland alongside the more, ahem, ‘interesting’, ones… I had trouble getting the points to line up, and had to redo a few of the flying geese; not sure why unless it’s because the cottons are different thicknesses, but it’s turned out okay in the end.

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I have, however, done the binding on both sleeves of the top I’m trying to sew. One per weekend! Doing one takes me a whole afternoon. Now I’ve got the remaining seam edgings to deal with, the button to work out, and the hem to do. I haven’t done edgings to date well at all, can’t manage the overstitching on my machine, so yesterday I spent a small fortune on a pair of pinking shears, which will have to be what I finish things off with, all this faffing about is not good!

Ages ago I bought a pack of cotton yarn at a knitting and stitching show in London and knitted myself a summer cardigan, then with the leftovers made a baby cardigan. I was going to send it to a school friend who had a baby but a) the baby was too old for it when I finished and b) the yarn’s a mix of colours and they came out badly spaced on a small garment and looked weird and I  didn’t think my schoolfriend would want it. It’s hung around for ages, I bought buttons for it then lost them, but then when I wanted a button for my top I bought a pack which it turned out were the right size, as well as colour, for the cardigan. My parents’ neighbours’ daughter, who’s a few years younger than me so we weren’t friends, but we grew up in next door houses as children in a friendly way, is having a baby in September so on Saturday I put on the buttons and posted it home to Mum so she can judge whether to ask if they’d like it. They don’t know if it’s to be a boy or a girl, but it’s a fairly gender-neutral colour(s). Also, the mum-to-be is an artist so may be okay with the interesting colours!

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cardigan back compressed

Next weekend we’re going to Wiltshire for a few days. The county where Stonehenge is, but I doubt we’ll go there, it’ll be too busy. We’re staying near Malmesbury the first night, then near Salisbury for four nights. Both have mediaeval histories, which I’m keen on but as usual should read more about. I’m delighted to see (on Wikipedia, but I can check if it’s right!) that William of Malmesbury, the mediaeval chronicler, records that in 1010 the first ever attempt at human flights was made, when a monk called Ailmer tried to fly a hang glider off the tower at Malmesbury Abbey – made it 180 feet before crashing and breaking both legs, poor chap. All hail human endeavour, though!

Harvest mouse!

I realise with a shock that it’s been a month since I last posted a blog entry: crumbs. However, at last another autumn block, easing myself back into the saddle after some time away working on the Farmer’s Wife cushion. I have also, to my delight, finished a jumper I started some 20 months ago!

Mouse and brown

I’ve wanted to do another block with the harvest mouse fabric for a while, but find the purple difficult to deal with in the context of the quilt as a whole, and from that point of view it wasn’t a good fabric to choose despite its autumn theme. Putting it with the dark brown and cream autumn leaf fabrics has worked well, I hope, to tie it in more with the other blocks and help the purple-ish ones I’ve already made blend in better. At least, that’s the theory! The colours remind me of copper beech trees.

It’s been a busy month because I’ve been working hard on a talk I’m giving on Friday relating to my work, which has meant lots of reading in the hopes I’m not going to make any obvious mistakes and will be able to answer questions at the end, and choosing carefully what to talk about, to keep it down to the required 40 minutes. I’ve been working on it at work and at home, so will be very glad when Friday’s over!

I’m also on a mission now to finish lots of projects so I can clear some of the backlog lying around in the flat (and attracting moths and damp, great) and start new things! Could take years… But I’ve finished a jumper I started making in Sept. 2015, a complicated cable knit which I had some problems with but also left lying fallow for months on end while I worked on quilting projects, like the green and pink lap top for my aunt. So hip hip hooray for that!

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I’ve started on a new jumper using a self-striping yarn I bought either last year or more likely the year before, when the knitting and sewing shop in our village downsized and was selling off stock. I love the colours and that it’s cable-free, so am going great guns on it. For the next patchwork block I’m afraid I’ve taken apart one I did in the early days of the project but which isn’t working well in the quilt as a whole, so intend to keep the central square of the block but make a new outer part to it, and use the flying geese I’d made  for the original one with different fabrics in a different combination. It’s requiring more mental energy than I’ve had to spare in the last fortnight, so I hope I can resolve that this coming Sunday (Saturday being fully booked and looking like a write-off, crafts-wise).