Wednesday, May 27

Finished object.. Fednesday?


I crocheted all of this before I decided that granny zigzags didn't really work with this yarn...


It will eventually be frogged into this, which works much better. I've been schlepping about the house in these, which I never got around to photographing until today for some reason:


Dreadful picture, straight off the washing line and wearing them again. Original blog post here, now with photo. I love the big pockets too! Need to make me some more of these... 


 Charity lockdown scarves


 Charity single blanket (made a while ago, forgot to photograph)

Current mood: warm

Monday, May 25

Bank holidays, gardening and more sewing

Another bank holiday weekend in lockdown. Oh, the irony - most years you can guarantee bad weather on that extra day, so the weather being glorious for at least two of them, is clearly Mother Nature liking a joke. Easter Monday? Good Friday? Seem like ages ago, I'd have to check my diary for the weather report!

The "lush" hedges in the last post have now largely been removed. They were planted in 2000 by the original builders, and would have been fine if they had been kept under control. They had grown into one big lump of hedge, and it was getting hard to even just prune it back, let alone do anything else. We had a local company come and seriously prune both front and back gardens, remove several bushes in the front border, and remove a fir tree and some other shrubs. We've still got hedges down the side - our front garden is kind of three sides of an octagon, so two sides remain largely untouched. There's some sort of flowering bush on the corner - the gardeners did not know its name but called it "car park plant" and weren't keen on it - one was taken out. G tried planting some bits of a small leafed box type bush out front, but finally relented and bought some actual box which was on special offer. The world having gone quite mad for all kinds of hobbies, coupled with having to book slots for garden waste removal (we have a green bin but it's only collected fortnightly, so is always full!), means that getting hold of compost and other items has been tricky. Click and collect is also out for us "fit folks", which is understandable though also annoying - luckily only one of us is still tied to a desk.

Anyway, now it's been done we can at least see what needs doing. I am a reluctant gardener at the best of times, mostly because I don't know what I am doing or where to start, though I can prune with abandon! Yesterday I weeded the sad patch of "love in a mist" under the kitchen window so now it is JUST love in mist and not weeds. I started cutting the dandelions and other weeds out of the front lawn, and upset many ant colonies in the process. G directed me to dig over a small part of the garden out back. The lawns look dreadfully yellow; we've hardly had any rainfall since March - so late yesterday I actually watered everything, lawn included!

We have been trying to go vegan, which is also interesting when browsing the supermarket is somewhat frowned upon. Last night we both hankered after chinese though - and both wanted meat and fish. Paid for it this morning though as my stomach was unsettled first thing. We must learn to cook vegan versions of our favourites I think. G's main issue is that "lovely weather" = barbeque, and we've not figured out how to make a veggie burger that doesn't immediately disintegrate.

Today we went for a gentle stroll around Braunston and Wolfhamcote. Wolfhampcote and Braunstonebury are "lost" villages on the route according to OS, nothing really to see now other than lumpy fields and a church with no parish. I expect the area has a fascinating history, with canals, a marina and two disused railway lines. When we got back I planted some herbs - hoping I haven't buried them too deep but we shall see. Basil, coriander, dill and oregano are now in a propagator on the windowsill. I'm not much of a gardener - my house is where things come to die, because I forget to water them. The Cog amused himself by using the pizza oven to burn the rest of the garden "rubbish", a shrub we removed.

Anyway, the title promised sewing content! Yesterday I took it upon myself to try and sew something with the leftovers from the turquoise wrap top. I decided against using it to lengthen the top, but only after I'd cut the strips and tried it and decided it would spoil the look. Not quite enough material for shorts. Not quite enough material for a skirt, not even if pencil skirts came back into fashion and suited my physique (they don't). I have a blue linen top, a wardrobe favourite, bought on the local market. I decided to trace the shape of it onto my fabric, and aimed to use the overlocker as much as possible to make the most of the material available. It's been on my "to do" list for ages - a top made almost entirely on the overlocker (US: serger). The order of assembly is a little different - I basically added the sleeve and neck facings to the respective parts by overlocking them on (right sides together) then turning them out and steaming them and using the overlocker to join the shoulder and side seams. I used the sewing machine to do a little top stitching, and added some machine embroidered hearts on the sleeves.


The moment of truth came, and I tried the top on - and discovered it's a smidge too tight all over! Of course, I completely failed to turn the top I'd copied inside out, so hadn't added the 5mm seam allowance required - I was careful not to trim with the overlocker, but losing 1cm overall is just enough to make the top a bit tight all over. In hindsight if I'm going to add any machine embroidery, it should be done before assembly and definitely through either two pieces of fabric or some stitch and tear because otherwise it sinks into the fabric. The chances of me being able to wear the top when weightloss is stalled due to lockdown seems unlikely. Oh well. I will see if it fits in a few months, or perhaps pass it onto someone smaller. It was an enjoyable make, even if it doesn't quite fit. I would like to try making the top again but with stretch jersey - that's something I've not tried with the overlocker.

Whilst I was still in the sewing mood, I found some lovely rainbow checked fabric I bought at last year's Textile show. It was 4m by 38cm, and there was a wider piece at the time which I later wished I'd bought. Again, not quite wide enough for shorts unless pieced - but I have found a pattern for a vest top which will work, as long as the pieces are joined down the centre. Now of course I discover that bias binding seems to have sold out online - I suspect for face mask making. I actually bought one of those bias binder makers and have plenty of plain white cotton I can cut up, so that is my next project I think! :) Watch this space!

I'm also crocheting a zig zag baby blanket with leftover James C Brett, and have cautiously started a Sophie's Universe square, just to try out the yarn really. Not sure what I will do with it as I've only enough for three squares, I'm wondering if that would be enough for a very small shawl?

Current mood: enthralled

Monday, May 11

Almost FO: Wrap top, VE Day and thoughts on WFH



This is pattern New Look K6560 - doing the largest size, and with my bust, it's come up very short on me. It's just printed cotton, a tiny star print. There's no bust shaping other than some small gathers so I made this "as pattern". I've got quite a bit more material, so I am tempted to cut out some straight bits and add some length to it. I cut it out weeks ago and didn't check the paper pattern against myself. Lesson learnt! Think it might work well in a jersey. Or with a LOT more gathers to the front. I'm not keen on this "misses" category - I'm not married, therefore still a miss (I prefer Ms, it's nobody's business but mine!), but definitely nearer to fifty than I would like! And I'm more well padded, and my bust is lower and larger.


I made some paper bunting from rainbow paper I happened to have, and some children's bunting found online that we coloured in, our printer being low on ink. I crocheted the chain from string. We had a brief socially-distant street party with the neighbours, then a private bbq in the back garden. Felt quite teary singing "We'll meet again" - very poignant this year. Nobody did that on their doorstep here. The weather was glorious though. :) We got a good walk in on Saturday too, and then I knitted in the back garden.

The novelty value of working from home (WFH) has gone now reality has bitten. The Cog's employment is paused until further notice, so my contribution to the household bills has shot up. On the positive side, (a) the petrol money I'm saving will cover quite a bit of it, and (b) it's forced him to move all the bill payments into the joint account, and the email addresses to our joint one, so at least I have visibility of the situation now. If next month is a struggle then I will pause most of my regular savings, because I'll have to. I'm in no way complaining - we are much luckier than a lot of people.

I had a real wobble last week - despite my best efforts, staying in touch with anyone outside of work conversations has been fraught. It's been hard not to take it personally - I have been the one texting, emailing and calling my relatives and friends, not the other way around, and it's challenging not to take that personally when there's little response. When I'm down, it feels as if nobody ever has time for me. I'm trying hard not to think that if I stopped making an effort, it wouldn't happen at all! But the Coventry Knit Wits are now having a weekly video chat on Facebook, and although every Wednesday after work I do feel averse to a further two hours online, I've made the effort. It's actually really nice to keep up with what everyone else is doing, even if knitting-wise I mostly end up playing with the cat off camera. I think Eddie thinks I must be talking to him, he really doesn't get the concept of facetime. A few weeks ago the shock of the whole thing meant all I could concentrate on was some simple garter stitch scarves for the charity pile, and I'm 60% done with the second one. After that, I really should use this time to finish the neverending spiral sock and the other things on that there sidebar.

Some personal tips for WFH:

  • Make the effort to stick to the same routine as much as possible. We still rise at 6, and we go for a quick walk around the block when we would normally get into our cars.
  • After the first week, I've gone back to wearing my work clothes. I feel more inclined to work in the correct clothing, and I won't be caught out if anyone wants to video chat! I'm not bothering with heels or skirts though, but that's more because of the walk first thing.
  • When positive thinking doesn't work - and sometimes it's hard to find one - adaptive thinking is better. How can I make this situation work for me? G's taken up learning German, though so far he's not tried it out on me. I wonder whether he'd be up for chatting with one of our knitters who is German? Hmmm 
  • It's tempting to sit around and do nothing. And that's ok for those who have more time than they know what to do with. I faffed about most of yesterday morning, because we had a lie in and the weather was bad. After lunch I made a point of starting that blouse. So that's the third item of clothing in seven weeks lockdown. It's nice to still feel productive, however you can. I make a point of making the bed every morning too - so if I have a crap day, at least the bed is welcoming come 10pm! 
  • Find some exercises you like and can do at home - we've been cycling more when the weather permits, and I found some tai chi and back stretches on youtube which I am enjoying. 

A poppy on VE day - lest we forget indeed.

Current mood: okay

Monday, May 4

FO: One piece of sky




This isn't quite finished - the bands need steaming - but I was desperate to share it online. (Pictures replaced now it's done!) Bob Morley and Bill King kind of jointly gave me this idea - to knit an entire cardigan or jumper in one piece. I calculated the pattern in Knitware using a swatch, as a raglan v-neck sweater. Then I tweaked the figures a little to make it work. The front short-rowing was actually originally meant to bend the other way but I decided I quite liked it as it was in the end.

To work all this out I printed some graph paper from here, based on my tension swatch. Then draw various lines for the angles you want, and see what the stitch and row ratios are. You get different angles in partial knitting depending on the ratio of how many needles are held over how many rows. For almost "square" turns, you need to reduce by 2 needles every 3 rows (it's actually 47 degrees with this yarn's tension and gauge, but what's 2 degrees between friends?). To keep things simple, every time I was on a row that was NOT divisible by 3, I held another needle, until all but 1 were out of work. The needles are then returned into work in the same manner - though you could construct some interesting shapes by NOT keeping to the same ratio!

For the raglan decreases it was 1 needle held every 1 row, so very easy to remember. The sleeve called for increases every 7 rows, so I made it every 6 rows to accomodate the short row turn at the bottom where there is NO shaping - I did try that on my first attempt, but the maths was too complex when you are shortrowing AND decreasing for the first half of the sleeve. So the sleeves are a smidge too long.

After doing two "square" turns, the second half of the sleeve is knitted whilst hanging the first half's edge every two rows, so it is joined as I go. Likewise for the back. There is some casting on and off between the sleeves and body to adjust for the different widths required. It's almost easier to knit than it is to explain. You could add more partial turns to the sleeves and fronts / backs, for peplum effects.

I thought James C Brett marble chunky was perfect for something like this, as it shows off the partial knitting very well. I hope to steam the bands soon and take more photos - WFH means not a lot of ironing is being produced at the moment in this house, and it's a pain to get the ironing board out for just one thing, as it is usually done in the living room and blocks access. My next project is sewing though so I might set the iron up in my craft room for that. I've more of this yarn too, it being a 1kg bag from Uppinghams. There's no reason why you couldn't do this on a standard gauge machine either.

The name is "One piece of sky", because we are all labouring under one piece of sky at the moment, seperate, alone, yet working together for the greater good.

Current mood: impressed that it fits rather well, given the maths! :)

Thursday, April 16

FO: Rainbow wrap cardigan




To all those whining about lockdown - not being able to go shopping, to the gym, to the hairdressers. Yes, I agree to some extent. Of all things, I miss browsing in bookshops and WHSmiths, popping out for coffee and a naughty cake. This week I'm on enforced staycation, as the event I was attending on Wednesday was cancelled, and not even campsites are open at the moment. But I say - the house is a lot bigger than a coffin. If you have craft skills, or indeed, any hobby you've been meaning to get to - now is the perfect time!

With that in mind, this cardigan was planned late last year - originally based on the Lucy"coatigan", I had intended it to be longer, but 50g balls of Noro don't make stripes that long, alas. After a false start with a boring 2x2 rib, I realised I could use "sew as you go" for all the strips, so the body is made in one piece of 12 strips, with a simple tubular hem with latched edge. Likewise the sleeves. The reason for making it out of 24s wide strips is that I love the slow colour changes of this yarn, and the wider the strip, the shorter the stripes are (you can see that in the sleeve heads). I added buttons so that the fronts can be closed up one way or the other, so there are 3 ways to wear the cardigan - I love garments that have options. I didn't fancy adding fringe - though it would have made it look "wild west" - so added tubular bands to the front edges too. It's cozy for the cool spring nights we're having here. On reflection, making it longer would also have made it heavier, and almost 800g of yarn is enough for anyone to carry around :) Because I love anything colourful, it is 16 different shades of Noro Kureyon. With the exception of the sleeve seams, the whole cardigan has been joined on the machine (Brother KH260 chunky).

The yarn, being 100% wool, has been spit-spliced whenever knots came up. I've made the leftovers into a magic ball in the same fashion, not quite sure what I will do with it yet, probably felt it and decide when I see what size piece I get. Excuse the expression on my face, my partner was larking about with the camera and I'm looking into the sun.

The weather has been really nice for early spring, and we've been for lots of local walks where I got to take some lovely pictures of bluebells, the only other thing I was really hankering after this week - Badby village is famous for the bluebell wood, but it's much further than we ought to be travelling at the moment.

Current mood: happy

Wednesday, April 8

Let down and hanging around...

Another lyric, this time from the excellent Radiohead, which somehow captures my mood today!

Pandemic lockdown came swiftly to the UK. On the 19th March, working from home (WFH) was advised. I had to go in for a meeting on the 20th, and had intended to pick up some needed items (keyboard, trackball etc) whilst I was there. My meeting was postponed for thirty minutes, as the MD announced over Skype that the offices were closing as of that evening, and we would all be WFH for the foreseeable future. I was lucky enough to snag a really big monitor that was tucked away in a cupboard (it hadn't worked with CAD before, so it was a bit of a gamble, but one I thought worth taking!). There was a mad scramble for monitors - we converted to pairs of desk-mounted monitors on a single clamp some time ago, so a lot of the monitor stands had been disposed of. On Friday 21st I had a bit of a moment - I had to cancel a much-needed massage, and felt like an utter heel because of it (taking business away from someone). Both the Photography and the Sewing for Pleasure shows had already been postponed (the latter a Mother's day present from me to Mum). The final straw - I took too long to renew my driving licence online (requiring both old licence, NI number and passport, two of those being no earthly use to me right now). Blasted website let me get all the way through and then smugly informed me I'd taken too long. It caused me to go postal and throw my rather expensive smartphone and paperwork across the room in a fit of fury. Did such a good job of it, my passport disappeared behind the television. My planned birthday weekend went from massage, craft show, thai meal/pub for 4 to a thai meal for 2 that we picked up ourselves. Talk about coming down to earth with a bang! Yes, my 'phone miraculously survived.

I guess I was in shock and anger with myself - that I'd been mentally scoffing at the supposed doom-mongering of a fellow workmate, himself trapped in Iran - and at the swift postponement of my civil liberties - and grief, realising it would be some time before I would see either family, friends or work colleagues again.

There are compensations. The grind of the 45 minute commute by car has been swapped for a 20 minute walk around our neighbourhood with my other half, where we take pains to spot birds and flowers in bloom. After a few weeks of idiot-caused chaos at the supermarkets, things seem to be mostly back to "normal", though it's still hard to get eggs, certain tinned goods, rice and pasta. I've swapped my spacious desk in the middle of a busy office for a lovely quiet spot overlooking the front garden, where I can watch the trees bloom and spy on the comings and goings of the street. I've started machine knitting again, though am one ball of Noro short for the current project, so will have to park it. Have managed to facetime with Mum on Facebook twice now, though it only seems to work if she calls me. We've been trying new recipes, as himself is trying to force me into veganism.

My partner insists on watching the nightly 5pm press conference, followed by an hour of news (more of the same) which I am rapidly becoming sick of. I note, with disgust, that the HS2 contractors appear to be using the pandemic as cover for hacking down protected woodlands (and protestors) near us, despite the fact only key workers are travelling anywhere. Surely HS2 is now shown to be the biggest white elephant going? The money being poured into it would be better spent on the NHS, doing a sterling job in difficult circumstances. Talking of which, the weekly "big clap" is amazing - even in our little cul-de-sac it sounded like a waterfall.

So. We endure, as we must. Next week is Easter holiday, a week "off" for both of us. It will be a strange staycation.

Some pictures - the Noro cardigan has gained one sleeve since this photo was taken, and some spring flowers to cheer us all up!








Current mood: weird

Wednesday, March 18

Panic on the streets of London...

Yeah, that's a Smiths lyric, but it seems somewhat appropriate, given the impending doom of Covid-19 bearing down upon us. I'd love to say I'd been doing lots of crafty stuff, but at the moment things are getting postponed or cancelled everywhere (with good reason). So again, there's not much to report.

Many thanks PB for your lovely comment, I so rarely get comments that aren't spam - it quite made my day! And this is something we all need to remember, in these darkening times. Be nice to one another. Help each other. I'd like to say to always look for the positive in any situation. I'm really struggling with that at the moment. The situation has dire consequences for everyone. I do wish the media would try and focus on the positives instead of frightening us all. Constantly telling us how bad things are (and how bad humans are) only perpetuates the negativity. A feedback loop.

I'm part way through reading a book called "Ten to Zen" (Owen O'Kane). He describes a 10 step, 10 minute method of meditating and restoring calm to oneself. Don't all immediately buy it online though - have a care, dear reader! Whilst us fortunate ones get to work from home for the foreseeable, the logistics workers and delivery drivers are being asked for extra shifts. This is, alas, a big flaw in our consumerist, skewed society. Someone has to PUT that item in a box, that item you order online. It's not magic - there's some really cool technology goes into the sites (I should know, it's what I do!). But there are still people within that logistics chain, people who maybe have health problems themselves, or children, or frail relatives they really do NOT want to pass this awful thing onto.

Anyway, I digress. The author says he doesn't believe in positive thinking. In the midst of grief or trauma, being told to look on the bright side is, at best, somewhat facetious, and at worst, dreadfully patronising. He espouses adaptive thinking instead - play to your strengths - what can you do well, what do you need help with. That is the approach we need to take here.

And also - practice mindfulness, if you can. Be in the present. No point worrying about the past, it is over. No point panicking over the future, it is unknowable. If you are eating, taste the food. If you are bathing, luxuriate in the bubbles and scents. Don't just do - be! Focus!

As a crafter, I'm hoping the travel time saved with WFH will allow me to get some machine knitting done. We shall see.

Stay well, dear reader!

Current mood: scared