Yarn Along: Attempting to Focus

At one point over the weekend, I emerged from the bedroom with all my WIP project bags in my arms. My husband took one look at me and then took half a step backwards, his eyes just a little wider than normal. He may have had a point, and the first step is admitting you have a problem.

a long line of project bags on the floor of my hallway
[this isn't actually all of them - there's a blanket bag down the side of the sofa.]

With this many things on the go right now, I decided that while project planning as a displacement of stress is fine, starting project after project was actually getting counter-productive. So I sat down with a piece of paper, a pen and a floor full of projects, and tried to put my thoughts in order. In the end, I have still eight things on the go. I think. It might be nine. But I think it’s eight. And I decided to concentrate on finishing the things I really really want before starting the ones I really want.

Well, it seemed logical at the time. And it does mean I’m seeing actual progress on one thing rather than minimal progress on lots, which makes a nice change. The first project I want to finish is my gloves. The weather in the UK has been incredibly mild for the time of year, but it will get cold eventually and I don’t want to be caught out.

a pair of gloves, the left one missing a thumb and half a finger

I don’t have a pattern for these, I’m just trying them on as I go and adapting the pattern accordingly. They’re not perfect – some of the fingers are too tight and others are a little loose, but I’ll block them into shape once I’m done.

close up of an unfinished glove

A more serious problem is the amount of yarn I’ve got left, which turns out to be “not very much.” At the moment, as long as it gets the fingers and thumb of the second hand done, I’ll be happy. There are enough sock-yarn scraps in my stash that I should be able to finish the cuff somehow and frankly, they already look like Frankenmitts. A little colour contrast isn’t going to make them worse! I mean, look at them.

a half-finished glove next to my hand for comparison

No matter which way I tilt my head, they look more than a little strange when I’m not wearing them. On the plus side, they fit me like…er… Well. I’m sure you can guess.

For reading this week, I’ve been dipping into a book on Ancient Libraries. It was my research interest when doing my Library Masters, and while I’m finding the academic language hard-going (I’m out of practice!), it’s nice to exercise some different braincells.

the half-finished gloves lying on top of a book on ancient libraries

I’m joining up with Ginny as usual :)

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FO: Replacement Patricia Shawl

Several months ago I lost my original Patricia shawl. It happened at the beginning of what turned out to be a disappointingly bad day, and was surprisingly upsetting. With my scatterbrain, I’m used to losing things, but I loved that shawl very much and was gutted that it was gone.

Of course, the thing with making things yourself is that you can always make them again, and that’s what I set out to do. This is my original, much-loved Patricia:

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[Frustratingly, I never got around to taking FO photos D:]

And this is my new improved version (link goes to project page on Ravelry:

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I’m not just saying that, incidentally – I really think this shawl is an improvement on the old. I like the colour better, and I tried out beading for the first time, which I’ve really enjoyed. And it helps that the yarn is gorgeous.

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Pattern: Patricia Shawl by Mrs Mac, from Inside Crochet 48.
Yarn: Knitting Goddess Laceweight Merino Tencel in Violets
Notions: 3.5mm hook, beads. Lots of beads.

The beading was fun, not too difficult, and something I’m about to repeat. Having started out with a mixed tube that had been lurking in my stash for a while, I ended up ordering more from Beads Direct, which I wasn’t nearly as happy with. Not that there’s anything wrong with the beads, they just weren’t what I would have bought if I’d seen them in real life. Lesson learned – buy in person unless really sure what you want!

Between that and some bizarre sizing issues (for some reason, one side of the triangle came up about 6 inches shorter than the other, making the whole thing rather asymetrical), I didn’t think I’d like this shawl as much as I do. But I absolutely love it.

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Wearing it makes me happy, the colour is so cheerful and the yarn so scrummy. And really, what more can you ask from a shawl than that?

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Yarn Along: WIP Report.

Despite the comedy of yesterday’s post, things are rather stressful here at the moment with one thing and another, and I’m finding that for a lot of the time I am a)very tired and b)lacking anything approaching a normal attention span. Further evidence for this is that when I came to think “which WIP shall I post this week?” I had a moment of complete blankness.

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Those are all the project bags with WsIP in them. Somehow, they didn’t look so…big…bundled up in the wardrobe at home.

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For reading, I did download some audiobooks, but the first chapter wouldn’t work properly (not sure why, yet), and so I’ve gone back to my trusty podcasts. Really, you can’t beat Radio 4 for keeping you company all through the day. I’ve really been in the right frame of mind for short bursts rather than long concentration, which goes some way to explaining the list below!

Continue reading

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FO: My Winter Hat

As I have found this week, hats are tricky beasts to photograph.

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Somehow they just look sad without a head in them, don’t they?

But then you have the ‘selfie’ issue, which are easiest done on phones, in theory. Unless you’re me.

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Yeah. I’m not sure that tells you much about the hat really. So then you have the ‘camera, tripod, timer’ approach. Which is fine if you can take pictures in daylight in your own space. Unfortunately at the moment, I can only take daylight pictures at work, and that means ducking students who are looking at their librarian like she’s kind of a crazy person. Some colleagues are happy to take photos, but in all honesty, many of them turn out kind of like my selfie. Not to mention the self-consciousness problem.

And while you can try the selfie thing with a camera…

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*cough* Yeah, I know, my aim is rotten.

So out of all of those, I only got one that actually shows the hat! And even that’s from kind of a strange angle…

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Or there’s this one, where I’m the one at a funny angle.

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Enough of my photographic woes, on to the stats!
Pattern: Womens Peaked cap, a free pattern from Patons. Nice and easy to follow – I love things that are both charted and written out, they’re much easier to keep track of.
Yarn: Fiberspates Vivacious DK. I’ve used the 4ply before, and was just as impressed with the DK. Bouncy, and easy to work with, it gives things great structure but isn’t hard to the touch.
Hook: 5.5mm (see notes)

Notes:
I chose to make this smaller than gauge, as I wanted a denser fabric. Which was fine, except it’s made the base a little tight. I’m hoping it will loosen with wear, or I’ll have to block it gently, and blocking hats is even trickier than photographing them! But it was a great pattern, and I’d actually think about making another one, possibly at gauge this time! Most of it was finished in one afternoon during 3 episodes of the BBC Horizon series on cats. Crochet and cats made for a very contented afternoon, I have to say!

The buttons are from Darn it and Stitch, and I’m actually rather surprised that they’re sewn on already. Normally things languish for a while before I get around to finishing them, but I’ve got much better lately at actually finishing. They’re wooden buttons, as I’ve learned to be wary of shell or ceramic – they break too easily when stuffed into bags or knocked against doorframes (yes, for me, that’s a genuine worry, even with a hat…). Plus I love the colours!

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Of course, I also love that they’re easy to photograph even when not being worn :)

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WIP Wednesday: If at first you don’t succeed, take a picture of the yarn anyway.

Gosh, Wednesday already? I’m not sure I’m ready for this again.

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[I was quite pleased with this reflection picture, and it's definitely representative of recent weather]

After a lazy weekend at home, pottering around my poorly husband, I thought I’d feel rested and ready for the week at work. Instead, for the last few days, I’ve mostly felt like I’ve been hit by a bus, and have just wanted to curl up and sleep. Let’s hope the work emails I’ve sent in the last 48 hours made sense, because I’ve been a little blurry in person!

Crochet continues, though. I finished my new winter hat, but haven’t had a chance to take decent pictures (there’s a rubbish one on my Ravelry project page) or sew on the buttons, so that one will have to wait a few days. I’m ploughing onwards with my Silver shawl) from last week, sneaking in rows here and there during bus rides and coffee breaks. Considering I was worrying that using a different yarn would make it smaller, I’m now worrying this ball is never going to end!

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And that’s just the first half. The yarn is rejoined to the starting row, and then you do it all again in the other direction. Phew! I’m still going to be working on it at Christmas at this rate.

But what I’ve mostly been doing this week is working on this project:

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Now, I know to you that just looks like a ball of yarn, but to me, that’s my new pair of gloves for when the weather turns properly cold. Despite appearances, it’s got close to being a whole glove at least three times, and each time, I’ve had to rip it back and start again to get it right. I’m hacking the pattern, and while I know roughly what I’m doing, you can’t crochet an approximate number of stitches! If you get it wrong, there’s nothing for it but to unravel and give it another go. At least this time I’m remembering to write the iterations down so I can repeat them for the other hand.

No book this week, as my concentration span is next to nil. Instead, I’ve been listening to lots of Radio 4 podcasts, catching up with the last few weeks. I tend to put all the ones I haven’t heard on a long playlist and hit shuffle. That way, I don’t have to make decisions about what I want to listen to next, but unlike just putting the radio on, I know that I’m always going to get something I want to hear.

Joining up with Ginny again this week, so click the button below to see what everyone’s been making:

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FO: Dahlia Shawl

It’s taken me a while to put this post together, mostly because I keep forgetting that I haven’t always had this shawl. I’ve worn it almost every day since it came off the blocking wires, and it’s hard to remember how I managed without it.

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First up, the stats:
Pattern: Dahlia from Interweave Crochet. You can download it now, but I’m still using my much-creased copy from a couple of years ago.
Yarn: Comiston from The Yarn Yard. More on that below
Hook: 4mm

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I first made this pattern in late 2011/early 2012, when I’d only been crocheting for a year or so, and considering how hard I found the edging this time around, I’m amazed I ever finished it then! As I put in my pattern notes then, the chart for the edging is a little confusing, as it only shows the start of even numbered rows, and the end of odd numbered rows – you have to read the other ends from the written instructions. Add in my general carelessness, and I ended up ripping out the edging several times to get it right.

My other memory of making this is that the shawl turned out much, much smaller than the one in the picture, something that’s always rather disappointed me about my otherwise beloved shawl*. So this time, I decided to ignore the instructions that said to stop when it was 20″ wide, and just keep going. In retrospect, it might mean 20″ from centre to corner, but it’s not at all clear. But this time, I had yarn to use up, and I wasn’t going to waste any of it.

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The yarn is Comiston, a BFL/Silk mix that is absolutely wonderful to work with. The wool keeps it springy, while the silk gives it a slight sheen. Throughout 2014, Natalie has been dying yarn in ‘sixes’ or ‘sevens’, giving a set of graded shades of the same colour, and when I saw the greys, I knew I had to make something I’d love with them. I think the size and shape of the Dahlia really shows the yarn off beautifully, and I love the effect. Because I was guessing at yardage, I had a few tense moments along the last row, thinking I was going to run out before the end – the idea of ripping everything out to start again was almost too much to take! Fortunately both my nerves and the yarn lasted to the end, although I think I only have about a metre left!

It also blocked beautifully, showing off the lace of the body. Considering how long it took to make all that lace, you don’t want it hidden or lost in the yarn!

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Overall, I couldn’t be happier with this shawl. It’s cosy and elegant, wraps around my shoulders just right or covers my back to keep me warm, and I can scrunch it up to wear as a scarf with my coat. It’s the perfect autumn shawl, finished just in time for the change in the weather.

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Yarn Along: Eye of the (yarn) storm

If you think the first week of university is crazy for the students, just imagine what it’s like for those of us trying to get them organised. Throw in a weekend of trying to clear a rather full garage, and I’m actually proud of myself for managing to put my clothes on the right way around at the moment.

But by Sunday night, I had achieved this:

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What that doesn’t show is the moment I found a mouse nest under the bookcase or a cache of shredded tissue paper behind the woodpile. As I’m not sure I want to remember them myself, I failed to take any photos. But between that, all the general stresses of life and the complete bedlam that signals the beginning of term, I’ve spent the last few days feeling like a wrung-out dishrag. What I really needed was a chance to just stop for a moment and get my balance back.

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The book is by Paul David Tripp, and it’s not exactly a study guide, and it’s not exactly a commentary. But it’s bite-sized chapters, suitable for someone with a wrecked attention span, and it’s not trivial or shallow as I sometimes find these short guides. There’s enough in it to get you thinking, but it’s one serious point rather than lots as you’d get in a full commentary. Just what I needed to get my brain back on track.

The project is my Silver stole which I haven’t talked about, or even managed to get a picture of before today. It’s a surprisingly soothing project, though. The rows are fairly short, the repeat is simple and the yarn is amazing. I think it’s going to be another project where blocking makes it sing, and while I’m looking forward to eventually wearing it, I’m also loving having a project that is just back and forth, back and forth. And although I might have turned my living room into an explosion in a yarn shop last night, trying to choose what to put on my queue next, I even found that soothing. There’s something about getting out lots of skeins of lovely yarn and imagining what they can be that’s good for the brain, I think. I might have far too much in there to get done any time son, but I know I’m going to have a great time on the way.

I’m joining up with Ginny again this week, so click the picture below to see what other Yarn Alongers are up to:

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