Trying not to think about an orange penguin

Well, that was not the weekend I had planned! After discovering we have unwanted guests staying in our garage, we’re having to take remedial action, including plastic boxes, throwing away nibbled yarn (*sniff*) and traps. Not Good.

As a result, I find myself wanting to think about almost anything else, but of course, that’s like being told not to think about an orange penguin. No matter how much you try, when it’s something specific that’s on your mind, you find yourself coming back to it over and over.

Not to say the distraction efforts haven’t been fun. I’ve been loving pictures of Yarndale that were all over Twitter and my Feedly this weekend. I’ve been to the big stitching show at Ally Pally a couple of times, the Festival of Quilts at the NEC and Fibre East, and I don’t think I’m actually that cut out for the big shows. While I’ve come away with lovely lovely things, I’ve also felt rather under pressure to buy them, not by the sellers, but from the general atmosphere – I’m a terrible one for impulse buying, and shows are just too enabling. I’m also bad at crowds, so I shall carry on enjoying Yarndale vicariously and hope people keep posting pretty pictures.

My other solution has come from some recent retail therapy. On a recommendation, I bought us a couple of vegetarian recipe books. This one:

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The World Food cafe

and this one

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Low fat, low sugar

I’m sure the second one will be useful, but I have to say it’s the first that’s really got me going. It seems absolutely stuffed with lovely things to eat, as well as great descriptions and stories. I was so inspired, and so keen to try them, I’ve decided that October is going to be a vegetarian month, to let us eat our way through the cookbooks properly. Although I enjoy veggie food, my repertoire is rather limited, so hopefully limiting myself to it for a month will make me a bit more inspired. We would have started earlier, but I got a bit overwhelmed by the book when trying to menu plan on Saturday, and decided I needed more time to look through it first, not to mention asking for recommendations.

The menu for this week looks something like this:

Monday – Bolognese (leftovers)
Tuesday – Bacon and eggs (simple, as we’ll be in late)
Wednesday – Quorn Dopiaza
Thursday – Quorn Dopiaza (see Tuesday comment :))
Friday – Red Bean mousssaka (from Low fat, low sugar)

Then from Saturday, the veggie adventure proper will begin. Considering that that’s when I’ll have to start phase 2 of the garage clear-up, I’m going to need something to look forward to, and hopefully planning during the week will help keep orange penguins (and other things) out of my head. I’ll let you know how that goes!

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How long is a ball of yarn?

Everyone stand back. I’m going to attempt mathematics.

Yes, ambitious for a Friday afternoon, I know, but I’ve been doing some plotting lately and have to say, I’m getting really confused. Well. More confused than normal.

In an attempt to stave off the blues, which always leads to excess yarn shopping, I’ve been going through both my stash and my queue and favourites on Ravelry, trying to match things together. Shopping from the stash, reminding myself that I already have oodles of fabulous yarn, always cheers me up, and keeps me occupied until the urge to BUY ALL THE THINGS passes. To facilitate that, I did something you should only do when feeling brave: I downloaded my stash statistics from Ravelry.

In case you didn’t know, Ravelry will let you create an excel spreadsheet of everything you’ve added to your stash. Just hit the little button in the top right hand corner:

Rav stash screenshot

Scary, but helpful. You don’t get the pictures, but you do get all the vital statistics of the yarn, along with how much of it you’ve got (don’t total that column unless you really want to know!). I then went through my library, queue and favourites, picking out the “want to make for sure” from the “want to remember exists” patterns. I’ve then gone through the pattern list, noting the metrage needed and, importantly, the metrage of the suggested yarn.

That last one has proved to be really, really useful, because as far as I can tell, words are assigned to yarns more or less randomly. Let’s take my lovely Squoosh yarn, shall we?

Squoosh

It’s got 450m to the 100g, and is listed as a laceweight. That doesn’t sound right to me at all.

Or take this Saliga yarn from Fibres Exotica:

Saliga

I ended up having a long, frustrating conversation with the girl on the stand where I bought it. She was very insistent it was DK. I could see by looking that it was lace (the FE stands lists it as Lace, as does Ravelry) but even after comparing it to an actual DK, she wouldn’t budge. Considering it’s 900m to the 100g, it’s pretty lacey to me, so I can only assume she’d got her terminology mixed up, and somehow thought 2ply=DK.

On Ravelry, lots of yarns are listed with their WPI – wraps per inch. However, as that’s not something that is on most yarn labels, I’ve never really used it as a measurement of yarn-weight, even if it’s probably more reliable. I tend to use metrage per 100g and have rough boundaries of my own that I use:

  • 1000m+ per 100g = Cobweb
  • 600-1000m per 100g = Lace (600m being a ‘heavy’ laceweight)
  • 375-550m per 100g = Fingering (550 being ‘light’ fingering)
  • 300-400m per 100g = Sport (yes, I’m aware this overlaps with fingering!)
  • 200-300m per 100g = DK
  • 100-200m per 100g = Aran
  • under 100m per 100g = Bulky

What do you think? Does that roughly match the scale you use?

I find it’s useful when trying to match yarn and pattern to know what yarn the designer used, rather than just go by the generic description. One shawl I’m looking at claims to be in cobweb wool, but as the yarn is only 600m to 100g, it’s heavier than lots of the laceweights in my stash. If you just see ‘cobweb’ in the description, you might be put off, when actually, it’s a heavier wool. In this case, I think the confusion has come because the yarn has 1ply in the name, which implies it’s lighter than it actually is. It also helps to know how to work out the yardage per 100g. Some of my yarn comes in (what seem to me) oddly weighed skeins, because they were originally measured in ounces. So again, my Squoosh is a 4oz skein, giving me 114g.

To work out your yardage over 100g, it’s a fairly simple bit of maths*.

formula

Divide the number of metres you’ve got by the number of grams, and times the resulting number by 100. Ta da! Armed with that number, I find it much easier to work out whether or not my yarn is suitable for the pattern, since they’re both on the same scale.

The moral of the story seems to be to get your calculator out before choosing a pattern for your yarn, or the other way around! I don’t think it really matters what you call yarn, and I don’t think any attempts to standardise things would get very far. But it does go to show that you can’t take things for granted, and that a little maths goes a long way.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go delete my stash spreadsheet before anyone else sees it…


*Of course, if it’s a 50g or 150g skein, the maths is even easier, but I figured you already knew that!

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A WIP for every occasion

I knew on Monday that last week was going to hard. Back at work after a month away (illness-conference-holiday), I was bound to be tired and swamped. I hadn’t expected to feel like a zombie most days, and by Wednesday afternoon, I was ready for another weekend. I’d love to say that I jumped out of bed full of the joys this morning, but it was almost as much of a drag, even if I don’t feel quite so much like my head is full of concrete (more like cotton wool).

After having a bit of a switch around last night, both of my works in progress and my queue, it occured to me that as well as thinking about yarn and pattern, I tend to think about how when I choose projects. The six I took to Menorca weren’t just chosen because I had them on the go or because I wanted to make them. There are hundreds of things I want to make. These were chosen because I could make them in specific contexts. I’ve found that stitchers are practical people, and most of us think not only about what we’re making, but where we’re going to be making it, and cast on accordingly (although in my case, you might want to add ‘excessively’ as well :))

Continue reading

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How do I arrange to do this every day?

This probably isn’t news to anyone, but wow, coming back to work after three weeks off is really, really hard. After excavating my desk and answering urgent emails, I find myself mostly involved in writing long lists of what I should be doing over the next few weeks and wondering where on earth to start.

Apologies if you follow me on Instagram and have seen most of these already!

The thing is, the last few weeks have involved this:

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And this:

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And this:

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And that was just in Scotland.

Then there was some of this:

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And these guys (I took one of them on holiday with me):

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Then there was this:

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And this:

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An awful lot of that, actually:

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Which was pretty hard to leave to come back to the UK. But once we were home, there was a wonderful lunch here:

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And an interesting visit here:

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I think I shall have to expand on each of these in later posts, as all I really want to do is stare at that beautiful blue sea, and since I’ve made it my computer wallpaper, I’m off to do just that :)

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FO Friday: Labour of Love. Possibly.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve had anything to show on a Friday. The last few months have felt like very hard work, and I haven’t been much inclined towards making things. Picking anything up to crochet or sew has just been that little bit too difficult, but picking this one up has been even harder.

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This is my third Tunisian Lace project, and as ever, I love the look, just as I love my Phoenix hat and shawl. But I have to be honest and say that I didn’t love making this one. My original idea had been that if I made something modular rather than all in one piece, it would be easier. I’d have lots of finishes, I wouldn’t have to carry everything around with me all the time, and it would be much more satisfying.

Needless to say, things don’t always work out the way you plan them. The stitch pattern on the solas is very plain, which creates a beautiful finished effect, but was a bit dull to make. Rather than having a series of finishes, it felt more like every time I finished something, there was another one to do, and making the whole thing seemed endless. Joining was tricky (it’s never been something I’ve been very good at), and I realised in the middle of wedge six that I wasn’t going to have enough yarn to make all nine pieces that I was supposed to have.

So that’s the down side.

The upside is that now I’ve finished, I really, really love this shawl.

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The yarn is from Natalie at The Yarn Yard and is Moondance, a sparkle 4-ply. Natalie doesn’t have any at the moment, but I think it’s the same base that other indie dyers use. I love the two colours together, and while it looked a bit sad when I finished, blocking has really brought out the shape.

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I edged it in double-crochet, in contrast colours to the wedges (so. many. ends. the weaving in seemed to take as long as the crochet!) and put a row along the top as well to help it hold its shape.

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While the process didn’t work for me (and I’m very much a process person when it comes to crochet), if you’ve never done any Tunisian Lace before, this would be a great place to start. The increases are nice and easy, and as it only uses one stitch, you’ve got plenty of time to practice, and wouldn’t need to concentrate too hard. I would recommend counting stitches every couple of rows – I missed some of the increases and had to do a bit of ripping back, which probably also didn’t help me love making it!

Front close up

Overall, I’m glad I made it. It taught me a lot, as well as giving me a lovely shawl at the end.

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Tools of the trade (stationery edition)

I’ve had a look through previous posts, and can’t believe I haven’t talked before about Bureau Direct. No, they’re not sponsoring me, I’m just a fan, both of the range of stationery they sell, and their customer service. It’s not just about answering emails or the phone, though. The staff are approachable and expert, so that when I was looking for recommendations, I didn’t hesitate to email them, say what I was looking for and ask for advice. They’re generally awesome and I heartily recommend checking out their site.

I also love their blog, where recently they put up a post about weapons of choice, and it occurred to me that I cannot be the only stationery addict out there, so I thought I’d share some of my own favourite tools of the trade.

Unfortunately, since I’m lousy at making decisions, it turned into rather a long list. Most of it came from Bureau Direct, and was bought with the monthly discount code (definitely recommended!)

Slide1

As well as the pens, I carry a pencil sharpener, eraser and fold-out ruler, none of which I use often, but all of which are really, really useful when I need them. The eraser and sharpener are both Stabilo Exam Grade – I’ve always found it hard to find good basic items, but these two are great. The ruler folds out to be 30cm across, very handy for quilt pattern sketches.

In Box 1 are the things I carry around in my nifty pencil case, which is also a stand-up penpot. The fine point sharpies are lovely for writing with, as well as coming in a good range of colours. I like the ‘normal’ pencil for drawing with, and the OHTO Promecha for writing. Of the last three, the black one is a Lamy ballpoint, which while nothing particularly special, is quite nice to write with. It is, however, nothing compared to the pens on either side. They’re both OHTOs, the left hand one is a Tasche (rollerball) and the right hand one is a Horizon (ballpoint). They’re both incredibly smooth to write with, even and sharp, and I love the Horizon so much I have 2 (there’s a black one in Box 3 that I use for work). Rollerballs are nicer if you can sit for a while and write, but the Horizon is the first ballpoint I’ve had that I actually enjoy using, and it’s much more practical for writing quickly.

Box 2 has my two ‘mobile’ pens in, although technically, only one of them is a pen. The left hand one is an iPad stylus, which I use all the time. Mine’s a Bamboo one, and as you can see, the paintjob hasn’t survived very well! The purple pen is another Lamy ballpoint. They’re not precision instruments like the OHTO pens, but they’re pretty good for the price. This one fits in the pen loop on my notebook (see below)

Box 3 are my ‘desktop’ pens. I like pencils for writing sometimes, and prefer roller-top ones to clicky ones. The fountain pen is a Lamy Al Star, which I confess I don’t use very much. I have a Lamy Safari as well, but I don’t actually find either of them particularly suit my writing. The Safari doesn’t write properly at all for me, and I find the Al Star scratchy. But every now and again, especially when I’m planning, I like using a ‘real’ pen. I’ve already talked about the Horizon in black, and the last one is the OHTO Dude (why yes, yes I am thinking of buying shares in OHTO, why do you ask?). It uses the same refill as the Tasche, but the size of the pen means it’s a very different instrument to write with. It’s got a good weight when you put the lid on the end, which is why it lives on my desk rather than in my pencil case.

Slide2

Alongside my pens, I’m even more particular about what notebooks I use. #1 is a Leuchtturm hardback lined notebook that acts as my catch-all. It’s my diary, my shopping lists, my to do lists, my craft planner, you name it, it’s in there. I found that with information in different places, I was losing and forgetting things. Having them all together really helps, as does the pen loop, which stops me scrabbling around for something to write with when I only want to write down a thought or email address. #2 is my Moleskine work diary/notebook. As with #1, I’m an ‘all in one place where I can find it’ kind of person, and since I don’t have too many appointments each day, I find that one box is more than enough. The rest of the pages are notes, mostly to do lists (I tend to put meeting notes on my iPad), and again, I don’t lose things so much when I have the same book for everything. #3 is a Rhodia mousepad, which I absolutely love. I prefer squared paper in general, and this way, I don’t have to fit something else on my desk, I always have a piece of paper when I need one, and I can write in any direction. A sheet lasts me about a week, and I make sure I have a supply in the drawer for when a pad is all used up.

If pushed, I think my essentials would be a Horizon pen and my Moleskine. It’s not that they’re my favourites, but that with those two, I could manage fairly well. Having said that, what I really like is choosing the item that suits my mood/need at the time, and I’m pretty happy with the set I’ve settled on.

So tell me, what am I missing out on? What are the essentials in your pencil case?

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The View from the Desk

In the two months since I last blogged, I’ve read a lot of articles proclaiming the death of the blog, and how it’s just not something people do any more. Like letter writing and long phone calls where you managed to tie yourself up in the phone cord (or was that just me?), it’s apparently something that’s had its day.

On the other hand, looking at the massive number of crafting blogs I follow, and all the ones that are mentioned in the blogs that I follow, I seriously doubt the blog is going anywhere soon. I’ve had “write blog post” on my to-do list for eight weeks now, but it’s only today that I’ve really had the mental energy to put words on the screen.

This may be why:

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Yes, that really is what I see when I look up from my computer at the moment. While I’m sure to all you book lovers out there are going “ooh”, to me, piles like that mostly represent hours of very dull processing (trust me, when you’ve stamped one book, you’ve stamped them all…). But on the plus side, the summer at least means I have the time for this sort of thing, and as my office doesn’t get much direct sunlight, it’s fairly cool in here, even on the hottest of July days. So not all bad. Plus there’s this cheering me up.

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While that may just look like the cutest little handbag, it’s actually my lunch bag, and more than that, it’s a cool bag! No more luke-warm salad for lunch! No more suspiciously tepid yogurt! Definitely to be recommended in what is turning out to be an actual summer. It feels like ages since we had one of those over here, so it’s much to be enjoyed.

Hope you’re enjoying a similarly sunny summer out there in blogland – I’m sure you all still exist really :)

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