Yarn Along: Grouchy Edition

Overnight (and over-tired) I was a bit worried that yesterday’s post on the lack of choice in crochet patterns was a bit grumpy. Reading it back today, it’s more positive than I remember feeling, and I think the grumpiness was more related to my own projects.

I’ve WIP’d myself into a corner as I do from time to time, starting so many lovely things that I really don’t know what to do next, then getting grumpy at all the unfinished projects.

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Then there’s Christmas making. I always promise myself I won’t do anything, or if I do, it will be small and in good time. I might have actually managed that this year, but I can’t talk about it because it’s not much of a surprise if you tell people in advance!

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And to top it all off, my lovely, lovely mittens are going to have to be ripped out and started again. While the 2.2mm hook made the perfect size for my wrist, I really can’t get it onto my hand properly. I kept going for a few more rows, telling myself that I could block it to size afterwards, but once I put the thumbhole in and could barely get my thumb through it, I had to admit defeat. To be fair, the fact that the fabric was so stiff it was practically bullet-proof should also have been a clue – seriously folks, if your mitten can repel shrapnel, your gauge might be too tight. Out they’ll come, and I’ll have another go, maybe with a 3mm this time (yes, they really were that much too small!)

On the plus side, I made most of a quilt top last week, and only an inability to add up meant I didn’t finish it.

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[pre-assembly picture to check the dimensions worked. Note to self: an inch is bigger than a centimetre. THIS IS IMPORTANT.]

The working title is ‘A Very Goth Christmas’, and if I could Maths properly, it would all have been from my stash. As it is, I’ve had to buy very little and am pleased with the results so far. Normally I like the patchworking and find the quilting a chore but on this one, I think the quilting is going to be the making of it. Watch this space!

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My generally gloominess about my crochet projects has meant I’ve done more reading than usual this week. I used to devour every Pratchett novel as soon as it came out, but as I haven’t been reading much at all lately, I’m a bit behind. Tiffany Aching is a brilliant character, and I love how she’s developed from ‘The Wee Free Men’. I know the book is good because I didn’t want to stop reading when I got off the bus last night, and I wasn’t going to let the fact it was pitch-black stop me. Mobile phones make good torches for reading books while walking down the street. Just so you know.

Joining up with Ginny’s Yarn Along as usual this week, and hopefully other people are having more success on the stitching front than I am!

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Pattern stalking, crochet edition

I’m afraid this post got a little long, but hopefully the contents will be interesting to at least some people! And I’ve put a jump in, so those of you reading in feeds shouldn’t be too swamped.

The short version is: there aren’t many crochet patterns in the Ravelry Gift Along, go check them out and buy stuff!

And now for the long version…

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FO: E is for…

Thanks for the kind comments on Wednesday, folks. I have to admit, I expected more of them to be along the lines of “wow, COLOURS” than “wow, colourwork in crochet!” – apparently this is crochet’s best kept secret, and I feel an explanatory post coming on.

Until I have time to put that together, I’ve been on a bit of a roll finishing projects lately. This one got to its recipient last week, so I can finally show you my slightly dim pictures of it. They were taken in my office in poor light, but under the circumstances, they’re not terrible.

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I made one of these monograms a few years ago when my friend had her first baby, so naturally I needed to make one for the second as well. Okay, she was born a month ago, but better late than never, right? A few years of experience really made the difference this time, and I think I got a much cleaner finish. I used fusible fleece, which I fused to the fabric before sewing on the buttons. I used my iPad as a ligthbox to trace the ‘e’ and laid out all the buttons beforehand. Despite this, my planned scheme didn’t quite work, as apparently buttons take up less room when sewn on than when placed. No, I have no idea how, but I was glad I had spares!

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The ‘e’ turned out to be much trickier to layout than the ‘p’, probably because I didn’t have that strong, straight line to work from this time. As a consequence, the buttons are side by side rather than overlapping, but I still like the effect. The only mistake I really made was outlining the letter using my Frixxino pen, which has to be ironed to make it disappear. You can imagine how much fun I had trying to squeeze the iron between the buttons to get rid of it.

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For the backing, I drew around the smaller embroidery hoop and cut a piece of stiff cardboard that size. I then used that to cut a piece of fabric about 1″ bigger than the cardboard. After some thought, I decided to risk just drawing in the edges, rather than messing around with glue (with me, that can get VERY messy). I secured the thread, basted around the circle about 1.5cm from the edge, then slowly and carefully pulled the thread tight to close it around the cardboard. This worked so well that I did the same on the main fabric, pulling it around the embroidery hoop to create a very neat and tidy edge.

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Finally, I sewed the back onto the main fabric using ladder stitch, which nearly killed me but was worth the effort because it looks as though it’s held on there by magic. I threaded a little bit of green ribbon through the clasp at the top and tada!

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If you search for ‘Button Monogram’, you’ll get lots and lots (and lots) of ideas, but I haven’t seen many in an embroidery hoop. I really like the effect, and it’s good to know it’s hanging next to its sister for another little girl :)

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Yarn Along: Soothing stitching

For various reasons, my stress levels are rather high at the moment, and at home, what I mostly want to do is curl up on the sofa under a quilt and with my crochet blanket. I’ve finished the first clue in the Scheepjes CAL* (the sixth clue will be out soon, so, you know, only a bit behind…) and while I’m not keen on the second square pattern as it’s fiddly to make, I’m ploughing onwards so I can get to the third, which looks lovely. Blanket squares are very soothing for a stressed-out brain, I find.

As we were going to be out and about all weekend, but in company, I dug out a very simple WIP that I’d put into hibernation.

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This is my second Verdant shawl, this time in Crannog, a discontinued yarn from The Yarn Yard. When I put it away, it was because I was getting a bit bored with the stitching. Technically it’s a 4 row repeat, but really you just follow the stitches until you get to the corners, where you work an increase. It’s an easy make, and I think I was finding it a bit dull now the rows are longer.

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But having worked on it all weekend, I’m in love again. The yarn is simply wonderful, and in the bright sunshine that we’ve had over the last few days, the tiny variegations have really shone out. The pattern is great when I’ve got a lot on my mind, just enough to force me to engage, but not so much that if my mind wanders I go disastrously wrong. It also helps that the weather here in the UK has suddenly turned cold and I have a renewed urge to make warm, woolly shawls rather than light and lacy ones.

Speaking of warm and woolly…

Mitts cuff

I’ve never done much crochet colourwork before, and had a heck of a time trying to get gauge. Eventually, I gave in and just went with a size that would fit comfortably around my wrist, which means my 2.2mm hook is getting its first ever outing. I’m getting the hang of changing yarns – in crochet, you have to do this on the last pull-through of the stitch, and there has been much pulling-out of stitches to put this right. But it’s coming on, and I love the colours. The floats are working fine, despite my early scepticism. I’ve done tapestry crochet before, where the unused yarn is trapped inside the stitches, but never tried carrying the yarn along the back as you would in knitting. So far, so good.

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The yarn is Colinette’s Jitterbug, and the pink was formerly my Hitchhiker scarf. I had planned to press on with it, despite not liking the pattern, but I eventually decided that was daft. Why knit something you don’t like, when you could be making something you love? I feel much better now it’s not hanging around my neck any more (er…you know what I mean!), and I think I’m going to love these mitts! They’re from Inside Crochet 58 – details on Ravelry here.

I’m joining up with Ginny for the Yarn Along this week, and I actually have a book on the go.

Carthage

Not a cheerful read, I’ll grant you, but I love ancient history, and as someone who studied the Roman Republic, the history of Carthage is a fascinating counterpoint. The only trouble I’m having is that I think I’ve heard this reader on another, jauntier audiobook, so I’m struggling to hear it seriously. Also, the book starts with a disturbingly cheerful jingle considering the subject matter, and an advert declaring this part of a series of ‘self-improvement’ books. Which I suppose it is, but it feels strange to hear it declared with such a positive air! The reader sounds as though he should be reading “A history of clowns in a America” or “My life as a cowboy: a novel” not serious history. On the other hand, the book itself has great reviews on Amazon and GoodReads, so I’m hoping I’ll get my ear in soon and start to enjoy it more.

*As I possibly should have done at the start, I just read the FAQs for the CAL. It’s a good job I haven’t been joining in with the group, because I am definitely not using the correct yarn, and I am certainly not using the right hook. It’s supposed to be a 3mm. I’m using 4.5mm. And I crochet loosely. I suspect my blanket may end up a little bigger than intended…

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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:

Patricia
[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!

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