Freshly Finished Friday: My New Favourite

Thanks to my blog post title, I’ve had this song in my head all morning:

However, that’s not really the right tone for how happy I am with this scarf!

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The pattern is Silver by Bernadette Ambergen, and the yarn is Squoosh Fibrearts Merino cashmere in the colour Winterfell. I bought the yarn at Loop last summer, planning to use it to replace my beloved and sadly lost black Patricia Shawl. However, I miscalculated, because although this yarn is described as Lace, with just 521m to 114g, it’s more like a heavy fingering. As I had two skeins, I knew I wanted to make something that used them both up, and had been hankering for a substantial stole for a while.

It’s safe to say I succeeded.

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The whole stole is about 10 feet long! It starts in the middle and works to one end, then you rejoin your yarn and work to the other end, which is perfect if you’re using two skeins, as you just stitch until you run out in one direction, then turn it around and stitch until you run out in the other! Except, of course, I found that while I’d managed 23 repeats in one direction, I got 25 in the other before I noticed and stopped stitching! I should also at this point offer a public apology to my knitting group, who had to listen to me complain about how long this thing was taking me to make. Four months is a long time for a crochet project, although as recent projects have been longer term ones, I’m gradually learning patience.

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It was worth the wait, because this has proved to be an incredibly versatile scarf. It smishes down so that you can wear it with a coat without being overwhelmed, but if you pull it out, you can drape it around your shoulders almost like a poncho (although most typically it ends up a little tangled, like in the picture!). And the lace is lovely, even if blocking it was rather tricky.

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There’s a horrible picture on my Ravelry page (indoors lighting, phone camera) of the lace while in progress, when it was considerably narrower than in the picture above, and it’s another example of how blocking is so essential. The lace has spread out beautifully, and the slight halo from the cashmere means it’s still lovely and warm. I’ve barely taken it off since I finished, and it’s been great for these chilly February days, when my huge scarf seems like overkill, but my lighter shawls just aren’t quite doing the job.

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Definitely my new favourite!

I’m linking up to Freshly Finished Friday at A Hardknitlife, so do join us there!

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Yarn Along: Going Nowhere

It’s easy to lose blogging momentum. You skip a day here, forget to post there, and suddenly it’s a fortnight later and you’re staring at the blank entry box wondering why you started in the first place. And the project bags sit in the corner, mocking you.

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I would say that I’ve had a thoughtful couple of weeks, but frustrating would be a better word. I’ve been extraordinarily tired and a little glum, coming home from work and more or less getting straight into bed. Then two of my crochet projects started misbehaving, and I had to stop listening to knitting podcasts. Not because they’re not awesome, and when I’m in a happier frame of mind, I love them. But when I’m a little wibbly, they make me feel excluded rather than included, talking about techniques and patterns that I don’t understand or can’t make. It’s silly, because I know it’s a community I’m welcome in,* but you know what it’s like when you’re fragile. It’s like everything is specifically designed to get at you, and you take everything personally and critically. It’s easy to get cross and work yourself up (which I do sometimes, sorry, folks who have to listen to me!) but it’s easier just to put the podcasts to one side until you’re feeling better. I’ve worked my way through several more Bryant and May audiobooks, as well as a couple of Lawrence Blocks while I wait for my podcast love to reboot.

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And when projets misbehave, it’s better to actually sort them out rather than chuck them to the back of the wardrobe in a fit of temper. However much I didn’t want to rip out four inches of one and the whole of another. Both problems were the results of my shoddy counting, nothing to do with the patterns, and I hope to make time to work on the one I’ve re-started this weekend. I should have two 3-hour car journeys to make progress in!

I also decided to pick up a couple of new things. One is a hat, that I’m hoping to finish while it’s still cold enough to wear them, and the other is a rather tricky scarf. (click the pictures for my Ravelry project pages)

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The yarn is natural alpaca, very loosely spun and exceedingly hairy. So hairy and loose that if you make a mistake, forget trying to rip back. The stiches are so tightly locked together that the yarn tears rather than unravels, and I’ve had to throw away a few metres from my swatching. I finally settled on a simple feather and fan pattern, using a big enough hook that the fabric should have some drape once blocked, but not enormous. Crocheting very fine thread with a humongous hook is rather tricky, as it can be hard to see where to put your hook for the next stitch – everything just becomes a mass of loops, not at all suitable for my mood and concentration at the moment.

To my slight surprise, I’ve actually found that knitting does suit my mood at the moment, if only because I want to finish this shawl and wear it!

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I’ve still got 3 repeats and the bind-off to go, but it’s definitely getting there, and I’m hoping to get it done by Easter. Of course with all the other things that I want to do by Easter, I feel like I’m working awfully hard to stay in the same place. So clearly I should plan to join in with the Hap Along from the Knit British podcast, and clearly I should do so with a self-designed Hap. Actually, I’m hoping that the 10 April start date will be a nice deadline to help me clear the decks a little. Also, hopefully the photographs above will help me remember that while it seems I’m not getting anywhere, I’m actually making progress, one stitch at a time. And that it doesn’t matter if I don’t post for a fortnight or so. Neither I nor the blog are going anywhere.

To see how others are getting on this week, head over to Ginny’s Yarn Along using the button below.

*For everyone thinking, “so start your own!”, I’m working on, but hit a slight technical hitch when my awesome microphone that was working fine last year turns out to have developed a common, fatal fault. Plan B is underway…

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Yarn Along: Month of Mystery

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I lost the reading bug in the last week of January, probably from having got through so many books in the first half! But after spending some quality time in my wonderful local Blackwells, I decided that I would make February my ‘month of mystery.’ To that end, I’ve added a lot of mysteries to my audiobook wishlist, including some authors I love like Lawrence Block and Christopher Fowler, and some I’ve never heard of. Unfortunately, I started out with ‘An Expert in Murder’, which turned out to not be my sort of thing at all. But I’m working through another Bryant and May at the moment, which is much better. It’s a rare thing to find character-driven mystery stories, but that’s exactly what these are, and I love them.

For crochet, I finally blocked my Silver Scarf (more on that on Friday) and so have picked up my mum’s cardigan again. I’m a little cautious, because working too much and too fast on it was what hurt my hands before, but I’m finding as long as I take it slowly and steadily, I’m fine. The back is almost finished, and as that’s the biggest piece by far, it’ll become much easier to carry around after that!

I’m joining up with Ginny as usual this week, and hoping to actually get around to see what other people are doing, something I failed at last week!

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Yarn Along: The magic yarn ball

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I am, in general, very very bad at doing one thing at a time. Well, that’s not quite true. Every so often, I decide that something has to be done RIGHT NOW and I’ll forego eating, sleeping and talking to people in order to get it finished. But most of the time, I’ll happily start fifteen things at once, picking up a few at a time and letting the others languish until I lose interest and want a change again. It’s why I like magazines like Making. They include all kinds of projects, and because they generally only like to take up 1 or 2 pages for each thing, the projects tend to be simple and achievable. This is my first subscription issue, and while I was a little skeptical of the Valentine’s theme, it’s actually not at all schmaltzy and has some interesting articles as well. Definite thumbs up, and a great one for a week where my concentration span has been about five minutes. I can see myself starting at least four of these projects and leaving them in various stages of done-ness, like most of my crochet at the moment.

Then there’s the project in the picture. This one? This is starting to bug me. I want it done. It’s my silver shawl which I’ve been working since approximately forever. Bacteria have evolved into higher forms of life, developed opposable thumbs, constructed tools, created civilisations and fallen into chaos since I started this thing. Possibly.

The problem is that it uses about 1,000m of yarn, which is A LOT. I know it’s A LOT. What I tend to forget is that A LOT of yarn leads to A LOT of scarf! I bought two skeins of Squoosh Fibrearts Merino Cashmere, which is almost ridiculously soft, in a fabulous silver to match the pattern sample. It works up beautifully, and has been easy on my hands while I’ve been having trouble with them (they still get sore, but I can stitch if I’m careful and take breaks, thanks for all the nice comments last week!). What hasn’t been so easy is adding rows to something that’s already longer than I am tall, which is why it’s mostly rolled up in this picture. If I unroll it, it becomes unmanageable. Then there’s this:

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As far as I can tell, this is a neverending ball of yarn. I feel like it’s been this size for at least the last twenty rows. Is it never going to get smaller? Will this shawl never be done? I swear I would have given up months ago if I didn’t want to wear it so badly. The finished scarf is going to be like wearing a hug, which is why I’m persevering.

Just don’t ask me how I’m going to block it.

Joining up with Ginny this week for the Yarn Along.

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15 in 2015: One month down…

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I think the good thing about doing a year-long challenge for which you have promised regular updates is that it gets you moving whether you want to or not. Last week was pretty rough in general, a combination of work-stress, J getting home incredibly late from work most nights, and the SAD which chose last week to kick in again, leaving me exhausted and uninterested in things in general.

But this week is the first Monday of a new month, and a chance to see how the 15 in 2015 challenge is going.

15 Crochet projects – My Ravelry page tells me I managed to finish 3 projects in January, although sadly, I think one of them will have to be frogged, or at least heavily modified. Still, that’s a good start, and I’ve got several things that are reaching the halfway stage, and one that I am determined to finish in February, because it gets too warm to wear it!

14 New recipes tried twice – There are several that we’ve tried once, but none that were worth repeating. However, this week sees the arrival of slow-cooked BBQ gammon, which I think might just be a winner.

13 Weeks at Slimming World – I’ve been a member for 4 weeks now, but have only attended 3 sessions. Still, I’ll be going tomorrow and have no plans to stop!

12 Books finished – Thanks to the wonders of audiobooks, I’ve managed to finish 7 books in the last month, with 2 others started and abandoned. That’s not bad for someone who read fewer than that last year! And I’m particularly pleased that one of them was Wolf Hall, something I’ve wanted to read for ages but wasn’t brave enough to tackle.

11 Patterns used from my current stash – Everything I’ve started this year, I already had the pattern for. So that’s 6 of these done already. Of course, I’ve been adding more than that to my favourites and wishlist, but I haven’t actually bought anything, so that’s okay.

10 Letters and birthday cards sent – Two so far. Time to have a look at February’s birthdays.

9 Friends emailed – Hmmmm….not doing so well on that front, probably because I’ve been feeling so down and not really felt like talking to anyone.

8 Patterns written – I’ve got sketches for 3 in my notebook, and have been swatching a third. Realistically, though, this isn’t going to happen in February. I’m just going to keep playing with ideas and see what happens.

Still to achieve (because I left the harder ones to the smaller numbers):
7 Knitting projects
6 Quilts finished
5 Kilometres run
4 Tops made
3 Dresses and/or skirts made
2 Thumbs healed
1 Pair of trousers made

And Finally!

0 Stash acquired Normally shopping for yarn/fabric is my comfort when I’m feeling down, so to have resisting buying anything even through a rough month feels like a major achievement.

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My favourite picture of the month.

Overall, that’s 21 things out of the 120 on my list, which is 17.5% done! I needed to ‘front-load’ the year, because the smaller numbers are much bigger challenges, and it’s good to gather momentum towards them. I’ve concentrated on the comforting, easy things while I’m not feeling up to much, and once the days get lighter and the weather gets warmer, I’ll feel more like sewing and getting out in the fresh air, I’m sure. I have noticed that I’m Instagramming a lot more, and really enjoying it, although I haven’t worked out how to ‘meet’ new people that way, rather than just lurking and admiring all the pretty pictures. I find it a tricky thing on social media in general, where I’m very shy, as opposed to real life, where I’m more confident. Finding a way into conversations where everyone seems to already know each other can be hard, and can leave you with the feeling that you’re on the outside looking in. On the other hand, if you don’t engage at all, you always will be! So one of my challenges in February is to not be so scared to talk to people on Twitter/Instagram. After all, I love it when new people say hello to me, so why do I think I’d be intruding if I say hello to others? Time to be brave!

This week’s challenge, apart from continuing the above, is to sort myself out a new mobile phone. Given the bewildering amount of choice out there these days, I’m putting it on the list with moving house and changing jobs as one of the most stressful things you can do!

How’s everyone else’s 2015 going?

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Yarn Along: Pacing myself

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It’s been a tough week. Last Wednesday at my knitting/stitching group, I overdid it a bit and hurt my left hand. Then yesterday morning and today, my right hand seems to have come over all sympathetic and has also started hurting quite badly. Despite getting rather twitchy fingers, I’ve been on a strict “no crochet” diet since Friday, and as my right hand is still hurting today, I think that’s something I’m going to have to continue with.

I did manage to block something, though, so more of that on Friday. In the meantime, my project bags are sitting around somewhat folornly, waiting for me to be able to pick them up again without seriously damaging myself. I’m going to go for a quick drink to my group tonight and see how I go, but if it starts hurting again, I’ll have to stop. Better to rest in the short term, even if I’m going a bit nuts, than not be able to crochet in the long term. Except in those bags are things I really want to finish, my Silver Shawl and my Vintage Fremont (I am currently operating under the delusion that knitting will somehow be better than crochet. Please, no one disillusion me!). I want to finish them because I want to wear them, and so that I can start some new things. But for the moment, I’m being good and putting long-term needs in front of short-term satisfaction. Honest, I am.

Just remind me of that later, would you?

For reading, I’m flicking through Umberto Eco’s book The Infinity of Lists. It’s not a reading book, really. More like a catalogue of art and literature with musings on the nature of lists and what they tell us about the world. Some of it is going over my head, but I’m enjoying dipping into it and pondering.

Linking up with Ginny to see if anyone’s had a more productive week.

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FO: Spring Peacock

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It’s so nice when you find a work colleague who a)likes taking photographs, b)is good at it and c)understands the importance of photographing hand-stitched items!

Its brilliant to have this finished, blocked and photographed. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I literally took it off the mats and put it on, I was so keen to have it. Considering that when I got about three-quarters of the way through, I was fairly sure I wasn’t going to have enough yarn, I’m even more delighted with it.

It’s worked as a baktus, so you start at one end, make increases until the middle, then decrease again to the other end. These types of patterns are perfect for using up every last yard of yarn, as the size just depends on how much you have. I weighed mine as it looked like I had about half left, and started the decreases when I had 52g. Except it really, really didn’t look like enough yarn, and I was trying to work what I would do when I ran out. Determined to get all I could out of it, I kept going and kept going, and was incredibly startled to discover that not only did I have enough, there was a whole 8m left over! Shows that the maths doesn’t lie, even if it is deceptive.

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Ravelry Project Page
Yarn: Comiston fingering weight by The Yarn Yarn (unavailable) in Peacock.
Pattern: Spring Crescent
Hook: 3.5mm
Brooch is by Susan Sharpe Ceramics and matches perfectly.*

This yarn is so wonderful, and the colour so vibrant, that I knew I needed a solid, simple pattern to show it off. The edging is dead easy, and the two-row repeat easily memorised, although I also used 4 stitch markers as prompts. I like the contrast of the ribbing at the top with the plain lower part, then the pretty edging. This was one of the patterns I recommended for The Golden Skein and their #Freeyourskeins2015 project, and it definitely hasn’t let me down.

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Linking up with Freshly Finished Friday at a Hardknitlife.

*And if you’re thinking “hmmm, porcelein brooch, sounds a bit fragile,” I’ve been wearing this one a couple of times a week for a few years now, and while plastic ones have chipped and cracked, this just keeps on going!

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