2018 First Quarter

Crafting goals for 2018

  • Complete 15 projects in knitting or crochet
  • Complete 3 spinning projects
  • Publish a design

The year began much as it ended with crochet Imaginarium creatures flying off the hooks.

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After six of these creatures in a year, I’m done for now. There are still three small girls I could make these for, but I need a break.

The next project was inspired by a book I got for Christmas: Knit Mitts by Kate Atherley. We had some snow before Christmas and the daughter’s hands got extremely cold as all her mittens and gloves are shop-bought and made of synthetic fibres. Time for some proper wool mittens.

I’ve had to guess how much her hands will grow before next winter – they’d better last that long. We’ve already had a couple of incidents of misplaced mittens, but I’m being vigilant and they have so far been recovered safely.

Through an accident of timing, I realised that the mittens were actually eligible for a WIP medal in the Ravellenics. I had been trying to finish them beforehand, but over-ran by a day or so. This meant that my main Ravellenics project was started a little late.

I’ve had Catkin on my list of projects to make for ages. I’ve even had the yarn picked out for a couple of years and kept safely in a bag, but never got round to starting it. In terms of yarn, it’s basically 2 pairs of socks. It’s got a few cables, some slipped-stitch colourwork and some simple patterning in knit and purl. I thought this would be a suitably challenging project.

As it’s a shawl that starts with very few stitches and grows every row, measuring progress is a little bit deceptive. Towards the end of the Olympics, my diary was quite busy. There was only one thing for it: I needed a spreadsheet. I can tell you that there are 41270 stitches in a Catkin. In order to finish it within the deadline, I had a daily target of just over 2500 stitches. It was so satisfying to get to the end of the day and know exactly how much progress I had made and how far ahead I was.

I still don’t have good pictures, but here it is before and during blocking.

Thanks to the forbearance of some work colleagues who were happy for me to knit through a whole day meeting, I was finished with a couple of days to spare, winning a medal for Shawl Skating and laurels for Stash, Colourwork and Cables.  The pattern includes buttonholes. I didn’t put the buttons on initially and quite liked wearing it wrapped several times around my neck. Once the buttons were added, it became a very useful layer to wear under a coat, particularly while cycling.

WIP round-up

  • I’ve joined Ysolda’s 2018 shawl club, so I have the first shawl for that on the needles.
  • I also got a one-off shawl kit from The Knitting Goddess, because the design was inspired by the daffodils on the hill in the village I live in. This is my main focus at the moment as I’m hoping to put it in an exhibition in a couple of weeks.
  • Since the start of the year, the Fringe and Friends Log-a-long has been appearing all over my social media feeds. I’ve got a design for a sock half worked-out, made of three log-cabin squares, which are then grafted together. So far, I’ve only made one of the squares.
  • Last autumn’s Toph hat used less than half the yarn, so I have another on the needles for one of my nieces.
  • Did I ever mention the three skeins of laceweight cashmere yarn I got in a sale from The Knitting Goddess ages ago? They were used to begin a Color Affection, but frogged due to the muddiness of the colours together. I think it will work with the colour in larger blocks, so I’ve started a Brightstairs. It’s going very slowly.
  • Two pairs of socks: one from Tour de Sock last year, the other one using up some Socks that Rock Mediumweight and a Cat Bordhi pattern. Both pairs are more than half done and just need to cycle to the top of a bag every so often in order to be completed.
  • The usual old-faithful WIPS: 2011 KAL blanket and the Plankton crochet kit.
  • I also have half a sheep in carded fibre stashed around my working space. Struggling to spin the batt I started with – not sure I scoured it enough to get the grease out.

Round-up – Knitting, spinning and crochet in 2017

The last time I posted a project round-up, I had met my target of 12 projects complete in 2017. Here’s what happened next:

I finished the Woolly Wormhead hat: TophToph hat

I’m tending to wear it with the brim tucked underneath for about an inch, which makes it warmer round the ears and fits better at the crown.

I finished the Hilltop Cloud fibre.

Handspun from Hilltop Cloud

Very happy with the colours here. Can’t wait to see what it knits up into. I think it’s about a DK weight.

And finally, the kids’ Christmas presents, which were presented to them on New Year’s Eve. The daughter knew all about the son’s toy as she had seen me making it. The son knew about the daughter’s. They were both very chuffed with the creatures.

Two creatures of crochet

The one on the left was named Bella by the recipient and was immediately promoted to a must-have bedtime companion. I wasn’t done with making these creatures. More to come in 2018.

Looking back, I can see that I talked about the Masham fibre that I spun, but never showed a picture.  Here it is.

Masham fibre spun into a range of colours

I think that brings 2017 crafting to a close.

Did I meet my goals?

  • Complete 12 or more knitting/crochet projects – 15 completed
  • Complete 2 or more spinning projects – 2 completed
  • Keep accurate spinning records – hmmm getting better
  • Knit something from handspun – Yes – a hat
  • Brioche stitch – tried it on a swatch. Next year make a wearable item.
  • Watch more Craftsy classes – I did watch more, but I’ve still got plenty unwatched.

I’m going to call that a successful year.

Hay, that’s a good place to visit

No parking here please, I’m reading

Last summer, we had a family trip to Herefordshire. We stayed in a yurt on a farm, did various trips out and had a really good week. The daughter spent the whole time bugging the farmer to let her help clean out the animal pens, while the son spent most of the time reading. With that in mind, it was clearly time for a trip to Hay-on-Wye, the town of books.

DH is familiar with Hay-on-Wye, having accompanied me there on several previous occasions. He’s quietly resigned to not seeing much of me for the day and taking himself off to cafes at appropriate intervals. The question was, how would the kids react? Were they really old enough to appreciate Hay?

The daughter, aged 5 at the time, was not really into the whole second-hand book thing. She was intrigued in the first couple of shops, then spent the rest of the day saying things like “not another bookshop”. The son, on the other hand, seemed to be delighted by the whole experience.  He came away with quite a pile of books and would, I think, have happily carried on with the browsing and buying for a few more days, particularly as I gave him extra book-buying money.

Hay CastleIt had been about ten years since I last went to Hay.  My impression is that the town has become a little more commercial. The shabby bookshops are not so shabby, everything seems a lot more organised and there’s more crossover between old and new books in the shops. It will be interesting to see what happens with the castle once the crowd-funded refurbishment has been completed.

Some things haven’t changed. The honesty bookshop is still there, still without any books I have any inclination to read.

The books I ended up getting have all been sitting on my desk for six months, waiting for me to get round to writing this post. Of course, I’m now writing this upstairs so I need to go and fetch them. Selection of books bought at Hay

Hay did not seem to have a good selection of craft books. I was disappointed not to find more knitting books. I was prepared to wade through vast quantities of vile eighties intarsia sweater books to find some gems. I wasn’t really prepared to find almost nothing. The only one I found that was worth getting was Mandalas to Crochet by Haafner Linssen. I haven’t made anything from it yet, but I do like the idea of crocheted circles so I probably will at some point. The diagrams are particularly clear and the maths is quite intriguing.

I tend to pick up Henning Mankell books when I find them cheap. Scandi Noir, without being too noir. The Robert Galbraith is another one on my list of detective novels to try: Galbraith, of course, being an alias of Rowling.

Discovering Old Handwriting is one of those books that leapt off the shelf at me. It could come in handy for work if I’m ever looking at old archives, but I really bought it as it adds to my general interest in handwriting.

Rounding off the selection are a couple of theological books, neither of which I’ve done more than glance at since buying them.

I was particularly happy to discover a stationery shop in Hay, called Bartrums. Here’s the haul from this shop.

Palomino blackwing, ollive green washi tape and olive green ink.
Stationary stationery.

I’ve read so much about the Palomino Blackwing pencil. Online, it only seems to be sold in packs of 24, which is quite an investment to make for something that might not be to my taste. I was able to buy a single pencil, which has now been in circulation for a while. It’s a good pencil, very smooth both to touch and write with. Is it worth the price-tag? I’m still not sure. I’ll probably stay with my trusty yellow and black Staedtlers with the red end, which I’ve been using as long as I’ve been writing.

I’ve taken to picking up washi tape when I find it. It always comes in handy. It seems I had a bit of an olive green thing going on that day, as I came back with olive green washi tape and Vert Olive ink from J Herbin. My Lamy Safari is currently using the ink. Now I have got used to the colour being lighter than I expected, I like it.

Some interesting things I have been reading

  • The Circle, by Dave Eggers – Sci-fi looking at the challenge of social media, bought at The White Rose Bookshop in Thirsk. This was written in 2013 and it is rather disconcerting how many of the futurist bits of the novel are now reality – Amazon’s Electra springs to mind. The questions that were raised for me include whether privacy is indeed a virtue or an encumbrance, how much would I be willing to give up if complete transparency were the cost of keeping it. I find that I’m posting less and less on social media, often because I live a quiet and uneventful life, sometimes because what is interesting does not belong to me to share. My job depends on being trustworthy and able to keep a confidence. If complete transparency became a thing, we’d lose so much of the tentative early thinking that people are only willing to share with trusted friends. Life is richer for friendships based on shared confidence. That would be lost if everyone had access to every thought or action.
  • Redshirts, by John Scalzi – more Sci-fi, but less disturbing, recommmended by DH. This book takes meta to a new level, ties it in a knot and then makes you laugh out loud as it all unravels. I loved it, although it kept getting me into trouble for giggling too loudly while someone was trying to sleep. If you’ve ever wondered about what happens to all the supporting characters in tv-dramas, especially Star Trek, this is the book for you.
  • Paper, by Mark Kurlansky – History through the story of everyday objects. Salt, one of Kurlansky’s earlier books, is one of the best books I have ever read. This is pretty good. It was on my wish-list for a while, as I couldn’t bring myself to read about paper on the Kindle. It turns out that my assumption that all paper is made from trees was wrong. I only figured it out near the end of the book, when he starts to talk about the difficulties of extracting cellulose from trees. Then I had to re-interpret most of the book in the light of this information. I always knew rags were used somehow in the making of paper, but thought they were secondary to the processing of trees. Interesting stuff. As someone who was brought up to use recycled paper wherever possible, I knew that the quality had increased radically in the last 30 years (anyone else remember recycled loo paper from the 80s), now I know a bit more about why and how. If the history of objects interests you, then read this book.
  • Revenge Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger. What can I say, sometimes I just need to relax with something a bit tacky. I borrowed this from a local church that has a comprehensive selection of books available to anyone who wants to read them. Don’t think I could ever have been a congregation member there – too much temptation to sit with a novel during the sermon.
  • The Bookshop Girl, by Silvia Bishop, selected by my daughter at White Rose Books. One of the great joys in my life is buying books for my children, or introducing them to books I loved as a child. This one was chosen at the beginning of the summer holidays and it came with us on holiday. Reading it aloud meant I appreciated it at a slow pace. I managed to be disciplined and not read ahead between bedtimes, so we discovered it together. It’s a charming book, about a girl who lives in a bookshop, but has an awkward secret (as well as a ridiculous name). Various adventures unfold, but I won’t spoil it. The only question I have is why don’t the kids go to school, or get home-schooled? It bothered me throughout, but it didn’t spoil the book for me.

The state of the blog April 2018

Stating the obvious

I’m out of the habit of blogging.  There are a few drafts kicking around in the list of posts that I haven’t finished, plus a whole lot more posts that have never got beyond the mental note of oh, that would make a good topic. I even have a few piles of books and knitting stuff waiting to be blogged. There’s one pile of books on my desk that is really getting in the way, so that has to stop.

Last week I spent a good chunk of a day catching up on what I’ve been wanting to write about so that I can make a fresh start. Delving into my knitting and reading gave me enough of a break from work so that I could be refreshed and ready for the marathon of the Easter weekend.

All that’s needed now is to remember to click publish on posts before they get completely out of date.  Yes, I had to redraft all the tenses in that preceding paragraph as I didn’t actually publish, despite having written that.

In brief: knitting continues, reading is still a constant part of life. Oh, and I’ve done some new things with my sleep patterns that have had some profound effects.

You’ll find my instagram as a widget on the sidebar. I like the format of choosing a picture and having something to say about it, so I’m using that when perhaps in the past I would have thought about blogging.