Lockdown Hour of Craft

We are four months plus into lockdown now. I made it to my summer break from work thanks to some wise advice from a mentor or two and being told to add an extra week onto the front of my previously booked holiday. So that meant having three weeks to fill for me as well as for the kids (see below for how to keep them occupied). The first week is done now and involved a spot of camping and the associated recovery. Now, as the second week looms, how to make it both interesting and useful?

As I was lying in bed thinking last night I was wondering what I was going to do today. Sometimes, the prospect of a whole day with nothing in the diary means that I end up bumbling about never actually doing anything. I decided that today I would do lots of things, but only for an hour. After that I would swap to something else.

Lying about the house in various states of incompletion are a great many projects and pastimes. I often find myself fascinated by how a craft works and wanting to get the basics and have a go. Some of them stick and some don’t. They are worth putting an hour of time into even if it is not going to be my major craft obsession.

So, here is the progress for today’s Hour of Craft:

Hour 1 – Church. It is Sunday and, even though I am not at work, I still feel the need to do Church. Today I joined in the national online service, which was led by the Youth Pilgrimage to Walsingham.

Hour 2 – hand-sewing. I found some part-finished pillows for the Barbie house which needed stuffing and hand-sewing the final seam. Project finished in 30 minutes. Soundtrack – Bill Bryson’s The Body on Audible

Hour 3 – Creagami. J got this kit for Christmas and needs time with a parent and a screen to help her follow the instructions. We finished off the butterfly today and she was very pleased.

Hour 4 – Ravelry Stash organisation. The kids were going to watch a film with P so I had to move to my study for crafting. This involved a significant amount of tidying. I also discovered that I have not updated the stash with the various bits I have bought since lockdown. That involved some photo-taking and some data entry. It is all up to date now I think.

Hour 5 – Mosaic Crochet. As I was browsing through some Youtube videos, I came across this one. Despite having learned to crochet well before I started knitting, I never quite feel as if I know any more than the basics so I’m always interested in learning more. This tutorial was 45 minutes long and resulted in a swatch of the new technique.

Hour 6 – Cross stitch. Cross stitch was my craft of choice during my teens and early twenties. Mum bought me a lovely Discworld kit, which I took away to university and then hardly touched. Every so often I get it out and do a bit more. Today was one of those days. Soundtrack – Bill Bryson’s The Body on Audible.

Hour 7 – Cooking. Today’s menu plan was quiche, made from scratch. Phil made the pastry. I did the rest. No photos for this. We ate it too quickly.

Hour 8 – Blogging. It’s all gone a bit meta now.

Crafts not attempted today

Spinning with a wheel, spindle spinning, knitting, machine-sewing, luceting, lace-making, calligraphy, painting.

Still plenty to occupy me in future days.

How do you occupy the kids without resorting to screen time all day?

A few years ago I came across a suggestion for stopping your kids from demanding screen time from first thing in the morning through to the end of the day. It is called THE LIST and goes like this:

Every day, before screen time is allowed, they have to:

  • Make bed, get dressed, have breakfast, brush hair, brush teeth
  • read for 20 minutes
  • write or colour in for 20 minutes
  • tidy up one room
  • help a member of the family (if any help is needed)
  • spend 20 minutes outside
  • make or build something creative

This works so well for us as all we have to say is “have you done the list?” whenever screen time is mentioned.

Once the list is completed, they can have an hour of screen time, then a 20 minute break then another hour and so on. Bizarrely, they have accepted the premise of the list. They do still try to avoid or evade the more dull bits of the list but they haven’t figured out that they could rebel. Of course, that would mean there would be no screen time at all so maybe they won’t do that.

Update on reading

Remember the reading challenge I mentioned last month?
After a trip to the library this afternoon, I have completed one of the challenges.
A book you can read in a day – According to Yes by Dawn French, a very funny novel, with some of the best swearing I have read. It has something to say about families and how easy it is to become disfunctional.
I’m also continuing to rack up the re-reads, in the absence of knitting. I’m on the fourth installment of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series, having begun from the beginning.

My thumb has got worse again this week, so I’ll be back off to the doctor again soon. However, I’ve been doing a very small amount of practice at continental knitting, which doesn’t involve moving that thumb very much at all. I bought a very useful craftsy class that shows exactly how to hold the yarn and move the fingers.

I keep adding to the list of things I shouldn’t do because it aggravates the tendons. Today I added “clean stove”: a great excuse to avoid housework.

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week Day 6 – A tool to covet

We’re getting towards the end of the week now. Today is all about gadgets – search for 4KCBWDAY6 for what other people have to say. (Today is also my birthday, so if my family are nice to me, there may be something more to report by the end of the day – do take a virtual piece of cake while you read.)

Write about your favourite knitting or crochet (or spinning, etc) tool. It can either be a tool directly involved in your craft (knitting needles or crochet hook) or something that makes your craft more pleasurable – be it a special lamp, or stitch markers.

Is it an item that you would recommend to others, and if so for which applications/tasks do you think it is most suited. Conversely, do you have a tool/accessory that you regret buying? Why does it not work for you?

Over the last few years, I have collected many different tools for knitting, all of which I would recommend.

  • blocking wires
  • blocking mats – actually just interlocking foam play mats from the Early Learning Centre
  • sock blockers
  • lovely sock needles – dpns and circulars
  • locking stitch markers
  • a set of knit pro (knit-picks for the Americans) interchangeable needles
  • a magnetic chart holder

Without question, the tools that make the biggest difference to my craft are my ball-winder and swift. I’ve had the ball-winder for some years, (although it appears I have never taken a photo of it and the light is too bad to take one now – go here and scroll all the way to the bottom of the page), bought the first time I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show from the Texere Yarns stand.

Before the ball-winder arrived, I had wound a couple of skeins into balls, but found it tricky, particularly the need to compel someone to remain on the sofa, holding a skein of yarn over their outstretched hands. After the ball-winder it was undoubtedly easier to wind skeins with the assistance of someone to hold the skein tight, but it could be done with some judiciously placed chairs instead if necessary. Still, nearly every skein ended up in a big knot at some point in the process. Even knowing that the knot must be a slip knot and therefore unravellable, doesn’t make it any less tedious.

Eventually, I bought a swift, a beautiful wooden one that collapses into a fairly small box. It is the Amish-design Wooden Yarn Swift from Chiaogoo.

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It is still fairly new, so doesn’t run as smoothly or easily as I would like, but it makes it very easy to wind yarn, with no other human required to hold it. I spend whole evenings with the swift and ball winder out, winding yarn in front of the tv. It works perfectly for thicker yarns, but for thinner yarns (sock and lace) I often have to tension it by hand to avoid it being wound too tight.

My son is now at the age where he thinks a ball winder is a wonderful toy and he can often be persuaded to turn the handle of the ball winder for me, with some encouragement and a reminder to stay at the same speed and winding in the same direction. You get some horrible snarls if you start going the other way and a loop of yarn catches in the cogs underneath.

Any knitting tools I regret buying? Just the very short (10 cm) sock needles I bought last autumn. I hold my needles in the gap between my thumbs and forefingers. The short needles just poke holes in the skin.

On the whole, I love knitting tools and I’m sure I will acquire more of them in the future. When it comes right down to it though, they are peripheral to the action of just sitting and knitting with good yarn and needles that feel right.

P.S. I took one of the pink socks to a work meeting on Thursday evening and was sitting there quite happily knitting my way up the lace chart when the cable of my circular needle caught on a button on my coat. I didn’t notice, reached out for something and then discovered I had neatly removed the needle from the stitches, depositing stitch markers in the darkness under the seat.

It all ended happily at home later that evening (I was able to grovel on the floor and find all the stitch markers) and I fixed the lace with only one round of tinking. Maybe I need to take simpler knitting to meetings.

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week Day 3 – Infographic

Welcome to day 3 in the Fourth Annual Knitting and Crochet Blog Week. I’m knitting for house monkey – the thinking knitters.

Kniting and crochet blog week house of monkey

Today ( search 4KCBWDAY3 to find other participants), the brief is:

Make your own infographic […] to convey any element of your craft(s). It can be just for fun or a thoroughly researched presentation of an idea/finding.

When knitting a sock, do you ever wonder how far until you are half way? (If you don’t, then bear with me).

Consider a sock…

My grand plan for today was a way to calculate your progress for any sock. I’m still working on the spreadsheet for the general case, but I’m ready to present my findings for a specific case.

There are surprisingly few variables in a standard top-down sock. I chose a 68 stitch sock, 12 rows of ribbing, 5 and a half inches of leg at a row gauge of 12 rows to the inch. A heel flap of 38 rows on half the stitches, a heel turn using Cookie A’s formula then gusset decreases at two stitches every other row. A total foot length of 9 inches, including a toe with 4 decreases every other round, moving to every round for the last few rows. End with a graft over 16 stitches.

How many stitches are there in the sock? 14,329. (I counted slipped stitches and decreases as single stitches). Have a click through the infographic to see your progress after each stage. The second one shows when you can truly say you are a quarter, half or three quarters of the way through.

Don’t forget to make the second sock.

Decisions made

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This was the scene when I got out my stash to look it over and decide what to knit next. Mr H came into the room, took one look at this lot and disappeared upstairs muttering about an early night.

There are 364 sock patterns in my Ravelry library, so it took quite a while to narrow it down. I’ve added a few more sock patterns to my Ravelry Queue:

Both of these are good for variegated yarn. However, I decided I wanted to knit some semi-solids and I have cast on Tintern Abbey Socks. This has a whole new (to me) toe and heel construction – The Sherman Toe/Heel – and is from Brenda Dayne’s ongoing ebook, Welsh for Rainbow.

Way back when, I resolved to knit (and wear) a pair of socks in pink. I’ve put it off long enough. Here is the first toe. Strictly speaking this is the second toe, since the first one I knit using the instructions for a Sherman Toe bore no resemblance whatsoever to a toe. It turns out that if you follow the instructions (without questioning them and doing what you think they mean instead of what they actually say) then it works fine.

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In other news, I have been baking:

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Fresh croissants for breakfast is something I probably shouldn’t get used to.

Slippery

A while back, I knitted some slippers.

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They are cunningly made from a handful of mitred squares, but they were too big and too floppy. They didn’t stay on my feet, so were a bit rubbish in terms of their intended function. I decided to keep them in case I ever figured out what to do with them.

As I read more about knitting, I realised that they are made from 100% wool (Colinette Hullaballoo), so are candidates for felting. I wasn’t sure how to go about felting them, so just ignored them for a while. This week, my current pair of slippers fell apart and my feet were cold, so the need was urgent.

I tied the knitted slippers up in a pillowcase (I’ve read the Yarn Harlot – I do not want to block the washer pump with stray fibre), added Ecover laundry liquid and put them on for a 40 degree normal wash. They came out significantly smaller and much more rigid. Just as I wanted. A few hours drying on a radiator and they were ready. I think I shall get some non-slip stick-on bits for the soles, although I quite enjoy skating round on our hard floors.

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