Today I’m Making… Brioche scarf

Ta dah! I finished it. I love soft squishyness and the contrast of the riot of colour peeping through the calm natural cream.  I love brioche.img_0757

I’ve fancied having a go at brioche knitting for ages but as you might have picked up from other posts I have a ton of outstanding projects (1 pair of beaded gloves, I pair of mittens, 1 jumper, 4 pairs of socks, 1 scarf, slippers, 2 blankets, a cowl, various snoods – these are just off the top of my head) so I sort of put it off because I really should finish some of what I’ve already started…

Course then when I went on that Knitaway break to the excellent Westcliffe Knitting Hotel Paula treated us to a trip out to the incredible Beckside Yarns in Clapham, Yorkshire and they had the most incredibly luxurious feeling kimono style brioche jacket and it’s been on my mind ever since.

Most Wednesdays you’ll find me very happily at the I Knit London  knit night, the owner was knitting the most gorgeous Le Moelleux – he’s really good with colour so his one is really yummy.  Then, he only sent out a newsletter advertising a beginner’s brioche workshop. imageWell. You can imagine how fast I signed up for that. He has more lined up so if London is accessible to you I highly recommend doing the class.

Turns out the basic brioche stitch is pretty easy once you get the hang of it and really enjoyable.  OK so I did cock up my increases and decreases a bit at first but I go the hang in the end and its all part of the learning process so I don’t tend to unpick unless I really have to.

I love the way it looks, with the bright mix of colours peeping through the cool calm neutral. The yarn is I Knit or Dye DK and is the most soft and snuggly thing you’ve ever felt. I’m almost looking forward to cold weather so I can wear it all the time.

 

Thanks to Gerard at I Knit London I feel confident enough to take on Le Moelleux myself.

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Knitting a Chain on Christmas Eve

Its Christmas Eve and I have three days off to complete four orders so best not hit the Baileys as hard as I do usually at this time of year. I’m not having a big Christmas so having a good few things to make is ideal to fill up the time.  Its not that I don’t like Christmas, I really do and I’d love to have a big family Christmas but (don’t bring out any violins) but I’ve never had one of those and its never going to happen so here I am surrounded by yarn but no tinsel.

Anyway, one of the things I’ve been asked to make is a black version of my knitted chain scarf. Click here for an example in my Etsy shop. Goodness knows why I haven’t made a black one before because if I say so myself its coming along brilliantly.   

If you take a close look at this first picture you’ll see in the background my ‘to-do’ list notebook.  I love a good to-do list and I have a lot of things I should be getting on with, there are just under 300 items on my list which I think is verging on the out of control end of things.

I’ve tried knitting the links using the magic loop method and I just don’t get on with it, I don’t mind dpns too much and the fantastically loud metallic clattering sound they make when I drop them on my faux wood floor must surely make my downstairs neighbour sing with joy.

I bought a rotatinimageg yarn stick thing at Unravel this year, its hand-turned oak and cost about £28 I think; it’s quite a nice thing in itself  but not really necessary and the feller that made it used some sort of bearings in a roller contraption to make it turn so that’s quite noisy too especially if I stand it on the floor. I should have bought a yarn bowl like I intended but the wooden stick chap was nice and we got chatting and one handspun mitten kit turned into another and there I was with a spinning yarn stick/kitchen roll holder thing to lug home.  You can see it a bit here and in the final pic.

When I started knitting this scarf I was reading Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn, I haven’t read one of her’s before and I did really enjoy it, I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so ‘Forever Amber’ so that was a nice surprise, I thought I was in for some kind of Wuthering Heights slog. My copy is really tatty and yellowed with age so I can’t donate it to a charity shop, if anyone fancies reading it leave me a message here and I’m happy to post it to you. I’m now reading Dude Where’s my Country by Michael Moore and I’ve remembered about 100 pages too late that I can’t stand Michael Moore.

This is my lovely ladybird row counter, that I wear on a cord around my neck.  Its perfect for knitting while you commute and many is the time I’ve caught some city type giving me a bit of a funny look as I march across London Bridge with this still bouncing off my chest. It is quite big.  Again it is fairly noisy so apologies to everyone else on the train that thinks I’m cracking my knuckles every couple of minutes. Nice though isn’t it? I like a ladybird, though I did a stint as a PA at Ladybird books and that was not a positive experience. I’ve also worked with a woman that was terrified of ladybirds – that’s got to be a pretty unusual phobia hasn’t it? Anyway, my row counter was a freebie from one of those magazine subscription stands at the Knitting and Stitching show at Olympia this year.  I was nearly tempted to sign up for a subscription on the strength of the gift but thankfully remembered in time that I never actually read the magazines when they arrive and quite often can’t even be bothered to open the wrapping.  Have a closer look at the last picture below and you’ll see the mini mountain of magazines and boring paperwork I have yet to find any interest in.

So here we are with the current state of play, its just under a 1.5m long now so there’s still a fair way to go before it’s ready to list on Etsy for my customer but I think I can get it finished before the post office reopens on Tuesday.

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I Knit Fandango – May 2015

Piddling about on the internet one Friday lunchtime at work last month I stumbled across the I Knit Fandango. Well, I nearly cried, I’d had no idea it even existed let alone was on and I was missing it.  Annoyingly I’ve promised myself I won’t go to any more craft fairs this year because I have such a huge amount of stuff I’ve already bought at other fairs and not even unpacked. But it’s the I Knit Fandango, its only on for one more day and its run by Gerard of I Knit London, the finest knitting shop I know set conveniently right by Waterloo Station in Lower Marsh.  There was no way I wasn’t going to go.

So off I trotted in the morning on the train from Hampshire to dearest most darling London dreaming of the lovely stroll I was going to have over the bridge and along to the RHS halls. Good grief how could I have forgotten the tourist hell that is Westminster on a Saturday morning? At one point I was trapped in a vast european school party, lovely well behaved children but quite alarming to find yourself swept along like Gulliver.  Then I got caught up in what seemed to be a procession of cathedral admiring zombies.  Finally, after a restorative mocha in Pret I’m headed towards the delightful venue (and not being one to miss a saucy opportunity, I flagged down a couple of mounted police to ask directions when I was quite near the entrance) and I was IN!

SAM_2438Its not a huge venue and it wasn’t too packed out with people so you could have a really good look at everything and there was a lot to look at, I took this picture pretty near the end of the day so it was nice and quiet but not too quiet. Every single stall was great quality, none of that nonsense filler you get at the bigger shows like people selling wellies. Everything here is interesting and yarn related.  The price range was good so you can come out of there with hand dyed yarn, a cup of tea and change out of a tenner or you can go to town like me and set your budget at ‘sod it, I’ve got a credit card’. I bought a shopping bag and filled it. SAM_2459 

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Talking of tea, you know who did the catering? Only the Finchley WI! As you can imagine the cakeage was very good. I had two of these fellers and a lovely chat with another knitter and one of the WI women.

There was also generous seating where you could eat and knit and gossip. I muscled in on a Ravelry group, they didn’t seem to mind. All in all I had the most fantastic day and didn’t really want to leave. I was hideously jealous of the woman working on the I Knit London stand, what a great job that must be.  I bought a copy of Cast On, Cast Off and have already used it to update my Gin Poodle pattern with good results. I’m going to pop in later this week to the shop to buy some of their own dyed yarn (called Knit or Dye) because I keep daydreaming about it.

Now brace yourself for a ton of showing off the treasures I bought.

SAM_2472SAM_2465 The Knitting and Crochet Guild had a yarn winding service, they were charging 25p for 100g I think. Peanuts.  This was a genius idea because it meant I bought yarn and had it wound on the same day and that means I am actually going to knit with it rather than consider attempting to wind it myself at some point in the dim and distant.  The Guild also had made load of shawl pins out of old metal knitting needles and large glass beads.  My one is fantastic and one day soon I am going to open the packet and use it. I may even join the Guild.

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I bought this (new) hat pattern and yarn from The Island Wool Company, I had such a nice long chat with the owner, she could not have been more helpful and patient. She has an online shop and was more than happy for people to squeeze and sigh over her excellent yarns.  Took me about 20 minutes to choose a colour.

I had a little splurge at Max’s World on a card and some jewellery, decided against a ‘hooker’ necklace.

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I bought two patterns from Medecins Sans Frontieres. They had tons of patterns and the deal was you donated what you thought they were worth. Got chatting to one of the women working on the stall and she told me about an Italian knitting holiday she went on and that is pretty much all I can think about now. Italy might be a bit expensive but I have found a knitting B&B in Blackpool.

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I fell in love recently with a pattern on Ravelry called Knit Night, its a shawl pattern designed to show off hand dyed yarns so I bought two skeins from Fibres Exotica to make that.  Again the spinner/dyer was super helpful, she opened out skeins for me to have a really good look and her daughter was really chatty too. I learned how she paints the skeins side by side so that they come out a close to each other as poss. She went to a lot of trouble with me and the yarns I bought were only £6.50 each.  I thought that was a huge bargain. This was the point where I went for a second visit to the Finchley WI while the Guild wound my yarn.

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I know I say this about every show I go to but this is the best one. For a specialist knitting show I prefer it to Unravel in Farnham because this one is friendlier and the range is better.  I really hope he does another one next year.  I’d really like him to do another one this year so long as it doesn’t clash with the Festival of Quilts or the Knitting and Stitching Show.

The Make It Show, Farnborough 2015

I have had a great day at the Make It Show at Farnborough Airport (yes, there is an airport at Farnborough and its quite busy, though lord knows who feels the need to fly in to Farnborough).  This is turning into my favourite mixed craft show of the year, I swear it gets better every year.  Its on tomorrow too if you fancy it – £9.50 entry and there are quite a few stalls doing free or super-cheap informal workshops so well worth the ticket price. http://make-it.org.uk/home.php  

Personally I bought a 3 day ticket for £15 in advance but that option of course isn’t open to you but I’m giving you the opportunity to marvel at my thriftiness for free.

The first thing I did was walk the whole show just to scope it out.  As usual there is a huge seating area with the usual catering (I’m not a fan, its particularly rubbish for veggies or anyone who fancies something healthy but that’s pretty much the deal at all of them) but they’re quite happy for you to bring your own.  They have staff patrolling collecting rubbish so its always tidy enough.  TONS of seating.  Very unusual for a craft fair and I hope they continue to stick with this policy in coming years.  The loos up at the catering end get busy but they’re fine.  At the other end of the hall behind the workshop area there are chemical loos.  I won’t go into details but expect festival conditions.  This is several shades beyond my idea of acceptable.

The variety of stalls gets better every year. There is quite a lot of card making but also knitting, crochet, UK yarns, kits, beading, art, lighting, storage, food, artisan brewery (See the GIN!!), patchwork, embroidery, cross stitch, stamping, oh blimey so much I’m sure I’ve missed out a ton of stuff.

My first purchase was from Made by Ewe. She has knitting and crochet kits, hand dyed yarn and knitting supplies like knitting and crochet needles. She also had a lovely kit to make a little fox wearing a pirate jumper that she designed because she keeps chickens.

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To be honest I wasn’t intending to buy anything on my first walk round I was just scoping but then I saw a really nice shawl/scarf and noticed it was made from that ladder yarn I hate.  Well, my local knitting club has a yearly competition and this year the theme is to make something with ladder yarn.  I wasn’t going to play because I hate novelty yarns and I’m still annoyed that I didn’t win last year after I made a gorgeous cuff with knitted in beads (the theme was Knitting with Beads) and didn’t even get placed.  The woman that won entered a completely repulsive felted bag that she’d tied some beads on to, and the same with the 2nd and 3rd place. Horrible work and the beads were not knitted in.  I’m still put out.  I mean I don’t want to bang on about it but I was robbed. ROBBED I TELL YOU.  So Mrs Made by Ewe had this lovely kit for less than a tenner, you get the yarn, pattern and a big chunky crochet hook with a ceramic bead on the end and I definitely didn’t already own one of those.

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I made a bit of a start on it, to be fair it looks like sort of chain mail g-string at the moment but I’m sure it will be divine when its finished.  I’m going to add some skull beads to stop it being too twee.  You’ll see more of those later.  I’m taking home the prize this year or that local knitting group is going to have recounts until I do.

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In the background you will see the back of the bag for life I also bought on this stand.  Very fine thing it is too, I now have enough bags for life to turn Buddhist.

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Next up I went to Anita’s Beads. Where is Anita? Has anyone ever met Anita or is the nice bloke who runs it Anita?  The woman ahead of me in the queue to pay had bought literally tons of stuff, she’s bought so much that I lost all shopping guilt and added some crystals to my skull beads.

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I bought a couple of rings from him too, I really like polished semi-precious gemstone rings, they’re so cheap at only a pound each. What I’m going to do is use these to weigh the shawlly wrap thing I’m making with the ladder yarn rather than tassels.

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The second picture looks like I have sausage fingers, let me assure you my fingers are mere chipolatas, not bangers.

Last year I tried really hard to get to the Beaker Buttons stand to buy a Dorset buttons kit but it was so popular I couldn’t get near it, this year she has a bigger stand and I managed to get in at a quiet moment and have a bit of a chat.  She’s adorable. Really friendly and knowledgeble about the history of Dorset buttons, she also dyes her own yarn and spins. They do workshops and drop in sessions at her shop and I wish she was nearer to me.  You know one of those people that you instantly want to go to the pub with?

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At the end I did a workshop with the excellent Riverside Beads. I did a kumihimo workshop with them last year and it was so well done I was happy as larry when I saw they were doing workshops again this year.

I made this!

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Tell me that’s not fantastic?  They do loads of workshops, they’re based in Peterborough so well worth a visit if you find yourself nearby.  This only took an hour to do, I swear you could do it faster.  They sell a kit for only £8.  They ask you not to share the pattern but they are happy for you to sell any you make and only ask you to donate some of the money to The British Legion. She said they make loads of them in November and donate them to the Legion.  You could use the same principle to make other flowers but the poppy is really lovely.  So easy to do too.

I’m going back tomorrow to have a go at Zentangling, some embroidery and to have a massive chocolate and Bailey’s cookie.

Festival of Quilts – Part 1

This year I went to the Festival of Quilts up at the NEC for the first time. I love hand sewing, I don’t manage to do much of it because I don’t have a lot of space at home and a lot of my spare time is taken up crocheting snoods.  The only reason I haven’t been to the Festival of Quilts before is because its quite a long way from my home in Hampshire and I thought it would cost a fortune to get there. It turned out to be cheap and easy on the train so that’s me signed up annually for a visit.

First off I have to say its the best craft Festival of the year in every respect, the venue is fantastic, the layout is HUGE but spacious so it’s nowhere near as jostly as the Knitting & Stitching Shows in London.  The stallholders are friendly and interested in talking to you and the other attendees are just lovely. Honestly I’ve never met such a happy and welcoming group of crafters as the quilters.  I want to join their gang.

I took loads of pictures, there was just so much to fall in love with, I only did one day but two would be better, I’m sure I missed most of the displays.

This is the first thing I loved. A gorgeous hand quilted kimono style jacket.

SAM_2232 SAM_2233 SAM_2234I love this style of jacket, this just makes me want to embellish my own clothes. What I love most about the quilt designs is its mainly based on a simple, perfect running stitch. The simplicity of running stitch does nothing but enhance a design without looking show-offy like silk shading can.  Running stitch also reminds me of the basting stitches you use in tailoring which are themselves beautiful. Have a closer look a the wave pattern, it’s just perfect.

Today I’m Making – Scissor Keeper dangle thing

I know I must have said it half a dozen times already but I do love a workshop.  They’re the main reason I go to craft shows.  Last October at the Knitting and Stitching Show, Ally Pally I signed up for Kathleen Laurel Sage’s workshop to learn to embroider bullion knot roses. What attracted me was their lovely vintage look, they make me think of boudoir sets, they also look fiercely difficult and I think there was even something in the blurb about them being intimidating so that was me in. Here is the front page of the kit so you know what we were aiming for. wpid-20140526_115342.jpg

 

I am getting back into hand sewing rather than just knitting and crocheting, its the think I love most and I’ve been avoiding it because it makes me too upset to think I’m not doing it for a living any more, but then again not doing it is probably making me miserable so this is one of my attempts to recover my old skills.  So there we all were, a nice mixed bunch as usual at these things. Really good kits all ready and waiting, the strong colours were all snapped up pretty fast which left me with the creamy peachy tone that I wanted anyway. Result.  The kit was really good, plenty of everything so you can do more practice or start something else off when you’ve finished this one or even unpick and start again if you make a horrible pig’s ear of it.

Kathleen Laurel Sage is easily one of the best workshop tutors I’ve come across, she got us all whipping them out with barely any fuss at all. I fell in love with what looks like a tricky technique straight away, she also was full of ideas for other uses and brought fantastic examples of things she’d made that were embellished with bullion knot roses.  She had this gorgeous little box that I’m sure all of us wanted to ask her to sell to us.

Turns out they’re not too hard to do. So here’s mine. I love it. Really do love it and my head is full of things I want to embroider using bullion knots and French knots now.

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Its a bit wonkily off centre but its my first go.

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I’ve already attached it to my scissors but I think it will get on my wick so if anyone can suggest another use for it I’d be glad to hear it.

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I think I chose the wrong shade of green for the leaves, mine are a bit on the dark side but then rose leaves are glossily dark aren’t they? I’m not an outdoorsy person so I could be wrong…

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The kit suggests a beaded loop or ribbon, I prefer ribbon I think the beaded loops look a bit scruffy.

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I sewed a button on the back to hid the ends of the ribbon and to give it a bit of weight on the back so it hangs nicely.

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The kit version has beads on the front too but I love French knots so I just went a bit mad with those instead.

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Kathleen has a website but she doesn’t seem to be selling these kits but maybe if you emailed her she could rustle one up for you. http://www.kathleenlaurelsage.com/misc.html

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Work in Progress – how much is too much?

If you are a crafter I am pretty confident we have one big thing in common, even if we do entirely different crafts – I bet you have several projects on the go at once.

This is not a bad thing, not always, but there must be a tipping point where you have so many projects on the go that you never finish anything. I think I’m at that stage, I’ve just had a rough count up and I think I have around about 27 projects waiting to be finished.  Some of them are things I really want to finish but I’m not in the mood for, some things I’ve got bored with or aren’t working out as well I imagined they would. Some of those will be unpicked and ditched but some of them just need a bit of rework but those are the hardest ones to deal with. Once a project has started going off key its really hard to keep my interest in it.

The problem is I’m always thinking of something new to start and then I’m full of enthusiasm for that for a day or so… Obviously work gets in the way of really concentrating on fiddle-faddling about but I’d rather have a job than an empty project basket and bailiffs at the door.

For a while I decided I’d just concentrate on one project at at time to get on top of things and frankly to stop my home looking so messy but in the end I just couldn’t do it. I just wasn’t in the mood to knit a 1930’s cardigan for weeks on end and now I haven’t touched that poor cardi in weeks.

So what to do? Am I stressing over nothing or do you think its better to finish something off properly before starting on something new? Most of the time it doesn’t bother me, but I do worry that it looks messy here with all my half finished projects and maybe not finishing things is holding me back, because the second attempt is always better than the first and if you never finish the first…

Then again the longer that something hangs around unfinished the less appealing it becomes.

Anyway thats killed 20 minutes when I should have been working on my lap blanket.