Category Archives: Craft

Tales from Westwick Episode 1

I’m experimenting with the form and trying out a few you tube videos – little diaries of what we are up to.

 

 

I’d love to know what you think so please check it out and if you feel like it then like and subscribe.

This is episode 1 and episode 2 is going up shortly!

Show Notes:

Book I mention…The Radical Homemaker by Shannon Hayes
Dinosaur jumper pattern – by Linda’s Knitwear Designs
Yarn – Cascade 220
Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman
Yarn (I got the company name wrong in the video, sorry!): Awesome Aran in the Suffragette colour way

Continuing my Flurry of Crafting

So my energy levels have continued to stabilise – I’m still not able to bend over but luckily knitting and the projects in The Creative Family don’t really require it. It does mean I’m mostly bloggin’ crafting stuff since I don’t have the energy for gardening or other projects.

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Rainy Day Square

I read the whole of Amanda’s book as soon as it arrived. I am pacing myself but the lure of her wool felt projects was too strong. Whilst I was online popping 100% wool felt into my shopping basket for the Wild Things Birthday Crown Project, I decided that the project for a Wool Felt Block would be a perfect welcome present for the Baby.  (In addition to the 3 cardigans, the hat, the carefully chosen and painfully orange plushie fish from her big brother etc.)

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A Carrot – something I can reliably draw and it always looks right.

But sewing these felt squares is so tactile and so fun and I think 100% wool felt is my new craft crush.  I can  really appreciate the Waldorf philosophy of giving children good quality, natural crafting materials and toys.  Whilst R probably has more plastic than I’m comfortable with there is a solidity to his wooden toys which I think he enjoys and I certainly do.

It isn’t quite as portable as knitting but easy to knock a square out at 6.30am when my hips hurt too much to sleep and my brain is too tired to work on writing projects. And it uses up my stash of embroidery threads – so really it is a good thing.

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Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy

Plus there is something compelling about getting artistic in such a minimalist space.

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I can even use up my button stash!

Stay tuned for the last two and the final product!

p.s. you do not want to know how long it took me to get the photos the right way round for this post. One day I’ll get a decent camera… one day.

 

Spring is bringing back my mojo.

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Greek Salad on our first outdoor meal of the year!

I am still in that third trimester funk of discomfort and exhaustion, I am still totally jealous and incredulous marvelling at all the homesteading, home schooling, art mama blogs I read from women zipping around managing 3 children with a 4th on the way who seem to fit triple the amount of stuff in a day that I do. I ration myself on them so I don’t get too blue about how little I seem to accomplish beyond keeping my son reasonably clean, away from the kitchen knives and well fed.

But in the last few days my energy levels have increased a surprising amount.  It might be the sunshine, it might be the impending deadline of Baby but I think it might be having gestational diabetes.  I have eaten refined sugar in 3 weeks and I think it has really levelled out my energy levels.  Hurray!  Silver linings!

I have completed projects!

2 baby cardigans knitted, blocked and bedecked with buttons (photos to follow)

1 pair of mended trousers for R

1 baby hat (corrected from the disaster here)

1 giant maslin pan full of homemade stock (which cleared 3 chicken carcasses out of the freezer)

18 Cheesy courgette muffins made with R (I want to do more cooking with him – so far going well)

3 portions of Lasagne for the freezer (for Babygeddon)

1 session of painting with R (I feel guilty if I’m too tired to have art time with him)

Work trip to Newcastle (which I totally survived)

With help from family I reviewed all my current baby clothes and sleeping sacks.  Worked out the gaps in my collection and decided to cast on for a quick red cardigan in lightweight wool just in case it is a chilly May when they arrive… And then I did some shopping (online because getting into an actual shop these days is more effort that it is worth!).

First up ‘The Creative Family’ by Amanda Blake Soule – full of ideas and projects that I love.  I’m mostly being good and plan to update my BIG LIST rather than feeling like I have to make them all NOW, NOW, NOW.

Although I’m tempted to make R a felt crown from the book using the same design as Max’s Crown in “Where the Wild Things Are’. I think he’d like that for his birthday and it would be easy to run up on the machine before the baby arrives…

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Second (ordered all the way from Australia!) Rhonda Hetzel’s new book ‘The Simple Home’.  You can’t get it in the UK so it had to come from the other side of the world.  But I’ve read her first book (and blog) so many times I realised I had to have this in hard copy. I’ll be reading it with a pencil and stack of post it notes, marking what I want to make as I go.

Lastly the yarn I need to finished a pair of navy socks for a friend has arrived.  I have struggled to knit with this yarn.  It make my hands cramp up something fierce.  But I want to get these off my back and I’m over half-way through the second sock.  I CAN get this done before B- Day, I know I can.

I’d love to hear about anyone else spending their third trimester lying on a sofa feeling like they barely have the energy to make a cup of tea.  It would make me feel less alone 🙂

Seven by Eight: A Knitted Cowl pattern in 56 Stitches

I mentioned previously about my recovering creativity. One of the things I decided on after my inspirational visit to Yarndale was to knit an oversized cowl.

Seven by Eight Cowl

This was a Christmas gift for my sister which is why I’ve been waiting to put it up on the blog.  She kindly agreed to model it for me in the beautiful snow we had here on Boxing Day.

I’ve designed a few items before but I decided it is high time I put them somewhere for posterity and all good knitting patterns deserve a name so here is Seven by Eight – a simple cowl for a simple day.

You will need:
200g of an aran or bulky weight yarn, single plied
Size 8mm needles and a cable needle.

1.Cast on 56 stitches using a provisional cast on.

Here is a simple provisional cast on you can use.

2. Then starting with row one of the pattern below.  Knit piece until it is as long as you like (try wrapping it around you and see how it sits) ending by knitting row 7.

Seven by Eight Pattern

Undo the provisional cast on and pick up the live stitches from the bottom of the work.  Graft the two pieces together using Kitchener Stitch so that the pattern flows seamlessly across them. The row of Kitchener stitch will effectively be row 8 of the pattern.

And Voila!  Seven by Eight, a lovely quick knit.

A few notes: Choose something soft (the skin on the neck is a sensitive thing) and choose something evenly plied – the slubby nature of e.g. Manos del Uruguay is lovely in the right project but will ruin the stitch definition of the pattern.

Here is an in progress photo full of ideas that didn’t make the final knit.

Trying out different stitches

Recovering Creativity

 

Recovering Creativity

For as long as I can remember I’ve considered myself a creative person; probably even a Creative Person. I feel like my creativity is an integral part of my green, sustainable life.  So much of what we are doing requires us to get creative, whether in the garden or the kitchen or somewhere else entirely. I’m also always so admiring of the other green, frugal and sustainable bloggers out there – there put out so many interesting ideas daily I struggle to keep up with them all.

I always feel like I am a Creative Person even when I feel like I don’t do much creating.

Sometimes I think this is the greatest gift I got from my Dad. He is always creating something, music, art, novels, short stories – right now he is building a clever sandpit for R which will one day convert into a raised bed. So R can go from playing with sand to growing his own fruit and veg.

I want R to grow up surrounded by the sort of constant creativity that I lived with.

Sadly not my Crab Apple Tree.

Sadly not my Crab Apple Tree.

And part of the reason for starting this blog was to create things – instead of just consuming endless kitten pics on facebook.

But I’ve had a bit of a creative drought recently. A few busy weeks at work and a busy Autumn’s preserving has left me without much energy to put into anything else. Yes the Autumn preserving is also creative – I shan’t deny that, but it has sucked up more energy that it should have done recently.

Luckily I had a great time at Yarndale recently which has helped to kickstart my creativity again.  It was amazing seeing so much talent and I’ll be writing a full post about it soon. I also completed a writing deadline last week and finishing things always gives me a boost!

The cowl I started designing less than 24 hours later.

The cowl I started designing less than 24 hours later.

So I’m getting out my resources on creativity and making a plan.

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1. Making Space – clutter in my creative workspace, clutters up my brain. I can’t focus quickly to getting things done. I’ve allowed my study/studio to get bunged up with rubbish recently. Time to fix that. I have cleared about half my study as I’m writing this, only half left.  I find Chez Larsson to be the perfect inspiration for remembering how creativity flows from Order.

2. Making Time – I read a great book a while ago, “The Rainbow Way” by Lucy H Pearce. It is a manual to help new parents find their creative rhythm again after having children. Most importantly it has some really great tips on how to find time to be creative. If you only have 20 mins for creating then using those 20 mins effectively is essential.  Hence clearing my space and getting all my projects organised.  If I only have 20 mins to write, design or blog then I’d better not have to do 20 mins of tidying and admin before I can start!

3.  Making Plans – I always have a number of creative things on the go, writing projects, knitting projects, designing projects, smallholding projects, gardening projects, recipes I’m inventing etc.  I’m usually pretty good at keeping track of them but I’ve let that slip recently.

I also plan what learning I need to do to make my creative work really zing. For example I really want to take better pictures for this blog.  In order to level up I need to be learning about Photography!

I’ve got a huge stash of pretty notebooks (I’m sure I’m not the only one)  Time to bust some of them out and get some planning done. I love a good list!

A small collection of my pretty notebooks.

A small collection of my pretty notebooks.

4. Making! – I’m squeezing in blogging time, tidying up, designing and writing.  I’m showing up and doing stuff even if I don’t quite feel it.  I know from experience that practising creativity makes me more creative.  I’ve just got to show up and do something.

This was a really big swatch!  Seriously big.

This was a really big swatch! Seriously big.

How do you get back on the creativity horse when you hit a futless streak?  Let me know in the comments below.

Better dash – the sound of little feet bouncing on a cot mattress tells me my 20 mins are up!

Knitting with Leftovers

I knit a lot and virtually every day.

Some of my knitting uses thrifty, frugal options, but some of it includes luxury handspun alpaca. It is my hobby and whilst I do try to source eco-friendly alternatives (I never buy standard cotton for dishcloths because it’s eco-footprint is so bad) I have bought some wonderful expensive and luxury yarns for my hobby over the years. I’ve even bought a few and had them posted from the US because Socks that Rock is really the best sock yarn I’ve ever used and you can’t buy it in the UK (I’m weaning myself off this habit though and haven’t bought any yarn for over 6 months – I’m pleased you agree that is a REALLY LONG TIME!)

I wanted a nice little text overlay here with the title of the post... far too many colours to make that a reality :(

I wanted a nice little text overlay here with the title of the post… far too many colours to make that a reality 😦

But I never throw any yarn away.  I am a master at stretching out yarn and finding ways to use up the leftovers once a project is done.  Like with food and garden prunings there is no such thing as yarn waste.

This post is a list of my 3 tips for using up yarn and 3 patterns which are really good at making the most of every scrap.

1. The Beekeeper Quilt –  by Tiny Owl Knits. This is a paid for pattern, but it is worth every penny. Not only because I love this design, it is modular and therefore easy to knit whilst out and about, but of all the patterns I’ve ever knitted, this is the best pattern for using up leftovers.

A hexapuff waiting to be stuffed.

A hexapuff waiting to be stuffed.

Firstly it is made of tiny hexapuffs knitted in sock yarn.  In my knitting career I’ve knitted about 90 pairs of socks (I know!) that is a lot of leftover sock yarn.  Some of my leftover sock yarn went into darning but darning doesn’t use it all up.  This project is perfect because I can knit hexapuffs out of all my fabulous colours put them all in a basket and only start to make up the blanket afterwards at which point I can pick the colours and place there where I want to.  I’m not limited in placing colours next to each other in the order in which I complete my original projects that generated the leftovers!

Not only do I knit with the leftover yarn but the teeny tiny scraps of yarn which get snipped off after sewing in the ends… they get used to stuff the hexapuffs.

AND… I fill some of the hexapuffs with dried lavender from my garden to give the blanket a lovely smell and keep the moths out.

This is the ideal pattern for using up things and just look at how gorgeous it is!

A sea of little hexes.

A sea of little hexes.

2. The Oddball Spiral blanket – by Sarah Bradbury (free pattern). This is my current big project.  Up until recently I had a huge bag of leftover Aran weight wool and no idea what to do with it.  I tried to knit a stripey vest but I couldn’t get enough colour repeats out of the yarn I had left so I ripped it out for this blanket.  There are only 9 live stitches at any time and the pattern is easy to memorise.  You will end up with a giant blanket if you keep going (like me) and I’ll probably finish this in the Winter now as it is too hot to work on.  But if you don’t mind the blanket looking a bit mismatched then use long and short colour repeats where you have bigger and smaller partial balls of yarn.  I think because of the geometric design you can pull off irregular colour patches which only makes this pattern more brilliant.

The blanket is growing.

The blanket is growing.

3. Baby Trousers – by Mini Magpie (free tutorial).  This is not a knitting project.  This is what to do when knitting goes wrong… so horribly wrong.

Many moons ago, before I was as wise as I am today, I knitted a wonderful Hoodie in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran.  The pattern was incredible and I will knit it again one day. The yarn was super soft… but that was the only good thing about it.  It pilled (went bobbly) and looked terrible after I’d worn it precisely once.  I kept wearing it because it was warm and I’d worked so hard on the amazing patterned cables.  And one day in a fit of helpfulness Josh washed it for me.  Pure wool, 20% cashmere in the washing machine.  I think you can imagine what happened (I won’t describe it for the delicate amongst you but let’s say it involved, felting, shrinking and a lot of swearing).

It is a testament to my stubborness that I’m still wearing it about 7 years later despite the fact it is clearly a couple of inches too short, everywhere.  The yarn cost a fortune, the jumper took ages to knit I wasn’t going to give up on it that easily.  But I think the time has come to say goodbye.

As I said above no wool is wasted.

I’m going to cut the (now felted) jumper up to create the trousers in the above tutorial (possibly even dungarees if I can work it out) and then cut up the rest to use as stuffing in the beekeeper quilt!