New Toys

You may remember in my last post, I mentioned that I was reawakening my very rusty sewing skills.

You see, my Nana taught me to sew when I was a young thing, for a school project. Where I made a stuffed animal of my own design. I learned to sew on her own machine. The one that is the same model as the one pictured here:

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Singer Sewing Machine 99k-13 (made in 1922)

A couple of years later, I had fallen in love with Japanese Culture and a kind lady was willing to teach me to sew my own Yukata, (a casual cotton based robe for informal wear), but I had to use my own machine to make it.

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Yukata Image from Wikipedia

So I asked my Nana to help. She couldn’t sew anymore, as arthritis had claimed her dexterity, but she gifted me her own sewing machine, fully serviced and working fine.
“Always go with Singer machine Sharon. They keep their needle sizes consistent no matter which generation of machine you have.” She told me as she re-taught me to thread the shuttle bobbin and to follow lines on a piece of paper on the machine. Working on my pressure on the unique knee lever.

Now, this wonderful antique machine was wired for the North American electrical system, which I didn’t wish to trust to the UK’s higher amperage, so I entrusted it to my best friend for safe keeping when I moved here.

With my new found interest in sewing again, and an attempt to remember some of the skills my Nana taught me I have sought out a more modern machine.

My new toy arrived and I am so happy to share it with you!

Needless to say this one has a few more bells and whistles than my old 99k, but the system is the same and like my Nana said:

“Always go with Singer machine Sharon. They keep their needle sizes consistent no matter which generation of machine you have.”

So pardon me while I wrap this up and go warm up my new toy.

Watch this space, I may make myself a new Yukata to fit my more adult frame.

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Sometimes less is more….

As crafters we are always pushing ourselves to try new things and improve our skills – I refer you to my earlier post featuring the infamous  ‘Flax’.  This is a good thing, it keeps us sharp and enables us to make knitting, crotchet etc a lifelong passion.

However sometimes a brave new world, is exactly what we DON’T need. Along with everyone else in the world, I lead a very busy life and knitting and crochet is very much my therapy.  But recently it has felt more like a chore, adding to my stress rather than relieving it. My pal in Munich is about to produce twins a number of weeks early and we wanted to be able to send two of the crochet octopi – octopuses – octopod – 8 tentacled sea creatures – to greet their arrival. As befits our friendship, Munich pal sent ‘Patricia’ (that’s me) brand yarn from Germany, then their Irish Auntie (also me) would crochet said amphibians and return them to Germany in time for the birth. Unfortunately due to a rare lapse in German efficiency the yarn pitched up in New Zealand, a long way from North Belfast. Cue a dash to the LYS and a few days of frantic hooking with imploring messages sent to the expectant mother to ‘keep her legs crossed’.  Dear reader, they arrived in time!

Running parallel to this particular crisis was the fact that I had committed to making a beautiful but intricate cross stitch from Bothy Threads, for the wedding of my good friend at work. Naturally this coincided perfectly with an attack of tendonitis in my stitching arm. I was having nightmares about having to crash the wedding to come up with an ‘objection’ in order to buy more time, alternatively I could have bought a toaster. I will be forever grateful for Hurricane Ophelia who provided two sneaky days off work when I had the chance to sew like a demon. Once again, after a late night steaming and framing session the present arrived in time.

Both these tasks left me feeling rather jaded.  I decided something soothing was in order. A couple of years ago I looked on enviously as Sharon made the ‘ Movie Night Cocoon’ cardigan. It just looked soooooooo relaxing.  I was thrilled when, in a swap a few months later, she presented with a cocoon of my own.  This lovely, cosy, straightforward cardigan  seemed to be the perfect ‘gateway’ project back to knitting heaven. And it was……

I had the perfect yarn, a lovely chunky green and brown mix (originally destined for a jumper for Nikki’s husband Glenn), I had won it in the last WWKIP day ballot. I also had the perfect recipient. Rosa is the wonderful lady who looks after my family ( a basically runs my life), she was having a glum time of her own and I thought she would love a cosy hug.

So, after only four days leisurely hooking, two seams and and a final flurry of single crochets for the cuffs the ‘Yarn Hug’ was complete and very well received. No stress, no late night panic, no mainlining anti-inflamatories in order to keep my arm moving. Sometime we just need a gentle, wooly reminder about why we are knitters.

Round up

If you remember reading this post then you’ll remember that I was trying to get all the yarn dyed up for Loch Ness Knit Fest. Well you’ll be pleased to know that I did eventually manage to dye it all up, pack the car and made it to Inverness in 1 piece – I had a helper though:

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Nessie was made by Anja from a kit by Toft

So in between customers, I naturally went shopping (for “research” purposes you understand. I didn’t want any yarn at all *snicker* course I wanted it!)

Over the course of 2.5 days I built up quite the stash of hand dyed yarn,. Now for anyone who knows me, knows that I’m the queen of yarn hoarding, I possibly have enough in my stash to last a nuclear winter without running short.

My stash is made up of two types of yarn – the commercial and the hand dyed. How many times have I used hand dyed to make a project? Three. And those were all sample knits.

The reason for this pathetic number is simple –  because its hand dyed its precious, special, possibly a colourway never to be repeated. Its automatically entered into the Shrine of Precious.  And yes, I’m in awe of those people who see a skein of precious that they like, cake that bad boy up and create fabulous things with it.

My plan is to start using those lovely skeins, they were made for crafting and by all the stash gods, I’m going to knit mine up!

Wanna see what I bought then? Course you do!!!

Up there we have Dye Ninja, The Fabulous Mr G, Wee County Yarns, Cookston Crafts  (my hubby bought this skein for me) and finally Lovebugs Yarns.

And because I’d already spent a small fortune on yarn, I went online and bought some more! (I’ve a problem!!)

Just a little of EweMomma and Unbelievawool to enhance the stash a bit further.

No more yarn for me!! (Well, after Dublin this weekend I mean) I’ve lots of projects lined up on ravelry which use my hoard of hand dyed so hopefully I’ll be sharing some of those with you soon.

Do you have a hand dyed problem? Whose your favourite indie dyer?

WIP of Doom: Episode Laika

Today I’m going to tell the story of Laika, an unassuming deep purple cardigan with a lovely all-over lace pattern that I just had to knit, and which became, through a series of unfortunate assumptions and associations, a WIP of doom.

A little over four years ago I was home in California, visiting my family. My mother had recently gotten on board with my knitting obsession. She doesn’t knit, or sew, or cook, or do anything domestic whatsoever. When I first told her I had started knitting (like my grandmother, her mother), her response was: ‘Can you not afford clothes?’ Her associations with knitting were passed down from her mother, a Depression-era hoarder who was a master at all things domestic, who loved to stitch and sew, knit and crochet, but who sadly passed away before I was able to pester her enough to teach me any of that. Anyway, that’s another story. So my mother and I had been struggling to find common ground, and while she likes to shop, I hate it, but the one thing we could do together was shop for yarn.

So that summer was July 2013, and it was HOT. I was visiting with my just-turned 4-year-old son and my 13-month-old daughter. Going anywhere was a pain in the ass. We had driven out to Danville, CA, to this cute wee yarn shop called A Yarn Less Raveled. The kids fell asleep in the car, and I didn’t want to wake them. So my mom and I took turns going into the store, because I can’t resist a good yarn store, and because she was curious and wanted to see what the fuss was all about. I didn’t spend long because the kids were asleep and I was aware she was waiting. When I returned she asked if I had spotted anything nice. I told her about this Madelinetosh Merino Light I had seen, the clematis colourway, and I asked if she thought it would make a nice cardigan. Specifically, Ysolda Teague’s Laika cardigan. Here’s a pic of the yarn:

 

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Photo from Jimmy Beans Wool

 

Here’s a pic of the Laika cardigan:

 

Laika pattern from Little Red in the City

Photo from the Laika Ravelry page. See above link.

 

Then she went in. She was in there forever. The kids woke up and were bored. They started to whine. Finally, she came out. She had bought me 5 skeins of clematis, and had them wind it into cakes. I was bowled over. That night, I started to swatch.

Fast forward a year. I had barely made it past the first few rows due to one thing or another, but I was determined to get cracking. I was ready to separate for the sleeves, but the pattern didn’t make sense to me. There were many Ravelers who had figured this out though, and I thought I was just being stupid. I posted on forums about it, tagged friends on social media to have a look at my stitches. No one could suggest where I went wrong. Or rather, there seemed to be a lot of suggestions, but none of them seemed an accurate match to what I held in my hands, and I couldn’t seem to convey the issue. My stitch count was correct, my line up was correct. But the described increases would not match the 3-stitch repeating lace pattern that continued following the sleeves break. Even Ysolda was stumped. Disgruntled, I carried on.

That summer was a disaster, in fact. I got pregnant, which was no surprise in itself, we’d been trying for over a year. But it didn’t feel right. I had miscarried before, and it was horrific. This was just…odd. Turned out it was an ectopic pregnancy, and it ruptured one evening during the Twelfth holidays. Expecting a long wait at the hospital, I brought my knitting to keep me distracted. Yep, I thought I would work out this lace pattern once and for all to distract me from the pain and confusion. Ha. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t.)

Fast forward another couple of years. I would pick up the Laika every once in a while, knit a few rows, become annoyed all over again at my wonky increases and decreases, and set it down. I couldn’t rip it out, I couldn’t continue. I didn’t want to give up. It had come to symbolize too much. My mom bought me the yarn, even though she didn’t understand my obsession with knitting. She didn’t understand me but she was willing to try. I had persevered on this project in the hospital, when I was loneliest and at one of my lowest points. It wasn’t perfect, but it was there.

A few months ago I decided enough was enough. I dug out the remaining skeins, finished the body, and started on the sleeves. I whinged and moaned and bitched about them the whole time, but I finished them. I had some real come to Jesus moments about the collar: I had decided not to knit the hood, because as much as I loved the look, I knew I wouldn’t use it. I also decided against the buttons; I had been a stone and a bit lighter when I started this project, I had no idea if it would even fit. I scoured existing projects on Ravelry looking for inspiration. I liked the look of a zip. And then one night, late into the night, it was suddenly done. I tried it on, and it was perfect.

 

Soooo, the moral of this story? Sometimes projects do bad things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad projects. What’s your biggest WIP of doom story?

Always Learning

One thing that I am sure about is that the second we stop trying and learning new things is the second we stop growing.

As this is a crafting blog I thought it would be a good time to share with you some of the tutorials and online resources I use to keep me growing.

First we shall start with the mysterious and confusing (for me) Sewing.
My own Nana taught me the basics of sewing when I was a young lady, on her antique Singer Sewing machine.

I loved the lessons we had, but I only really learned how to thread the machine (complete with a shuttle bobbin) and sew a straight line.

So here is where I have turned to expand my knowledge base:
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A great class that is reasonably priced and has given me a bit more confidence in using my much newer sewing machine.

Next,  is the art of Needle Felting.

I have always wanted to be a sculptor, but stone and wood are not my preferred mediums. Then I discovered FeltAlive and I learned I could work with my preferred medium and make lovely soft sculptures.

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The Tutorials are now free to all and that is a great value.

Now I am going to introduce you the learning Library that is Craftsy.

I found it when I was unable to go out to my local yarn shop and attend classes to expand my own skill and it was helpful to learn at my own pace.

The classes I really enjoyed were:
Plug and Play Shawls By Amy Singer

Heirloom Lace Edgings With Franklin Habit

Fearless Knitting by Lucy Neatby

Knit to Flatter With Amy Herzog

So I hope I have armed you with  few places to go and expand your skills and keep learning and growing and exploring your crafty world.

Under Pressure

When we craft we do so for a myriad of reasons, for a gift, to increase our skills, as a charitable donation. Whatever the reason, each project always comes with a little bit of pressure, whether it is a deadline or the desire to improve, or dare I say it, impress! I have written before about the ‘resident evil’ which was the mini Christmas stockings and the Easter ducks, and have vowed never, ever to repeat those stitching marathons. However, every now and then a project comes along which turns the screw so tight you think you might just crack!

It all started out quite innocently – a post in a WhatsApp group, ‘ would anyone like to knit a sample for the upcoming knitting festivals?’  Always keen to help out a pal, and to be honest, any excuse to have a go with some of Secret Stash’s lovely aran yarn, I said ‘Me please’.  I offered to knit the ‘five day a week cowl’ designed by our own Jaele, and this is where the wheels came off the bus.  Nikki had just completed this project so didn’t really need another one so in  a moment of madness I said, ‘i’ll do Flax’.  Now, let me be clear – there is absolutely nothing in the wide world wrong the Flax – its a great pattern, the issue was with my complete inability to read very clear instructions and follow them.  In recent months it feels like the world and its wife have knit Flax. From all around the table came cries of ‘just finished Flax,’ ‘I’m on my my twentieth Flax’ (possibly a slight exaggeration), ‘Flax is great and soooooooo easy’

So armed with Nikki’s beautiful yarn and my freshly printed copy of the pattern I set to work. The more I tried to concentrate the more of a muddle I got into. I had to knit the yoke four times and even managed to snarl up the plain stocking stitch body – and don’t get me started on the sleeves!

If this had been a project for myself it would have been confined to a corner, under something heavy.  But, it wasn’t for me, it was specifically to show off the yarn and entice people to buy, so I just had to stick with it.  Eventually after many many cups of tea, and occasionally something stronger the jumper was finished. It showed off the yarn to perfection and was lovely and squishy.  If you don’t look too closely under the arm seams it even passes as competent.

Despite the issues, i’m very proud of this wee piece and have vowed to try more new things in the future – even if they are not entirely straightforward.

Flurry

There’s quite a hive of activity going on in my house at the minute, and that’s why this post is late!

I’ll set the scene shall I?

Well, its like this. My baby sister (she’ll kill me for calling her that) is now at Uni in Lincoln and, circumstances being as they were, Gibbs was coming to live with us.  But, because we were at work all day, we thought it would be nice to get him a wee brother/cousin (since Gibbs is my nephew and all…..its confusing) to keep him company while we’re out. So….enter Spenser to the family.

 

Meanwhile, I had applied for and been successful in getting a place at this years Loch Ness Knit Fest so I was trying to dye up yarn for that, but its really difficult to do anything when you’ve 2 Westies sitting on you!

Fast forward to yesterday when I realised just how close we are until we head to Inverness, and the small mountain of yarn sitting on my kitchen floor to be dyed! (don’t worry, its clean!)

Queue panic stations! Pots were thrown onto the cooker, big trays were filled and dye powder filled the air –  by the time I stopped last night I had barely made a dent.

This is the fruits of yesterdays labours – some old colourways and some new. All still need labelled and tidied.  There’s another batch of coourways in drying at the minute and the kettle is just coming to the boil for the next lot.

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Of course, while all this madness is going on, two little dogs are demanding my attention, my pizza and most likely my biscuits when I get around to making myself tea!

So, if you want to see just what will be on offer from Secret Stash then check out our etsy shop here. It is continually being updated with all the lovely skeins so check back regularly.

 

Time for tea.

Crafting for Kitties

Recently I came across this book at The Works, and I couldn’t resist buying it. It looked so cute, with lots of little stash-busting projects. It’s called Knits for Kitties and features 25 patterns that you can use in whatever way you see fit. Obviously, it’s marketed towards cat toys, which is fabulous, but some of these patterns are so cute that I can see making them for my kids and their friends, for Woollen Woods crafting, yarn bombing, and other fun little craft projects.

I immediately tried out the spider. It was simple and straightforward and knit up in about an hour.

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The kitties were delighted.

 

Well, as delighted as they can be at their age with something that doesn’t involve heat or sleep.

 

Verdict: Would highly recommend! 🙂

Season of Rainbows

Hello!

Did you have a good season?

As we here in Belfast live in the Northern Hemisphere it was summer for us; but as part of the school break my youngest child went to Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania with their father.
This made me realise in a very tangible way that it wasn’t summer for everyone.

But while we were off for the season, children had exam results, holidays were taken, books were read, skills were learned, and I did a lot of work with my favourite subject: RAINBOWS.

Now my love of the rainbow is vast and deep and as we all remember, and is has so much more to it than just 7 perfectly blended colours.

Oh I could wax on episodically on the qualities of rainbows, but I will save you that. (I hope everyone noticed my Word of the Day entrance into my post, from my rainbow Word of the Day Calendar.)

Back on topic; I took some time this season to highlight my love of rainbows by wearing, working with, and noticing them where ever I went.

My own personal Instagram Feed got the bulk of my work, but because I adore you, our wonderful readers, I am going to give you the cherry picked highlights of my Rainbow season.
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First there is this fantastic Rainbow A-line Jacket made using the pattern Trapezjacke by Claudia Deutscher. A great wee pattern (more like a recipe,) that I flew through.

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Take a look at the buttons! (I had to get a little creative with them as some of my buttons only had one hole in them, so I added some accent apples.) Miss matched buttons for the WIN

The Pattern is wonderful and I think I may make another one with a smaller tail and heartier yarn.
The Paintbox DK is bright and cheerful but I’d like something that I can wear outside on cooler/ windier days.

img_1961Next, as wonderful props for my Chakradance classes I got these lovely rainbow figurines to represent each of the Chakras, and just be rainbow prettiness when not in use.

How about storage, the joys of rainbow storage can NOT be understated. How awesome is my new art case (a rainbow soft sided lunch box), that holds my water colours and ink pens perfectly? Or how about the delightful joy of my embroidery collection displayed to perfection on bobbins? Aren’t they breath taking?

 

Speaking of my water colours and ink pens, I have finally decided what to do with the plethora, (oh two words in one post! I owe myself a sticker!) of “adult” colouring books.
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I don’t like pencil crayons or crayons, but I am falling in love with water soluble inks and water colours, so I thought I would try these out in my colouring books.

Everything blends much more easily and I am learning the mediums in a care free environment, instead of the pressure of making something perfect. I mean really, a child can do this, so it’s ok if I mess up a little.

Now with all this colourful joy, you would think I tapped out of my season of rainbow, but not yet.
I’ve only mentioned 1 knitting project!

As part of my holiday I was going to spend two weeks by a lake in the family cottage, (in summer sunshine.) I knew I was going to be surrounded by children and such so I wanted a simple project that I could stop and start at anytime, but was using up some of my large collection of rainbow variegated yarns.

Enter in the Mini Mania Scarf by Sarah Core, and one skein of Fine Fish’s Gay Mountain, (a now discontinued colour way).

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You can see why I had to use it, BONUS Rainbow Shoe

It took me a while to get the rhythm of the linen stitch, but it works so wonderfully with this type of yarn I am surprised I didn’t discover it before. Look at this Stitch!
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I think that is just about everything from this past season. I hope this post wasn’t too long for you.
But as a reward for getting this far have a bonus:

My kids and Fiance got me the awesomest Unicorn Onsie and Prisim Narwhal, as a thank you for funding all their summertime adventures, and being taxi on two separate continents.

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SnB does Yarnfolk

August is going to be an exciting month for Northern Ireland! This year, we will host the first ever fibre festival in the North. On August 5th, Yarnfolk will be launched in Whitehead, home of Lighthouse Yarns. And SnB will be there!

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At the @BelfastSnB stand we’ll be doing a mini trunk show of our book, Knit 10 Together, celebrating 10 years of community crafting. (I talk about the book here, and Nikki covers our successful book launch here!) We’ll also have samples by our knitters, crocheters and stitchers so you can see what we’ve been up to.

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We’ll have two sessions where we’ll do a trunk show of the samples from the book, and talk about techniques used in the book. Then we’ll do live demos, where you can try out and learn something new.

11am – Crochet technique. We’ll teach you a great crochet technique: Magic Circle. This is a handy way to start crochet projects such as the cute stuffed “Chemistry Set” by Nicky Young, and “Bunneh” by Sharon Clark.

3:15pm – Knitting technique: Learn colourwork skills used in the book for the “Heatwave” hot water bottle cover by Siún Carden, and the “Hearts & Butterflies Cowl” by Jaele Rollins-McColgan. We’ll give you advice about how to make sure your colours pop, and how to handle two colours.

If you’d like to know more about the beading technique used in “A Very Hearty Hat” by Nikki Hagan, check out the beading class with Anja Szepan (who also designed the “Twisted Heart” cabled mitts in the book).

Come along to our cosy corner at the SnB stand at any time to knit and natter, or stitch and b*tch if you prefer! 😉

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