Monday, December 14, 2015

A quiet day

Pattern: Ysolda Teague's Chickadee cardigan
Yarn: Wendy Ramsdale 100% DK wool

So this is my third Chickadee cardigan, though again I've drafted a new motif for the yoke. They are Christmas trees, as well as the motif and colours mainly being in homage to a regular route I drive through the Devil's Beef Tub, just north of Moffat, as I visit my family. There is a particular part of the road that is lined with Fir trees (I think), and the colours of the landscape are just breathtaking - muted purples and blues and greens. I absolutely love the scenery. It is a fairly quick knit for me now. I'm already on the first sleeve (I had taken a break to knit a Christmas present, below). It has become an easy-to-knit-while-watching-TV pattern.    
Pattern: Simplicity 3835
Material: Waterland Geese (from The Village Haberdashery)

I just love this pattern. It is flattering and easy. And it can be worn with jeans and a cardigan and the material makes it more interesting. I think I have five now. And I wear them all the time. 
Patterns: 55 Christmas Balls to Knit

I finally bought the book by Arne & Carlos. I had to, though I could get by with what other people had published on the internet. Still, there are so many Christmas balls I want to knit. The Pig, and The Sledger (in red and white, above). And The Snowman! 

These balls form part of my Make-it-Yourself Secret Santa present for my work colleague. Every year we do Secret Santa but we all have to make the present. It's something I used to do in my previous job, but my current colleagues have all embraced the idea with gusto and the reveal is such a great part of our Christmas night out. The second part of my MIY SS I wrapped before taking a photo. I sewed six double-sided Christmas coasters. The material on one side is the Makower ice skaters, and on the other is Makower cars laden with Christmas presents. I'll try to remember to take a photo after she's unwrapped them.

Yesterday and today have been much-needed quiet days. Where I keep the doors shut and light the fire early. I went to bed at 9.30pm last night and was finally woken up by my cat at 9.30am this morning. I feel like I have a bit of a cold, but it's also a desire to hole-up and take a break from the world. I have a busy week ahead, and I can't be bothered. It includes the Christmas work party. And working four days this week. And then on the weekend feeling like I should drive to visit my mother-in-law so that my husband doesn't have to the day after he gets home from working away for five weeks. Any one of the things I have to do, by themselves, would be fine, but all together it makes me want to keep the door closed and read and drink hot tea.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Chickadee Snowflake cardigan

Pattern: Ysolda Teague's Chickadee Cardigan
Yarn: Wendy Ramsdale DK

I can't stop knitting this cardigan. I love the construction so much, and as 100% woollen garments go, it is cost-effective. Around £35 all in, which I think is great. 

I substituted the bird motif for snowflakes, which I self-drafted and really love the effect. I have already started Chickadee cardigan #3 in a gorgeous heathery-purple with a vibrant green Christmas tree motif (understated, of course). 

Photos soon.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Too many sewing patterns, not enough free afternoons

These are the patterns I would make, if only I had the time.
The Linden Sweatshirt. I have seen so many great versions online. And who wouldn't find it useful to have a few Autumnal/Winter Lindens to hand?
The Colette Moneta dress. Again, so many great online versions. The main photo on the front of the pattern doesn't do it justice. I like the long-sleeved, collarless versions. I have some navy blue T-shirt fabric that would be great for this project.
The Bettine dress. It has an elasticated waist, and pockets. That's all you need when you're cruising through middle age. I'm not sure how this would translate into a winter garment, but perhaps if it was layered with woolly tights/leggings and a cardigan it would be fine.
The Coco. Again, so many amazing online versions. I would do the dress version with the collar and pockets. A great, slouchy, home-day dress. I might even substitute the patch pockets with a pouch pocket. Good for keeping hands warm too.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Simplicity 3835

Pattern: Simplicity 3835
Fabric: Nani Iro Pocho double gauze

I've been wearing my flamingo Simplicity 3835 top almost constantly recently, so when I felt in need of a quick fix sewing project I decided to make another. I had originally bought the Nani Iro fabric to make a Tilly and the Buttons Delphine skirt, but when I laid out the pattern pieces on the material I just didn't have enough! (I think I had only bought a metre.)

It took a bit of jiggling to get this pattern out of the material. I thought I was going to have to do patchwork sleeves again, but I just managed it, though the grainline had to be slightly off to make it happen.

It was only when I had cut out the fabric that I remembered and realised what 'double gauze' means. I've never worked with it before. Two pieces of light fabric stuck together. I love the end result. The tops are so easy to sew, as well as being a quick project.
Fabric: Cloud9 Water Land Geese

Oh, I love this fabric! I've looked at it, and looked at it, and put it in my online basket MANY times. And on Friday I finally decided to make another Simplicity 3835 top out of it and so put one and a half metres in my online basket and then completed the buying process as quickly as I could before I changed my mind. I had previously thought of making a dress, and as it's £15 a metre, and a dress would require two and a half metres, it was turning out to be too expensive. But a metre and a half? I think I can afford that.   

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ysolda's Chickadee cardigan

Pattern: Ysolda Teague's Chickadee
Buttons: from John Lewis

I have to say I love this pattern. It involved a new construction process for me, but it is so much more satisfying than knitting a cardigan in separate parts and then sewing them together (my least favourite part of knitting anything). This pattern begins at the neck and finishes with the entire rib edging. There is NO sewing together, so when you finish knitting the garment is also finished. The only final thing to do is sew on the buttons.

The only part of the pattern I tripped up on was the sizing. I somehow missed the line of information that said there was zero ease at the bust (I think this was on page 4!). The patterns I usually follow has this built in. So, I usually knit a size 34" and it fits me fine. This does fit me, but it is snug, and I can't wear long sleeves underneath the cardigan sleeves. I have a few Boden dresses that are short-sleeved cord, and so I will be able to wear it and enjoy it. I also plan to lose another stone in weight so hopefully this will also help!
I was so impressed with the pattern, and so keen to have more cardigans, I immediately cast on the next one. I changed the bird motif for snowflakes, which I drafted myself. I also decided to make it simpler: no border or multiple colours. I won't use contrast yarn for the cast off either. And I am knitting a 38" size!
What I also like is that Ysolda tells you what yardage of yarn the cardigan will take, rather than how many balls of a specific make. I worked out, from the yardage, that the first cardigan would need 8 balls, but actually I have two balls left. For the 38" cardigan I ordered 9 balls, again of the Wendy Ramsdale, but I anticipate having a couple of balls left over from that too.

I love all of the Wendy Ramsdale DK shades, and at £3.59 a ball that works out at a very cost-effective cardigan! I have become fed up of extortionately-priced wools. I used to be a Rowan devotee for years, and I still buy their wool, but it is becoming prohibitively expensive to do so, and recently I've only bought it for smaller projects - a hat or socks. 
This is Pebble (a bantam hen) and Grape (a bantam cockerel). They are a very sweet pair. Pebble is particularly beautiful. Grape, for now, is an acceptable cockerel. We've had some horrendous ones in the past. 

The weather has been beautiful for the past few weeks. I love cold, bright, Autumnal days.

September has been difficult for us as a family this year. My mum died on September 4th. It is a profoundly sad thing and we are all still adjusting. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

By Hand London - Anna dress

So I finally finished my By Hand London Anna dress. I've loved so many versions online, I wanted to make my own. The material was from Edinburgh Fabrics, £6.50 a metre and I bought 2 metres. It's the most fitted and advanced garment I've ever made. 
I think I'm happy with it. I lowered the bust darts but otherwise made no alterations. I was incredibly impressed with my invisible zip insertion. It's the longest I've ever sewn. Thanks to Tilly and the Buttons I am now adept at this technique, which eluded me for so long. Somehow, though, the back waist panels didn't line up when I was finished, even though I'd checked them before sewing the second side of the zip. I expect no one will notice except me.

There is a bagginess about the top that I'll have to get used to. I can see the same with other online versions, and if I make it again I'll take a couple of chunks out of the pattern.

I decided not to line it after all, because when I went to cut out the lining I didn't have enough material. I'm not sure if the weight of the lining would have given it stability, or caused it to be over-fussy.

My head isn't in the photos because I was having an unwashed hair day, not because I'm trying to protect my identity. :)

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Sewing, mostly.

I have almost finished knitting my cardigan Ysolda's Chikadee. I just have to knit the rib, which trims the entire garment, and it's finished. For someone who hates sewing knitted items together, this design has been a dream. It's knitted in one piece. No front, back and sleeves. It starts at the neck and finishes at the rib, and it's ready to wear! I think I'll choose buttons to colour-match the birds. I intend starting straight away on the next cardigan, though I think I'll replace the birds motif with a snowflake/Norwegian star design. 
This is my Lucy Liu dress. It started life as a Simplicity 3835 top. I love that pattern, in dress and top form. It's so easy to cut and sew together. Anyway, as I was hemming the top I started visualising it as a dress with pockets. So I bought the 'hospital' blue material and turned it into a dress. I like it. It's difficult to see the pockets in this photo but they are just patch pockets that came with the pattern. It's the first time I've done pockets and I learned a few things, particularly to sew as close to the edge as possible! That would've made it look better, though it's fine. I called it after Lucy Liu as we watched a programme with her in it and she wore some great shift-type dresses.  
This is the top version of Simplicity 3835. This flamingo material, which I bought from Edinburgh Fabrics for £6.50 a metre (I bought 2 metres) really suits this top. I gave it to my friend Fiona for her birthday. 
I almost had enough material to make a second flamingo top, but not quite! So I found the peacock feather (what I call my Turkey feather material) leftover material I had from my Amy Butler A-line skirt and made patchwork-sleeves. I also didn't have enough peacock feather material to make a whole sleeve. Still, I also love this version, which I kept for myself, and have worn it A LOT.
The sleeve detail.
I have no idea why the above photo is so bad! It's my By Hand London Anna dress. I LOVE the pattern, and have seen so many great versions in Blogland. I had intended making it for my friends' wedding in June, and I would've been able to finish it if I hadn't decided it would be better lined. I just didn't have time to make the lining and put it all together. So, the wedding came, I wore a Fatface dress that I also like, and my Anna dress has been hanging there ever since. The lining material is covering the piano, and I'm not sure when I'll get it finished now. It'll happen suddenly.
I also took part in the Oh Comely Perfect Strangers swap. Oh, I love this concept. You put your name forward to the organisers, they pair you with a stranger, and then you put together a parcel of presents for your stranger. It was such a lovely thing to do. These are the presents I sent off. I was teamed up with a woman in Ghent, Kentucky. She sent me some lovely things also, and knitted me a beautiful wash cloth as well.
We have had a dreadful time with our chickens recently. We have lost chickens to foxes before, but never on this scale. Chickens were disappearing one every day or every other day. The remaining girls were completely freaked out and spooked, and instead of going about their peaceful chicken business of scratching and meandering around the place, visiting the allotment boys, going for a walk on the lawns, an afternoon sleep in the shade of the trees, they took to hiding beside bushes near the henhouse and were on high alert the whole time. No one was having any fun. The final straw came one Thursday I returned home from work to find three chickens missing. One had been eaten (I found the feathers), one was halfway down a wild wooded area that goes towards the river, and one - my little friend Tiger, a bantam - was way down at the river's edge and ON THE OTHER SIDE! Poor wee thing had been scared/chased far from home. So I had to drive over the bridge, rescue her, put her in a box and drive home again. So, we moved the remaining chickens - 8 hens and 2 chicks - into our back garden. They soon returned to normal chicken behaviour and it has been a relief to break the fox cycle. 
And so the eggs are to eventually replenish the chicken stock, and to add some colour to our eating eggs. My neighbours found a company called The Rainbow Egg company. Great idea. Some great colours.

Keeping chickens I expect and accept we will lose a couple of chickens a year to foxes. We actually had a good year just before the two week slaughter, where we didn't lose any girls to the fox. 
Meg has been a great friend to me while Hagos has been on tour. She keeps me company every single day, and chats to me and gives me cuddles. She is a true friend and I love her.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Knitting mojo

My knitting mojo has been absent for quite a while. I finished the yellow jumper (sewing it together because I had nothing else to knit) and then - nothing.

But yesterday was my birthday, and I decided wool would be my present and I would choose a pattern to knit, so Hagos and I went into town to John Lewis and got some lovely DK Wendy to knit the Ysolda Teague Chickadee pattern. The link actually takes you to Sewaholic's version, because she also made herself a pair of matching mittens, which I love.
The great thing about this pattern is it uses techniques I haven't used before. I've never cast on a Yoke in a oner. The cardigan construction knits the entire garment, top down, which means no sewing together at the end. It's all still fairly new to me, which is enough motivation for me to want to keep knitting just to see how it all works out. I can already imagine using this technique with different motifs for future cardigans, though I love the little birds. 

I've also wanted to knit a cardigan for ages. And to knit in wool thicker than 4 ply! My TV jumper is great, but there are times when a cardigan is required. So, watch this space! The turquoise blue wool is Wendy DK, the cream wool is Rowan Pure Wool DK and the yellow-y-green is a UK alpaca DK I picked up years ago and have been waiting for a project to use it in. The burgundy birds I think is actually a Rowan Kid Classic, which is lambswool and mohair DK, which I also had in my stash from another project.
We went to Peter's Yard yesterday for coffee and cake and lunch. This cake was so delicious. Almond-y. I've been yearning for otherness recently. Things foreign and exotic. I used to travel extensively with work, but stopped to go to university in London and Norwich, and haven't really got into the habit again. I miss the friends and culture I had when I lived in London. All of my friends were actors (you know, actually on TV or in the theatre) or were in touring bands, or were writers. I miss the vibrancy of that, and the potential.   
These are two pockets I knitted just to have something to knit last week. I've still to press them and sew them onto the front of the yellow TV jumper. Rowan pure wool 4 ply. I plan to sew buttons onto the rib of the pockets and those green ones are the likeliest at the moment but I'll have another look in my button collection before deciding.
I love the way my cardigan looks like a shell, or a curled-up animal when at rest.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The YELLOW jumper

I didn't quite appreciate, while knitting this jumper, just how YELLOW it was. I suppose all the other TV jumpers I've knitted have had some relief in them - mohair stripes, or blocks of different colours. But this is. Just. Yellow. [ Rowan, pure wool, 4-ply.]

I have since come to a dead end with knitting. I've fallen out of love with Rowan wool (and long fallen out of love with Rowan patterns). They don't have enough basic 4-ply or DK. And they are altogether too pricey. I don't want to knit a pure wool jumper for the same price as I can buy one! So I've been looking around for other wool and designers. I'm in the mood for cables or texture, and really want to try a small-scale crochet.  

I really miss knitting in the evening though. I feel a restlessness when I'm watching TV and my hands are idle. It feels like wasted time when I could be producing something.

I'm on holiday from work for a week. My only agenda: to spend time at home, with my husband and cat, to read, to sew, to knit, to walk, to sleep. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015


The Delphine skirt I completed a couple of weeks ago. I really love it. Tilly's instructions are so clear and well laid out, the skirt came together quickly and easily. I didn't have much of a choice of colours in the Edinburgh fabric shop I went to, so I thought I would choose this beigey-yellow for work as I have a cardigan in a similar colour. 
I've been obsessed by sewing for weeks now, and trawl the internet for sewing patterns and examples of items made by other sewers. Every time I came across the Anna Dress by By Hand London, it really struck me, so I finally put it in my online basket (that dangerous invention) and it arrived last week. I plan to make the boat neck, knee-length version first of all, though I think I'll attempt the long dress at some point.
I went to John Lewis last week, intending to buy sale material to make the Anna dress (as it requires 2 1/2 metres), but didn't particularly like the material that was left. So I decided I'll use the flamingo material as I was just planning to make a short-sleeved top with it otherwise. I just need to buy another metre and will have enough. 
I also bought the last of the synchronised swimmers material from the fabric shop. In white this time, rather than blue. I will make pyjama bottoms from it.
And finally an example of our eggs these days. This is a good selection. The dark brown is from Georgie, a Welsummer. Bottom right is a pale blue, from one of our Legbars. Top right is from Squeaky Cheese, our Ancona. And bottom, second from the right is from our little bantam chicken, Tiger! She has started laying. I knew she was about to start laying, and now she is laying every day. She is the sweetest little hen, and I get a cuddle at her every day. When she sees me she runs and flies towards me, and follows me around if we're both near the hen house. She chatters away, and we both sit and wait while everyone else goes in to bed. Being bottom of the pecking order means she has to wait till last. I usually pop her in beside her mum, though she has started running back out towards me and I have to close the door quickly. I had two Tiger eggs for lunch yesterday. She is so special. 

I'm still reading The Goldfinch. I think I have 200 pages still to read. I have gone through phases of enjoying it and not enjoying it. I will be pleased when I'm finished. 

Sunday, February 01, 2015

A change of plan

So today we were supposed to go and visit my folks in Dumfries to celebrate my mum's birthday, but Hagos has been ill since 2am with a sickness bug. Not much fun.

Consequently I didn't sleep very well either, so I've been in a semi-zombie state for most of the day. It helps that I'm good at entertaining myself, hence: I finished the second blue hat. I had almost settled on keeping it for myself and was thinking of making matching mittens, when my Godson JJ asked if I would knit him the exact same hat as I'd knitted for his mum. And as I was almost finished it anyway I felt I had to say yes. He boosted his cause by earlier berating his mother for not wearing her hat when we met them yesterday, something that struck me as well when she turned up wearing a shop-bought red hat (roll eyes). I've threaded some yellow wool through the back seam in his hat so they can tell them apart (no woman would want to share clothes with a child: they're continuously covered in crumbs and general detritus and always manage to smell).
I also painted my nails, a shimmering light blue.
And decided to resurrect this knitting project that I lost interest in ages ago. The colours as balls of wool (orange and blue) look great together but somehow, when knitted, the sock is unexciting.
I also came across this single sock at the back of the shelf. I love this design, however those reindeer (there's one on the other side too) take a lot of concentrating to knit, PLUS I carried the white wool across the back when I was knitting the reindeer and as a result that part of it is tight. I'll try to knit the second sock with more give!

And that's been my day. I've really missed Hagos today. We get into a routine of doing stuff separately then coming together at various points in the day. I hope he feels better tomorrow, for his sake.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


I thought, why make a present for a friend's birthday when I can give her the ingredients to make it herself, and dress it up as a 'learning-to-knit' chance?

So that's what I did, but last weekend no progress had been made on the two starter rows I'd done back in November, so I took the whole thing back and knitted it myself in a week. The wool is Rowan Alpaca, and I love the shade, and the ombre effect. AND, a slight annoyance, the hat only took one skein of wool but the pattern said two, by which time I'd already rolled the second skein into a ball to make it easier to knit with. So, I'm now knitting a second hat and may keep it myself/may give it as a present. 
I baked a loaf of bread for the first time in months. Really enjoyed making and eating it. I wonder if using a dough hook would make it lighter and more elastic though? It has a very short crumb (is that correct? I'm trying to use the lingo of the GBBO). I like it, anyway.
I love this photo of Squeaky Cheese, an Ancona, and Rosie II, a Legbar. They look great against the snow. Squeaky Cheese lays squat, creamy-white eggs, and Rosie lays pale blue eggs. 
My sewathon continues. Apart from the hat, which takes no effort whatsoever, I've been sewing rather than knitting since Christmas. This is me laying the pattern for the Tilly and the Buttons Delphine Skirt. I've finished it yesterday morning and will photograph it and post it later, but I'm really pleased with it. I chose a fine cord, which cost £9 a metre, and one metre is all the skirt requires. I usually sew things in one sitting but I made this over several days, though I could easily have made it in one sitting. Tilly's instructions are super-clear, and I think this may be the best invisible zip I've ever sewn. The only thing I would do differently next time is to sew a stay-stitch along the material that ends up being cut on the bias. So the skirt is an exaggerated A-line, which means the cord s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s when sewing the front and back together. I even put my walking foot on my machine, but it still stretched one side longer than the other.  
We had a Star Wars film afternoon and our friends and Godson came over. We prepared a small film-picnic. The present in the middle is Lynsey's hat wrapped up. 
I love the contrast of these three eggs: Georgie's (a Welsummer), Rosie or Duck (Legbars) and Squeaky Cheese, (the Ancona). This was the last Georgie egg we got, a couple of weeks ago. She must be laying outside of the henhouse. We did talk about doing a stakeout of the chickens this morning but a lazy morning was more appealing. We have previously followed chickens to discover where they're laying their eggs!
Our break from the world has kind of continued into January. Instead of doing stuff we should be doing on a Friday, we've been going up town, parking and shopping in John Lewis (haberdashery), walking to Wagamama's and having lunch. We have mini-cheesecakes for dessert. Haggis likes the passionfruit one, but I like the white chocolate with ginger sauce! Oh, I could eat a WHOLE cheesecake of that.
I've spent quite a lot of time with our goose, Swann, this weekend. He is an amazing animal. Really good fun. He has lots of little habits and loves company. He has a baby bath that he bathes and splashes around in. And a couple of mirrors to look at his own reflection. He is very vocal and chats away. My favourite thing in the morning when I let him out, is racing with him along the pathway from his home to his bath (about 20 metres). He runs and shouts and flaps his wings and sometimes takes off (just!). And this weekend I think he is going through a frisky phase (I know nothing about the sexual cycles of geese!). Either that, or he has finally come to trust us. On Friday I crouched down to hold a small piece of bread out for him to eat. He ignored the bread completely, walked round to my side and tried to climb on my lap with his feet. I made the mistake of trying to pick him up and was punched in my lip with his wing. I was actually disappointed the following day that I didn't have a thick lip as I was looking forward to telling the anecdote. Anyway, on Saturday I sat on the grass next to him (on a stone) with my legs stretched out in front of me, and he jumped on my wellies and started tugging at my feet. Then he turned round and started trying to climb up my body. I got up quickly because he is big and strong. Anyway, the rest of the weekend he's been letting me stroke him and cuddle him and he follows me around when I do anything near the henhouse. He is just adorable and I wish he (and all of our chickens, and a couple of pigs as well) could live in our house with us. That would be so cool