Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Woven Crochet Afghan (a lesson on tension!)

Sharing my shame!

My afghan's finished at last, but not without a bit of angst in the final stage.

I'd been doing the weaving part on the floor because the dining table has a massive jigsaw in progress.  During the last couple of weeks my neck has been bothering me so much that I decided to try doing it with the afghan draped over the back of the settee.  This worked brilliantly and I finally got it finished.

I laid it out on the floor again to finish off the ends and to my horror I'd was 4 cm shorter at one end - the end I'd been doing on the settee.  NOOOOooooooooooooooo!

Look, feel my pain -

A tension disaster!
Hey ho, it wasn't the end of the world as I'd left long ends at each side so I was able to ease the threads along until it was the correct size.  Not ideal and very frustrating but it all worked out well in the end.

The moral of this embarrassing tale is to take great care with your tension.  It's the same if you stop working on a project for a while and then start it up again - your tension can vary if you're tired, in a bad mood, have aches and pains or for any number of reasons.

Mine was such a silly mistake that I'd hate anyone else to have the same problem.

It all worked out in the end.

Having got over the tension debacle I then finished it by knotting each end of the fringe - ie 4 strands of the yarn used in weaving.   I then joined 2 strands of each to 2 threads of the adjoining yarn which created a nice decorative pattern.

Then I trimmed it to my chosen length.  I didn't want a long dangly fringe as that's just a cat magnet!

Knotted and trimmed fringe

Now it will be stored away until the Spring when the thick Winter blankies are put away to make way for something a little lighter.

Details of the project are as follows:

The Woven Scotch Plaid Afghan from freevintagecrochet.com

Rowan Summer Tweed, 70% silk 30% cotton. Aran weight. 50g skeins/balls 110m.
- Swirl (pale blue) x 5.25 skeins
- Sour (pale green) x 5 skeins
- Summer Berry (red) x 1.25 skeins
- Oats (cream) x 10 skeins

4.5mm metal

Finished dimensions excluding the fringe:
150cm x 145cm (I omitted one repeat on the length)

Baking news
We treated ourselves to a new crepe pan, not for making pancakes but for cooking flatbreads such as naan and tortillas.  Of course I had to try it out and so  whilst the bread was proving I rustled up some yummy Welsh cakes using a Nigella Lawson recipe.  They were scrummy!

Welsh cakes
Today's bread is a sourdough loaf made with 50% white flour and 50% spelt flour.  Just right for with the roasted tomato soup I made yesterday.

Sourdough with spelt

Running stuff

I've had a comparatively relaxing November to allow my body to recover properly after the 5 marathons I've run this year.  My maximum weekly mileage has been 30 miles but that's all about to change.

This week I start preparing for 2013 and so I've just started a pretty gruelling schedule to help me rise to the challenge I've set myself.

Here I go again!

Knitted Brain

Yes, you did read that correctly!  Psychiatrist Karen Norberg of the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts has knitted an anatomically correct model of the human brain.

Check out the article in the Daily Mail.  Amazing work.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Potty about Owls

I've finished the surface decoration on my owl and I'm quite pleased with how he looks so far.

Owl front

Owl back

Owl side
He's taking an age to dry out though so he won't get fired until next week then I've got to glaze him so there's a lot can go wrong yet!

Just look at this stump - doesn't it look like an owl's face?  It's part of an old stump at the end of a hedge.  We see it every day but yesterday I saw it with fresh eyes.

Owl stump
In other pottery news, here is a bowl I've just finished.  It was made using a method called 'coiling' and I've carved a pattern into the surface.

Side view

View from above
The other thing I had fun making was this leaf dish.  I used a leaf from our beautiful Fatsia Japonica bush.  This is a descendent of a plant we had in our very first home and each time we've moved house I've taken a cutting with us.  I love its architectural shape, it's evergreen with beautiful glossy green leaves and it has beautiful flowers in October/November followed by berries in the winter.

Fatsia Japonica
Delicate flowers

I pressed a leaf into the clay then cut around it.  I then scratched into the clay to emphasise the lines of the veins.
Leaf dish
The pot and the dish went into the kiln on Wednesday so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they'll come out OK so I can glaze them next week.  There are only 2 more pottery lessons to go and I've got so much to do.

Sadly I won't be able to continue with the next term as the weather often gets too bad to be trekking out at night.  I'd really like to go back later next year though as I really enjoy working with clay, although it does irritate the arthritis in my hands

Knitting and crochet bits

Christmas knitting continues apace.  Crochet snowflakes are multiplying.  My woven crochet blankie is finished and just needs his fringe trimming then I can wash it and store it away until summer (which seems an awful way off at the moment!).

I'll take photos of the finished blankie in the next few days.  It was a very simple yet effective technique.  The only reason it's taken me forever to complete the weaving is that I can't bend over for very long before my neck hurts (the result of a car crash nearly 3 years ago).

I'm already plotting another blankie project using some of my plentiful supply of Rowan Summer Tweed................will it be knitted or crocheted?  Don't know yet!

Friday, November 16, 2012

A sneaky peek

Loving hugs

This is one secret Christmas knitting project I know I can show, secure in the knowledge that the recipient will not see it as she doesn't have a computer and can't operate one either!

It's another Oregon cardigan by Alice Starmore.  I made one for myself a few years ago and every time I wear it people ask about it and I get lovely comments.  One of those people is a very special lady who is having a rough time at present so I thought a cardigan hug at Christmas might lift her spirits - or at least she'll be warm even if she's still sad and she'll know that someone cares about her.

A peak at the right side

Inside out

So at least the knitting is all done.  Just those pesky ends to weave in............

Cheesy hugs

Today has been dull and dreary so we needed cheering up.  Cheese scones for lunch seemed like a good idea.  As I rolled out my dough I searched for my cutters and I spotted my heart-shaped ones.

Who says scones have to be round?  Not me!  They tasted pretty good too.

The teeny-weeny one is for the birdies as they need hugs too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Crocheting a Snowstorm

Continuing with my Christmas crochet, I spotted a fab book entitled '100 Crocheted Snowflakes' on Jeanet's blog.  It was in Dutch but she kindly sent me a link to it here.  Then I found 4 free patterns from this book on the Deramores site here.  As I've now got patterns for about 20 different flakes I think I have enough to play around with.

Last night I was busy experimenting with different yarns for my snowflakes and then I tried to choose the one I like best to make a garland and I like them all in different ways!  I think for a garland though that the 2nd from the left, on the top, would be good as it's firm and chunky as the ones with long pointy bits could get a bit floppy.

Unblocked snowflakes, still all floppy!

I think I might make some to put into everyone's Christmas cards as  a little memento as they are so quick and easy to make.

Christmas knitting continues apace.  I really must try to take photos before I wrap things as I often forget!

Winter friends

Last night we had a little visitor in our bedroom looking for a place to stay over the cooler winter months.

Beautiful green lacewing
I'd read on the uksafari.com website that they change colour during the cooler months but I was still surprised when I saw the same lacewing this morning -

Beautiful pinky/brown lacewing
 How amazing.

Lights, camera, action!

What's all this about?  Watch this space!

Mandy, Jennifer & George

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Christmas panic time!


The weather has been vile this week and Mike and I have been lurgified with a horrid virus shared with us by the naughty man who serviced our boiler a week ago.  He said he'd just got over a bad cold and I told him to stay away from me as I had to run the Beachy Head marathon but unfortunately Mike spent some time chatting with him and he was the first to succomb to its delights last weekend, poor love.  I held out until Tuesday and then it got me too!

Bad weather and horrid viruses call for homely things such as soup and cake and so I made a lovely coconut cake filled with home-made raspberry jam.  A good quick and easy bake.

Here's the recipe for coconut cake if anyone's interested:

150g softened butter or margarine
150g castor sugar
150g self-raising flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
3 large eggs
50g desiccated coconut
2 tbsp coconut cream (it comes in either a small tin or a foil packet)

Raspberry jam to sandwich the cakes together
Castor sugar for dusting
2 x 8cm sandwich tins, greased and base lined

Use the all-in-one method to mix the first 5 ingredients making sure they are combined thoroughly, then fold in the coconut cream and desiccated coconut.  Divide equally between the 2 tins.

Bake at 170 degrees for 25 minutes
Leave to cool in the tins for about 5 minutes then turn out to cool.   When cold, sandwich together with jam and dust with sugar.

Make a nice pot of tea and enjoy!

Pottery doodlings

I've been spending a lot of time doodling in my pottery scrapbook, getting ideas for a slab pot I'm making in pottery class.  The book looked far too boring with just a black cover so I used part of a plastic postage sleeve from Gudrun Sjoden to cover it and then taped some pretty heart ribbon along the edge.

Inside there are lots of scribblings of ideas and cuttings of things that have caught my eye.  I include fabrics, patterns, flowers, shapes, anything that sparks my imagination.  You'll see there's a page of owls, my current obsession!

I blame the lovely and talented designer Kate Davies, in the nicest possible way, for her Owls sweater and the fact that there's a beautiful Barn Owl flitting around our land each evening at the moment.  The poor Barn Owls have had a tough year raising their chicks because of the bad weather early in the season when they couldn't get out to search for food for their young. 

 So this is how my germ of an idea has ended up so far.  The outline of an owl slab pot.

I'm pleased with his little feet and claws
Now I'm getting some ideas together for his decoration which will really bring him to life.


Well there is some going on but it's the sort I can't show 'cos it's for Christmas presents.  I'm trying to be good and not do anything for myself at the moment as I suddenly realised just how close Christmas is.  It really does creep up on you all of a sudden doesn't it?!

But then this beautiful book arrived in the post.  I was lucky enough to win it from a blog tour to publicise it and I was very pleased as I have most of Nicky's books already.  I've been having a bit of a 'circles' moment with my crochet mandala and doily and so this seems rather appropriate.

A quick flick through and my resilience is fading fast as there as so many inspiring ideas.  Oh dear, it really doesn't bode well for my will-power that I've actually taken a photograph of the entrelac circle does it!  My photo doesn't do it justice.

It is interesting and challenging as I've only recently tried entrelac knitting on my shawlette and I did enjoy it.................oh dear, where are my circular needles..........

Christmas Crochet I can show

The other day I settled down to some Christmas stitchery.  I gathered together some books and cuttings and had a good look through them.  I knew I wanted to make some new snowflakes as the ones I made about 10 years ago have started to look a bit tired.

I've already got quite a few patterns for crochet snowflakes but there are also 3 new ones in the latest edition of Simply Knitting magazine.  When they are finished I'll paint them with a dilute solution of pva glue to stiffen them so they hang nicely.

The other thing I've just crocheted is this rather sweet little angel from Crochet World magazine.  It's called 'Maurine's Angel' and it's an easy pattern to follow.

Head, body and wings

The importance of blocking

Nice pointy bits

Finished angel awaiting a hanger
I used a sparkly silver yarn and a 1.5mm hook.  It's been a while since I've used such a small hook and I found it a bit hard on my eyes in artificial light.  It was worth it though as it's sweet.

Lovely weather for ducks

I mentioned earlier that the weather's been vile.  Well the wild mallards didn't care at all.

They hung around the patio hoping for some bread.  Then they re-fashioned the edges of the grass in their own inimitable way by making a series of mini ponds into which they stick their heads!

In the Spring I have to go round and fill all their little holes in and re-seed!