Monday, 31 December 2012

Out with the old and in with the new

It's New Year's Eve, so time to take a look back at 2012. Let's start off with some of my favourite  projects from the past year.

2012 project a month

I don't think that I have completed as many projects this year, partly because we have been rather preoccupied with our house move, but I am pleased that several of this year's projects have been knit using my own handspun yarn.
So what knitting resolutions did I make at the start of 2012? How many of them have I managed to stick to?

1. To knit from stash as much as possible! Looking through my stash, pretty much all of this year's acquisitions have come through swaps or gifts. I have hardly bought any yarn myself, the main exceptions being the Shilasdair yarn bought on Skye in October, and the three skeins of yarn bought back in June for my Color Affection shawl. I am not going to set myself a target number of balls/skeins to knit in 2013, as yet again I have got nowhere near my target of 100 balls. I shall just try hard to knit from stash, and only buy yarn if I have a specific project in mind and no suitable yarn in my stash.

2. To continue to learn new knitting skills. Another year has passed by with no colourwork! However I did spin yarn to knit a Sheep Heid hat during this year's Tour de Fleece, so with any luck, I will get this knitted up in 2013.

Tour de Fleece 2012 day 9 005

3. To carry on spinning. I have been really pleased with my spinning this year. I managed to spin most days during the Tour de Fleece, tried a number of new fibres and had my work mentioned in Hand Spinning News on a couple of occasions. I am also thrilled that Marianne over at Fluff-n-Stuff asked me to test spin some new fibres for her. Here are some of the yarns I spun this year.

Handspun 2012

4. To have a go at designing. I didn't manage to design anything this year, my creative juices obviously weren't flowing. Maybe next year?!
So now it's time to set myself some yarny goals for 2013. I think they are going to be pretty similar to last year's (and the year before, come to that!!) Here goes!
1. To knit from stash as much as possible.
2. To try some colourwork.
3. To carry on spinning.
4. To have a go at designing something.
5. To do some knitting/crocheting for charity.
6. To knit a blanket.
So that's me done for 2012. I hope you all have a wonderful 2013, filled with happy times, peace and good health, and a great helping of squishiness too! See you next year! xxx

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Remind me what day it is again!

I'm sure that I'm not the only one who has lost track of the days this past week. The days have passed by in a blur, each one similar to the previous. School seems a lifetime ago!
Christmas Day was a pretty quiet affair chez josiekitten. Our elderly neighbour joined us for lunch, otherwise we have been able to please ourselves. Santa popped in on Christmas Eve and left some rather lovely gifts. I got a Kindle and Mr JK is keeping himself amused with a RaspberryPi. Florence was given a furry igloo after becoming rather fond of one during her recent stay in the cattery. However I don't think she's that impressed, do you?!

furry igloo gratitude (1)
I had a lovely yarny gift from my good friend Snoopydog - a ThreeBagsFull project bag with a rather cute sleeping cats fabric ......

Xmas ThreeBagsFull bag

...... and a stonking great skein of laceweight yarn from Briar Rose. There's 2200 yards there, it's going to take some winding!! The colours are gorgeous. Snoops gifted me a shawl pattern too, but I am tempted to knit a laceweight cardigan. I know, complete madness!! I really like this pattern. Time will tell what this lovely yarn ends up being!
2012 stash boost (14)

On Boxing Day we went for a walk on Wells beach. It was a lovely crisp winter's morning, with blue skies and sunshine.

Wells, Boxing Day 2012 005

I love the beach huts here, set back from the beach with the pinewoods as a backdrop. They are so colourful.

Wells, Boxing Day 2012 010

The tide was out and the sand was covered with treasures!

Wells, Boxing Day 2012 018

Walking back to the car, I spotted this rather fun shortbread Christmas tree in the window of the local baker ....

Wells, Boxing Day 2012 020

I have managed to fit in some knitting - I picked up my mink and cashmere cardigan again, and you will be pleased to hear that Flo is keeping her eyes on its progress.

guardian of the mink and cashmere yarn (2)

You have to know that Flo never sleeps on the sofa, she is just keeping her beadies on her 'blankie'!! I have also started Caissa, a relaxed tunic-length cardigan, using the pink Shilasdair yarn I bought in Skye back in October. So far, so good.
Caissa WIP (2)

Before I go, I must just share one last picture with you. You may remember seeing our Christmas pud in the making on Stir Up Sunday back in November. Well this is how it turned out - it tasted every bit as good as it looked! See you tomorrow for a look back at 2012. xxx

Christmas pud

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas 2012 002

Happy Christmas! I hope you have a wonderful time, however you are spending the day! Santa has visited the josiekitten household. I'll be back soon to tell you more! xxx
Happy Christmas 2012 012

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Only two sleeps 'til Santa!

Commencing countdown - week 4 (2)

Oh my goodness, was I glad when Friday came! The children have been ready for the holidays for at least a week now, and we had a hectic schedule of performances and parties to fit in this week. I have never been so ready for a break!
My Sign of Four socks are finally done, it's a fun pattern to knit. I like the way the diamond pattern emerges in the knitting. Mr JK has dropped a very unsubtle hint about liking them too!! Time to find some yarn in a manly colour I think!
Sign of Four socks 007

My sock blockers are packed away in a box somewhere, so the best I can offer is a modelled shot! I might just have to start searching those boxes for some comfort yarn, as we heard on Friday that our buyers have pulled out right at the last minute. To say we are gutted is an understatement. Everything felt right this time and seemed to be going fine, so it was a total shock, especially as the solicitors had been working towards a pre-Christmas exchange. Back to square one .............
I treated myself to a new bag from ThreeBagsFull on my birthday - it's a Skinny Mini, a new bag design from Michele. I love the cute cat fabric, and knew I had to have it as soon as I saw it!

Skinny Mini (2)

Michele very kindly put a black cat bead on the bead pull - just for Flo!!  I love Michele's bags; she has great taste in fabrics and is always introducing new styles. It's worth a visit, and you can also join her Ravelry group here. There's going to be a post Christmas sweater KAL that I shall be joining in with. I'm hoping to start knitting a cardigan using some of the Shilasdair yarn I bought in Skye recently. With that in mind, I'm trying to work on my mink and cashmere cardigan over the next couple of days to get that done and dusted. Now that I've started knitting it again, I can't quite remember why it got put aside!!

Skinny Mini (1)

The house has a wonderful smell of baking at the moment. We have made a loaf of Christmas fruity walnut beer bread, as seen on River Cottage last week. It will be sampled later on with some cheese I think. I shall report back! Hope all your Christmas preparations are going well! xxx
Christmas beer bread 002

Sunday, 16 December 2012

What's another year?

Commencing countdown - week 3 001

I celebrated my birthday this week - another year closer to an extremely Big Birthday! Yikes, how has that happened?! Mr JK and I are planning a weekend in Amsterdam next year to celebrate both our birthdays this year, rather than give presents, so that will be something nice to look forward to. My good knitting friend Snoopydog has given me 6 month's membership of the Natural Dye Studio's Rainbow Yarn Club. I think next year is going to be the 'year of the blanket' in the josiekitten household, so that is a lovely, lovely gift. A squishy parcel each month - it'll be like having my birthday again and again. I shall have to get my new postie trained when it comes to delivering squishy parcels. The one we have now is very discreet!! I also had a rather lovely parcel from a very dear friend in the USA. Amongst the gifts was a ball of qiviuk and mulberry silk yarn in a shade of purple called 'iced violet'. Qiviuk comes from the underbelly of the Musk ox, and is incredibly warm (and expensive!) I now need to find the perfect pattern to show off my little ball of luxury and make sure that I use every last cm of yarn!

birthday qiviuk 001

I won a giveaway on a blog this week, and received my prize - a set of 5 miniskeins of yarn and 5 key rings to knit some little owl key rings. They are very cute and I will try to knit one over the holidays. Thank you so much Rachel. If you haven't visited Rachel's blog, I can really recommend it, and will be adding it to my favourites.

owlets prize (1)

There's been a spot of festive baking this weekend - sausage rolls! You can find the recipe here if you're interested. They are delicious and just melt in the mouth! Mmmmmmmmm.
sausage rolls 002

I test knit a cowl for Anne Hanson - it's lovely and cosy. You can find the pattern here. I like the longer version even better than the smaller size that I knit.
Squeeze me! 010

No firm house news yet, but we are cautiously optimistic that we will be in our new home fairly early in the New Year. Keep your fingers and knitting needles crossed please! Term finishes this Friday and I can't wait. It's going to be a hectic week with performances, hat making and parties! I'll be ready for a rest! xxx

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Faux cashmere

What feels like a whole lifetime ago, Marianne from Fluff and Stuff sent me a 'new to her' braid of fibre to try out - faux cashmere! It sounded interesting; I admit quite openly that I am a yarn snob, and love the softness of cashmere. I wondered how something made from nylon could compete. I needn't have worried though, as it is simply delicious!

faux cashmere

The fibre is a mix of 50% faux cashmere and 50% bamboo which gives a lovely drape to the yarn. Take a look at the lovely colours - Marianne is a dyer with a magical touch!
Fluff'n'stuff faux cashmere 004

Fluff'n'stuff faux cashmere 001

Fluff'n'stuff faux cashmere 002

I split the fibre into finger width strips and spun from them. It made it easier to control, otherwise it can be a little slippy.
Fluff'n'stuff faux cashmere 012

Then I started to spin......

Fluff'n'stuff faux cashmere 006

...and spin, until before I knew it, my bobbin was full!!

Fluff-n-stuff faux cashmere 001

I N-plied the single and ended up with almost 200 metres of slightly thicker than DK weight yarn.

Fluff-n-stuff faux cashmere 006

The yarn is still waiting to be knitted up I'm ashamed to say. It will make something lovely and drapy for my neck, when I get a spare hour or two! If you'd like to try your hand at spinning this fibre, Marianne has some in her shop now. She has just done a mega-update and there is lots of gorgeous fluff just looking for a new home in time for Christmas. Marianne has a special offer on too, so why not pop over and treat yourself and your spinning friends! xxx

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Feeling rather festive!

Commencing countdown - week 2 003

Oh what a hectic time it's been! Our flights to Munich were rescheduled to first thing on Saturday morning due to the heavy snow in Amsterdam, so we had a rather early start that day with the alarm going off at 4am! Ugh! It was worth it though, as we spent a wonderful weekend visiting different Christmas markets and catching up with Mr JK's family. The Germans certainly know how to 'do' Christmas, the Christkindlmarkts are just delightful and relatively non-commercialised. We visited three small ones around Munich, one of them up in the mountains of Southern Bavaria, where the snow really made it into a winter wonderland. Here's a little snapshot of the weekend .......
Bavarian Christkindlmarkt 2012

The drive through Southern Bavaria was stunning, with blue skies and sunshine making the snow and ice glitter like diamonds. The temperature dropped as low as -9 degrees Celsius, and it certainly did feel chilly! I was snuggled inside my Monkeybread cowl and kept nice and toasty.
Munich December 2012 076

Munich December 2012 078

We enjoyed some hearty Bavarian food while we were there too - beer (of course!) and pork goulash with potato dumplings for me!
Munich December 2012 042

Munich December 2012 045

We bought a couple of little decorations at the markets - a super-cute needlefelted reindeer and a rather hirsute Santa! They now have pride of place on the mantelpiece.

Commencing countdown - week 2 001

Commencing countdown - week 2 002

I'm starting to feel really Christmassy now. Most of the presents have been bought and wrapped, although Florence arrived home from her cat hotel on Monday night telling us she'd like Santa to bring her a furry igloo to sleep in, because she loved the one at the cattery so much!! We shall have to see if she's been a good enough girl!! I still have a mountain of cards to write, and there's Christmas cooking to be done. Sausage rolls are on the agenda for Saturday. I might share one with you! xxx

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Commencing countdown - week 1

It's Christmassy! 003

December already, I can't believe it! This tea light holder is twinkling away on our mantlepiece. It's about as Christmassy as we are going to get, as all the decorations are in a box somewhere! We still don't have any house news, all the waiting is pretty stressful. Florence continues to survey her kingdom from a great height!
mountaineer Flo (5)
I have done a little more on my sock, and have also test knitted a cowl for Anne Hanson. I'm not sure if it's ok for me to blog it yet, so I will hold fire for the moment.

I have been helping out LoveKnitting with feedback about their website and product range. They currently have a job vacancy that would be perfect for a passionate knitter. If you are interested, take a look here. It sounds like it would be a wonderful way to spend a few hours each day. Good luck if you decide to apply, and don't forget to tell them how you heard about the job!
Commencing countdown week 1 001

We lit the first candle on our mini-Advent crown this evening. A colleague brought it back from Germany. Talking of which, we are off to Munich next weekend to stay with Mr JK's family! I suspect the gluhwein will be flowing and a visit to the Weihnachtsmarkt will be in order. So I will see you after the weekend! Have a good week! xxx