Sunday, 30 March 2014

Gifts from the heart

The last few days have been very exciting! One of my dearest Ravelry friends, Kim, got married on Thursday and unbeknown to her, a group of her closest knitting friends had been busy knitting away on a beautiful blanket as a wedding gift. Kim is great friends with Anne Hanson, and it was Anne who came up with the design for the blanket. It's based on 12 knitspot patterns and uses Stone Soup DK yarn, which is one of the knitspot range of BareNaked yarns. How we managed to keep it a secret, I will never know! But keep it we did. You can read more about it and see just how beautiful the blanket is here. I cannot wait for the pattern to be released so I can knit my own version. The block I knit was based on one of my favourite of Anne's patterns - the Roger sock.
lurve blankie (3)
lurve blankie (1)

As well as being part of the blanket giving group, I wanted to give Kim and her new husband Jeff something just from me. A quick search on Ravelry turned up the most perfect pattern - a cushion based on the classic entwined tree motif by Barbara Walker - called Two become One. I used a Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds yarn to try and complement the blanket. I found some beautiful pebble buttons from this shop on Etsy and they finish the cushion off perfectly.

Two become One (3)

Two become One (6)

Two become One (16)

Two become One (8)

Two become One (7)

Two become One (9)

Two become One (10)

(Of course Florence had to see what was going on!!)

Yesterday was beautiful, so Mr JK and I headed up to the coast for a beach walk. We usually go to Wells-next-the-Sea, as there is a nice walk along the sea wall to the beach. You can then walk along the beach admiring the beach huts and head back through the pinewoods. The sea mists started coming in a little towards the end of our walk, but it was warm enough to not need a jacket. Bliss! Here's a snapshot of our walk.
Wells next the Sea March 2014 001

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Wells next the Sea March 2014 008

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Wells next the Sea March 2014 016
We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world. A walk up on the coast never fails to restore a feeling of wellbeing. The garden is also continuing to delight, almost on a daily basis! New blooms are emerging and spring is well and truly here!
spring garden March 3oth 2014 (2)

spring garden March 3oth 2014 (5)

March 2014 srping flowers (4)

This afternoon Mr JK and I visited one of our favourite gardens - East Ruston Old Vicarage. Today was the first day of the new season, and the warm spring sunshine meant there were a lot of people with the same idea!! The garden is huge though, so there was plenty of space to wander about and explore.
East Ruston Old Vicarage March 2014

I took the lady in the ticket shed by surprise by presenting her with a knitted gift - a cowl and a pair of fingerless mitts!! She sits in her hut whatever the weather and so I thought some woollen gifts might go down well!  The mitts use a tucked stitch which I'd not come across before - I do like the effect!
cowl and mitts gift (2)

caterpillar mitts (5)

Rain on a Hot Tin Roof short cowl (2)

I am busy counting down the days until the Easter holidays now! Just 5 more gettings up!! I have lots of knitting, spinning and crochet planned. Pop back next time to see what I'm up to! xx

PS Of course there was cake this afternoon at the gardens!! Despite the number of visitors, we managed to secure our slices of cake. Later visitors may well not have been so lucky and I fear that a 'cake crisis' might have arisen!!

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Sunday, 23 March 2014

Pootling About

It's been a funny old week here in the josiekitten household. I have felt a bit blergh with the tail end of a cold that is refusing to go quickly and poor old Flo is recovering from an abscess on her tummy. We have no idea what caused it, but thankfully after a trip to the vet and two injections, she is much more like her usual self.
The weather has been lovely and we have been enjoying our daily walks, taking in the glorious countryside on our route. The farmers have been working hard in the fields, ploughing and sowing crops, and the birds sing to us all the way round!
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March 2014 afternoon walk (1)

I have been working on some test knitting and secret projects this week, so can't show too much and give the game away! I can share with you these gorgeous buttons which I shall be using to finish off one of the projects. Aren't they glorious? I bought mine here.

beautiful pebble buttons

I'm test knitting another sock for my friend Kim. She hasn't been designing for very long, but is already coming up with some fabulous patterns. She has designed a pattern to work with some fun stripy yarn from Trailing Clouds. It's called 'Mind the Gap' and has all the colours of the London Underground. I'm using another yarn from the same dyer called Primary:Secondary and it's very, very BRIGHT!! Sunglasses at the ready?! OK, then, here's a sneaky preview of the yarn!
getting organised (6)

I finished another cowl this week - it's called Sculling and both the pattern and yarn are from Knitspot. The yarn is Stone Soup fingering yarn and is really nice - a little bit sheepy and woolly, and so soft after its nice long bath. I have already worn it a couple of times and I think it's the kind of accessory that is going to age beautifully.
Stone Soup Sculling cowl (4)

I have a lot of projects waiting to start, so have spent a little time this weekend finding project bags for them all. Beautiful project bags are one of my little indulgences. I get mine from ThreeBagsFull - Michele has a real eye for picking great fabrics and matching them with linings and glass beads. I also help to moderate the group on Ravelry. It's an active group and we always have lots of fun things going on. We have a bag swap just started, so if you'd like to make some new knitty friends and perhaps start off your very own collection of project bags, why not join us. You can sign up until 1st April. Go on, it'll be fun to have you along!
Getting organised

Amongst that little lot are 2 cardigans, a pair of gloves, 7 pairs of socks, a cowl, a blanket and a secret project!! So plenty to keep me out of mischief, don't you reckon?!
As well as the sock I'm test knitting, I am also working on a shorter version of a cowl I knit recently. I'm making it as a gift for someone and will tell you more about it when it's finished. I hope to knit some matching mitts too if I have enough time this week.
getting organised (5)

The garden is looking lovely already. It makes me so happy opening the curtains each morning and looking out on our little patch of green. Mr JK is planning on cutting the grass next weekend and we also need to seal our garden furniture with Danish oil. It hasn't stopped us sitting down outside already though - last weekend we ate Sunday lunch in the garden!
spring garden March 2014 (7)
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Spring garden blooms March 2014 005

Have you spotted Flo?! The tulip bulbs we planted last year are blooming now, we put them in tubs but perhaps we will put them in the garden in the autumn.
more spring flowers March 2014 (5)

There's so much popping up in the garden now, I love this time of year. I spotted the first forget-me-nots today - they always remind me of my Dad.
more spring flowers March 2014 (6)

Goodness, this has turned out to be quite a long post, hasn't it?!! If you're still with me, here's an apple, raisin and cinnamon muffin to tickle your taste buds until next time. I have started baking little batches of 6 muffins at the weekends using Lucy's Easy Peasy muffin recipe over at Attic24. The first batch I made were blueberry and tasted rather nice, but Mr JK said that he preferred these! Do you have any suggestions for what I could add to my next batch? I'd love to hear your ideas! xxx
apple, raisin and cinnamon muffins (5)

Sunday, 16 March 2014

A cowl is born

Last month saw the first pattern release of this year's BareNakedKnitspot club. I love Anne Hanson's designs but usually go pattern-only because of the silly customs VAT import duty that has ocassionally been tagged onto my yarn packages. This time around, I decided to set myself the challenge of spinning yarn for each project. Anne is releasing patterns every other month, so I thought this timescale would give me enough time to both spin the yarn and then knit it before the next pattern release. February's offering was a cowl, hat and mitts set in a beautiful BareNaked yarn. Now I am a complete sucker for cowls, so knew instantly that was what I was going to be spinning for. I rummaged deep in my fibre stash and eventually pulled out two braids of beautiful, bouncy purple merino, gifted to me by a dear Ravelry friend, Kat.
fibre goodness from Kat (6)

It was just perfect for the job, so over half term, the spinning began. Usually when I spin, I let the yarn decide what weight it wants to be, but this time, I knew I had to be the one in control as I needed a worsted weight yarn to work with the pattern. So I made a conscious effort to spin the yarn thicker, hoping I had the right amount of twist. The colours were just beautiful and I just wanted to keep on spinning!

Bare Naked Knitspot spinning purple yarn Feb 2014 (8)
Carlsbad cowl handspun

Bare Naked Knitspot spinning Feb 2014 (1)

Purple merino worsted weight handpsun

Bare Naked Knitspot spinning purple yarn Feb 2014 (4)

I ended up with about 350 metres of lovely bouncy purple yarn - enough to knit the tall version of the cowl. The construction of the cowl intrigued me - there were two quite complicated looking cable panels and some short row shaping insertions to give extra folds of fabric for added cosiness. My main concern was having enough yarn of the correct thickness. First I checked the number of wraps per inch to see if I had anything approaching worsted weight. It was almost spot on!!

Bare Naked Knitspot spinning purple yarn Feb 2014 (9)

So I wound the yarn into two lovely fat and squishy yarn cakes, ready to start knitting.

Bare Naked Knitspot spinning purple yarn Feb 2014 (1)

I was also a little apprehensive that the cabling wouldn't show up as well in my more tweedy yarn. I cast on and knit a little to check. I needn't have worried! I posted some photos in the BareNaked Clubhouse on Ravelry and the positive feedback I received confirmed that my yarn was going to be just fine!
Carlsbad cowl WIP (3)

After that, there was no stopping me! I just wanted to get the knitting finished so I could wear the cowl! I added two lots of short row insertions in two places around the cowl. It's deep enough to act as a hood in those parts, so will be perfect for winter walks later in the year. I finished it last weekend and it took forever to dry, the yarn is so thick and squishy! These are some pre-blocked photos so you can see the shape with the added shaping.
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Carlsbad cowl pre blocking 006
Finally yesterday I managed to get a few photos taken while Mr JK and I were out walking. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, and I kept plenty warm enough with just a T-shirt and the cowl around my neck.
Handspun Carlsbad cowl BNK 2014 (3)

Handspun Carlsbad cowl BNK 2014 (2)