Sunday, 29 April 2012

3KCBWDAY7 - Crafting Balance

Are you a knitter or a crocheter, or are you a bit of both? If you are monogamous in your yarn-based crafting, is it because you do not enjoy the other craft or have you simply never given yourself the push to learn it? Is it because the items that you best enjoy crafting are more suited to the needles or the hook? Do you plan on ever trying to take up and fully learn the other craft? If you are equally comfortable knitting as you are crocheting, how do you balance both crafts? Do you always have projects of each on the go, or do you go through periods of favouring one over the other? How did you come to learn and love your craft(s)?

My crafting time is split pretty much between knitting and spinning. I can crochet however, and would like to make a crocheted blanket at some point. I get my crochet inspiration from Lucy over at Attic24, and envy her bold use of colour.
crochet - Attic24 inspired

I knit more than I spin, partly because my spinning wheel is in my craft room upstairs and I feel rather antisocial spending too much time shut away there. I guess I should move the wheel down to the living room. The only trouble is, Florence seems to think that it's a giant cat toy, there for her entertainment alone! Also, once I've spun a yarn, there's the temptation to start knitting with it. I spun this up last month, and want to cast on a Citron shawl. It feels incredibly soft, so will make a perfect extra layer.

It's got to be Pink spun 002

I always have several knitting projects on the go, but with spinning, find that once I start to spin some fibre, I keep at it over several days until it's all spun. While I'm spinning, I'm thinking about the different fibres in my stash, and pondering on which one will be the next to be spun. I'd like to spin a sweater's worth of yarn at some point, it'd be amazing to knit one with my own handspun yarn. With knitting projects, I can leave some on the back burner for weeks (months, years!!!), without feeling guilty! Perhaps my spinning is more visible, plus there's something very enticing about spinning up some beautiful fibre - I always want to see how it's going to look in the finished yarn. I'd like to improve my sewing skills too - but that's a whole new ball game. Just give me a few more hours in my day! Roll on retirement!!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

3KCBWDAY6 - Improving Your Skillset

How far down the road to learning your craft do you believe yourself to be? Are you comfortable with what you know or are you always striving to learn new skills and add to your knowledge base? Take a look at a few knitting or crochet books and have a look at some of the skills mentioned in the patterns. Can you start your amigurumi pieces with a magic circle, have you ever tried double knitting, how's your intarsia? If you are feeling brave, make a list of some of the skills which you have not yet tried but would like to have a go at, and perhaps even set yourself a deadline of when you'd like to have tried them by.

At the start of each new year, I look back at the previous one, and set myself some knitting goals for the coming twelve months. I always have 'try to knit from stash' (just who am I kidding here?!) as well as learning at least one new skill. Last year, I felt that I got to grips with two skills that I'd struggled with the year before. The first was knitting lace. It doesn't come naturally to me, I find it quite difficult to 'read' the pattern and spot quickly if I've made a mistake and I need to literally chant the row outloud as I am knitting it!! So I gave myself a big pat on the back when I'd finished knitting Spriteling in readiness for Knit Nation.
Spriteling 001
I won't tell you how many times I had to frog back (lifelines were my best friend!!), but I was thrilled with the finished shawl.

Last year I also did a beaded knit, using the crochet hook method, and it was much easier than I thought it would be! I definitely want to do more beaded knits this year too. I beaded the last pattern repeat on a handspun Ishbel shawl. It was quite hard to part with this knit, but the recipient loved it!
Aegean Ishbel (5)

I would really like to get to grips with some colourwork this year. I have some rather lovely yarns courtesy of the Natural Dye Studio Great British Wool club. Each one is a mix of 50% Blue Faced Leicester and 50% another British breed. So far I have four skeins, with two more still to come. They go together so well, I shall have to find the perfect pattern to show them all off. Any suggestions?!

NDS Great British Wools

Another thing I'd definitely like to get better at is reading charts. I much prefer the written instructions, and have dismissed some patterns simply because the pattern only came charted. I have bought myself a magnetic pattern board and hope that this will help me. Maybe I'll kill two birds with one stone and use a chart for my colourwork knitting. (I think that's how they're written isn't it? GULP!!)

These are only my knitting goals. Some of you may know that as well as knitting, I also spin. I am constantly striving to improve my yardage, as I am determined to spin enough yarn to knit myself a pair of socks! I'd also like to spin a greater variety of fibres, and will make that one of my goals during this year's Tour de Fleece. I have a rather lovely pack of British breed fibres, that could, all being well, turn into this!! So that'll be three birds with my one stone then, won't it?! Charts, colourwork and different fibres! You can be sure I'll be blogging about it Big Time if I manage to do it!

Friday, 27 April 2012

3KCBWDAY5 - Something a bit different

This is an experimental blogging day to try and push your creativity in blogging to the same level that you perhaps push your creativity in the items you create.There are no rules of a topic to blog about but this post should look at a different way to present content on your blog.
Yarn, How do I Love Thee?
(with apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee as a laceweight
For gossamer stitches so ornate
My shawls admired always.
I love thee as a 4 ply too,
Perfect for stylish, cosy feet,
Without you my wardrobe would be incomplete,
Whether silk, merino or bamboo.
I love thee as a DK skein,
A variegated rainbow or subtle hue,
For cables, colourwork or stitches plain.
I love thee as an Aran wool,
Enveloped in softness, comfort too,
With love for you all my heart is full.
Yarn Love 004

Thursday, 26 April 2012

3KCBWDAY4 - A Knitter or Crocheter for all Seasons?

As spring is in the air in the northern hemisphere and those in the southern hemisphere start setting their sights for the arrival of winter, a lot of crocheters and knitters find that their crafting changes along with their wardrobe. Have a look through your finished projects and explain the seasonality of your craft to your readers. Do you make warm woollens the whole year through in preparation for the colder months, or do you live somewhere that never feels the chill and so invest your time in beautiful homewares and delicate lace items. How does your local seasonal weather affect your craft?

Having thought about this topic, I have come to the conclusion that it's not the seasons that determines what I am knitting, it's more where I am knitting. I try to knit every day if I can, even if it's just a couple of rows. I always have a plain vanilla sock on the go, easy knitting for a few minutes at lunch time, great for car knitting (I'm usually the passenger!) or for mindless knitting at the end of the day when my befuddled brain can't cope with anything more complicated! It usually lives in a project bag in my handbag. Here's one of the pair I've currently got on the needles. I use the Violet Green sock generator pattern as I've found it's a great fit.
Plain Vanilla socks no.7 WIP

As I already told you, I like to knit every day if I can, even on holiday. So I take great care when choosing what to take with me when we go away. It probably takes me longer than the rest of the packing put together!! Obviously it needs to be small enough to carry around with me, and not take up too much space or baggage allowance!! That rules out chunky sweaters! It also needs to be reasonably simple, so that I can carry on a conversation whilst knitting. I don't want to be accused of being antisocial! So that rules out anything too lacy! Socks, scarves and baby items have all been knit by me during holidays! This photo shows you pretty much my perfect view!
Greece 2010 188

So apart from a sock, what else do I have on the go at any one time? Well, I like to have something 'meaty' that I can get stuck into when I can knit undisturbed (either by Mr JK or the cat!) This usually requires some degree of concentration, and might be a jumper or cardigan, or perhaps something lacy. Currently I have a jumper and a lace scarf on the go. I had hoped that the jumper would be ready to wear this winter, but other projects got in the way, so it will tick over now until the autumn. I'll probably get it finished during the summer holidays. That is, if I can prise it away from Florence, who seems to think that I'm knitting it especially for her!!
flo's new blankie (3)

And then, of course, there is the unexpected project that keeps calling out to you until you can resist the temptation no longer. At the moment, it is this that I keep being drawn to. I love it, but amazingly, don't have three matching skeins amongst my stash to knit it. And as I am trying to be good .......... it must sit on the back burner for the moment! For how long, only time will tell!!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

3KCBWDAY3 - My Knitting Hero

Blog about someone in the fibre crafts who truly inspires you. There are not too many guidelines for this, it's really about introducing your readers to someone who they might not know who is an inspiration to you. It might be a family member or friend, a specific designer or writer, indie dyer or another blogger.

My knitting hero is Anne Hanson - you can find her over at Knitspot. I discovered Anne's designs and blog at the start of 2010, when the class list for Knit Nation was released. I saw that she was running a finishing class, and since that was one of my issues at the time, I decided to enrol. At the same time, I began to follow her blog. If you've never read it, then you should! Anne is a very entertaining and informative blogger, giving her many readers a glimpse into her life as a knitting designer and teacher. As well as that, she throws in a bit of gardening and cooking for good measure, and photos from her travels too! It's a great read!
KnitNation 2010 036

The class was just brilliant. Anne guided us through the mysteries of blocking and seaming, and was amazingly generous with her knowledge. It is without doubt the best class I have taken, and the finish of my garments has dramatically improved. Since then, I have also become a huge fan of Anne's many designs. Her patterns are so well written, nothing is left to doubt. I rarely find myself looking elsewhere for designs these days. Let me just share one or two of my favourite Knitspot designs.
Les Abeilles is the first of Anne's shawls that I've knit, and I know it won't be my last. This is my most recent knit, using some of my own handspun. It's knit from the bottom edge up, so is getting smaller with each row. The garter stitch part almost knit itself!
Les Abeilles (3)

The Almost Ovals scarf was my first lace pattern, and I actually test knit this for Anne. She is a very prolific pattern writer and it's not unusual for her to release a pattern almost weekly. This scarf is a light as a feather yet providing warmth on a chilly autumn or spring morning.
Almost Ovals (11)

Anne has designed many socks too, and being a bit of a sock addict, I've tried a few pairs. I think my favourites are the Roger sock. The design is so simple, but is a perfect fit and looks great with semi solid yarns.
Roger socks 001

In the last year, Anne has branched out and started a club, with exclusive patterns and yarns. I signed up for the first season of Fall in Full Color 2011 and had 6 months of delicious yarny parcels arriving at my home. This is my favourite of the yarns and patterns, Longshadows. It's a beautiful silky scarf.

Longshadows (3)

Since then, Anne has done a Bare Naked Knitspot club, looking at different natural undyed yarns. The chapters each month are a joy to read, they're so informative. Signups are currently open for the next season of FIFC2012, so if you're interested, take a look here. My aims for the next few months are to knit one of Anne's sweaters, and to try and take her sweater finishing class next time she is over teaching in the UK. I just hope I manage to book a place - you'll probably all want to take it too after reading this post!! haha!

Oh yes, I also have Anne to thank for my bag addiction! Take a look at the photo of her at the top - do you like her flowery knitting bag as much as me? Anne gave me the card for the Etsy shop where she got it from - ThreeBagsFull. It's a very slippery slope, this bag acquisition! Just look!
Bag Lady (2)

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

3KCBWDAY2- Photography Challenge

Today challenges you to be creative with your photography. Taking interesting photographs in this instance isn't about flashy cameras or a great deal of technical know-how, it's about setting up a story or scene in a photograph and capturing something imaginative.

Yarn Cannibalism
Yarn cannibalism! 006

What happens when the ball runs out?! .............

Monday, 23 April 2012

3KCBWDAY1 - Colour Lovers

Colour is one of our greatest expressions of ourselves when we choose to knit or crochet, so how do you choose what colours you buy and crochet or knit with. Have a look through your stash and see if there is a predominance of one colour. Do the same with your finished projects - do they match? Do you love a rainbow of bright hues, or more subdued tones. How much attention do you pay to the original colour that a garment is knit in when you see a pattern? Tell readers about your love or confusion over colour.
If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you probably already know that my favourite colour is purple.

It's got to be purple!  
From rich, deep shades to paler, more pinky mauves, I love them all! When I first began knitting again, back in 2007, it was the bright colours in a skein of Noro yarn that tempted me inside a yarn shop. I bought a couple of skeins and this scarf was the result.

The start of it all! Noro Iro scarf

Thus began my love affair with colour, and many of my early yarn purchases reflect this - bright, saturated colours, often with many different colours within one ball or skein. Gradually though, over the years, my taste has definitely changed, and I find myself being drawn to more solid/semi-solid colours in the purple/blue/pink spectrum. Just take a look at my purchases from Knit Nation last summer. I thought that I'd bought quite a variety of colours until I put them all together! (The green skein at 5 o'clock was a gift for someone else!)
Knit Nation purchases 002

Whilst I still like colour, many of the patterns that I want to knit at the moment quite simply would not work if they were knit in a bright, multicoloured yarrn. So I have (and shhhhhhhh, don't tell Mr JK!) a number of skeins in my stash that at the moment, I don't want to knit! (although I'm sure that I will sometime in the future.) They are fine for a pair of socks, but a sweater's worth would make me look like I was auditioning for the circus or to become a presenter on children's TV! So as far as garments go, I am favouring plainer, semi-solid colours. Accessories can be a little more varied, and I still love Granny square blankets in pure technicolour! I'm coming to the conclusion that my feet are firmly in both camps when it comes to colour - all colours of the rainbow for some things, and more toned shades for others. I think I've definitely got the best of both worlds, don't you?! See you tomorrow. xxx

Sunday, 22 April 2012

WIP weekend

Hello again! Yes, back so soon! This is just a very quick post to share with you some WIP's. I had a couple of pairs of socks on the go while we were in the Lake District. I tended to only knit them while we were travelling, as I wanted to get stuck into Les Abeilles in the evening. So I have one of each pair currently finished. First, another plain vanilla sock, using some yarn I bought in Germany a few years ago. I do like these self patterning yarns, and they are perfect for knitting gift socks with. I'd hate to use a luxury yarn that got felted first wash! At least with these yarns, you know you can just bung 'em in the washing machine and all will be well! This pair is for a non-knitting friend, Zena, who loved the handknit pair I gave her earlier in the year, and requested a couple more pairs.
Plain Vanilla socks no.7 WIP
The second sock currently on the needles is one of my favourite sock patterns for solid or semi-solid yarns. It's the Roger sock from Knitspot, and is surprisingly simple to knit. This pair is for my ex-boss who is an ardent Liverpool FC supporter. I thought she'd like a pair of red socks to wear to cheer her team along!
You'll never walk alone WIP
I have another new project to share with you, using one of my favourite yarns - it's mink and cashmere from Great Northern Yarns. I received one skein as my December yarn from the Fall in Full Color Club, and managed to acquire 5 more to knit a cardigan. The yarn is so soft and warm, yet light to wear too. I knit my Monkeybread cowl from it last year and have worn it non-stop all winter, so I can just imagine how delicious a cardigan is going to be. I'm using the Milk cardigan pattern from Verena. The pattern is fairly simple with a cable up each front. I think I must have been spoilt by all of Anne Hanson's clearly written patterns, because this one is fairly muddled. I read on Ravelry that the cable pattern was wrong, so I had a little play around and have come up with one that I think looks right!
cable swatch milk sweater
I have cast on and done a few rows on the back, so hopefully will have something worth showing you next week. I am taking part in the Knitting and Crochet Blog Week again this year, starting tomorrow. There are quite a few interesting topics to blog about, so I hope you will pop back each day to take a look! See you tomorrow! xxx

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Total Trust!

Mr JK and I have been members of the National Trust for a few years now and we were fortunate during our recent holiday to have a number of properties right on our doorstep. We worked out that during the week, we more than recouped the cost of our membership.
We started off by visiting Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire. It's a timber framed Tudor building, surrounded by a moat. I'd first become aware of it about 20 years ago through a tv programme we used to show the children all about Tudor houses. My good friend Snoopydog and I shared many a chuckle over the somewhat amusing commentary that accompanied the programme. So I was thrilled to discover that it was literally 5 minutes down the road from the hotel we were staying in prior to the wedding.
Little Moreton Hall (2)
The house itself is quite magnificent. It's built around a central courtyard. I rather like this photo taken from the Long Gallery looking down to the courtyard through the tiny panes of glass. The house almost looks like a doll's house to me. In Tudor times, only the rich could afford glass in their windows. You were taxed according to the number of windows you had, and if you moved house (or even went on holiday, I believe) you took your glass with you!!!
Little Moreton Hall (30)
Of course I managed to find something wool-related. There was some fleece and a drop spindle as well as these skeins of naturally dyed yarns and a device the Tudors used for making simple cords.
Little Moreton Hall (17)
I rather like this carving above one of the windows in the courtyard. I wonder how long it took to do? Certainly the Tudor craftsmen were highly skilled.
Little Moreton Hall (5)
Our next stop was Biddulph Grange Garden, just down the road from the wedding venue itself. Although it was a rather grey day, we enjoyed our walk around the gardens.
Biddulph Grange Garden (7)
There were still quite a number of spring bulbs in flower. I particularly liked the intensity of these blue flowers, growing amongst a rather impressive tree stumpery. They look so delicate, don't they?
Biddulph Grange Garden (15)
Soon after arriving in the Lake District, we stopped off at Sizergh Castle. The Medieval house was closed the day we were there, but we were able to admire the gardens. There were lots of beautiful plants to see. Here are just a few of them.
Springtime at Sizergh
We visited Tarn Hows, a really lovely spot in the Lake District, and spent an enjoyable hour or so walking around the lake. There are some beautiful views there.
Lake District April 2012 (4)
I managed to get a couple of rounds knit on my plain vanilla socks too!
Lake District April 2012 (5)
The ducks were obviously used to people - as soon as we ventured near the water's edge, they made a beeline for us, hoping for a snack! We shared a bit of our picnic lunch with them later on in the day.
Lake District April 2012 (13)
We also visited Hill Top, home of the children's author Beatrix Potter. This house inspired many of her books, and if you look carefully, you can see objects that appear in some of her illustrations.
Lake District April 2012 (126)
Beatrix left this house and some of her other Lake District properties (she was a sheep farmer in her later years) to the National Trust, with the instructions that it was to be kept just as she had left it. So when you go in, you can see her hat hanging from the hook. It's almost as if she has just popped outside. Really fascinating. I liked the garden too - I expected to see Peter Rabbit peeping out at any moment! We also visited the Beatrix Potter gallery in Hawkshead. They are currently celebrating Peter Rabbit's 110th birthday and have a magnificent display of Beatrix's artwork.
Lake District April 2012 (129)
I think my favourite place was Townend. This property was about a mile from where we were staying in Troutbeck, so we walked down there one morning to get a place in one of the guided tours. Townend was home to the Browne family for more than 400 years.
Lake District April 2012 (161)
Because the house remained in the family, all the possessions were passed down too. It was absolutely fascinating to look around. There is lots of intricately carved wooden furniture all around the house. Just look at the date on this Bible stand.
Lake District April 2012 (169)
The house also has a very impressive library containing some books that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The National Trust is currently trying to preserve all the books for future generations. The four poster bed and baby's cot were beautiful too. The cot has a little door at one end where a hot brick would be put to keep the baby warm!
Lake District April 2012 (186)
I especially liked all the patchwork quilts, made with scraps of material. I wonder what stories they could tell?
Lake District April 2012 (195)
I hope you've enjoyed this trip around some of the National Trust properties in the north west of England. I'll see you again soon. xxx

Sunday, 15 April 2012

A week in the Lake District

Yoohoo! Yes, 'tis I, Josiekitten, back from my holidays! It feels like ages since I last blogged. Our holiday started with two days in Congleton, Cheshire, celebrating the marriage of Snoopydog's elder daughter. We had a lovely time, it was a delight to be part of such a happy event. I won't post many photos here. If you'd like to see more, then you can pop over to Snoop's blog here.
We made our way up to the Lake District on Saturday. We were staying in a converted coal hole, and very nice it was too! It was in the village of Troutbeck, between Windermere and Ambleside, but so peaceful. This was our view.
Lake District April 2012 (154)
We were pretty lucky with the weather, and managed to dodge the showers most of the time. We visited lots of National Trust properties (I'll blog about these another time), and also got our fair share of lakes and hills. Here's Coniston Water looking very tranquil.
Lake District April 2012 (148)
There had been snow the previous week and you could still see some on the top of some of the peaks.
Lake District April 2012 (89)
The Kirkstone pass was actually closed by snow a few days previously, and there were still patches of snow as we drove through. Here you can see the view towards Brothers Water.
Lake District April 2012 (79)
We ended up at Aira Force and walked up to see the waterfall before picnicking on the shore of Ullswater. It really is a beautiful part of England. I never tire of the views.
Lake District April 2012 (88)
On the last afternoon we went out on Lake Windermere!
  Lake District April 2012 (201)
There were plenty, and I do mean plenty of sheep! Sheep farming is still big business in the Lakes. The Herdwick sheep is native to this part of England. The sheep are very distinctive with their grey bodies and white heads. The fleece is rather coarse and is generally used for furnishings like rugs. This little chap looks so serious, I wonder what he's thinking?!
Lake District April 2012 (28)
The lambing season was well underway, and there were lambs gambolling around the fields without a care in the world.
Lake District April 2012 (122)
Of course I managed to knit during the week! I knit a shawlette using some of my handspun yarn. The pattern is Les Abeilles from Knitspot. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. The colours are so soft.
Les Abeilles (3)
I've also made progress on two different pairs of socks, but will show you those another time. Before you ask, I did make a small yarny purchase. We travelled up to the north of the Lake District to the pretty village of Caldbeck, where the Wool Clip can be found. I was most restrained and bought some Blue Faced Leicester fibre to spin up.....
Caldbeck BFL
.....and a felting kit. I'd like to try it out with the children at school some time in the future, so this kit seemed like a good idea. I'm not entirely sure yet why I need a wicker mat, but as there are full instructions, I'm sure that all will become clear! Watch this space!
feltmaking kit (1)
Well, I shall love you and leave you for now with one more breathtaking view over Lake Windermere. I'll be back soon to share some more of our holiday. xxx
Lake District April 2012 (115)