Monday, 28 September 2015

What a weekend!

Wow! What an amazing weekend I have had! It has been so exciting to see my Ripple Cushion going down so well! Thank you so much, you've really put a huge smile on my face! More than 460 of you have downloaded the pattern from Ravelry so far. That's an awful lot of cushions that are going to be made! Flo is particularly excited by this prospect and wants to test them ALL! So please share your projects on Ravelry for everyone to admire. If you haven't downloaded the pattern and would like to, you can find it here.

I have the pleasure of announcing the winner of the limited edition pack of yarn very generously donated by Stylecraft in my blog giveaway. The lucky person who will be receiving a pack of all ten gorgeous new colours is Linda Walsh from the USA. Congratulations Linda, your pack ought to be heading across the Pond to you very soon. If you weren't lucky this time, keep checking out the Stylecraft Facebook page as there is a pack of yarn up for grabs each day of the Blog Tour. And of course, the pack will be available from Stylecraft stockists after its launch at Ally Pally next month.

Meanwhile, it's business as usual for Florence! xxx

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Stylecraft Special DK Blog Tour - Making Waves on your Sofa with a Ripple Stitch Cushion!

It has been such a treat for me to be able to get a sneak preview of the limited edition yarn pack of Stylecraft Special DK yarns and play with all the gorgeous colours. A delicious secret that I've been itching to share with you, but one that I've had to hug close to myself until now! If you've been following Stylecraft's social media pages, you'll know that all 10 colours in the pack were the finalists picked out from around 350 entries to choose a new colour for the Stylecraft Special DK range of yarn. When I first heard about the competition, my initial thought was 'Impossible! Stylecraft already has every shade under the sun in their range!' But it would appear not as these 10 beauties show. If you're reading this blog, you probably already know just how fabulous the Stylecraft Special DK yarn is - soft, lovely to knit and crochet with, available in loads of colours, easy to look after and great value too. What is there not to like about that?! When my squishy parcel arrived, I almost snatched it out of the hands of my postie, I was so keen to open it! I wasn't disappointed, as the bright jewel-like colours just invited me to start creating.  The beauty of the colours stood out, making me think of a Persian bazaar with elaborately decorated rugs and pottery. Deep pinks, vivid greens, striking blues and a truly fabulous mustard colour complemented by a couple of very pretty paler colours. It's hard to pick a favourite, although if pushed, I'd probably settle on the glorious bluey-purple Lobelia. The runaway winner in the online vote was Duck Egg, which is a very delicate colour.

Here's my take on them, starting off with a couple of 'seaside' blues, Duck Egg and Empire ...

No problem eating your greens here! Look at what's popped up in the garden - Pistachio, Grass Green, Cypress and Kelly Green ...

Nothing like a traditional English condiment to add a little punch to your knitting - Mustard ...

Some beautiful 'flowers' too - Lobelia and Fuchsia ...

and last but not least, a deep berry shade which reminds me of the Echinacea blooming in my garden - Boysenberry ...

I knew straight away that I wanted to make a cushion cover from the yarns. Cushions just add that touch of 'home' to a house, and to me, a sofa bursting with colourful, squishy cushions is an inviting and cosy place to be. Somewhere to snuggle on an autumn afternoon watching an old film on TV. A place to relax with loved ones. A comfortable haven to hunker down on with a mug of steaming hot tea and a couple of biscuits. Yes, a cushion was the perfect project for me!  I have a bit of a stripe 'thing' going on right now with my knitting and so I made myself some little yarn pegs to have a play with the colours! There were LOTS of photos taken, each with a slightly different order of colours! It's amazing how changing the position of just one colour can alter how some of the others look. There's even a rainbow hidden in there...

I have never been a big fan of yellow and thought that I would find it hard to like the mustard colour. But to my surprise, it ended up being one of my favourites, partly because of the way it works so well with the others. It makes colours pop, just take a look at how the Empire and Lobelia seem to glow when next to the Mustard...

Here's the order I finally settled on... happy days!!

With my colour order chosen, I began knitting. I love the ripple stitch effect that you can get with crochet, and wanted to achieve something similar with knitting. I knitted away while Mr JK was driving us around Germany and by the time I came home, my cushion cover was complete! It was the perfect distraction from the German autobahns where the lack of speed limit is quite frankly terrifying! I find knitting stripes very addictive; there's the compulsion to knit 'just one more row' to see the new colour emerging. Add to that the wavy effect and there was just no stopping me!

The cushion is knitted in one piece, and the sides are joined using mattress stitch afterwards. There's a cute button flap to close it too. Florence was most miffed that she had missed out on the knitting and immediately came to lend a paw and test the squishability of the yarn while I was seaming. Regular readers will know that Flo cannot resist anything knitted and just assumes it has been made especially for her! Her 'assistance and advice' on stripe matching was second to none!!

Once the seaming was done, there was the button dilemma! I decided to  use buttons all the same colour and picked out the Pistachio colour. I think that the contrast with the Lobelia is gorgeous! It brings a bit of zing to the button flap.

I added a feather pad to plump out the cushion nicely and then it was ready to take pride of place on the sofa. I love it and I hope you do too! I've written up the pattern and you can find it ready to download on Ravelry here. It's my first ever published pattern, so I'm feeling more than a little nervous that I've done it all properly as well as rather excited and a teensy bit proud too! If you're not on Ravelry and you'd like a copy of the pattern, you can get in touch with me via email at josiekitten123 at gmail dot com and I'll send you a pdf version. If I work out a way of adding a downloadable pdf to my blog, I'll do so! I'll stop jabbering on for now and let you see the finished cushion! I hope you have fun knitting it!

As you can see, wherever I put the cushion to take a photo, Florence claimed ownership! She's a cat with great taste, that's all I can say! I think I'm going to admit defeat and let Flo win the battle of this particular cushion! Far easier to cast on another one! And that one will be mine, all mine! All I need to do is to work out the colour order of the ripples. I think a rainbow one might just be perfect!

Now how would you like to win a pack of this gorgeousness all of your very own?! Silly question, of course you would! Three cheers for the lovely folk at Stylecraft, because they have 10 packs up for grabs, one for each day of the Blog Tour. All you have to do is to click on this link here and enter your details. Good Luck one and all!! But if you're not lucky, these special packs will be launched at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace from October 7th-11th. I reckon those packs will be flying off the shelves, don't you?! Thank you so much to everyone at Stylecraft for asking me to be part of this amazing Blog Tour. I cannot wait to see what all the other bloggers have come up with. Tomorrow, check out Emma Varnam's blog to see what she's been creating with these lovely yarns. I do believe she has not one but two patterns for your delight and delectation! xxx

Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Countdown to The Stylecraft Special DK Blog Tour has begun!

Am I excited? You bet I am!! I can remember reading over on Lucy's blog in Attic24 about a competition to come up with a new colour for the Stylecraft Special DK yarn range some months ago. The final 10 colours were put to the public vote in May, with the top 3 yarns being added to the range. But because they all looked so brilliant together, Stylecraft have decided to release a limited edition pack of all 10 colours. These packs are going to be launched at Ally Pally this October. 

So what has this to do with me I hear you ask! Well, fast forward to the beginning of August when I was invited to take part in the blog tour to launch the pack. Not only that, I've designed something to show off the yarns. Thankfully the yarn arrived while I was able to knit! I'll be publishing my first ever knitting pattern on Saturday to coincide with my blog post! GULP! Stylecraft are giving away a free pack of the yarns each day of the blog tour which kicks off this coming Friday. So it's worth keeping an eye on exactly where the blog tour is heading each day by looking at the Stylecraft Facebook page. See you on Saturday! xxx


Sunday, 13 September 2015

One step forward ...

... and two steps back. At least that's what it feels like right now. I had a hospital appointment this week and have been given a completely rigid splint for my thumb. It was made using thermoplastic while I waited. It was a bit of a Blue Peter moment as I watched a flat sheet of plastic end up as a 3-D splint, complete with velcro fastenings. It is a very tight fit and not especially comfortable to wear. Plus of course, it means that knitting is off the cards again. (Insert a very pouty face here!) I am also starting some ultrasound sessions which I really hope will do the trick. Apart from the  couple of weeks when we were travelling around Germany and I did some knitting to keep my mind off the autobahns, I haven't picked up any knitting needles since June. Please keep everything crossed that the ultrasound works.

One step forward and two steps back

The Tour of Britain cycling event passed almost right outside my front door yesterday. So while Mr JK was out (more of that later), I walked to the end of the road in time to watch the cyclists speed past. Quite a lot of the village turned out to cheer them as they whizzed by - all gone in a matter of seconds! These were the leaders ...

Tour of Britain Stage 7 2015 Norfolk (5)

.... closely followed by the peloton...

Tour of Britain Stage 7 2015 Norfolk (9)

Despite the wet weather, Mr JK was out running yesterday. He is taking part in his first marathon in October and yesterday was the day he'd planned for his 'chunky' run. I dropped him off in Norwich around 7am and he ran the entire Marriott's Way (all 26 miles of it) in under 5 hours! Considering that it was an off-road, trail run, he was really pleased. And of course, now he knows that he can do it! Running in Dublin with all the encouragement from the crowds and on roads should be a walk in the park!!!!! 

I set some time aside this morning for a photo shoot. I have a rather special Secret Project that I was able to work on in Germany and I wanted to take some photos in preparation for a blog post. Well, no sooner had I set up the project ready for photos than Florence emerged from her furry igloo all bleary eyed. Naturally she spotted something knitted and immediately tried to take possession! The battle has begun! I'll share more photos in a couple of weeks time, I promise! xxx

Flo can't keep her paws off this knitting secret!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

It's official!

It's autumn! Well, it is chez josiekitten anyway. And how do I know? Two reasons. Number one - Mr JK wore handknitted socks yesterday for the first time in months. And number two - Flo has taken up residence in her furry igloo once more! It's too hot (even for her) in the summer, but the past couple of days she has slept in it all day long to keep nice and toasty! 

Flo says 'it's autumn!' (2)

(Can you tell just how happy she was for me to disturb her sleep to take this photo?!)

It has felt distinctly autumnal since we got back from our holiday and I'm not sure that my resolve of not wearing socks until half term is going to hold out! I need to go through my sock drawer and be ruthless - several pairs need culling, but they are old favourites so I shall have to knit some replacements. For every day, chuck 'em in the washing machine socks, you cannot beat Regia and Opal yarns. So it's jolly fortunate that I managed to acquire a few souvenir balls from our trip to Europe! Not all of these are for me, I hasten to add. Mr JK chose yarn for his socks too! The pinky purple one and its neighbour are for me, the paler blue/grey yarn for Mr JK, as is the Lang Super Soxx yarn. This one feels gorgeous as it has cashmere in it too. The two balls of Regia Pairfect I found in Delft and they make perfectly matching stripy socks. I am itching to cast on a pair, there is something very addictive about knitting stripes, don't you think?! Just one more row...... until before you know it, you've knit another complete stripe and it's onto the next colour.

souvenirs from Germany 2015 (1)

Apart from my Top Secret knitting project, I did knit a little on a pair of plain vanilla socks while we were away. Initially I was going to give them to Wolfgang but I have had a real problem with the yarn losing colour, just whilst I've been knitting with it. Imagine what your feet would look like after wearing them all day?! Now they are destined for Mr JK's sock drawer instead. You can see just how much dye has come out on the wooden needles by comparing two! I've never had this problem with Regia sock yarn before and I hope that a couple of washes and rinses will exhaust the dye. Fingers crossed or else Mr JK is going to get some very odd looks when he goes swimming at the gym!

wip plain vanilla sock (1)

Yesterday I did a sewing class in Norwich. It was to make a crazy nine-patch cushion cover. You start off with 9 squares of fabric, and by cutting, layering and stitching, you end up with 9 patchwork squares, each with a piece of the 9 different starting squares in them. Ingenious! Someone must have worked it out mathematically to make sure that each square ends up looking different. I used some very pretty Tilda fabrics to make my cushion and am thrilled with how it turned out. I'm going to try to make another one and might use the 'quilt as you go' technique to add some decorative stitching to the finished cushion.

More crazy nine patch cushion (2)

Here's another photo of it on the sofa. I love all my cushions! It's hard to pick a favourite! Each one has given me a new skill to accomplish.

More crazy nine patch cushion (3)

I promised to share some of the cakes I tasted during our holiday. The Germans love cakes and make absolutely delicious ones. When you go into a cake shop, you're spoilt for choice! Luckily, Mr JK is usually willing to share his too, so I can taste a couple! Look at this little lot, they are responsible for me gaining too much additional poundage around my middle! We're going to a wedding in a couple of weeks and I resorted to buying a pair of 'hold everything in' knickers from M&S yesterday. Let me tell you, it might hold 'everything' in in one part, but all that excess has to escape somewhere!! Not a pretty sight! I reckon that I'll have to do sit ups every day between now and the wedding to try to conquer my midriff! Sigh! Why is cake so bad for you?! See you soon. xxx

Mmmmmmmmmmmm cake!

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Germany - Part 2 - Nidda

I am so sorry that it has taken me this long for the second instalment of our recent holiday. School began on Tuesday and it has completely taken over! I hope to find a better work-life balance in the coming days so that normal blogging service can resume asap. Anyway, back to our holiday, which now feels like a lifetime ago!

After a busy few days in Munich, both Mr JK and I were looking forward to the slower pace of life with our dear friends Andrea and Wolfgang. They live in Nidda, a small town north east of Frankfurt. It's a fairly rural area with a lot of farming. We have known them for years and always enjoy our time together - plenty of fun and laughter along with good food and music. On our first day, we visited The Hessenpark, an open air museum filled with timber-framed buildings that have been quite literally moved from various towns and villages throughout the county and re-erected to create a village. 

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Within many of the buildings there were exhibitions on all manner of things including farming, textiles, clocks and radios. Of course I homed in on anything textile related. I spotted this spoon in a knitted case, which someone had lovingly lined with fabric, dating back to World War 1.  I wonder who owned it and what happened to him?

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I bet this swift wound a good many skeins of yarn in its day too. The design has changed very little over the years. I love these links with knitters from days gone by. 

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There were a couple of chapels within the museum too. The glass windows reminded me of the bottoms of the milk bottles we used to get delivered when I was little. Services are still held here occasionally I believe and you can even get married in the chapel.

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The following day we went for a walk around the town of Bad Salzhausen. People have been visiting this spa town since the 19th century to bathe in the waters and breathe in the salty air. The impressive bath complex is still used today and many baths open out around the edge of the colonnade.

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This photo was taken inside one of the courtyards within a bath house. A number of treatment rooms open off the courtyard. Needless to say, neither Mr JK nor I were in any hurry to taste the water!

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The next photo shows an area where you can breathe in the salty air which is meant to be very good for you. The spa water is constantly cascading down the 'walls' of the structure and you walk inside it and can sit in there to breathe in the air. I have never seen anything like this before in the UK, only in Germany. I do think that the Germans seem to have a far greater interest and belief in alternative medicines and homoeopathy from what I have come across.

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Evenings were spent chatting, playing the board game Malefiz, and playing the guitar (Mr JK and Wolfgang.) I also managed do do some knitting without too much discomfort - huzzah!! I can't show you what I was working on right now as it's a Big Secret, but I promise a Big Reveal in a couple of weeks time! 

On our last day in Nidda, our friends had arranged for a guided tour (in English for my benefit!) of the old university town of Marburg. It was an absolutely beautiful place with old buildings everywhere you looked. The town had not been bombed much during World War Two, meaning that most of the old historic town remained. The first thing we saw as we approached was the castle. It sits above the town and is home to a large family of pipistrelle bats. 

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On the way up to the castle, you pass this church. The tower looks pretty good, doesn't it? Nice and straight...

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... but sadly not quite so straight when viewed from the castle! Apparently the architect was so ashamed of the wonky tower that he hung himself from it! Oh dear!

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I enjoyed a traditional flammekueche sat in the biergarten by the castle. Flammekueche is a delicious savoury dish consisting of a very thin sheet of bread dough, covered with creme fraiche and topped with onions and bacon lardons. Mmmmmmm!

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We went around St  Elizabeth's church, a Gothic church built to honour St Elizabeth from Hungary. It was a popular pilgrimage site for centuries and is packed full of beautiful objects.

St Elizabeth church Marburg

We were sad to say goodbye to Andrea and Wolfgang as we set off on our journey home. An overnight stopover in Delft was the perfect way to end a fabulous holiday. xxx

Delft 2015