Sunday, 24 April 2016

Contact Print cushion ta dah!

I have a sewing project to share with you today. I spotted some rather lovely cushions on the Crazy Mom Quilts blog and decided to have a go at making one this weekend. I used a mini charm pack that I'd bought at a fabric shop in Petersfield last time I went down to Portsmouth and some other fabric that I had at home for the backing and in between pieces. Amanda's tutorials are very clear, and I didn't have too much trouble making it. I do need to try to get a little more accurate when sewing as my blocks don't all quite line up! But I am so happy with my first attempt at quilting. I judged the lines by eye and I don't think I made too bad a job of it! Here's a quick 'how I made it' for you.

Step 1 - sewing together the mini charm squares with the aqua blocks in between to make 5 strips.

quilted cushion wip (2)

Step 2 - joining the strips together with the aqua strips separating each row of blocks.

quilted cushion wip (1)

Step 3 - attaching a piece of quilt batting and quilting the entire piece.

quilted cushion wip (5)

quilted cushion wip (4)

Step 4 - finish off with an envelope backing. I used a pretty floral print.

quilted cushion tah dah (6)

Step 5 - admire your cushion! (There has been rather a lot of this, I must admit!) Be prepared for quite a few photos. You can also see our new garden table and chairs. I sat on one of our old chairs last weekend and it collapsed under me! (It was rotten, honest!) We picked this set up at Homebase yesterday and gave it a test this afternoon between the showers!

quilted cushion tah dah (4)

quilted cushion tah dah (5)

quilted cushion wip (3)

quilted cushion tah dah (9)

quilted cushion tah dah (7)

I am so thrilled with it, I cannot stop myself from smiling every time I look at it. So far I have managed to keep it away from Flo's clutches, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time before she discovers it! She'll be putting in a request for a quilted cat bed next! I  cannot wait to make another one and want to rummage through my bag of scraps. Each little coloured block is 2.5" square, so it's perfect for using up quite small pieces. Watch this space!

My knitting has been rather limited this week because of very dry and sore hands. In fact, my hands have been catching on the wool and it's been quite painful at times. I have been using loads of hand cream to try to moisturise them, but nothing is really making a long term difference. If you have any brilliant suggestions, please let me know. See you soon! xxx

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Playing catchup!

I thought that I'd done quite a good job at blogging over the Easter holidays and keeping you up to date with the various projects I've been working on. But it would appear not to be the case! Just award me a big fat 'F' for fail!  I'm not quite sure how I managed to miss out so many things, I'm putting down to being so over the moon about getting all those blanket squares blocked!  Here's a quick trip back in time to show you what else I've been working on recently.

On the very last day of March, I squeezed in sewing my March Sugar Block Club block. I misread the pattern and cut the centre square too small, so added the pink border as I'd already appliqued on the flower petals. Despite this, I think it looks ok! 

March sugar block (1)

I decided to strike while the iron was still hot (quite literally!) and sew the April block almost as soon as it was released! I think that this one is my most accurate one so far. The tutorials are so clear, it's a lot of fun making each block. And by the end of the year, I'll have enough to piece together for a quilt! 

April sugar block

Here are all four blocks that I've made so far. Putting them together like this is good as it's shown me that I need some red in the next block. Do any other colours leap out at you as missing so far?

Sugar block club Jan - Apr

I also rediscovered the fabric strips that I'd started sewing together with the vague idea of making a quilt! I'd seen my blogging friend Gilly's quilt and admired it last year. She explained to me how it was made, so I bought some fabric and got started. I hadn't got very far when it got put to one side, so I spent a morning sewing the remainder of the fabric together and then cutting strips. I laid them out on our bed (yes, it's king size, nothing like aiming big for your first quilt, eh?!) to make sure that I didn't have the same fabrics next to each other. 

quilt in progress

Since then, I've made a start on sewing the blocks together and have three strips out of ???? (who knows?!) done so far. Once they are joined, I will have to do some online research as I have no idea how to actually turn it into a quilt!

quilt in progress 2

Of course, throughout my sewing, I have been under the eyes of the ever watchful Flo, who wanted a fuss made of her at the most inopportune moments! Having a cat try to nudge you for a stroke while you're wielding a rotary cutter is not to be recommended. I'm surprised she didn't end up with trimmed whiskers!

assistant Flo (1)

Remember Mr JK's Zebra Head hat? The one without a pompom?! I finished mine and made a spectacular pompom which I then needed to trim - with some trepidation I might add. It's like when you cut your fringe as a child and it's not level, so you keep cutting off more until you're left with no fringe whatsoever, just a few sad  wisps and tufts where your fringe used to be! Anyway, I did stop while the going was good and I still had a nicely rounded and plump pompom left. The only thing is, now I've made it, I can't help thinking that I'm too old for pompoms!! The pompom's days may well be numbered!

pompom zebra head

I've started a shawl using some handspun yarn. Entries for this year's spinning and weaving competitions at Fibre-East have to be in by the end of May. I'm not entering so many classes this year, but am entering a shawl knit from handspun yarn. The pattern is Brickless and I like the shape. I don't wear traditional shawl shapes, but this asymmetric shape works well for me. This was the yarn, spun during the Tour de Fleece in 2014. 

Briar Rose BFL TDF 2014 handspun (10)

I've almost finished knitting up the most green skein of yarn and am looking forward to more purple in the next section I knit. The colours are gorgeous, it is BFL fibre that I won from BriarRoseFibers - Chris is a bit of a magician at the dye pot! Here's a photo to show the progress so far and then a close up so you can see just how beautiful those colours are.

handspun Brickless WIP (1)

handspun Brickless WIP (2)

I have a number of new knitting projects underway too, but I will save those for another blog post. I'll leave you with a little tease though - a photo of the yarn I've picked out for a new sock design. It's a skein I bought last year when Mr JK and I were in Dublin, from an Irish dyer, Life in the Long Grass. I just love the colours, they sing of 'spring' to me! It's been a lovely spring day here, I hope the sun's shining where you are too. xxx

spring sock ideas

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Operation 'Block'

A long time ago, my dear knitting pal Snoopydog gifted me membership of the wonderful Natural Dye Studio Rainbow yarn club. I selected the DK weight as my yarn of choice and each month, received a wonderfully squishy parcel of colourful yarn. After twelve months, my rainbow was complete.

Knitting a rainbow! 003

I knew that I wanted to knit a blanket from it, and when Anne Hanson over at knitspot came up with the Love Squared blanket as part of her BareNakedKnitspot club, my pattern search was at an end. I began knitting the blocks at the start of 2015, with Flo eagerly monitoring progress on 'her' blanket!

Comfort Me block 1 done! (5)

I didn't get too far on my blanket journey before tendinitis reared its ugly head, putting pay to about half a year's worth of knitting. But once I started knitting again, I found the blanket squares to be ideal projects to work on as they were small and light, so there wasn't too much weight on my wrist. Bit by bit, I've added to my collection of squares, until in February of this year, I knit my 36th (and last) square. Happy days! Of course, I knew that the end of my blanket was still a long way off, as all the squares need to be blocked before each one has a crocheted edging. Then the individual squares need to be sewn together before a border can be added. But this holiday, I decided that it was time for Operation 'Block' to get under way.

The first task was to sew in all the ends. So armed with a darning needle, a pair of scissors and a mug of Yorkshire Tea, I got going.

Operation 'Block' (1)

Of course, I had some furry assistance. Flo was keen to do some quality control and naturally, she had to lie down on the square I was attempting to work on! She's giving me a look here, don't you reckon?! A kind of 'Paws off, this one's mine!' kind of message!

Operation 'Block' (3)

Actually, it didn't take me that long to sew in the ends, and before long, I had a mini-mountain of 72 yarn tails. 

Operation 'Block' (4)

Then the squares were soaked and pinned out. This had to be done in two stages because I ran out of both space and pins! Dye came out of both the red and orange squares, and one of the pale blue squares has a couple of orange streaks on the reverse. I didn't bother to try resoaking that one to see if the orange would come out as it's on the back. But it did make it very clear what I need to do about the edging yarn.

Operation 'Block' (8)

Operation 'Block' (9)

Originally, I had planned on edging each square using some undyed DK yarn from The Natural Dye Studio, but had read online about some of the colours bleeding. So I thought that a darkish grey colour would frame each one quite nicely. I bought some black dye and mixed it up and turned this little lot of yarn spaghetti ...

Operation 'Block' (2)

...into this! Yes, I know it's not remotely grey, it's blue! I assume that I didn't mix the dye strong enough but am worried about it becoming jet black (which I don't want) so I am planning on leaving it blue. I'm not sure it will go dark grey as the blue is quite a strong colour to cover over. I've tried it up against the squares and it looks ok!

Operation 'Block' (7)

So now I have a stack of squares, each of which needs to have the same number of stitches crocheted around the edges. Given that the squares have slightly different row and stitch counts, I am going to have to pay attention!

Operation 'Block' (5)

In the meantime, I've been having a play around arranging the blocks, but haven't come to any final decisions yet. What do you think? Any suggestions? I'll let you know when Operation 'Crochet' commences! xxx

Operation 'Block' (6)

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Treasures from bygone days

I had a whistlestop visit to Portsmouth this week to visit my 98 year old auntie. She recently went into a home and her house needs sorting. It's full to bursting, packed with all kinds of things. Loads of junk and things that should have been discarded long ago, but also some rather special and lovely things. Looking in a cupboard, I spotted some reels of cotton, and when I delved deeper, I unearthed a whole load of sewing bits and bobs. There wasn't time to go through everything, so I had a quick rummage and selected one or two things to come back home with me. 

I actually squealed when I found this beautiful button card. The buttons are still so bright and colourful and have such a sparkle to them. I'd quite like to frame it and hang it on the wall of my craft room.

treasures from bygone days (1) 
treasures from bygone days (3)

There was also a complete card of tortoiseshell buttons. I don't think I'll ever use them, it seems a shame to  spoil the card!

treasures from bygone days (4)

I pounced upon a pair of wooden darning mushrooms. They may well have been used to darn my great uncle's socks during the First World War. There is something so tactile about wood, the modern day equivalents hold no attraction for me!

treasures from bygone days (5)

A little cardboard box revealed a great many books of needles. These were some of my favourites. And do you know, they are in perfect condition! Not a speck of rust or tarnishing on them. Incredible. It's like they were bought yesterday!

treasures from bygone days (6)

Tucked away at the bottom of a wooden box was a small leather case. When I opened it up, I found thimbles, a variety of pins and needles and two cylindrical cases - one for needles and the other for pins. It is really charming and I would love to know more about it. Perhaps next time I visit my auntie, I'll take it and talk to her about it.

treasures from bygone days (7)

treasures from bygone days (8)

treasures from bygone days (9)

treasures from bygone days (10)

A few wooden reels of cotton completed my haul. There are hundreds of them there, every colour you can imagine! I wonder what treasures you have passed down in your family? xxx

treasures from bygone days (12)

Saturday, 2 April 2016

All Continental part 2

I am more than happy for Mr JK to do the driving whilst we are abroad, especially on the autobahns. I am in charge of the sat-nav, and keep an eye on where we need to go and when. I know I am a terrible passenger and poor Mr JK has to put up with me telling him to slow down or to watch out for another car! I don't mind driving around once we are there, but I find the German motorways quite terrifying. On many of them, there is no speed limit and cars appear behind you out of nowhere! So I try to focus on my knitting. The journey from Hoek van Holland to Bremen was particularly awful because of the heavy rain, but at least once we got into Germany, there were almost no lorries. In Germany, most lorries are banned from using the autobahns at weekends or public holidays. What a great idea that is! 

My head and hands were kept busy with my stripy socks - knit using the Magic Loop technique and Continental knitting! I know! Get me!! I had decided after my class at Loop earlier in the year that I needed to work on my Continental knitting in order to be able to tackle some colourwork more confidently. So, using some really bright (get your sunglasses ready!) yarn from Easyknits, I set to. I have to say that I am a total convert to both Magic Loop and Continental knitting. Once I got over the awkwardness of holding the yarn in my left hand so that I gave it enough tension, I found myself on a roll with the Continental knitting and find it much easier on my wrists. My technique for Magic Loop improved from sock one to sock two, so much so that it's pretty hard to see where I changed from one needle to the other. This photo is pre-blocking and I am hopeful that the slight lines will disappear once they have been washed. I am feeling rather smug about how well matched they turned out too!

magic loop continental knit socks (2)

I also had to finish Hermi's toe socks. I had got them to the point of knitting the big toes! I tried them on just to check them out for size. 

toes socks WIP before toes

Hermi tried them on too and I was able to measure how long to knit the toes so they'd fit him nicely. He was really pleased with them. I found them pretty uncomfortable to wear. I can remember crazing my Mum to buy me a pair of toe socks when I was a teenager. I think I wore them once, for about five minutes and hated them! I was so disappointed. 

Hermi's sauna socks (1)

I also knitted a hat while I was away. It's in a fun self striping yarn that I spotted back at Festiwool. Mr JK decided that he liked it, thank you very much, so who was I to say no?! He declared it to be a pompom-free zone, so I was able to finish it. His cousin was amazed that it was possible to knit a hat in a day, more or less. 

Zebra head (6)

I am making one for me, mine is slightly deeper because apparently I have a bigger noggin than Mr JK, and mine will also have a pompom, yarn permitting. I shall forbid Mr JK to wear his hat at the same time as me. I refuse to be 'Mr and Mrs Matching Hat'!!

Having knitted up two balls of sock yarn, there was, of course, a gaping hole in my stash (hahaha!) so Mr JK bought me a couple of balls to replace them (Happy Easter to me!) from the yarn shop in Delft. Two rather lovely tweedy balls - the Delft blues will be socks for Mr JK and the multicoloured will become socks for yours truly. 

Delft souvenirs (2)

I must share with you the amazing crocheted lampshade that was in the yarn shop. I had those paper lampshades when I was a student, but would never have thought about covering it with a layer of granny stripes. Seeing that makes me want to get back to my Cosy crocheted blanket, so I'll say farewell for today and have a bit of hooky time. xxx

crocheted lampshade

Friday, 1 April 2016

All Continental part 1

Greetings! I'm back home from our Easter jaunt over to mainland Europe. We had a great time catching up with family there. The weather was pretty atrocious on Good Friday when we were driving through The Netherlands into Germany, but after that, things brightened up and we were able to get out and about quite happily. On Saturday, we went up to Hamburg. Mr JK was only saying on our journey over that one day he'd like to visit Hamburg, and lo and behold, his cousin had planned a trip! Spooky!! Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany and has a huge port. It's linked to the North Sea via the Elbe River. It's an interesting mix of old and new architecture as you can see from these photos...

Hamburg - Germany March 2016 (2)

Hamburg - Germany March 2016 (12)

Hamburg - Germany March 2016 (8)

Mr JK was keen to go to the area where The Beatles played; a less than salubrious part of the city that I definitely wouldn't want to walk around after dark! But we visited the Beatles-Platz and saw the memorial that has been put up there. There are metal sculptures of The Beatles on what is meant to be a giant turntable. The names of their songs are engraved on metal around the turntable.

Hamburg - Germany March 2016 (6)

We took a boat trip around the port - massive container ships, cruise liners, naval vessels. You name it, we saw it! The weather was really bright and sunny and we enjoyed being out on the water. 

Hamburg - Germany March 2016 (4)

We walked through the St Pauli tunnel which goes under the River Elbe. It was built in 1911 and is open to pedestrians and cars. The cars have to use lifts to get down to the tunnel and up the other side. Quite a feat of technology! 

Hamburg - Germany March 2016 (1)

On Sunday, the Easter Bunny visited and left us a basket full of chocolate! The Germans love Easter; it's a bigger celebration on the Continent than in the UK I think. People decorate their gardens and houses with brightly coloured eggs. 

holiday cake and chocolate (12)

Easter in Germany (1)

It's always a bit of a non-stop eating fest when we are visiting, and I tasted some really delicious cakes. This was the offering on Easter Sunday - a blueberry cake. Well, blueberries are a super-food, so I reckon this is quite a healthy option, don't you?! Almost counts as one of your five-a-day!

holiday cake and chocolate (10)

We said our goodbyes on Monday and drove back towards home. We had planned a stopover in one of our favourite places - Delft. It's a really charming city, like Amsterdam but on a much smaller scale. We wandered around the canals as well as fitting in visits to both the Old Church and the New Church. Oh, there may have been a small amount of yarn shopping too, but that's all down to Mr JK. Nuffink to do with me, your honour!!! ;)


Walking back to the car, we spotted a cat, complete with bandana, people-watching from his sunny window sill. It made me quite homesick for Flo and I was happy that we were on our last leg of the journey back to Norfolk. 

more Delft (11)

There are loads more photos in my Flickr album if you're interested, or you can check out my Instagram timeline by following the link above, as I posted photos at every opportunity. I had plenty of knitting time as Mr JK drove. More of exactly what I knitted coming very soon, but let's just say that I am now a Continental knitting convert! Come back soon to find out more! xxx