Christmas presents

I stayed with my parents last week, as I can’t stay with them at Christmas this year, and just managed to finish the Christmas presents I was making for Dad and brother before I left. Contrary to my giddy expectations of a previous post, Dad’s cardigan was not ‘the one’ – the first one I’d have completely finished ready to take with me or even, the pinnacle of endeavour, to have posted before I left in order to reduce the amount to carry on the train. It is a very heavy cardigan!

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When I got home I’d almost finished sewing it up (partly on the train!) but had still to make the buttonband and collar and of course to sew on the buttons. Due to having other things to do when I was there, a large hitch with the buttonband, and my usual inability to judge how long things will take to do, I ended up having a couple of nights of very little sleep while I worked on it and only finished sewing on the last button 2 hours before I was due to leave. Do I never learn?

I don’t recall ever having done a buttonband with a circular needle before, and found that my usual modus operandi when it comes to picking-up-and-knitting (which I hate) didn’t work here. I usually use a thinner needle to go along in the opposite direction, then knit on the way back, because I find it really hard to pick up the right amount of stitches. But pushing a circular needle all the way round, which was in any case difficult because I used the actual size you’re meant to use rather than a thinner one, and it kept getting stuck, left me with the unforeseen circumstance of then actually not being able to knit. Idiot! Thus we live and learn. I think it took me a whole ‘evening’ (after I’d gone to bed because I didn’t want Dad to see the garment, so for ‘evening’ read 10.30 p.m. – 1 a.m.) to push the needle through and a large chunk of the next ‘evening’ to pull it out again.

I also ran out of yarn for the collar, because I did a yarn substitution due to the yarn for which the pattern was intended not being available, and guessed incorrectly how much yarn would be needed. In the end, though, I think it’s better like this because I don’t know how much he’d love having a big lumpy collar. That did mean I never got to try short row shaping (wrap and turn), which I’ve never done before, but it was leaving it rather late to try a new technique so is no doubt for the best.

The pattern is for Berocco Vintage Chunky and called ‘Fitzgerald’. The actual yarn I used is Paintbox Wool Chunky, sold only online by LoveCrafts in the U.K., so far as I can tell. When I ran out I looked online and they’d sold out of that colour and the product couldn’t be bought anywhere else so may be made exclusively for them. It’s 50% wool, 50% acrylic. I thought I preferred 100% wool but that’s expensive and I actually think this is okay, though not eco-friendly.

It’s a very heavy garment though, especially with the moss (seed) stitch and cabling, so I hope he’ll wear it. It looks as thought it should be an okay fit.

 

The other present I finished was a pair of pyjama bottoms for my brother, with pockets, made from glow-in-the-dark fabric. Just what every self-respecting 29-year-old wants! Ah, what it is to have an embarrassing older sister. Fortunately, no-one except you need know!

Because I’ve made this pattern before I didn’t struggle with it, praise be, and when I set off to visit my family had only to sew the ends of the waistband elastic together, slip-stitch the casement edges together over hole for the elastic, and put the waist tie through. I’ve long since given up on that difficult bit for finishing seams (can’t remember what it’s called: overstitching?) and just use pinking shears instead. I used to think I was a perfectionist, then I discovered what it really takes to be a seamstress and settled for third-best.

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Autumn stripey jumper

I wanted to call this ‘rainbow’ jumper but it isn’t the ROYGBIV colours. It’s knitted in Sirdar Colourwheel, which I wouldn’t normally go for because it’s acrylic, but I’m glad I did, I do love it. It fits nicely, is comfortable, and because it isn’t wool doesn’t make me itch. The pattern’s by an independent designer and I bought it from Ravelry, being the only pattern I could find for the yarn that was for a garment rather than accessory (shawls). I only just managed to make it with the two balls of yarm, as I had to cut pieces out periodically for the sewing. I did faff about unravelling one ball and rerolling it from the other end, so I could have the dusky pink at neck and cuffs rather than the yellow or orange, I just thought it would look better that way. Did have a few problems with the pattern and had to contact the designer, but it turned out my problems were because her team had accidentally posted and sold the interim rather than the finalised version of the pattern! I actually finished the knitting and the neck a few months ago, but didn’t bother finishing the sewing up until the weather got cooler and I wanted to wear it.

In other news, I’ve a new job so we’ll be moving house / flat in January – once we’ve found somewhere to move to. I’ll be really sad to leave our allotment, so am looking to rent somewhere with a small garden, which fingers crossed might be possible where we’re moving to, which is a bit less expensive than where we are now, where renting somewhere with a garden would be far beyond our means. I’m already really busy trying to finish work and continuing professional development projects before I leave this job, but will get even busier soon when it comes to packing the flat (and garage!) up. I’ve got two Christmas present craft projects to finish but am nearly done with one and making good progress with the other. Whether I’ll have it finished in time to take to my parents’ when I go to visit them shortly, as opposed to my usual rush to finish it at nights when I’m staying there, is another matter…

Could this be ‘the one’?

No, not the bestest garment wot I’ve ever knitted. I don’t think I even like it that much, in truth. But it could be the first garment intended for a Christmas present that gets finished without it being a last-minute rush at 1 a.m. Not necessarily on Christmas Eve, this one, like previous ones, is for Dad and I go to stay with my parents in early December, so I want it finished about a month before Christmas. Usually what happens is that I have it almost finished before I go home but then end up staying up til past midnight in my old bedroom, night after night, til it’s done just before I leave! The plan is not this time. This time, I want to have it finished in plenty of time and post it home, because it’s big and heavy and it will be a significant non-addition to my luggage.

It’s okay, but not what I’d choose to make with unlimited funds and time. The yarn’s chunky so it’ll be warm but really heavy, which the recipient might not like (the weight, not the warmth, he’s always cold), but that can’t be helped.

The yarn’s Paintbox Wool Chunky, 50% wool and 50% acrylic. That’s a substitute for Vintage Berroco Chunky, which is 52% Acrylic 40% Wool 8% Nylon and costs twice as much. I used the yarnsub.com website to find it – it said Paintbox has very similar qualities but less yardage, so I guessed and bought 14 balls instead of the 12 called for in the original pattern. I’ve used 3 and a tiny bit to make the back, but because it’s so thick I’ve changed balls mid-row instead of at the end, so as not to waste yarn, but I don’t like doing this because it leaves a thick bit mid-row. I’ve done it on the back because I think that’s less noticeable, but won’t for the front. The colour is British racing green, not the teal colour the photo’s come out as.

The pattern’s a bit complicated in that the chart’s got colours as well as dot-and-dash symbols to indicate different cable stitches. I printed it out (it’s a pdf download) on my black and white printer thinking the symbols were enough, but hadn’t checked and didn’t realise sometimes the same symbol appears in different colours on different rows, so when I did spot that I’d done a whole repeat and had to pull out 20 rows. I also forgot that after the first go of the chart you start each repeat on row 3, and did my first row from row 1 – fortunately these two mistakes were both on the first repeat, so it could have been worse. The eagle-eyed will spot that I made a mistake with one of the first cables, just above the rib, so that one goes forward and the next goes back. I decided to just leave it, I’d done so much by then and being on the back and base I don’t think anyone will notice, and I can guarantee Dad won’t care! He won’t be able to see it from where he’s sitting anyway!

I have actually finished all the pieces of my multi-coloured jumper, including the neck, but have left stitching it up for now as it’s too warm to wear it so I thought I’d crack on with this cardigan and sew up the multi-coloured jumper later. That means I’ve got three unfinished cardigans & jumpers on the go… ah well, come January I’ll be back on target. Maybe even December, if this is indeed ‘the one’.

Chunky cardigan back

Patchwork mat

I made this patchwork mat for Mum and Dad’s sitting room windowsill, to protect it from being scratched by ornaments. It’s about 11 inches square. A great bonus was that I was able to make it from fabric I already had, I think in all cases bought for the autumn quilt but then not used. Though the pinecones fabric I just loved and bought even though I thought it might not go in the autumn quilt, so am glad I’ve found a good use for it!

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I followed the instructions in Linda Clements’ ‘The Quilter’s Bible’ on how to piece an 8 point star and used a multi-sized 45 degree diamond perspex template. Needed a bit of help from the other half to work out how it works! The piecing is by hand, the quilting on the diamonds by machine. The bit I’m least satisfied with is the centre, because there were insane amounts of fabric at the back making a big lump, and I couldn’t decide what to trim and what not. In the end I did trim quite a lot but I think it’s made a bit of a hole in the middle, if you were to go poking it that is, it’s not particularly noticeable otherwise. But there is still something of a lump, not that it matters with an ornament on top. You can’t really see it in the photo – or indeed in life unless it’s pointed out – but I hand quilted pine needle shaped motifs in each corner, but they don’t stand out. You can just see a bit of one if you look very closely at the top left of the photo (the viewer’s left, that is).

 

As usual, I couldn’t get the ends of the binding to meet and had to do a fudge. When reading the instructions I thought this was how you had to lay it out, but then re-read it and saw you’re supposed to open up the fabric, lay it out as for when you’re joining binding strips together, and sew, but I just didn’t have room. As in the baby quilt, I ended up just putting one end inside the other and sewing over it at a diagonal, so there’s going to be a bit of fraying. I really must work this out before binding my autumn quilt, but given that I haven’t finished the patchwork blocks yet there isĀ  time (a few years of it!) to work on that. Here’s a picture before I hand sewed the baclk of the binding, I think it shows the colour better.

A propos of nothing, some allotment photos. Really pleased with last year’s dahlias which overwintered in the garage and were replanted in a sunnier spot this year. This deep pinky-purpley one’s got so many flowers!

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Godetia, the seed planted directly into the ground where they are to grow, have been a revelation. Definitely planting them again next year! Here they’re mixed with dwarf dahlias and asters I grew from seed indoors then in our mini plastic greenhouse.

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This squash bed has gone a bit mad! (And yes, there is a renegade potato in there from last year). I planted a pumpkin and what we thought were baby gem squash seeds my husband’s father gave him, but they turn out to be what he thinks are patty pan squashes. Apparently he was also given some mixed squash seeds by father-in-law (passed me by – was I told? Hmm). Not sure I like the look of them, apparently you can eat them young like courgettes or presumably roast them when they’re older but they’re an awkward shape and I’m worried I won’t know when they’re ripe. I thought we’d planted everything far enough apart but clearly not, given that I can no longer work out where one plant ends and another begins. A recipe for problems I suspect but not much I can do about it now. Since this was taken more pumpkins have appeared and one is orange already! Need to read up on when to pick them, I guess not yet but haven’t grown them before so don’t know.

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P.S. I realised after posting last time I’d mislabelled nasturtiums as nicotiana. Don’t suppose anyone noticed, but if you did, sorry!

Autumn Block 53 (and allotment)

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Finished this a while ago, but I’m a bit all-over-the-place craftwise. I think I’ve now 11 left to make. I’ve now used up the last of the olive green rosehip fabric which I’m pleased with as it would be a shame to waste it. Getting the other pieces to match was a bit of a struggle but the fussy-cut pumpkins came to the rescue again. I slightly dread to think how many blocks I’ve used that fabric in; maybe it’s not as many as I think…

I’ve finished the LeMoyne Star placemat and sent it down to my parents on Saturday, so it won’t have arrived yet. I’ll wait to post about it until Mum’s received it! I may alternate and do one autumn block, one placemat, that will keep my interest piqued (I hope). However, I’m doing a lot of knitting and finding time at the weekend to design a new autumn block is proving to be tricky because I’m spending a lot of time in the allotment. So many weeds, so little time! We’ve visitors coming for tea on Sunday p.m. so I’ll no doubt be doing mad tidying and cleaning beforehand. This is how my mind workds – in preparation for that I have finished the front of one of the two jumpers I’m knitting, so I can put it away and it’s one less thing cluttering up the table in our living room! I really don’t like the jumper but have now ‘only’ the sleeves to do, so I’ll go back to them later, probably next year. I want to finish my multi-coloured jumper first, then start on a cardigan I’m knitting Dad for Christmas.

It’s exciting to see the allotment produce starting to come through, after a colder and wetter June than normal. Last year was baking hot which I hated more, and I suppose you can’t win either way. I’m happy my third attempt at nurturing a pumpkin seedling to teenager-hood has worked – so far, I don’t want to curse it! I’ve had a bad year for pumpkin and squash seedlings, they’ve gone leggy, got whitefly, snapped…. I think I’ve lost at least 4 that had got as far as being planted in the soil outside. I’ve one ‘winter squash’ that needs to get bigger and stronger before it can go in the soil, but otherwise I think that what’s planted is all there is to go in the ground, just have to keep feeding and watering! Planted lots more flowers this year and am enjoying those, even if some of them (roses mainly) went ‘splat’ in all the rain we had. One nasturtium I grew from seed and nearly lost is now rampant (the orange flowered plant in the photo) and has almost swallowed the beans.

LeMoyne star early stages

I’m having a bash at a LeMoyne star for a placemat. My parents have had new windows put in and the new windowsills scratch easily so Mum suggested I make some mats for them, which pleases me greatly as it’s nice to have an excuse to try something new and to use up some of my stash. Trying out new things on a small project is ideal. So I browsed through Linda Clements’ ‘Quilter’s Bible’ and settled on the LeMoyne pattern. I really want to try something with shapes other than half-square triangles and flying geese, but am a bit daunted by templates. I did use templates for the farmer’s wife cushion 9-block cushion cover I made a couple of Christmasses ago and it was easily the hardest thing I’ve done in quilting terms!

This was me yesterday, trying out a few different combinations (not including the corner pieces. I decided on the one without pink, though I may use it for the binding. I will use the other pieces I cut for another place mat, to be decided.

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I cut out the pieces using a rotary cutter and a multi-size perspex diamond template, though I think I made a mistake cutting out the green ones because I thought straight grain could be either horizontal or vertical, but the first strip I cut (the plain green) was really stretchy which made it hard to cut around the template accurately; I cut the patterned fabrics on the grain that runs parallel to the selvedge and that was much easier. I don’t have a right-angled triangle template so cut squares then cut them in half diagonally.

I’m sewing the units of 2xdiamond + 1 triangle using the inset seam method as explained in the Quilter’s Bible, though I’m confused by it also saying to offset the seams as I don’t see how when the point has to go where the point where the two diamonds meet, but I’ve gone ahead and hope it makes sense later.

So far I’ve sewn together the long edges of two sets of diamonds (it was three but one wasn’t accurate enough and then I saw I’d sewn it with the wrong edges together for the pattern anyway) and have attached the triangle to one. This is it when I had the last seam of the triangle left to sew on.

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When I finished the unit I found I’d made the half-square triangles too big, they line up with the edges on the diamond before they’re sewn together, but not afterwards! Glad I only made one set.

This is the finished unit, front and back. It’s bulky where the points meet and you can see some stitches at the point, but it seems okay… have to wait until I’ve done some more to be sure.

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Knitting, sewing, gardening

I’ve been working on and off on sewing a top using fabric I bought in a sale a few years back without a plan other than I’d use it to try and teach myself how to sew. I bought three lots of fabric in that sale and have made simple tops with two of them, neither of which turned out brilliantly but I’m learning. They don’t have sleeves so this is my first attempt at sleeves. I haven’t got as far as the sleeves yet… first I had to do a ‘facing’ for the first time. There could be a long-term problem with this top because you were supposed to cut the facing piece against the grain and I didn’t have enough fabric, nor could I find it on sale anywhere. I tried buying a contrasting piece but when the fabric came it was the wrong shade of red so I’ve given up and am just making it, thinking I can use it as a prototype or practise piece, because it’s unlikely to work out according to plan anyway.

Here it is so far. I’m working on it slowly because finding time is a problem, I’m working on the allotment during daylight hours at weekends and the sewing machine and tv are in the same room so evenings if husband’s watching TV I don’t like to start noisy sewing (though he doesn’t vocalise an objection I still feel bad). Anyway, there you go.

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I find seeing where the stitching’s going difficult when sewing close to the edge so had a couple of pull-out moments and the sewing’s in two parts.

Knitting’s going okay. I finished one side of the neck in the annoying lace-knight cable jumper. Second side of the neck you’re supposed to rejoin yarn with right side facing, but the end where the yarn is it would have to be joined wrong side facing, so again I need to concentrate on it. The acrylic mix self-striping one’s racing along although I don’t love the mustard yellow:

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I had great fun at the weekend trying to list my ‘stash’ on Ravelry (it’s still not all there!) and breathed a huge sigh of relief at finding the pattern I decided a long time ago I wanted to use for the Rowan Calmer yarn I bought at a Knitting and Stitching Show. That was one colour and the pattern I found has two more colours and I remember spending ages searching the internet to find some contrasting yarn – and of course having to pay full price and so counteracting the effect of buying yarn cheaply at the Show – so it would have been a pain to have lost the pattern.

The allotment’s doing well though we’ve had problems bringing on squash from seed this year for some reason, don’t know why. Also, May’s had some cold snaps which delayed when I could plant them out. We’ve made a new flower bed this year (a long and narrow one with rose bushes in it, the one with the lovely magenta alliums here we made last year). In the new bed we’ve planted a combination of plants grown from seed indoors and some sown where they are to flower – I’m looking forward to seeing how they come on, we’re just getting to the stage where it’s possible to tell which are weeds and which are wannabe flowers!