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!

Knitting projects

I’ve temporarily run out of enthusiasm for my patchwork, maybe because trying to use up material for my last 12 blocks is giving me combinations that don’t quite work and / or need a lot more thinking about, and my weekends are devoted to the allotment just now. I’m having a burst of knitting enthusiasm instead, though my hands and shoulders are beginning to feel the effects.

In an attempt to stash-bust I started in December knitting a pattern I bought several years ago. The yarn is recycled cotton and comes in balls wrapped round wide cotton tubes, so is taking up a lot of space in my various knitting containers.

I strugggled with the pattern at first because it’s been a while since I did a lace knit and had forgotten what some of the stitches entailed. Then I kept dropping stitches without realising and of course lacy knits are a pig to pull out.

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Don’t really like the yarn either! I bought it in an online sale so didn’t see it before I bought it. Truthfully, reminds me of a dish cloth but I’m probably being unkind. But it’s made from recycled jeans (didn’t realise that when I bought it) so is eco-friendly. I’m ploughing on regardless, despite a nasty feeling it would have been better in the next size up. Might have been all right in a different yarn, but the cotton seems clingy, particularly in this pattern type with its cable panels. I’ve finished the back and it does stretch out widthwise more than it looked like it would when on the needles; maybe blocking it will help, I don’t know. If not, it may go to Knit For Peace or similar.

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I’m nearly finished the front, having started on the neck. Having eventually got used to the lace pattern repeat makes it quicker, but the cable panel is a 24-row repeat so of course I can’t remember that! Working out the shaping while keeping the pattern correct is a bit of a brain-teaser.

During the school holidays when the trains were a bit quieter at commuting time I could knit on the train but I need to stick out my elbows when purling two together and doing s1k1psso, so wasn’t getting more than 2 rows per journey done before someone sat next to me when the train stopped, so I’ve given up on that again now the holidays are over.

What I am doing now on the train is much more fun, a simple pattern in an acrylic mix with a self-striping yarn. It’s okay to do on the train, less need for sticking out the elbows! I wouldn’t normally choose an acrylic mix but the yarn shop where I live was closing down and I felt bad for her, not having used it much because I wasn’t really keen on most of the stock – being a small shop she sold mostly acrylic mix wools, and I always think they crackle with static, and bobble. Mind you, 95% of the wool garments I’ve knitted bobble too, some really badly (e.g. Rowan Polar) so I’m open to persuasion on that score. Anyway, I thought I should buy something as she’d a lot of stock to clear, so having done a preliminary browse to make notes on what she had, then gone to Ravelry for possible projects using that yarn, I got two balls of Sirdar Colourwheel with which to make a jumper. A lot of the yarns stocked are really intended for scarves, which these days make my neck itch regardless of fibre content, though I still have loads of scarves I can’t quite bear to part with. I found only one pattern using this yarn that wasn’t for a scarf or shawl, so that is the one I’m making.

I really like the way it’s knitting up, and the fibre content actually feels really nice. Just have to see how it holds up once the garment’s completed.

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Not for the first time – what was I thinking?!

I wanted to make some pyjama bottoms for my brother, buoyed by the relative success of my Christmas pjs and the realisation that without pulling on the elastic at the waist so much they’d fit him better than me (it’s a unisex pattern and he’s 6 foot, so a medium is about right). He likes moose and I wanted a warm brushed cotton fabric (this was January, when I started planning, and I thought I’d finish them a lot sooner). I couldn’t find fabric I liked, moose is I suppose not such a popular motif in the UK, so in the end I went to Etsy and found one I thought was better than the others. Alas, my judgement was off (and the postage cost a fortune, expensive mistake!). The fabric was much thicker than what I think of as brushed cotton or flannel, more like draylon as used on sofas c 197. The pattern also looked huge. I should have known, because it’s a different texture version of one I used for a patchwork block, and still I didn’t see how bad it would look as a garment until I had the fabric in front of me.

So I either ditched it, or made the damn things anyway. Reader, I made them. Oh dear.

For some reason I couldn’t get the elastic to go through the waistband so that took 6 lots of restitching and some manoeuvring with a knitting needle attached to a piece of parcel tape. Still, at least unlike last time I didn’t sew the legs together, so I sort of learned a lesson.

Anyhow, here they are. Taken at work before I parcelled them up and sent them for his birthday in early April, when it would be too warm to wear them anyway. I thought I was going to have them finished in February! (I did buy him other, actual birthday presents, as opposed to a weird dressing-up item). My husband thought they’d do as camouflage. I reckoned if he wore them to see wildlife they’d work a treat because all the animals would fall over laughing, then he’d get a good look at them.

Blocks 51 and 52

In my stroll to the finish line of 64 blocks I’m evening up the number of ‘stars’ as opposed to ‘diamonds’, as the pattern of the finished quilt alternates blocks with the centre 4 flying geese reversed. The first of these ‘star’ blocks I finished in February and enjoyed putting together, even though in the scheme of the quilt in may be more green than most, I love the colour combination. I made a similar one earlier but with the diamond centre and a bit of brown, so I wanted to make another with the flying geese reversed. I did want to include brown in this but just couldn’t make it work. If this isn’t the only block in the quilt that consists of only 4 fabrics, it’s certainly one of very few. Lots of nice Moda fabrics again, including Prairie Cactus, one of my favourites.

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This next block, on the contrary, is not one of my favourites. It’s the subject of my last blog post reworked so that the centre square is a lighter shade of brown, repeated on the outer four corners, and with the dark brown triangles on the outer edge replaced on two sides with all that is left of one of my favourite fabrics for this project (salvaged from an unsuccessful block I took apart). The trouble is that I could not get the centre four squares right, no fabric I tried looked right, so in the end this was the best I could muster. I’ve nearly run out of this fabric so couldn’t afford to do too much fussy cutting, hence the purple remains and I don’t like it. I don’t like the overall effect in that when it’s gloomy and you stand back from the block, the centre four squares blend into the dark orange of the star so it looks like a big dark lump in the middle. I think it would have been better with a smaller print but there was only one in my stash that sort of worked, but alas not well enough. So this is the best I can do. Orange and brown

I think I’m going to have to have a recount of how many blocks I still have to do! Thought it was 10 but if these really are blocks 51 and 52 then it’s 12…

Bad idea

I started making this. It is revolting! I don’t know what I was thinking. As I near the end I wanted to use this pumpkin fabric, because I’ve made one block with a little bit of it in and thought I should make at least one more with it in so that block wasn’t alone. I thought all of this was okay except the four little squares in the centre block-within-a-block and eventually decided these were the best I can do. But yuck! In the light of day, this has to come apart. Maybe I can swap another fabric for these centre four and it will be okay, but I’m not convinced. I’ve known this in my heart of hearts for days but just haven’t acted on it. At least I know what I’ll be doing on the commute home tonight (provided I have a seat). What I don’t think I’ll be doing is taking apart any more flying geese, the cream and the dark orange are being re-used as it is and are a bit frayed. But I do wonder if the dark brown is too dark here, and if I still think that when I’ve tried replacing the four little squares I may have to change the centre and outer squares too.

Yuck

Baby quilt

The baby quilt has been safely received in Australia. Not that the baby needs it in the hot weather they’ve been having, though they’re near Melbourne where it gets chilly in the winter so they may have a use for it in a few months’ time.

Baby quilt

Baby quilt hanging

Shan’t lie, I enjoyed using pre-cut squares! Apart from a few a cut from the cloud fabric I used for the back.

Doing a wavy design was fun, I can’t do freemotion quilting so it was nice to find a way of quilting that didn’t involve straight lines. I had a bit of a to-do working out how to do it, til I thought of using thin craft masking tape. They don’t line up, but I don’t think it matters.

Baby quilt back

I had my usual issue with finishing the binding. I almost had it right and in fact thought I’d finished, though not exactly as in the book I had it close enough that it would pass. Then I found I was so tired and the light so poor I’d managed to put the entire binding on inside out… then I couldn’t go to bed til I’d unpicked it so that was a late night. The result was that because I’d already trimmed where the binding met and it was at the wrong angle when you put on the fabric the right way round, I just had to sew over the top of it, complete with frayed edges (thought about blanket stitch but it seemed to make it worse and I’m bad at blanket stitch).

Baby quilt binding problem

So it remains the case that I have yet to finish a quilt with the binding done properly, grrr. Perhaps by the time I actually finish the autumn quilt that is my original ‘first patchwork quilt’ I’ll have worked it out!

We’ve had a weird extra-warm spell for mid-February so I spent a lot of time in the allotment this weekend, which was great (if back-breaking). Wish I could be there now!

North American wildlife block

I didn’t really set out to make a specifically North American block, but searching for ‘woodland’ fabric on Ebay in an attempt to find more of a fabric I’ve used before but run out of, I came across material with moose, bears, and deer. It had autumn coloured leaves and some pine cones, so autumnal enough to fit my theme and I couldn’t resist! It wasn’t actually that easy to make it blend in with others, perhaps because the background is very white and I’ve been steering away from that to more tan coloured backgrounds, or because there’s something about the way the animals are drawn, can’t quite put my finger on it.

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The centre came together easily but not the outer edge, and I’m not actually sure they go together. I like the fir tree patterned fabric but have only used it in one other, recent, block and won’t use much more of it (if any) in the remaining blocks because the green is quite different to other greens I’ve used. I think it’s a Moda fabric by Holly Taylor and I actually bought more to make a Christmas quilt or wall hanging with, but it’s completely out of stock anywhere I’ve tried, so I’m conserving what I have left. The dark orange I salvaged from a block I took apart and have been trying to find a way to reuse it ever since, but there are some tans and some greens especially that it shouldn’t go anywhere near.

Sorry the background to the photo’s a bit confusing, it’s the wicker lid of my laundry basket because I took it outside to photograph in natural light but didn’t want to put it directly onto the concrete because it had been raining, so grabbed this to use.

I’ve got 13 blocks left to make for this quilt and have started on the next block though I’m worried it’s using too much of one fabric in the same block. I tried deciding on my next blocks at the weekend but it’s getting a bit mind-boggling now, trying not to repeat myself, wanting to use more of certain fabrics I’ve got left over but not having ones to match them with, etc. etc. I’m keen to move on to the next thing so must stay focussed!