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

Christmas pyjamas!

 

It’s Christmas Eve! We’re in a self-catering cottage in the English Lake District, where the views and the wildlife are amazing.

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I finished the hems on my Christmas pyjamas in brushed cotton.

Though I think I made them a size too big I’m still pleased with them and think they’re the best of the three garments I’ve made. I won’t wear them to bed but they’re nice to sit around in – loose and comfortable! The pattern’s a New Look multi-option and unisex pattern. I don’t know the manufacturer of the lovely fabric, but bought it online from Croft Mill, at a reasonable £5.50 per metre.

The pattern has pockets, which I thought would be hard to do but it was ok.

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I’ve also today posted to Mum and Dad a patchwork quilted mat I made for them, to put underneath a nice red glass bowl they’ve got standing on a polished wood sideboard.

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The fabrics are by Moda and came in a pack of 6 inch squares I bought on eBay then cut into quarters. I love the rich autumn / winter reds and greens. I used it as an opportunity to try some freestyle machine quilting (no idea if that’s the right terminology, I was going to write freemotion, but is that only when you use a long arm machine?), by drawing a leaf vine design on with chalk. Unfortunately I kept not being able to see the lines, partly because sewing at night when even electric light on good enough. Some leaves turned out quite well, others not so much, with spaces where they join the ‘stem’, or zig-zaggy loops. The light’s not the only reason for that, though!

Anyway, I enjoyed doing it and the project’s a nice size to practise on. I’d like to be able to make the same pattern on the double bed autumn quilt I’ve been working on for years, but don’t think it’s possible!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to walking to Grasmere tomorrow to go to church, where Wordsworth’s buried so I assume also worshipped. Then a roast dinner using the small oven in the cottage, but no pressure to have it ready by a certain time as there’s just the two of us. Ooo, Carols from King’s has started – Happy Christmas everyone!

Christmas projects

I finished the jumper I was knitting my Dad for Christmas, which had to be done early as I was staying with parents last week so wanted to leave it with them to be opened on Christmas Day. It’s too big! Which is to say, I am gifting my father a large cable knit tent, with the expectation he wear it. The irony is that I started knitting the next size down and after about 50 rows decided it was going to be too small so pulled it out and started again. I’d bang my head on the desk but a) it wouldn’t solve anything, b) it would hurt, and c) what brains I have have been scrambled enough already.

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This is the second jumper I’ve knitted in this yarn, Rowan Hemp Tweed, and thought I knew how it behaved, and even shortened the sleeves slightly because I know I knit sleeves too long in chunky yarns, but in the end I just misjudged the relative sizes of father and jumper.

The pattern is from Martin Storey’s Easy Aran Knits. There were some errors in the pattern, fortunately easily noticeable, e.g. the rib at cuffs and hem was described as being row 1: K3, [P2, K2] to end; row 2: P3, [K2, P2] to end, whereas row 2 should have been [P2, K2] to last 3 stitches, P3. Actually, that was it apart from one regarding the number of stitches on the holder when making the neckband, but I’d have to double-check before defaming the pattern writer! I once met him for 10 seconds at a Knitting & Stitching Show and he was very pleasant.The cable design’s lovely.

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This is the first garment I’ve made with a shoulder saddle and sleeve extensions, to be sewn up at the back. Never having done that before I found it difficult and I think the end result’s a bit bulky, maybe I used the wrong stitch when sewing. The neck also looks small, but it feels okay on (I tried it on to see how big it was on me, seeing as we’re I think the same height now). The sleeves dangled beyond the ends of my fingers.

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In other Christmas projects, I’ve been making myself a pair of pyjama bottoms in a Christmas fabric. The third ‘dressmaking’ project I’ve attempted, neither of the first two having been spot on, and I wanted to avoid tailoring or fasteners, so pj bottoms seemed the way to go! Found a fantastic brushed cotton fabric at a reasonable price at Croft Mills online fabric shop (U.K.). Some brushed cottons are £10 a metre, which I didn’t want to pay, this was £5-something.

It’s a 5-option multi-pattern thing so the pattern took a lot of reading. Mistakes made include: misreading pattern so that I thought two small circles next to each other symbolised button holes (for the tie to feed through). Fortunately the symbols mean a gap had to be left there in the seam, so all was not lost. This is the first time I’d made button holes on a sewing machine and it was great! Thanks to the buttonhole making facility on my Singer sewing machine. Took me three attempts to get it to work because I didn’t realise you have to pull down a lever, and I put the metal plate on the buttonhole foot at the wrong side of the fabric, but fortunately it didn’t seem to matter. Here they both are on one leg, taken on the wrong side where the interfacing is to make it easier to see: the buttonhole where it’s meant to be, and where it isn’t! buttonhole

The pattern includes pockets, and it took me hours one Saturday afternoon to fathom out the construction on one leg, but once done the second leg was really quick. These are the legs under construction, showing fabric on right and wrong sides:

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And a pocket:

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I managed sewing the centre seam joining the legs (done twice for strength as per instructions), but sewing the outer seam, not so much. Ahem. Managed to sew the legs together on one side. Thought they looked strangely like a skirt, which could not be right. Bit like the time I sewed a jumper sleeeve to its body…

At least I realised when I’d only sewed one seam and not two! I’ve nearly finished now and have only the hems to finish. The pyjamas are also too big but I’ve tightened the elastic and it’s passable. I’d like to make them again in the smaller size. I’ll post a picture when they’re finished. It’s a unisex pattern and I’d like to make a pair for my brother (in a different fabric of course) because I think the size I made would fit him nicely, but he didn’t look overly enthusiastic when I showed him these. Can’t think why. I might make some anyway, but the only fabric I liked is in the US so P&P would cost a lot. It’s his birthday in April, I’ll try for then. And try not to sew the legs together. Lucky him, tee hee.

Snowmen

I’ve been making snowman Christmas tree decorations for the church I go to to sell at its Christmas Tree Festival. Thank goodness I’ve finished! They’re knitted in 4 ply wool and are around 2 inches high. They take ages to make, the arms in particular, which have to be rolled up and sewn down the edge before being sewn onto the body. The pattern was published in the Woman’s Weekly magazine when I was a small child and is by Jean Greenhowe. Mum knits these too and used to sell them at craft fairs. She adapted the pattern though, as the original pattern is for double knitting and had the head and body separated by tying wool around the outside whereas Mum threads it through the stitches when she reaches that point in the knitting. The original pattern had a broom, but that’s a step too far when one is trying to mass produce them! Downsizing to 4 ply meant the hat pattern had to be changed too.

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My Mum is a master of the art of snowman making, and kindly made lots and posted them to me for the church sale. As you can see, hers are more colourful, squidgy, smiley, and it has to be said, more popular (hmph!), than mine:

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She also made a few ‘snowman pops’ from a magazine pattern, just heads. So these are they in total:

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The church sale is in three weekends’ time but I’m away both for it and the weekend before, so had to deliver them to the lady who organises the sale either last weekend or next, so was pleased to do it last weekend as I’m running out of time for a number of other things, including knitting a jumper for Dad for Christmas. These photos are a bit dark because I took it on Saturday night when I’d finished the last one before delivering them on Sunday morning. Ugh, it was 11.30 p.m. when I finshed, suffering from Snowman Induced Fatigue Syndrome (SIFS), a rare condition, known to exist in only one person.

Mind you, it doesn’t help that I had to knit extra because I kept becoming attached to ones I’d made, especially if they have cute smiles. Here’s one that’s going to be on my tree this year!

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Christmas bits and pieces

We bought and decorated a tree at the weekend and I do like having it in the corner of the room, smelling all pine-y and nice! We got a Norwegian spruce so the needles will drop everywhere, but it was cheaper, smells stronger, and looks bushier so I like it, though it’s a shame the thin branches can’t hold the weight of bigger decorations. I think it looks better in real life than in the photo.

Christmas Tree

The prosecco on the mantlepiece, by the way, was given to my husband allegedly by a pigeon, for rescuing it from the chimney of his office at work… something to do with it being stuck and him putting a light underneath to lure it down and release it, when the works department wouldn’t help. The tag is written in very small writing and says he – the pigeon – has 20 baby pigeons who would have missed their daddy at Christmas. Someone in his office has a sense of humour! (I think the prosecco was left over from an office function, maybe the one he missed when we got snowed in).

I finished a hat I started knitting when staying with my parents. The directional knitting was okay until right at the end, when there would have been a strange lump so Mum and I just cut it off in its prime and pulled it through the last few stitches to finish it off. I also had a big old to-do when it said to keep knitting until it measured 20 inches, but that that had  to be on row 14 – it was too long when I got to row 14 and no amount of fiddling about with stopping it on a different row worked. I pulled out loads and now can’t tell you whether I pulled it back a whole repeat, or knitted it up again with a tighter tension. The yarn (acrylic) was a brand called Bergat that I hadn’t heard of before. Anyway, it sort-of worked except that it’s too big for me so I have to roll up the brim and with my round face it doesn’t suit me at all! The last hat I knitted wasn’t great either, but I got used to it, then I lost it. Perhaps I should give up on hat knitting.

Hat

Lastly, I made this cross stitch Christmas card kit for my brother, with beads. I really like the design, it’s effective yet simple (if a bit fiddly). This kit was in a sale but still really more than I should pay for a Christmas card, but I’ve kept the pattern and it should be easy to get the fabric and threads to make again. The worst part was putting it into the card holder using double-sided sticky tape. Only in the photo (which is on my mantlepiece at home for display purposes before I sent it) have I noticed the top of the pot looks wonky, I don’t know how, perhaps the fabric stretched when I stuck it to the card. Oh well, too late now. It’ll remind him of me at Christmas, like I’d let him forget (hee hee)!!!

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Card

Work Christmas carol service tonight then drinks and nibbles. Maybe having it on a Monday is to dissuade us from staying too late!

 

Cathedral Windows Christmas tree decoration

I’m just back from a week staying with my parents in the home I grew up in Northumberland (for those who don’t know it, a county in the far north east of England, bordering Scotland, with hills and a beautiful coastline). While there I made a Christmas tree decoration using a pattern I bought on Craftsy months ago. I’ve never done cathedral windows before, and think the effect of them is stunning, but knew that when the pattern introduction said it would be ‘easy’, ‘quick’, and ‘simple’, that wouldn’t be true – at least not for me!

It’s a double-sided decoration, the ‘O’ shape on one side and ‘X’ on the other. I followed the instructions with not the least idea of where they were heading. It’s a bit like origami, but with sewing. At least I though to use spray starch, because the pieces are tiny.

Here are the two sides after the first stage was completed:

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Can’t explain how I did it (and if I’d known what it would look like once unfolded would probably have positioned the left and right green triangles so the fabric pattern wasn’t facing the same way, but as it turns out you can’t see that when it’s finished); but the pattern if anyone would like to do it is by Shelley’s Studio. The green is scraps left over from the Christmas cushion cover I made for my brother last year. Hope he remembers to bring it out this year!

Then you sew a third colour on at the corners, and open up pieces to reveal the colours beneath, and sew them down. Rather like slits in Tudor gentleman’s robe, I suppose. This is one side mid-process:

O midway compressed

Unfortunately I forgot that I am hopeless at binding, at least the part where you have to get the beginning and end to fit together. I also definitely needed a longer piece of binding. I cut the pieces before going home and took them with me on the train, so when the pattern said ‘at least 14 1/2 inches’ I cut it to exactly that but should have made it longer. Although it’s a single rather than double binding I turned the edge up to stop it fraying, which the pattern didn’t mention though I think it looks better. But I ended up with not enough to make the fourth corner mitred like the others, and with a lump, not to put too fine a point on it, at the point where the start and finish of the binding met. So all I could do was make it as neat as possible and try to hide it under a thicker piece of velvet ribbon hanging than I would have chosen. Fortunately Mum had some I could use, because I forgot to bring any with me. I would have preferred to have the end of the hanging ribbon inside the binding, but even without the mess at that corner which needed to be disguised, couldn’t work out how to do that.

The overall effect of the finished item is nice, though the ‘X’ has come out better than the ‘O’. I would make one again, but be prepared to spend a long time on it. I wanted to leave this one with Mum and Dad so stayed up late, a Christmas ‘tradition’ I really must stop!

The ‘X’ in two different lights (to try and show the gold snowflakes):

X compressedX on wood

 

And the ‘O’:

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And in situ (blurred I’m afraid, I was in a rush)!:

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Changing seasons

We went on holiday to the North Pennines a month ago, but it doesn’t feel so long ago; so much crafting has been going on since then! Before we left, I finished this autumn jumper, in Rowan British sheep breeds boucle:

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It’s perhaps a size too big (the last two having been a size smaller than I would have liked it seems this time I over-compensated), but I like it.

I took projects with me on holiday that I can’t do on the train so don’t get much attention unless I’m on leave… an ‘extreme knitting’ rug, the quilt back and leaf shapes to do applique, and my cross stitch cushion cover. Also the pieces for the next autumn block, the wool to knit snowmen Christmas tree decorations, and even some pieces to make cathedral window Christmas tree ornaments. Good to have a choice! In the end, I focussed on the cross stitch, though mostly when on the long car journey, and the rug. Neither are finished, but are close, if I could have continued to focus on them when I got back.

Had some nice days when away…

And some less nice…

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… but it was great to be away.

When we got back, I did finish the autumn block:

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This reused the dark orange fabric in the centre that came from a block I’d dismantled, and used most of what’s left of a fabric I bought on ebay at the beginning of the project and which is best used for ‘fussy cutting’ because the motifs aren’t close together. It is an old fabric, thin and frays easily, so I’m a bit worried about how long it will last in the quilt. It’s quite hard to sew fabrics of different thicknesses together and I know this has ‘issues’! The tan coloured fabric is Moda and is very useful for autumn projects.

A last burst of colour in a London park a couple of weeks ago  (complete with dustbin, sorry!):

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Since then, I’ve been working on a Christmas present which I really need to have finished by this coming Friday, when I’m getting the train to stay with my family for a bit as sadly I won’t see them at Christmas, so if I have it finished in time I can take it with me rather than trusting it to the post. It uses the sewing machine so really I can only do it at weekends – evenings in an emergency but I’m tired when I get home from work and make mistakes – but these last few weekends have been busy, with my husband’s family visiting and other things, so it’s not gone as smoothly as I’d have liked. I should finish it by working on it these next few evenings, it’s just something I’ve never done before so I’m doing a lot of reading and re-reading of instructions!

Then these little fellows have kept me occupied… They had to be delivered to church yesterday, to be put with other items to be sold at the church Christmas Tree Festival next weekend. So early! I feel like Christmas is over with before Christmas Day is even in sight, it’s so confusing and the day itself a bit of an anti-climax, I guess that’s getting older but with no children of my own – sorry, that’s a bit depressing. I’ll have to get used to it, because that’s the way it’s going to be now, best make the most of it. My in-laws will come to us on Christmas Day so at least it’s not just the two of us. I’ll try not to stress out about the cooking, when people are older they have fixed likes and dislikes which take precedence and that makes me anxious, but I should calm down and try to get a sense of perspective, because it’s okay really. At least on home turf I can have a glass of wine with Christmas dinner, which they don’t do. Anyway, here are the finished snowmen, which took me an insane amount of time to finish, the earliest I went to bed each night last week was 11, past midnight some nights, and I get up for work at 5.50. Crazy little snowmen!

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