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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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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Jumper(s) in Rowan Hemp Tweed

I finished the jumper I’d been knitting for myself in Rowan Hemp Tweed, shade ‘pine’. Blocking definitely made a difference to the finish of the piece. I like the feel of the yarn, warm but not heavy. The only down side to working with it is that there are sharp bits that have to be pulled out, but pulling them out doesn’t seem to damage the yarn.

The pattern’s ‘Gotland’ by Lisa Richardson. I had to pull out some of one sleeve and reduce the number of rows in the shaping of the upper arm, because it was too long, which is usual for jumpers I make for myself. I don’t think I’ve got unnaturally short arms, just that my knitting is loose! Often the pattern has shaping and then you have to continue straight to ‘x’ cms but I find that by the time I’ve finished the shaping I’m already at ‘x’ cms. Here I did have to continue straight but when I finished the whole sleeve it was too long, so I pulled out and made some decreases that were to be on every 8th row, on every 6th row instead. It seems to have worked okay. It’s unusual for me to have completed a handknit garment that’s actually in a colour that’s ‘in’ this season, but lots of people are wearing nice shades of green, a colour I like (in certain shades) so I’m quite pleased!

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I like the detailing at neck, hem, and cuffs. I need to wear round necked jumpers because, ironically, wool makes my neck itch!

In double-quick time, I’m making my Dad a jumper in Rowan Hemp Tweed for Christmas. More accurately, I’m making it in time to go and stay with my parents in early December so I can take it with me, so I’m practically doing endurance knitting! It was disheartening when I decided I was making the wrong size so had to pull out 4 or 5 days’ worth of knitting, but am now nearly finished the front.

I’m making the front first because the pattern is for cabling to front and back but I don’t like it on the back in this pattern so am going to make it plain, but am concerned that will affect the width so thought I’d make the front first so I could hold the back against it when I’ve done a few rows past the hem and see if it looks okay. Don’t know what I’ll do if it isn’t, as I don’t want the number of stitches to be wrong for the armholes, so imagine I’ll plough on regardless, but there we go!

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On Saturday I’m going to a knitting event in central London, ‘yarnporium’. Not that I need to go, I’ve a mountainous stash and it’s a day not knitting (another reason for working fast at Dad’s jumper) or working in the allotment, but curiousity overcame my common sense.

Blocking, and a trip to Kew Gardens

The two aren’t related! I finished the main elements of my jumper last week – ‘Gotland’ in Rowan Hemp Tweed – but haven’t had the opportunity to start sewing it together so I could start on the neck. At the weekend we took the train to London and went to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. It was great! Apart from the rain, so I got soggy feet, but there was so much to see in the glasshouses we spent a fair bit of time inside anyway. We got there in the afternoon and knew when we left we hadn’t seen it all, but looking online when we got home realised just how huge it is and that you couldn’t see it all in one day anyway.

The Palm House at Kew Gardens
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So last night I decided it was time to think about sewing up the jumper. However, confession time… I have never blocked a garment before! Or indeed, anything. I hadn’t even heard of blocking until reading ‘Nothing But Knit”s blog: https://nothingbutknit2.wordpress.com/. It will have been referred to in patterns and in the Rowan knitting magazines I sometimes buy, but I must have glossed over it! Mum never does it so it isn’t something I picked up at home. The Gotland pattern says to block, so with much trepidation I looked up online how to do it. I haven’t blocking wires, blocking pins, blocking mats or other equipment, and frankly nowhere to store them given how much quilting paraphernalia I have lying about, but it’s a simple pattern, no lace or cabling, just some detailing to the hem and cuffs, so I decided I could do without. I approach getting knitting wet frankly with trepidation, bordering on downright fear. I’ve had bad experiences in the past with washing garments on the wool or even silk cycle in the washing machine and them felting and shrinking, so know I must handwash them, but still I fear the results. So with some anxiety I placed the pieces in the bath with some lukewarm water and handwash liquid, left it for what I thought I’d read somewhere should be 15 mins but later read was 5, rinsed them gently, then considered how best to get the worst of the water out without wringing it, before the rolling-in-a-towel bit I’d read about. Husband decided to get involved, probably because I’d been vocalising my concern which he takes as a plea for help (don’t know if he’s right, haven’t psychoanalysed that yet), and rather worryingly decided to fold pieces in half and then quarters before pressing down on them. I was worried that would put lines in them so made him stop! I squeezed mine gently, don’t know which was worse. Anyway, we then did the rolling up in old towels in a manner akin to making a roulade thing, and I was amazed by how much water that got out of them. We then laid them on the floor on yet more towels and though I was going to just pat them into shape I found the edges were still curling up, so went pinned them all to the towels around the edges. I made sure not to pull them and pinned them in the shape I think they should be. In the process I found that the chest is about an inch wider than it’s supposed to be. I read later that blocking can make the garment bigger, but I’m a loose knitter anyway so don’t know whether to blame the blocking, and in any case don’t mind because it’s a winter jumper and being on the big side’s better than on the small. They were still a bit damp when I left for work this morning, when I took this rubbish photo – it was still dark outside and I didn’t have my camera to hand so this was taken on my ipad. If they aren’t fully dry when I get home tonight I’ll lie them on the clothes dryer I have, which is a very low temperature electric thing with ‘shelves’ to lie items on, and I’ve used it to dry delicates and even teddy bears on before so think it will be fine, just for an hour or so, I wouldn’t leave it on overnight.

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Here’s a slideshow of some photos of Kew, though first are 3 bonsai, because I think they’re amazing – one is 80 years old, and getting on eye level with them is really like looking at a full size tree. Won’t be growing any myself, but you have to admire the people with the patience to do it. The first picture in the slideshow, by the way, is steam coming into the palm house, it skooshes out automatically every few minutes, nifty. The titan arum from Sumatra isn’t in flower and I’m not sorry, it only flowers for 2 days every year and when it does it apparently smells like rotten flesh, an experience I am willing to forego.

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Autumn blocks 45 and 46 + some knitting, and project planning

I finished the first of these a few weeks ago but wanted to wait til I’d done two before posting them here. The one with the pumpkins is much the nicer of the two.

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The first one is all riggghhht, I suppose, but not wildly enthused, I’d pre-cut the central square literally years ago and wanted to use it and the 8 matching triangles I’d salvaged from other blocks I’d taken apart, as it’s discontinued. I don’t even know what brand it is, I got it from ebay years back. It should be a good blender fabric, with the red and green, but for some reason I struggled to match it to my stash.

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The dithering over the best colours to use was phenomenal! Lots of variations and photos (below) – at first I was convinced I needed the dark orange fabric in it, but it looks terrible next to the browns. Some of these are really yucky! I also tried different tan background fabrics for the outer flying geese before settling on the plain, even though it’s so close to the base colour of the small leafy fabric. Looking now at the slideshow, there’s one I sort-of wish I’d made instead, but I’m not changing it now!

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With the pumpkin one, I was really only stuck over whether to use the green rosehips metallic fabric or a darker green leafy one, but I think this turned out for the best. (It isn’t really that curved, I laid it on a small seat next to the window because it was the only place indoors I could get any light, and the chair seat curves down at the front). The brown fabric is one my husband kindly bought me a couple of years ago when a fabric sale came to our village when I was away. Given that he’s colour-blind and it’s not traditionally seen as a ‘man’ thing to do (one of the sellers asked him if he makes shirts!) I think it was good of him. I hadn’t meant for him to try to find autumn fabric, I’d specifically said to get something he liked with the mad idea of challenging myself to make something in colourways I wouldn’t myself have chosen, but instead he bought things he thought I’d like for my project. I confess however I didn’t really like this brown fabric, but am glad I’ve used it here now, it looks fine and it would be a shame not have used it when he’d gone to the trouble. He bought one in the same pattern but green but I couldn’t use it in this quilt, it’s the wrong shade, but one day I must make something for him with it, maybe a pencil case?

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It was about a week ago that I finished this but am deeply ‘into’ a jumper I’m knitting myself and little knitted snowman Christmas tree decorations for the Christmas tree festival the church I go to holds in the first week of December, so will need them for the middle – end of November. Also, not only is my husband’s brother’s sister pregnant and due in January, my schoolfriend is expecting in December, so I’d like to make little baby quilts for both of them. It’s in autumn I feel most inspired to design autumn blocks, but will probably have to let it go for now – though having said that, the baby quilts will be made on the sewing machine and the autumn blocks I can handsew on the train, so maybe I’ll do a couple. Except, I thought I’d knit Dad a cardigan for Christmas…

… too ambitious?!!!

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Jumper sleeve, in Rowan hemp tweed