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.

Green

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.

Moose

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!

Patchwork baby quilt

My husband’s brother’s wife has just had their first baby so I’m making a little quilt. They live in Australia and it’s summer now so I guess this will come in most useful in about 6 months’ time; or they could use it as a mat for him to lie on; or whatever they like!

I finished the quilt top last weekend and this weekend intend to quilt it. I can’t decide what quilting design to use. I’m bored with straight lines and in a way find them difficult because if it goes wonky it’s really noticeable so has to be pulled out and redone, which I don’t much fancy. As it’s only small I can do freehand, but need to decide what exactly. I get hyper-safety conscious when it comes to babies so don’t want any loose threads or things coming undone, so want a minimum of ends that need to be fastened in and will therefore be moving from one edge of the quilt to the other so the ends can be within the binding. Not that I’ve ever managed to start quilting in the middle like the manuals say, I can’t manage it without it looking messy.

I feel mildly guilty at the gender stereotyping of this fabric, though I know the respective grandmothers will approve and I don’t suppose the baby’s going to know or care! There’s no other circumstances in which I would use these fabrics, so I enjoyed it. All but the clouds fabric were part of two packs of 30 charm squares I bought on Ebay, I think cut and put together by the seller rather than by the manufacturer, so I don’t know what the make is. The plain colours felt to me like they’re thinner than the patterned, and puckerered up a bit when sewing, but improved with ironing and I think will be okay when quilted. The cloud fabric is Le Tissu by Domotex and is good quality. I bought a piece to use as the backing and cut just a strip off so there a few squares to include on the front so front and back tie in. I haven’t decided on the binding material yet.

baby quilt

The squares are 3 inches. There were more elephants I think than anything else so I had to include 2 or 3 on each row. The brighter blue fabric with bigger spots is the one that I think ‘pops’ so I wanted to make sure they were arranged so they were distributed evenly (but not symmetrically!) across the quilt. Needless to say I spent yonks trying to make sure there aren’t any inadvertent patterns in the way the squares of different fabrics are arranged. There are a couple of runs of diagonal elephant squares but at least they go in opposite directions so still look a bit random. It’s amazing how much effort random-that-isn’t-really-random takes. The only thing I tried not to do but couldn’t help was always having a bright blue dotty square next to an elephant square, it just wouldn’t work!

The corners of the squares don’t all meet perfectly, but none so badly that I felt it was worth unpicking and redoing, as I thought the same thing was likely to happen again, or I’d be worse off than before. This is the worst of them, so on the whole I’m quite pleased

baby quilt corner

Now I just have to hope that quilting it doesn’t ruin everything!

Oh, and I washed the quilt top after I’d made it because the fabric felt a bit rough and I wasn’t going to wash the squares first because of fraying, and it seems to have survived okay.

3 more autumn blocks

I made these over a couple of months, I think Nov – Dec., but thought I’d save them up to post them all together and a lot of time seems to have passed, with some intervening Christmas projects too. The last one is a rather wintery autumn, but I don’t care, I like it! Though whether the shade of green in it will tone with the other blocks is another matter…

I think these are blocks 47-49.

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The dark tan fabric that appears in all three, and the brown with a red and tan pattern that is in the first and last images, were both bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show I went to at Alexandra Palace in London in October and are by Moda. Don’t think I’ll be repeating the ‘Ally Pally’ experience, it was more expensive than the one at London Olympia I’ve been to in March and the heating was on so high I felt really ill at one point. I wasn’t the only one, judging from the red-faced persons fanning themselves; not much fun. Anyway, the fabrics with pine needles on are ones I bought in an online sale maybe last year and bought up what they had left to make a Christmas quilt one day, though I could have done with a bit more but it’s discontinued. I think they’re Holly Taylor for Moda. I really like her colour schemes.

In retrospect I’m not that keen on the middle one with the chrysanthemum, maybe a bit too brown, even though it is an autumn-themed quilt, there’s something depressingly 1970s living room about it, but I hope it’ll fit in with the rest okay.

I took all the blocks to show my Mum when I went to see the parents before Christmas, and we decided I need 14 more as well as the one I’m doing. So it must be 8 x 8 blocks though I forgot to count! The one I’m working on also has animals on it. Then I’m going to have to take stock again, count how many of the two different designs of block I have so I’ve got an even number at the end of it (!) and try and plan the next ones carefully. There are a few fabrics I’ve only used once and would rather include them in more than one block, for example, but then again there are some I used at the beginning that I wouldn’t choose now, like ones with a white background which aren’t great in an autumn quilt.

However, at home I’m making a baby quilt for my husband’s brother’s new baby, which was born on Saturday, so will of course prioritise that, then get down to the block planning. There’s also the pyjama bottoms I’m going to make for my brother and have bought the fabric for, so want to get on with those while the weather’s still cold, as it’s a warm brushed cotton fabric. So whether I’ll be able to plan blocks as well I’m not sure, could be it has to wait until February. Well, there are worse problems!

 

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.

Dadjumper

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.

Dadcable

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.

Dadjumperneck

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:

legs

And a pocket:

pocket

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.