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

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!

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!

 

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!

Gotland

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!

Cable

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
Fraxinus americana autumn purple

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.

Sept 2018

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