Friday, December 23, 2011


Ever since I was in high school, I have always thought it would be a lovely thing to have a Christmas tree decorated entirely with handmade decorations.  And have I done anything towards that idea since?  No.  No I have not!

I have bought some lovely decorations (yay for half price sales post-Christmas!) and I have made decorations for others (gifts and swaps with knitting groups) but none for myself.

Until now!  I saw this book recently, on a blog maybe, or Ravelry, I can't recall now, and when it became available from an Australian seller, I bought it!
How could I not?  Look how cute Arne & Carlos are!  Love them!  And they have the cutest video on their website, check it out!

There are so many great patterns to choose from, all using the same basic ball shape.  Some are christmas related pictures, while there are also patterns as well.  Most are simple two colour designs but there is one or two with three colours, and some use glitter/lurex yarns.

Pattern:  I've always loved rocking horses, so the choice for my first ball was (fairly) easy - #27, rocking horse.
Yarn:  MillaMia Naturally Soft merino, in 160 Fawn and 140 Scarlet (about 10g in total).  This is lovely yarn to knit with!

Sticks:  3mm KnitPicks Harmony dpns.  Most of the designs are split into quarters (making it easy to divide over 4 dpns).  I might consider using magic loop for the next one, see if that helps with my stranding.  Because it is a bit bubbly, although steam blocking (over my electric kettle!) helped.  As did stuffing the balls.
Modifications: I used Emily Ocker's cast on, to tighten up the cast on hole nicely, rather than doing this once the ball is finished, as the pattern suggests.  It is a bit fiddly casting on 12 stitches using this method, but I managed it.

I also, accidently, did the decreases differently, as I was working off the chart for the design, rather than the basic pattern, but it doesn't really matter.  I will try to do them as per the pattern next time to see what difference it makes in the look!

I also used the end of the yarn (once finished) to crochet the hanging loop, rather than doing it separately.
I know there's only one ball (Ball! just didn't sound as silly for the subject) but there will be more!  It might take a while to get a whole Christmas tree of decorations, but I will get there, eventually.

Have a great holiday!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Garden makeover - baby steps!

A couple of weeks ago, we had a horticulturalist in to look at our backyard and discuss ideas for using it better, both from a practical and an attractiveness perspective.  It was really useful, because it confirmed some things we thought, and gave us some new ideas.

These shrubs are at the top of the retaining wall.  They were here when we bought the house.  We've trimmed them a bit but that's it really.  Husby was most pleased when she recommended we get rid of them!
In fact, he was so pleased that he cut them out the very next day, first thing in the morning!
And despite my misgivings about losing some plants, she was right.  We can now see our backyard from the outdoor dining area and from the loungeroom behind.  It really does open up the space nicely.
To make it look a bit less spare (until we do the actual work in the yard) we've planted some petunias.  Just writing that (not t0 mention actually doing it!) makes me feel so middle-aged, heh!  I associate petunias so much with both my mother but especially my mother in law, who plants some every year. 
Well, maybe they are a bit old-fashioned to me, but they do add some nice colour, which is appreciated right now given the grey old weather we've been having the past few weeks (I still can't believe it is summer and almost Christmas!)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Third time lucky

I have this yarn - my very first Wollmeise, a lovely gift some years ago now (thanks again Michele!).

I have tried to make something out of it twice before.  The first time, I just decided I didn't like the pattern I'd chosen.  And I was glad to frog it.

The second time, I loved the pattern (still do) but the gauge wasn't right.  So after some time, I frogged it too. 

This time, I have hit the jackpot!  I decided to use this very special yarn to make a special something for me for my birthday.  So for about 6 weeks before my birthday, I was quietly working away on this, which I called my birthday suit!
Pattern: Charlotte Skirt by Doris Chan, Interweave Crochet Summer 2010.  I know!  A crochet skirt!  And it's not even the (19)70s!  heh heh!
Yarn:  2 skeins of Wollmeise 100% Superwash merino in Rosenrot (yep, that's RoseRed in German!).  Actually, it was less than 2 skeins, probably about 1.5 skeins in all.  They are some big skeins, such good value!  And of course you know what I did with the leftovers...yes, more sexypuffs!

Hook:  4.5mm hook

Time:  30 September 2011 - 9 November 2011.  Crochet really does go so fast!
Modifications:  I made the pattern as written, except to make it much longer (as written, it would be shorter than knee length on me - I don't think it's a great idea to flash my 40 yo knees to anyone much any more!  So I did an extra 20 rows (repeated rows 13 and 14, I think - the last 2 rows before the increases), to the length desired. Which fortunately coincided with finishing the first skein of yarn - so I blocked it, to see how much it would grow with blocking.  Lucky I did, because it grew quite a bit!  Loose gauge will do that for you!
What I learnt:  Three main things:
1.  How hard it is to find a plain black straight skirt to wear underneath!  If I'd had time, I would have sewed a skirt.  In fact, I probably could have sewed one in the time it took me to find this one at the shops!
2.  I made a "foundation chain" for the first time.  It was a bit fiddly but I got the hang of it after about the first 10 chains!  I'm not sure it is better than a regular chain.  I suspect it is. I figured when making a skirt for the first time, I should just follow the experienced designer's instruction, as I suspect she had a good reason for doing it this way!

3.  Best not to store your yarn out on the coffee table, no matter how attractive it looks...because when you go to wind it some years later, this is the outcome:
Woops!  At least it was still usuable!  The rest of the yarn that was on display is now quarantined in ziplock bags!

I do love my lovely rosered swingy birthday suit skirt! And because I frogged a pre-2011 project to make this, I figure this counts as another Binding off 2011 challenge project done!  Woohoo!

Monday, December 05, 2011

StashDownUnder - November 2011

Lots of knitting and crochet this month but I'm afraid I fell off the wagon when it comes to yarn purchases.  A ball here, a holiday skein there, a couple of destash temptations over there, a "well, I'm going hopeless anyway so I might as well buy another ball" here.
And surprise surprise, its all red!!  (shown with a bunch of donated leftovers for my Beekeeper Insanity). 
But on the Beekeeper front, I am doing well!  35 puffs this month, ahead of schedule!  Yay! What do you think of the chevron arrangement?
In: 14 x 50g balls (ulp!)
Actual balls used: 6 x 50g balls
8ply equivalent: 12 x 50g (LOTS of 4 ply work this month!)
metres used: 1395m

Year to date
Actual balls used: -4 x 50g balls. 
8ply equivalent:  102.5 x 50g balls
metres used: 11978m

Last month I commented that I might come out stash negative or at worst stash neutral by the end of this year.  I am predicting right now that that will not be the case!!  Darn you Rowan for discontinuing Calmer!  (not that I've bought any yet...but I'm prety sure I will be!)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I read a book (or three)!

My Roald Dahl fest continues!  Since my last update, I have "read" James and the Giant Peach, and The BFG.

I liked each of them very much, but did ponder what wonders would have fallen upon James if he just hadn't tripped under the tree!

I have also finished listening to another audiobook which I've had on the go for a while.  Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, by Winifred Watson, read by Frances McDormand (who starred as Miss P in a movie adaptation made in 2008).  I wasn't too keen on the reading at first, but then McDormand grew on me, just as this book did.  I found it delightful!  

I suppose it would be considered a romantic comedy, a fish out of water tale, and not especially earthshattering or controversial. But I really enjoyed it and would recommend it over much of the "chick lit" out there at the moment (not that I've read much of that, but in comparison, this book doesn't make you feel like you are cheating on all the "good" books you should be reading instead!).
And in case you were wondering, the pictures are of the current books on my (not literally) bedside table - all birthday gifts!  Thanks to Jody, Lyn and DrK.  I do love a knitting book! So many possibilities!

Friday, November 11, 2011

I believe in Yesterday...

So, here's the deal:

Yesterday, I Turned Forty.

Yep. 4-0


Perhaps if I say it often enough it will seem real? It's not that I have a problem with it. I don't at all. I am very happy with where my life is at.  Of course, there are things that, if being totally honest, I would like to change.  But these are all things beyond my control. And so I don't let those things bother me. It still feels a bit weird to be 40 though.  It's an age that seemed positively ancient when you are a child.  And yet when you reach it, you still feel a bit of a child yourself.  But without a lot of the insecurities of childhood (especially teenager-hood!).  One of the great benefits of aging!

I had a great day! My mum came to visit for a few days and husby took the day off work. The day started with baby snuggles and a gift, then a sleep-in (until 9am! unheard of!). After breakfast and shower etc, I had a pedicure and got sushi for lunch, followed by fancy cupcakes.
And then a trip to the Zoo! It was a warm day but our Zoo is in the perfect location for cooling sea breezes, so it was lovely.  And not nearly as busy as going on a weekend.  The perfect birthday expedition.
And finally dinner out with husby while Nanna looked after the little fella.  A local restaurant, which meant we could (a) walk and (b) drink a bottle of champagne between us.  Weeeeeeeeeee!

A perfect end to a great day!

I leave you with a sneak peek of my super special birthday suit - not a suit as such (and no, not no suit at all, heh!).  A little project I have made with some special yarn (my very first wollmeise!). 
I shall reveal all later this month!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

StashDownUnder - October 2011

Ooooh, I had a good month this month!  Lots of knitting (and crochet!) and only a small amount of yarn in...well, it wouldn't be me if there was no yarn in, would it?!

I bought a skein of red alpacky sock yarn (for the Beekeeper, what else?!). I felt the need for some fuzzy alpacky sexypuffs.  And I acquired some red leftovers from Zena and Donna:
And speaking of the Beekeeper, I had a really good month on the sexypuffs - 36!  I wonder if I should do the blanket in diagonal stripes?  A row of plain puffs and a row of variegated?
In:  3 x 50g balls
Actual balls used:  8.75 x 50g balls
8ply equivalent:  15.5 x 50g balls (yes, lots of 4ply action this month!)
metres used: 1582 (that crochet really does use up the yarn nice and quick!)

Year to date:
Actual balls used: -2 x 50g balls - I really think I have a good chance of coming out stash negative or at the worst, stash neutral this year!  How novel!
8ply equivalent: 90.5 x 50g balls
metres used: 10583m

Woo hoo, I cracked the 10,000m mark!  That's over 10km of yarn!  Go knitting!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's Fauxsoni, dahhhhling!

Thank goodness for Ravelry.  Otherwise I would have no idea when I even started this project.  Except that it was sometime after I moved to my current home (so in the last 3 - or is it 4 - years!).  It has been 95% finished for some time (I can't even remember that, either!).  Just waiting for me to sew a lining and sew on the handles.

Which I have now done!  So may I present the Fauxsoni Tote!

Pattern:  Felted Chevron Tote by Leslie Ann Bestor, from Interweave Crochet, Winter 2007.  I do love a chevron.  I do love Missoni.  I do love a self-striping yarn.  These three combined to make a match made in heaven!  This is a very easy pattern - basically make a big piece of crochet chevron, sew it into a tube, crochet a base and sew it on (I think - I can't even remember whether it is sewn on or crocheted on!) and then felt it!  Woo hoo! 

And just in case you think to yourself, "but I have a front loader, I can't felt", well, take it from me, you can!  I think I put a pair ofold  jeans in with this to add a bit of friction, and did it on a full hot cycle, and it worked perfectly!

Felted Chevron Bag - pre felting
You can see in the before and after photos how much it shrank with the felting process.  Just the right amount, fortunately.  This is a very nice sized bag!

Felted Chevron Bag - post felting
Yarn:  The sadly discontinued Cleckheaton Vintage Hues.  Sad because it is the perfect felting yarn.  I used 7 x 50g balls of colour 1273 for the bag, but of course you could use fewer if you made the bag smaller, or used a different yarn for the base.
Hook:  7mm.

Time:  3 June 2009 - 25 October 2011.  Really!  I think I finished the bag and felted it sometime in late 2009 or early 2010.  I really can't recall... And then I had a free afternoon last weekend so I dusted off the sewing machine (literally!  Oh my was it covered in dust! Thank goodness it has a cover thingy), and sewed up a lining for it.  With pockets even!  Because I really dislike handbags without pockets for important things like your phone, purse and bus/train ticket!  And pen, lip balm, keys and tissues.  Um, I think I should have put in a few more pockets, heh!
Modifications:  I think I made the pattern as written (I may have made it longer around), but I know I added a simple single crochet edging around the top of the bag.  Just to ensure the edge was flat.  I did plan to turn it over and make a seam, but that was an ill-thought out idea, as once it was felted it was too thick to even think about that! But not to worry, it is fine as is.

I am really happy with this bag!  I love the colours and I love the way it has turned out!  Finally! (Yes, another project for Binding Off 2011!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bah Humbug!

A quickie that I knit up over a few days for a friend's birthday - something I have been meaning to make for a while but I finally got my butt into gear last week!
Pattern: Red Comet by Loani Prior, from her Wild Tea Cosies.  A nice simple knit - two garter squares from corner to corner and joined in relevant spots to make a cosy.  So easy to knit to size, as you just make the square big enough to cover around your tea pot (from handle to spout), and then start the decreases! The pattern uses buttons as the "seams" to join the two squares, but I just sewed and crocheted in the relevant spots.

Yarn: Cleckheaton Country in black and white - just over 2 balls in total, for a medium sized teapot.  The stripe pattern is completely random.  I had more black than white so decided to make the black stripes wider, in general. It is meant to mimic the look of the old fashioned boiled lollies (humbugs, bullseyes etc).
Sticks:  The yarn is held doubled, so I used 6mm sticks - KnitPicks Options.  And a 4.5mm crochet hook to crochet around the edges of each square, to even out the lumpy garter edges.

Time:  21 - 24 October 2011.  As I said, nice and quick!    Happy birthday DrK!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Books! I've read some books!

Sorry about the blog silence - although I was pleased to see that I have actually posted this month - until I logged in to post this, I had the impression that I hadn't posted at all this month.  I had forgotten about the red vest!  That's how bad my memory has gotten lately.  Oh dear!

I have been on a bit of a Roald Dahl kick lately.  About two months ago I bought a collection of Roald Dahl audiobooks (on CD) - they were on big sale at a bookstore, no doubt due to the impending obsolescence of CD's!  I haven't read much Dahl until now, just both the Charlie books.  I thought the CD's would be great for the car, and Connor will enjoy them too (eventually!)

So far, I have "read":
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (picturing of course Johnny Depp, who was so great in the movie!)
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
The Twits (Dahl is so good at creating such abhorrent people!)
Matilda (loved!)
George's Marvellous Medicine
The Fantastic Mr Fox (mmmm George Clooney), and
The Enormous Crocodile.

Loving the audiobooks in the car!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Knit for Connor month: Floyd Vest

This is my third and final instalment of Knit for Connor month (which should more correctly be called Knit for Connor Two Months, since I made most of this in September rather than August!).
When I was planning the projects for KfCm, I found something very interesting - well, to me anyway.  And perhaps those also knitting for small children.  The sizes are SO INCONSISTENT!  It shouldn't come as a surprise, really, given that this is also the case for women's clothing (I can't really speak for men!).  But it is annoying, because it makes it very hard to knit in advance.  I knit the 12-18mo size in the Pembroke vest, and it is a good fit with a bit of room for next year (and with any luck, the year after, since people who know tell me small kids tend to grow up more than out for the first couple of years!).  This vest I knit the 3yo size, because I had enough yarn and I thought I might as well.  And what do you know, it fits pretty perfectly now.  With a little bit of room, maybe less than the Pembroke vest.  Although to be fair, I haven't blocked it yet, and being cotton it might grow!  And I even made it a wee bit longer than the pattern specified!!

Pattern:  Floyd vest, by Martin Storey, from Rowan Miniature Classics.  This is a lovely book of baby and toddler patterns.  Sizing issues aside, I will definitely be making more from this book.  I hope!

As with almost all Rowan patterns, it is knit flat and seamed.  It could be converted to knit in the round if you desire, although the shoulder and side seams are fairly short and don't take much seaming really!
Yarn:  Rowan Handknit Cotton, 3 x 50g skeins in red (shade 215 lot 3883038).  I liked knitting with this cotton, although it definitely is harder on the hands than wool.  It knits up really nicely though, I am very happy with the way it looks.

Sticks:  I started this when I was away, and even though I grabbed my set of KnitPicks Harmony Options, I found I didn't have the correct size for the ribbing (3.25mm) so I used 3.5mm instead, and I think it looks fine!  I used 4mm for the main part of the vest, as specified by the pattern.

Time:  27 August 2011 - 28 September 2011 (it took me a little while to sew on the buttons!)
Modifications: I knit the vest as specified, except for the change in stick size noted above for the ribbing.  However, I omitted the pocket, because it really is pointless.  Not big enough to be useful, and for some reason which I cannot fathom, the pocket flap does not have a button hole, even though the pattern shows it with a button on it.  The flap is knit separately and then joined to the front of the vest as you knit it (very clever!).  But the pocket itself is seamed on afterwards.  I figured it would just add bulk and drying time, and as the flap had a tendency to stick up, I thought I'd just sew it down when I added the button.
The button-hole-less pocket flap!
If you want a useable pocket and flap, I'd suggest adding a buttonhole to the flap when you knit it!

I think this is a very cute, easy and practical knit.  I just wish that the size was a little bigger so it would fit for longer!  Next time, I will pay more attention to the schematics and Connor's actual measurements!

Friday, September 30, 2011

StashDownUnder - September 2011

I had a good month this month!  I can't say no yarn came in, because I did receive two lots of red 4ply for my Beekeeper insanity, but nothing that I bought myself!  So that's not too bad! And I somehow managed to have a HUGE knitting month, so go me! Heh!

This month:
In:  2 x 50g balls
Actual balls used:  10.5 x 50g balls
8ply equivalent: 15.5 x 50g balls (LOTS of 4ply knitting this month! plus a couple of balls donated to Guild)
metres used: 1,138m

Year to date:
Actual balls used: -7.75 x 50g balls (I might just come out neutral by the end of this year!)
8ply equivalent: 78 x 50g balls
metres used:  9001m

I thought I might as well do my Beekeeper update today too.  This month was a good month, I managed to do 34 sexypuffs - yes, more than one per day!  Hurrah!
I also tried out the crochet version, which is free on Ravelry.  I had to modify it a bit, to ensure they match my knitted puffs in terms of size, but that is easily done.
And I like the bit of texture that the crochet puffs give to the quilt.  Red and texture!  I might have to try a moss/seed stitch puff sometime soon!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Knit for Connor month: Lillen Pantses

Even though this is the second project I've posted in my Knit for Connor month, it was actually the first completed.  It just took me a while to put in the elastic (as usual, it's the final touch that makes the garment useful and wearable that takes me forever!).

I recently bought the MillaMia book The Close Knit Gang.  It's a fab little pattern book for toddlers, with really cute and stylish garments mostly sized up to about 5 yo.  I chose the Lillen Pant(ses) pattern first, as I thought it would be a really good way to use this yarn - from stash - woo hoo!
Pattern:  Lillen Bottoms 12-18 mo size, from The Close Knit Gang.  These are really cute little pantses, knit flat in two identical pieces.

Yarn:  The MillaMia yarn (which is lovely, by the way) is really a sport/5ply yarn.  But since I am trying to knit from the stash, and my stock of sport weight yarn is fairly limited, I thought I'd use this skein of Wollmeise 100%, in one of the club colours, Saami.  It's a colour that really screams out to be used for kids, I think, given the primary colours!  I even swatched, to check whether I'd need to knit a size (or more) up to make up for gauge differences.  I was surprised to find I got gauge with the suggested needles, even though the WM is really a fingering/4ply weight.  I used about 115g of the 150+g skein.
What was really interesting was that even though the two pieces are knitted the same, one piece pooled and flashed substantially more than the other! (it is actually much more obvious in the photo than in real life, although once you have seen the photo, you can't unsee it in real life!)

I am also glad the WM is machine washable!
Sticks:  3mm and 3.25mm KnitPicks Options.
Time:  25 July 2011 - 12 August 2011. 

Modifications:  The pattern has a ribbed waistband. I didn't really think it would stay up very well, especially with a crawling baby (Connor hadn't yet started walking when I started these!).  So I did a stocking stitch turned band (with provisional cast on) to act as a casing, so I could put elastic in.
I also did garter stitch on the "hem" of the pantses, rather than moss stitch - only because the moss stitch fights too much with the varigation of the yarn.  If I was making these in a plain yarn, I would probably do the moss stitch.  I would also make them a bit longer!  I made these to the pattern length, but I think they could be a little bit longer.  Just a wee bit, mind!
I'm quite happy with these!  Gotta love a child who is too small to reject the handknits! (hopefully he will never reject the handknits, heh!)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

August was Knit For Connor Month: Pembroke vest

As winter was drawing to a close, I started to feel a little guilty about the amount of knitting (or, more accurately, the lack of knitting) for Connor. So I thought I'd better rectify that and set aside August as Knit for Connor Month!
I have managed to get 3 things done (well, the third is almost done, heh!) and each will be transitional pieces into spring and will also, I hope, fit him next year as well.

Pattern:  Pembroke vest by Kirsten Kapur.  A lovely, classic and free pattern which goes from 6mo to 8yo (I made the size 2).  I do love a good cable, and this vest has cables aplenty!  I wish there was a better way of managing cables and decreases, as it can look a bit funny to just stop cabling, but I'm not sure whether there are better alternatives (please enlighten me, if you know!)
Yarn: I had 3 x50g balls of the blue yarn, Karabella Aurora 8 (col 1555) and 20g of the white in the same yarn.  And I used it all, except for about 10g of the blue. I wasn't sure if I would have enough blue for the vest, so I decided to do the ribbing in the white.  And I knit the front first, as I figured if the cables ate up lots of yarn, I could do the back plain. But as it turns out, it was the white I ran short of, so the neckband ribbing is blue and white stripes. Which I think is quite effective, if I do say so myself!

Oh, and can I just say, I love this yarn!  So soft and lovely to knit with, and shows up a cable so beautifully.  And makes such a beautiful sproingy fabric.  Yum yum yum.  One of the balls did have a couple of knots in it, quite close together, which I discovered when I was knitting the neckband.  Grrr, more ends to sew in!  I'd still use this yarn again though, just lovely.

Sticks:  3.75 and 4.5mm KnitPicks Harmony Options.

Time: 14 - 26 August 2011.  I am amazed at how quick I knit this.  Especially as I discovered when I'd finished the front that I had done the armhole decreases on the neck, and the neck decreases on the armholes.  GAH!  What an idiot!  So I lost a day and a bit in unpulling and re-knitting these (yes, you heard right, I actually frogged and re-knit!)
Bottom one re-done ... much better!
Modifications: I used short rows on the shoulder shaping so I could do a 3 needle bind off but otherwise knit the pattern as written.  If I was to knit it again, I would change the ribbing so that the pattern flows neatly out of the ribbing.

I wasn't sure I liked the middle cable (some people on ravelry have actually changed it for a different cable) but the more I look at it now, the more I like it.  In particular, I like how it is designed to open out at the neckline, the designer has placed it really well on the front.
I'm very happy with this pattern, the yarn works so beautifully with the cables.  In fact, I liked it so much I might just pull out my hibernating Must Have cardigan, which also uses this yarn, and get back into the cabley aurora 8-y goodness!