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!)