For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb
Psalm 139:13

Friday, 9 October 2015

5 fab things a knitter can do in Paris

Seize the yarn, seize the day

Last week I was in Paris on a wee holiday (sigh), although now I'm home I'm not convinced I didn't just dream it! Anyhow, it was a brilliant couple of days and I thought I'd share some of my favourite bits with you in case you've got plans to head that way. Or, you know, wanna gawp at some pretty Parisian gloriousness. Been there my friend. Still am there. 

Find Yarn
Other than spending a good lot of time with Mr P and eating an approximation of my own weight in French pastry, seeking out a lovely yarn shop was pretty high up on my list. When I came across L'OisiveThe at Unwind last year, I made a mental note to try and get there if we ever went to Paris. This yarn boutique and tearoom (pinch me) is in the Butte aux Cailles area in the 13th Arrondissement. Not exactly central, but easy enough to find. We had the most incredible eggy brunch there and were given directions to their new sister store around the corner, La Bien Aimee. Wanna see? 

Wall-to-wall delicious yarn inside and painted the happiest shade of yellow on the outside. They have their own lovely hand-dyed yarn brand, too. To commemorate our special anniversary trip, Mr P treated me to some yarn (enabler alert). I had to go for the Bien Aimee Merino Singles. Parisian hand-dyed yarn? It would be rude not to. And it's just beautiful. The colour way is called Direwolf Graffiti. I'm aiming to have a shawl knitted up in this by our next anniversary. 

Get Lost
Before we set off, I spent a whole lot of time reading travel blog posts about Paris. The best bit of advice I read was to set aside some time for aimless wandering. There is SOOO much see and do in Paris that it's tempting to fill up your days, but allowing a bit of flexibility pays off. One day we set off in search of a market and ending finding a fantastic botanical garden and zoo! There's something to be said about getting lost and Paris is the most beautiful city to stroll through. 
The second best bit of advice was to always carry a brolly!

Knit Through the Queues
If famous landmarks and galleries are on your to-visit list, you're sure to encounter some form of waiting time. Being armed with your knitting or a paperback (or Kindle, if you're modern folks) is the stitches way to combat this and make the wait more enjoyable. And boy do I wish I'd prepared for this when we were waiting outside the Louvre for an hour.  

Here I am merrily knitting in the queue for the Catacombs. I got heaps done in this wait and as Mr P had forgotten the Kindle that day, he came in handy as a yarn holder (and reluctant photography). To note - matching your socks to your top won't make you a better knitter, but it will make you stick out like a sore thumb among any combination of chic Parisians. 

Take Tea
Mr P said he didn't have single bad cup of coffee in Paris, but as a tea drinker I was keen to sample some fancy tea and impossibly beautiful patisserie creations that I had no hope of pronouncing correctly. We went to Laduree on the Champs Elysees (when in Paris), where there's a restaurant and a little shop. It's stunning inside and out and Mr P had the world's best tarte tatin. The service seemed was a bit snooty, but then we were British, awkward and a bit scruffy, so fair enough. The sweet treats were really lovely so I would recommend it. 

Live Like Royalty
Or at least, see how royalty lived. Visiting the Palace of Versailles was definitely one of the best things we did. It's about a 40 minute train ride from central Paris and well worth it if you have a day you can spend there. Sooooo much to see. Wear your comfiest shoes and prepare to be overwhelmed by chandeliers and all-round opulence. I'm pretty sure we could have easily spent a week just exploring the grounds (we're talking serious acreage here). There's also a bizarrely Disney-esque, excessively quaint hamlet that Marie-Antoinette had built that has to be seen to be believed. 
Check their website for details of free entry options and special discounts. 

Follow up your visit with a viewing of Sophia Coppola's Maria Antoinette film and you'll have firmly cemented your adoration for the place. And developed some pretty severe macaron pangs. 

In short, Paris is always a good idea. 

Friday, 25 September 2015

The budget bride's guide to a crafty wedding

Our second wedding anniversary will be at the end of this month (crikey, already?), so I thought it was high time we shared some of our DIY hints and spilt the beans on how we got married in 2013 spending less than £4000. Here are 10 ways to get creative and cut costs. 

1. Anything you can do confidently yourself, do. 
Have you got mad calligraphy skills or sewing nous? Maybe you can bake up a storm or perhaps your other half is a wizard at graphic design, photography or making playlists. Using your creative (and let's be real - organisational) talents is a mega-thrifty and satisfying way to put together a day that feels personal to you. And remember, Pinterest can be your best friend here -  search for wedding craft projects based around your skillset. 

2. Call in favours
We're fortunate enough to have friends and family who are passionate about baking, music, sewing, bookbinding, photography, even driving and soapmaking. And said lovely people were kind enough to use their talents as gifts for the day, saving us an unthinkable amount of time and money. 
You're sure to have some talented people in your life. Consider asking them to give you a hand. Special input from people you love is priceless. But remember, if someone's doing you a favour or giving you mates rates, diva demands or a bridezilla attitude are completely out of the question. 

3. Be realistic
Don't give yourself more to do than your time, skills and resources can fairly allow. Organising a wedding takes a lot of work, whether you're crafting or not, so make sure you'll enjoy the process, too. Pulling an all-nighter to do last minute glueing, sewing or painting is no-one's idea of a good time - believe me, I did a textiles degree. Instead, be honest with yourself about your gifts and limitations. If you can't do something for whatever reason, scrap the idea or get some help. It's supposed to be fun!

4. See it as a chance to learn
That said, time allowing, planning a wedding can be a great opportunity for you to pick up or improve a simple skill you've always wanted to master. Basic origami, nail art or even just how to use double sided sticky tape could be on your agenda. I had a bash at doing my own makeup and had a lot of fun learning how to do different stuff to my face (read more here).  

5. A lot can be done in a crafternoon
It's all about sharing and delegation, my friend. Many hands make light work. Are you in a craft group or have some practical pals? Gather them together for an afternoon or evening of making. Whether that's cutting and sticking, baking, or faffing about with glitter, ribbon or yarn, keep the tea and or wine flowing, supply tasty snacks and you'll be amazed how much you'll get done. And your friends and family will have fun spotting stuff they made on the day. 

6. Go local, think small
Your local market, wedding fair or wedding magazine are great places to start hunting down local suppliers or venues that are likely to be much more reasonable! This is how we found a fab local florist and I tracked down a pretty vintage veil for a tenner. 

Picking local, fairly central venues with good public transport links and parking meant we cut transport costs for ourselves and some of our guests. Yes, we had to compromise on some of the more aesthetic things, but it was worth it. 

7. Spend the money where it's needed
Identify the areas where you'd like to splash out or don't have the skills to DIY. For us, this was groomsmen suits, a beautiful maid of honour dress, fresh flowers and a pair of killer heels. I'm pretty useless at hair, so I forked out for a hairdresser on the day. Best. Decision. Ever. 

8. Old, borrowed and (not necessarily) blue
It's a special day but, seriously, not everything has to be new. Borrowing, or using things you already own saves a fortune and adds personal touches to your day. Yes the dress was new, but we used buttons from my Nan's old button stash and the petticoat from my prom dress. Our teacups made cute decorations and my old case for art materials was ideal for collecting cards in. Be resourceful and make the most of your favourite things. 

9. Find your biggest cost and cut it
We quickly realised that feeding our guests was going to be one of the biggest pulls on the old purse strings. We got around this in two ways. Firstly, we decided to get married in the afternoon so we'd only have to arrange one meal (kinda stingy but very necessary). Secondly, we opted for a buffet, doing away with the sit-down-dinner idea. Nope, it wasn't fancy, but it was really fun and relaxed. And we used it as an excuse to scrap the nightmare of a seating plan.

10. Less is more (kinda)
Have a good look at your plans and see what you could do without - it's as simple as that. When it comes down to it, is anyone going to remember the chair backs, how fancy the tablecloths were or how many candles you had? They're not. Yes, making your special day pretty is cool, but not at the expense of your purse, sanity or relationships. And the less you have on your to-do list, the more time you have to relax and enjoy the experience. It's all about celebrating your union with the people you love. 

Monday, 21 September 2015

regency realness

I hope you're not offended by bonnets. As an Austen fan who'd lived in Bath for six years, not taking part in the Jane Austen Festival's Grand Regency Promenade suddenly seemed much sillier than actually dressing up and joining in, so this year we did just that. And it turns out I took loads of pictures of people's backs. But these are Regency-garbed, bonnet-topped backs, so I thought share them anyway. 

The Promenade is a costumed event where over 500 Austen enthusiasts (see also: literature nerds, historical costume lovers, folks who like to do quaint things in pretty English cities etc) take a turn around the city of Bath. I attended with some wonderful fellow knitters and Mr P, who was somehow persuaded and looked unnervingly at home in his get-up. 

It's certainly a bizarre world to enter. You do feel as if you've stepped back in time and ordinary things such as visiting a cash point or using your phone become strangely novel. You find yourself filled with bonnet admiration, pelisse envy, surrounded by people twirling parasols and quoting Pride and Prejudice. The latter was fairly excusable as, due to the inclement weather, our hems were indeed "six inches deep in mud". 

Another discovery was that knitters love Jane Austen, or at least Austen fans love knitting. I was sporting my newly-finished Pebble Beach Shawl and I saw a fair few stunning handmade shawls. There was a Regency market (but of course) after the Promenade and I spotted a whole host of incredible knitted reticules and miser's purses. These pineapples were my absolute favourite and seemed to be selling like hot cakes. Talk about trends coming full circle. I found a knitting pattern for one on Ravelry here - an awesome reworking of a pattern from 1840.

As first-timers, we thoroughly enjoyed the promenade. Everybody we chatted to on the day was lovely. My personal highlights were: a little girl on the train to Bath asking if I was Cinderella, helping Mr P fix buckles to his shoes with kirby grips, eating a slice of apple cake roughly the size of my own head with the lovely knitters and shamelessly strolling around The Circus and along the Gravel Walk in a Empire line gown, lace fan fluttering.

If you've ever thought about going, I'd recommend it. There are all kinds of other events in the festival, but this one's a real spectacle. My frock was from this lovely Etsy seller and we hired Mr P's outfit from here

Sunday, 13 September 2015

off the needles: Pebble Beach Shawl

Nope, you're not seeing things; I did actually finish my Pebble Beach Shawl and it's a beauty!

In case you're wondering about the freaky get-up, myself, Mr P and some lovely ladies from knit club attended the annual Grand Regency Promenade at Bath's Jane Austen Festival this weekend (we're just that cool). As you can imagine, that's a whole other kettle of fish and there were a few knitty treats that I'll share with you next time. 

Anyhow, this was the shawl's first outing, so I persuaded Mr P to take some snaps on our way home. The FO shots are something I'm really trying to work on. Any tips would be most welcome! Neither myself or Mr P know much about photography, and I feel fairly awkward in front of the camera. I guess it will come with time. 

I think the pics show off the shawl nicely, though. I started it back in May for the CFTC Makealong and while it took absolutely ages, it was a really good challenge for me. I stepped out of my knitting comfort zone to try circular needles for the first time, working lace to make my first ever knitted shawl. 

For the picot bind-off, I had to learn how to do the knitted cast on method. It's a mildly shameful thing to admit as a knitter of some years, but I'd only ever used the thumb cast on prior to this! Here's to learning new things.

Curious Handmade's Pebble Beach is a fantastic pattern. The clear, grid-style format made it really easy to follow for a lace novice, and the stitch counts on each row helped a lot. I could check if I'd gone wrong or not! There was a fair bit of tinking with this project, but those stitch counts kept me on the straight and narrow. I loved the percentages, too, to indicate how much I'd completed. I think the pattern's now available as a full-size shawl, too.

It's a beautiful accessory and it really came alive after blocking. Going to just wear mine forever now. 
All the details, as usual, are on Ravelry here.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

when knit becomes crochet

*Sings blog post title to the tune of When 2 Become 1*

Anyway. You know I started knitting an orange jumper absolutely AGES ago? Well, it didn't last. I finished the back then lost momentum altogether. I became convinced I'd gone wrong, then I couldn't even remember which size I'd started making or which needles I'd used. It was clear the project just wasn't going anywhere. 

Oh, knitted jumper, we were never meant to be. 

When we moved (not that I've mentioned that AT ALL), I came across all the delicious orange Merino I'd bought for the jumper. Sigh. It then occurred to me that it might be a whole lot simpler to frog the back of the jumper and make a whole different garment with the yarn. Maybe a really easy crochet garment? Yay - new project excitement! So here's what I'm making instead. And it's a joy. I've learnt how to work three treble clusters and (with some help) I kind of understand the pattern. Does this make me crafty bilingual? 

I'll keep you updated with my progress. In fact, I've got a few train (or replacement bus) journeys ahead of me and I want to get my blue shawl done next month. Hopefully there'll be another FO around these parts soon! 

Have you had any frogging/ yarn reincarnation experiences of late? 

Monday, 10 August 2015

look up

Something beautiful and unexpected can really help to shift your perspective.

Over the weekend, I headed to the park and saw these beauties sailing quietly over the city. It dawned on me how fortunate I am to live in a brand new place that I've barely explored yet. Mr P was away, we don't know many people here yet and I had been feeling as if we'd barely had any time to settle in together. I just needed something to help me realise what an adventure that is. I'm just as free as those untethered balloons and can begin the process of falling in love with a new city.

Putting down roots, joining stuff, finding our favourite local this and that, sharing it all with friends and family, getting lost, being touristy and sometimes not being here at all – it has started and there'll be more to come. I'm sure.

If you wanna see more balloon goodness, fashion bloggers She and Hem (they're local lasses) shared this brilliant vlog of the Bristol Balloon Fiesta. Up, up and away!

Monday, 20 July 2015

off the hook: doily t-shirt rug

Another side effect of moving home is nesting syndrome. 

The new gaff is a bit of a blank canvas and feels awfully shiny and modern after having spent a couple of years in a crumbly Georgian building (waaaay fancier than it sounds). Consequently, each day I'm battling a compulsion to festoon everything with yarny gubbins. And sometimes I give in. 

When I came across some forgotten cones of super-chunky jersey t-shirt yarn while unpacking, I knew they were destined to be a giant doily rug! Pinterest came up trumps and I settled on this free crochet pattern from the Crochet in Paternoster blog. I was after something really pretty and lacy to balance out the bulk of the yarn and this pattern was perfect. It was really easy to follow, despite being in US terms, because it's in step-by-step form with an image for each round.

This was my first time using jersey yarn and it was a lot easier that I thought it was going to be. I was expecting to really wrestle with it, but it's incredibly stretchy. I used a 12mm crochet hook and just shy of two cones of yarn. It's only 12 rounds, so it's not as big as I would have liked (62cms across), but I am happy with how it looks. Perhaps if I'd had more yarn I'd have adapted the pattern and made it bigger. For now our hallway is suitably spruced and I'm thinking of crocheting some yarn baskets with t-shirt yarn. Can anyone recommend a good pattern? 

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