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

Monday, 20 April 2015

Yarn snobbery and ugly ducklings

100% polyester novelty eyelash yarn. Is there anything more offensive to human sensibilities? 

When I saw that the prompt for this week's Playful Day Love Your Blog challenge was 'ugly', this remarkably foul yarn was the first thing that sprung to mind. It's certainly true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, though. I for one am a huge fan of lots of yucky, kitschy things that could be considered ugly - Christmas jumpers, pugs, plastic flamingos, ridiculous socks, flying ducks, Hawaiian shirts, onesies and slankets, the list goes on (although I do draw the line at Crocs). But I couldn't tell you exactly why it is I like these things. Are they guilty pleasures? Are they so bad they're good, or are they just awful and I have terrible taste? Either way, one thing I was pretty certain of was that I found brown eyelash yarn absolutely abhorrent. Squeaky, unyielding, unnatural fibre, horrid plastic sheen and unbearable fluff. I could not see the appeal. 

That is until I discovered the perfect use for it. This is Mr Owl (below). I knitted him as a birthday gift for a dear friend (see this post, he's a great stashbuster, BTW) and it dawned on me that eyelash yarn was precisely what this project needed. And all was forgiven. 

Now, I'm by no means admitting that me and eyelash yarn became the best of pals and rode off into the sunset together, oh no. I still maintain that the yarn is hideous. But used in the right way, it can be pretty awesome. That yarn above, it could make a really adorable bear or a cute fur collar (seriously considering that one). I guess what I'm saying is, all yarn has its place. The more you work with and learn about beautiful fibres, the easier it is to fall prey to yarn snobbery. But there's more to beauty than mere aesthetics, isn't there? Function, meaning, memory and experience all have their parts to play. And don't we all, at the very bottom of our stashes, have a ball or two of squeaky acrylic or novelty yarn that was given to us in our earliest crafting days, or that we were chuffed with buying as it was SUCH a bargain? 

Monday, 13 April 2015

Bright beginnings and WIP realness

Oh, I'm good at beginnings. I'm really good at beginnings. 
They are my forte, my speciality, my signature dish, if you will. Once a new idea makes itself known,  I'm scrabbling for a notebook or ball of yarn with all possible enthusiasm. With a fresh project on my needles or hook, an irrepressible mania takes hold and I SIMPLY MUST work on it ALL THE TIME. Unfortunately, this fervour only goes so far and seems to fuel the beginnings of a lot of projects, but very few endings. You see, I'm more of a WIP girl than a FO girl. 

As such, I'm currently in the middle of making two blankets, a hat, a shawl, a pair of socks, and a jumper. And that's to say nothing of the other projects I'm intending to start before I even think about finishing the others (who's going to give the Crafts from the Cwtch Make-along a go? I'm already got a knitted shawl in mind - it'll be my first!). 

While I know a groaning WIP pile is fairly common and only marginally reprehensible in the grand scheme of things (let's get some perspective here, First World problems, right?), I'm not proud of the fact that I'm really just neglecting projects I once adored. Why shouldn't a middle and end be just as exciting as a beginning? Let's face it, endings are pretty exciting in their own right. Have you experienced that unique FO euphoria when your stitches are all completed and your project is finally blocked and worn or wrapped, given away and happily received? There's nothing quite like it.

It's like a romance. My thinking is that, like any relationship, it's worth keeping in mind what had you smitten from the off. Think back. Instead of a pair of eyes you couldn't ignore, perhaps it was a totally rad colour combo (those shades were meant to be!), a stunning stitch pattern begging to be realised or the yarn that you soooo wanted to be able to wear draped around you as a shawl.

So I think rather than letting panic determine the pace of a project, or slowly allowing my enthusiasm to wane, I'll focus on my end goal for the project, while along the way remembering precisely why I was utterly bewitched by it in the first place. I fully intend to develop enormous and embarrassing crushes on each and every one of my projects from here on in. Are you in love with yours?

Today's post is my second in the Playful Day Love Your Blog challenge. Read about it here

Monday, 6 April 2015

In praise of knit clubs and hashtags

For April, I'm joining in with A Playful Day's Love Your Blog Challenge (read about it here). Each week there's a new prompt for your next post, as well as opportunities to share, find fresh inspiration and encourage others. It sounded right up my street and will hopefully help me be more consistent with blogging.

Anyhow, the first prompt was community and interaction. Soooo...

Joining a knitting group is one of the best things I've ever done. A year after graduation, most of our friends had moved away and me and Mr P were working opposing hours. Neither of our families lived nearby. Much as I was so over living in a shared house, it was weird that other people weren't around anymore and I really missed my besties who were far away. Things weren't going to change overnight. I had to just jump in and join stuff. I started going to a local knitting group. 

It turns out knit clubs/ knitting circles/ stitch nights are pretty special. First of all, they're full of knitters. Now I might be biased, but knitters seem to be the most generous, creative and determined of folks. Secondly, knit club is a place where I feel encouraged and challenged, where I can learn and share (and have a cuppa and a natter). I can turn up with my WIP, get a few hours of stitching in and always come away feeling a little bit better about life. Plus last week, with some careful assistance, I totally turned the heel on my first ever sock! Woop! 

And there's any number of places where you could find likeminded peeps, feel encouraged, use your skills to help others and learn new stuff too, depending what your thing is I guess - a sports team, a club, a forum, a choir, a class, Twitter chats, Ravelry and Instagram. With the magic of hashtags, we can share what we're up to and be part of something bigger without even leaving the house. The #bedinburghyarnfest was an awesome lifeline when I was stuck at home doing some deadline stitching. So lovely to connect with other yarny types. 

I think being part of a community is pretty important, and like blogging, it's better when it's a two-way thing. Lately I've been making a real effort to comment on blogs I love to read, and get involved in more things. I'd definitely recommend the #blogtacular and #creativesunite Twitter chats. 

Where do you hang out? 

Monday, 30 March 2015

off the needles: Adonis Hat

Last week Mr P went skiing. 
As we were starting to think about what bizarre snowy bits and bobs he might need, we realised he didn't have a hat. I thought sadly of the half lined Totoro hat that I had knitted him years earlier with awful acrylic and the wrong size needles. Not very warm and not quite finished. Sigh. I felt like I'd failed as both a wife and a knitter! So, I did what we knitters do best. I dived headfirst (okay, not literally) into my stash, dug out some pretty aran and hit Ravelry to find a basic beanie pattern that matched the yarn and needles I had. Bingo. The Adonis Hat was born. 

Urg. Nobody likes deadlines, but I had a week to knit this blighter and so a week it took. During the process I fell hard for the yarn (Hullaballoo yarn by Collinette, in the Adonis colourway of course), joined the #bedinburghyarnfest on Instagram, watched Bright Star for the first time and bawled my eyes out and became convinced that I was developing RSI. The project came to work with me every day, to a museum and out to lunch. Man, did that fold over brim ribbing take forever. And towards the end I had a very real fear that I would not have enough yarn to finish the hat. I even planned to twist together black and blue acrylic to get it done.

Thankfully, by some miracle, I pulled it off. The hat was completed*, sewn up, fitted like a dream and was all snuggly and beautiful just in time. And let me just wax lyrical about that yarn again. THOSE COLOURS. Kingfisher? Lapiz Lazuli? Northern Lights? It's enough to drive a woman to distraction. 

Anyhow, Mr P simply adores his new knitted hat, and that's the main thing. It kept him warm, and one of his skiing companions even remarked that it looked like something you might buy in a shop (gee, thanks). 

*Confession: I totally did run out of time. The pompom was added somewhat after the ski adventure. 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

off the hook: filet crochet baby cardi

Well, it's been a journey. 

I started this little madam of a project just after Christmas (I'm still pretty sure that was only yesterday) and it was a faithful friend through my commute, a holiday with the in-laws and a few knit club sessions. It's my first ever crochet garment and wasn't without its struggles. I had to fudge a lot of the stitch counts and came to the conclusion that even if the sleeves weren't right, if they at least matched it would all be okay. And it was, until it came to joining the sleeves into the yoke (gulp). The pattern became rather vague at this point. I read it over and over, decided that what I thought it could most logically mean, then I just had to go for it. 
*Major props to my lovely knit club pals who scrutinised the pattern with me and helped me demystify it!* 

Anytime I've been stuck with a pattern in the past, I've found the only way is to just dive in, give it a go and see if it turns out right. Generally it does, or it helps you get your head around the design and you can figure out how to fix it. Confession time: I'm firmly in the 'soldier on' camp when it comes to knitting and crochet – if I make a mistake I can get away with, I'd rather get the item finished than start all over again. Obviously there are limits to this, but this tiny pink cardi was most definitely a 'soldier on' project. 

So this first mini crochet garment was a challenge, but I definitely learnt a lot about construction. I used Lang's Golf cotton DK again, which is a bit splitty for my liking, but has a glorious sheen. While I wouldn't use this DMC pattern again (once is enough!), I am really happy with the finished cardigan/bolero. I love love LOVE the scalloped edging and the powerful pink. And of course, it would be nothing without those wooden apple buttons (from The Makery). Ah. All done at long last. It's been blocked and will be posted off to a special little lady this week. 

All project deets on Ravelry

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Pass it on

It's amazing what a difference a small thing can make to your day. I'm a big believer in the power of small gestures and love in action, so obviously Meredith's #sheepishheartbomb is right up my street (read about it here). Did you spread some handmade love about this Valentine's? This is the third year I've joined in with the heart bomb. I made three crochet hearts and hung them on a park gate near our home. Voila! 

In a similar vein, I recently had a sweet tweet from Cydney from A Lush Life to let me know she'd nominated me for a Liebster blog award. Thank you Cydney! And while I don't usually do posts like this, it really brightened my day so I thought why not pay it forward and honour some blogs that I love? 

The great thing about the Liebster award is that it celebrates blogs with a small readership. I'm all about that life. Here are the rules:

Thank the person who nominated you
Answer the questions from your nominator
Nominate 11 bloggers who have less than 200 followers
Create 11 new questions
Notify your nominees through social media/their blogs

These are the questions Cydney set for me:

Why did you start blogging?
I was really enjoying reading other people's blogs and thought I could give it a go. 

Do you prefer sweet or savoury food?
Both! Sweet, if I had to choose. 

What's your favourite smell?
Ooh, there are a few. Old books, freesias, new-mown lawns, the ocean, suncream, coconut, roses. 

Do you have any other hobbies besides blogging?
Umm, knitting, crochet, reading.

What's your dream job?
I love my job, but I'd love to make pretty things for weddings, too. 

What's your favourite movie?
Amelie, Stranger Than Fiction, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Ferris Bueller's Day Off 

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Baths or Showers?
Baths all the way. 

Where do you see yourself in 1 year(s time)?
I don't like to look that far ahead, but I know I'll be in Bristol. 

What would you do first if you won the lottery?
What my mum always suggests: spend a third, save a third and give a third away. 

I hereby nominate the following fabulous bloggers
Jenny from Pretty Column
Cory from Indie Knits
Ellen from A Pile of Sheep
Hannah from Granny Square Flair
Chiaki of Chiaki Creates
Caitlin of Caketin Does
Sarah of Not Found

And my new questions are:

1. If you could live anywhere in the world for one year, where would you live?

2. Three handbag/project bag essentials?

3. What's your favourite word?

4. What sound does your alarm clock make? 

5. What book do you always recommend to people? 

6. Monocle or eyepatch?

7. What's in your coat pocket?

8. Strangest place you've ever slept?

9. What's the oldest item in your wardrobe?

10. What's that one song that always makes you feel better?

11. Best/worst guilty pleasure song on your ipod?

Saturday, 31 January 2015

taking stock: January

Making: that there pink blanket. Finally joining it. Experiencing joining joy!
Cooking: kale - it's the fave veg in our household at the mo.
Drinking: more water. At long last. *Achievement unlocked*
Reading: the Bible in a year with the #365daysoftruth plan from She Reads TruthCaptain Corelli's Mandolin (again) and I Am Malala
Wanting: better posture.
Looking: through my shiny new glasses.
Playing: 'what shall we do for dinner?' on the train home, Monday to Friday.
Deciding: that a Friday morning hot drink purchase should totally be a thing.
Wishing: everyone one I love lived in one place. 
Enjoying: evenings with Mr P.
Waiting: for the next season of Game of Thrones. Anyone else?
Liking: that hot cross buns are available all year round.
Wondering: what to give up for Lent.
Loving: how much I learn at knit club.
Pondering: joining a dance class.
Considering: getting my long hair chopped off! 
Watching: Breaking Bad and New Girl.
Hoping: for snow.
Marvelling: at answered prayers and steadfast promises.
Needing: to do some Pilates.
Smelling: pasties and coffee at the train station every morning.
Wearing: blankets indoors.
Following: Taylor Swift on Instagram and not regretting it one bit. 
Noticing: that I could take or leave meat.
Knowing: I should be a bit more up on the news.
Thinking: maybe the weekly run needs to be twice weekly.
Admiring: crisp, frosty mornings.
Sorting: the recycling.
Buying: yogurt.
Getting: a bit more familiar with a new city.
Bookmarking: new blogs.
Disliking: vague crochet patterns.
Opening: the latest Good Food and wondering what to make.
Giggling: at silly overshares with the bestie.
Feeling: sleepy.
Snacking: on almonds, peanuts and Marmite rice cakes.
Coveting: great nails.
Hearing: Band of Horses again and loving it.

Love these regular posts devised by wonderful Pip at Meet Me at Mikes
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