Saturday, 28 December 2013

Razza's alpaca headband

This year for Christmas I tried to make everyone something they either wanted or would use.  I asked my sister Rheanne (aka Razza) what she might want and she asked for a headband for her ski trip.  This was lucky as I had already purchased some beautiful alpaca yarn whilst from Town End Alpaca whilst at Yarndale.  

I browsed Ravelry and just couldn't find a pattern that was right so I just decided to make one up.  It has turned out really nicely and Razza loves it, she has had it on since she unwrapped it yesterday, even in the cinema.


Should you wish to recreate one for yourself then here is what I did.

Materials
4.5mm straight needles.
Aran weight yarn (I used town end alpaca and the ball was 82m, I have some left)

Pattern
Cast on 20 stitches using the long tail cast on method.

First row: k1, p1, k1, p1, p3, k6, p3, k1, p1, k1, p1
Second row: k1, p1, k1, p1, k3, p6, k3, k1, p1, k1, p1
Third row: k1, p1, k1, p1, p3, c6 to the front, p3, k1, p1, k1, p1

Continue in this fashion cabling on every 6th row until the headband is the desired length.

Cast off and sew the ends together using matress stitch.

If you have any questions then please don't hesitate to get in touch.


Sunday, 24 November 2013

A beautiful new painting.

Last year we took our first trip to Long Eaton to visit the art rooms there, it's a wonderful space.  When we visited we met Louise Macintosh and just fell head over heels in love with her paintings in the Meadow Collection.  


We soon became twitter friends and many conversations were had about our various creative exploits and how much Tom and I loved her paintings.  I told her some time ago that we would, at some point, be asking for a meadow of our very own and now that time has come.  We had no idea what to get each other for Christmas this year so decided that instead on spending money on things for the sake of it we would get the painting we had been longing for for so long.

I got in touch with Louise and sent over a few photographs of the space we wanted the painting to go in and some other items in the bedroom for colour inspiration.   I even included the all important Mr Penguin, I feel his feet and scarf have influenced the final painting.  I'm not the biggest fan of pink so asked for not too much of that to be included, especially not in the sky.


After a month and a half of patiently waiting we went to collect our new piece of art yesterday from the Long Eaton art rooms where Louise was exhibiting again.  Look at her wonderful art, I want it all!


We decided that we would turn our back and get a cup of tea whilst the painting was unwrapped ready for us to turn around and view in all it's amazingness, it truly is just perfect and I do hope our reactions reflected just how much we love it.

It was carefully wrapped back up whilst we walked around and met more wonderful artists and then loaded up in the car to make its journey to its new home above our bed.


We missed lunch because we were in such a hurry to hang it before a trip to the vets with Edith, it just couldn't wait and took precedence over a rumbly tummy.  Doesn't it look fantastic.


We particularly liked these paintings due to the attention to detail and how well they are finished, even the sides of the canvas are incorporated into the painting so that whichever angle you view it from you can appreciate the flowers, blades of grass and sky.


In the mornings I will no longer wake up to the view of a blank wall but this view which you cannot deny in one hundred times improved and won't fail to start my day off with a smile, something very much needed in these winter months.


I have taken some close up pictures of some of my favourite sections of the painting.  I particularly love the layering of various colours and textures to build up the grass, I don't know my paints so I can't comment on the different types used other than there are solids, metallics, glittery paint and lots of different colours.  It creates a real depth and interest to the backdrop for the wonderful selection of flowers.  Louise told us that this is the first time she has used the burnt oranges and reds in a meadow and I am so pleased she has, I just loved the flowers that resemble poppies, I think they might well be my favourites, at the moment anyway.  There is a colour to reflect every emotion imaginable so I look forward to seeing how my preferences change as my mood does.


We are utterly in love with our meadow and genuinely cannot express our gratitude enough to this wonderful artist.  Not only does she paint amazing art she is just lovely as well.  All in all a good package.  Please pop over to her Facebook page missmacdesigns to see some of her other wonderful art and techniques.


THANKYOU!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The knitted tree

Previously I have made reference to a knitted tree that my Mum has been working away at.  The elderly people's care home she works at is part of a chain and each home has been asked to decorate a tree with knitted things.  

A lot of the people on my Mum's home were too unwell to do much but they all enjoyed doing what they could as did their family and friends.  It is this tree that I made the famous squirrel for, and then the orders came flooding in!

Anyway, all her hard work has come to an end and the tree is now wrapped, decorated and looking fantastic.  I am very proud of her hard work and really hope that she and her residents win.


A knitted owl perched on a branch.


 The whole big knitted tree.


A duck and owl and a number of lovely pom-poms.


A fox, a snake, a frog, a mouse and a hedgehog that I knitted.  Some of these squares were made by me as well.


Another shot of the whole tree.


And last but by no means least squirrel Nutkins who appears to have eaten all the food.

I just love it!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Sloe Gin

Yesterday we went on a hunt for some sloes to be made into gin.  We made our way across the Suffolk heath to find a previously spotted sloe bush.  When we got there though it appeared that someone had beaten us to it so we had to resort to some extreme foraging methods.


It was quite good fun rummaging through the undergrowth to find what few sloes were left.  For those of you who do not know what they look here are some.


They're bitter horrible things that should not be eaten as they dry out every ounce of moisture in your mouth.  I once told my Nanna to try one because I convinced her they were sweet and tasty, I still don't think she has forgiven me.  They do however made beautiful gin, yummy yummy!

As we were picking sloes we could hear a lot of noise from a nearby field.  I popped around the corner and came face to face with some of the most enormous pigs I have ever seen.  I do like pigs, such funny creatures.



I then picked a few more sloes but sadly dropped the bucket so they all disappeared and were beyond my reach to get them back.  Fortunately I had not long before emptied the bucket into another one.


Once we had picked as many as we could reach we decided to head onto another sloe bush but sadly this is when the dog did a runner.  He got what can only be described as the devil in him.  Whilst he did what he did I went looking for interesting things.  I found loads of toadstools and fungi of all sizes.


It's hard to see the size of them in these photos but the top left one as as big as my hand and the bottom left about the size of my thumb nail.  Such pretty things.

I also found a lonely little blue flower.


When we eventually caught the dog and got him in the car we headed off home.


Now the sloes are home they will be washed and put in the freezer for a few days to rupture.  They will then be added to some gin to stew for a couple of months and finally some sugar will be added.

I do love sloe gin and can't wait to receive my bottle for Christmas.  If anyone knows of any sloe bushes in Nottinghamshire then please let me know as I wanted to make my own this year but don't know where to find any.  It's a long way to travel to Suffolk for them.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

A tale of two sockies

I have been knitting a pair of socks for months and months and months now but I finished them just in time for a trip to the seaside to see my parents.

I love hand knitted socks but I must admit they are a bit tedious at times but they are great for knitting that requires little concentration (apart from the heel).

The first sock I knitted ended up with quite a big heel because I just kept going, with the heel flap (I didn't realise I had made it half an inch too long) I thought this would be fine but now it is finished and on my foot it is a bit baggy around my ankles as the length of the heel flap effects the overall size if the ankle.  The second one I made sure to knit a smaller heel but forgot this would make the whole sock shorter so the second sock is half an inch shorter than the first.  All in all a bit of an odd pair of socks but nothing I am worried about as they are on my feet after all.


I learnt to knit socks last year and quickly whipped up a pair for Tom's Dad for Christmas but these are the first ones I have knitted for myself and today I took them for a test drive.

I put them on under my leather boots and we set off to a craft fair, they made my boots feel lovely and snug where they can feel a bit loose with normal socks.  After a wander around we took a trip to the beach to see how many fisherman were taking part in this weeks charity fishing match.  Here I stopped to photograph my wonderful socks and was amazed by how none of the breeze made it through them, they are so snug!


If you have ever considered learning how to knit socks then I recommend it highly.  A lot of people say socks are hard to knit but if you can knit, purl, k2tog, ssk and pick up stitches then it's a doddle!  I am certainly converted and have great plans for many more pairs to make it into my sock drawer.


Sunday, 29 September 2013

Yarndale.

Yesterday the long awaited trip to Yarndale took place.  It started with an early alarm to get into town to catch the bus, a long drive and a lot of traffic.  We got there with plenty of time to look around though.

The excitement started in the car park when we spotted the lovely bunting at the entrance.



When we got inside we all went our separate ways.  Kate and I decided we wanted to start at one end and work our way systematically through the aisles.  It seems everybody else had the same idea.  It wasn't long before I made my first purchase at Town End Alpacas.  Two beautifully soft and delicious balls of Aran in two shades of brown.  So wonderfully lovely and so very hard to choose, I'd say it was the softest alpaca yarn I encountered all day which is lucky really otherwise I might have regretted such an early impulse.  They can be found at www.town-end-alpacas.co.uk for those of you interested.

We fought our way through the people to find some of the most beautiful hand dyed yarn, it was all just so exciting that I wanted it all.  Here are some of my personal highlights.


Yarn in varying weights, bases and colours from fivemoons who can be found at www.fivemoons.co.uk

 
Scrum my yarn and hooks from For the Love of Yarn, Lisa can be found at www.fortheloveofyarn.co.uk


More lovely yarn from Brough Lea Farm based in the Peak District.  They can be visited at www.broughleafarm.com

I held out though because I had one person in mind, it was of course A Stash Addict.  I am just in love with her neon colour ways and the way she combines her colours is just beautiful.  I went with a skein in mind but when I got there I just couldn't decide.  


Awful photograph!  Anyway after much deliberation I went for the centre skein called The Reaper.  I balled it up on the way home (with some help from Kate)and it now looks like this.  Beautiful!


Kate was torn between two lovely cakes of yarn in two different colour ways, I held them up to help her decide and only after a while realised how comical I may have looked.  She went for the one on the eft in the end.


A highlight for me was meeting some animals, I am a sucker and do like to say hello to
fellow inhabitants of this planet.




I saw some amazing big knitting on Ingrid Wagners stall, I just had to have a go and it was surprisingly enjoyable and satisfying.  I wanted it all but sadly had not enough money.  I will definitely be considering this in the future.


I was also very excited by the vast quantities of unspun fleece, some of it so soft I just wanted to climb in and sleep!


For a while now I have been considering taking up needle felting and when I arrived at Adelaide Walker I just had to take the leap and buy some wool tops and the necessary.  The colours (and prices) just couldn't be resisted.  I got home and just couldn't wait to start, here is what I made.


When stopping for a cup of tea and a sandwich I had another moment, I was looking at my alpaca yarn and thinking how soft it would be on my ears, I tested this theory out and was so in love with how soft it was that I didn't realise Kate was talking to me, turns out they make good ear muffs.


The highlight for me was seeing the work by Lucy of Attic 24, she is a definite crochet inspiration and her use of colour is wonderful.  So pretty!



When discussing my granny stripe blanket I was told off for only using three colours, I promised to use more in the next one.  Tom will be pleased to hear that, haha!

I also stopped to admire some of the bunting on the table, these were from all over the world and sent after Lucy asked for bunting to be sent for the event.  Here are some of my favourites.


By the time I got home I was very very tired but also very very excited.  Here are my purchases pre tampering.


I also got a lovely little porcelain Christmas tree decoration and some antler buttons, couldn't resist.



Yarndale was blooming amazing and I would definitely recommend it to anyone considering going next year.  It was a little overwhelming but go with this in mind and consider each purchase carefully because there is just so much to choose from.  I would say to go with only artisan products in mind.  I was a little disappointed buy how many people were getting hugely excited by yarn that can be purchased on any high street, for me that is not what a fibre festival is about but each to their own.

I have come home with a mountain of business cards and a bucket full of inspiration, wonderful little day out indeed and can't wait until next year. 


Thursday, 26 September 2013

The best yarn shop in the Midlands.

Ok, so I would like to write a little blog about Knit Nottingham who have recently been voted the best yarn shop in the Midlands.  Let me tell you why.

Firstly the shop itself is great.  Eleanor will be the first to admit that sometimes it can be a bit messy but for me this is what makes it so great.  As a reasonably new knitter I look back on my early days with mixed emotions.  I remember visiting a shop that shall remain nameless not long after I started my first ever cabled project which was a scarf knitted in Cygnet Super Chunky, here it is.

 
I never did get around to photographing it with the ends sewn in and right now I can't be bothered to rummage around to find it.

Anyway I digress.  As I said I went to a different shop full of enthusiasm and excitement about knitting cables for the first time.  I entered said shop with it's neatly and perfectly stocked white shelves, a highly polished floor, a display of books so tidy I didn't think I was allowed to look at them and was greeted by a bark of "can I help!" as soon as I touched something.  It was not a friendly greeting and has not prompted a return visit.  I explained I was just browsing and was asked what I was currently working on.  I explained in an excited fashion that I was knitting a chunky cabled scarf and these were my first cables.  The response I received and will never ever forget is "I hate chunky yarn!"

Not long after this and while still knitting said scarf I attended Knit Nottingham for a crochet workshop and here my opinion of yarn shops and knitters changed completely.  I was greeted by Eleanor who was possibly a little hungover but still full of enthusiasm at the thought of teaching people how to make what I now know is one of her favourite things, a granny square.  The shop was, as I have now learnt to be normal, in a little disarray but mostly tidy because of the fact the table needed to be pulled out.  The furniture is mismatched and for a while one of the seats was broken but to me this makes it look loved and shows that the shop is not just a hobby for someone with some extra cash but a business that is run by people who truly love yarn, knitting and crochet and their focus is on that, not a pretty table full of books you can't touch.

The shop always looks like it has been busy which I find exciting, I want to know what people have been buying and making with the yarn on offer.  I find the ongoing projects dotted around interesting and learn from them by asking what they are, will be and how they are constructed.  I love to see finished items to inspire me to try something new.  Most of all I love the fact I grab things from the shelves, flick through the patterns and indulge the need to touch things before buying them because I don't feel afraid to do so.  This for me is something so many shops lack in.

The next reason I think Knit Nottingham is so wonderful is the workshops, events and classes they teach and take part in.  I have attended a number of workshops with Eleanor and I have to say that my world has changed.  The first workshop I attended and the first time I visited Knit Nottingham was to learn to crochet, I had tried to learn so many times but could not grasp it.  I was "hooked" from the first day and wanted to start a blanket as soon as I got home.  I still haven't made one but I am working on one as we speak.  I have also learnt how to knit socks, finish my knitting properly and knit a sweater.  The finishing class revolutionised my knitting and I now feel confident to sew up, graft and make things look great.

Here we have the guru and the results of her teaching.


The shop have also arranged a trip to Yarndale which is taking place this weekend and which I cannot wait for.  It's to be held in Skipton in Yorkshire and is a festival of all things wooly.  They have also arranged for Amy Singer (of knitty.com) to teach a number of workshops in Nottingham.  In all honesty I had not heard of Amy or Knitty until recently but I have to say I now understand what all the excitement is about, it is well worth a visit and some of the patterns are stunning.  The are still spaces available so if you fancy popping along then give the shop a bell.  I sadly cannot make it due to being in Devon for a visit to the in laws.

"Knit Nottingham state that "Knit Nottingham is a yarn shop based in the centre of Nottingham and online. We stock a wide range of value and artisan yarns, patterns and accessories for every knitter, crocheter or spinner."  I just love what they have on offer.  The shop is only small so stock has be kept to a reasonable level.  This means that each and every yarn in the shop is loved by those who sell it.  I genuinely believe that Eleanor and June do not put on a sales patter, they do love what they are selling.  They may not love all the colours but we all suit and like different things and this is appreciated.  

Whenever I have been to buy a new project I have met nothing but honesty.  "Put that back, the colour doesn't suit you but this one does." "That pattern won't look good on you try this one." "That pattern is too easy for you, try this harder one I know you can do it."  It's fabulous to leave with a shared confidence and enthusiasm when starting a new project.  Oh I do love that feeling and Eleanor and June certainly add to this.  The yarn is great, affordable and exciting.  It is not high end "designer" yarn with the price tag to match but good quality and nothing that either Eleanor or June would not use themselves.  If I do find I get stuck with a project I know either Eleanor or June are at hand to help and they do this willingly and without question.

Knit Nottingham has opened up a whole new world for me.  I haven't had an easy year or so and the shop has acted as a haven when times have been hard.  I was always greeted by a friendly face and a listening ear when things were bad and I now consider Eleanor to be one of my friends and a blooming good one at that.  I have been introduced to "Knit in Notts" a wonderful knitting group held on Tuesday evenings and founded by the lovely Steph of Nettynot.  Here I have made more friends with similar interests to me.

This may all sound very twee but if I hadn't visited Knit Nottingham my life would not be as happy is it now, it has opened up so many opportunities to learn, create, meet new people and so much more.  It is not just a yarn shop but a social hub and a place to see friends and catch up on all the latest gossip.

I wish the whole team all the best of luck to keep on winning these awards and keep getting better and better!

Xxx



Monday, 23 September 2013

I have fallen in love with Wales!

This weekend we went to Wales with a couple of friends.  When we were looking to book we wanted a remote cottage where we could spend our evenings relaxing after visiting places in the day time.  The best place ever was found and it literally could not have been any better.  We stayed in a cottage called Maes Gwyn which was located in the middle of a number of sheep fields and up a very long steep hill.  The view was absolutely incredible!!


When we arrived on the Friday we stayed at the cottage exploring the fields around, playing some games and generally relaxing.  Out of all the sheep in the fields there was just one who had been shorn, I think the farmer must have needed a new jumper.

 
I took the opportunity to spend some time finishing a project as the plan for me was to take small packable projects I have been meaning to finish for a while.  Here is my completed Rowan Pure Wool Granny Cowl, only felt right to take a picture with the sheep in the background.  Some might think that is just mean.



The first morning we woke up the mist through the valleys was incredibly impressive, it could be seen at times circling and rising into the sky to form a cloud.  We enjoyed a coffee outside before deciding we would head to Barmouth to visit the Atlantic Ocean.  This photograph may look a bit odd but it is a full 360* panoramic view from where I was stood.


Barmouth was a lovely little town but not dissimilar from most other seaside towns.  We had a wander around and after getting quite soaked in the mist we headed back to the cottage to dry out in front of the fire whilst enjoying a civilised cheese board.

Tom and I then went for a wander to say hello to a few more sheep and take some more photographs of the incredible location we were staying in.



 You can just make out the roof of our cottage in this photograph.  The view was beautiful.

 I managed to knock up a pair of hand warmers made using Noro Furin and Rowan Cashsoft 4ply, I love how they have turned out.


For tea we headed to the local pub The Eagles, due to the remoteness we were a bit concerned it would be a local pub for local people but we couldn't have been any more wrong.  We received a warm welcome and felt right at home.  I loved to hear all the locals speaking Welsh, it's great that the language is still being used and it really added to our holiday feel.  The food was wonderful, I had a steak and it might just be the best Steak I have ever eaten.  I of course had to try the local tipple.




From here the evening became a little less civilised and we started to play drinking Uno, I can honestly say I do not recommend this game to anyone ever!!!

After waking up feeling as though I had risen from the grave I was coaxed into the car for a trip to Harlech.  The journey wasn't much fun but it was most definitely worth it.  The main reason for the visit to Harlech was to see the castle, such an impressive structure and remarkably intact.


We explored the castle as much as our legs would let us, there were a lot of stairs that were not the kindest.  We started by climbing a windy, dark and damp stair case to get to the highest point of the castle.  The Mountains looked beautiful in the distance.

 
These stairs were particularly hairy but I made it to the top, heights are not something I am great at so I was quite impressed.


It was certainly worth it!



I particularly loved how the light shone through the windows and doors and framed the views over the bay. 





We all absolutely loved the Castle and who couldn't when it looks like this!


After leaving the Castle we popped into a local art sale and just fell in love with art by a local artist called Jayne McCormack.  We deliberated between a number of stunning paintings but decided to settle on one of the Welsh landscape which we had both fallen in love with so much.  The blue also caught our eyes as it is perfect for our recently decorated lounge.  I have to say it looks stunning hanging on the wall, this photograph does not do it justice.


From here we went for a well earned cup of tea and some Welsh Cakes, I do love Welsh cakes, yum yum yum! We stopped at The Cemlyn Tea Shop and the tea was served in brilliant little tea pots with an inbuilt strainer that sits in the centre.  We had a chat with the owner of the tea house and learnt a lot about tea.  Apparently in China a tea is brewed 4 times, the first is for washing feet, the second for friends, the third for family and the fourth and best is for yourself.


On the way home from Harlech we stopped by the estuary to photograph yet more stunning scenery.  I cannot begin to explain how exciting the Welsh landscape is, I just never knew Wales was so stunning!


I just loved this house on the left, when we drove past I noted just how immaculate it was.  Somebody loves it as much as I would if it were mine.


When we returned to the cottage we played more games and I took some time to work on the sock I have been knitting for what feels like forever, I do actually think I have been knitting it forever.  Anyway, i finished it but forgot how to kitchener stitch so had to leave the needles in until I got home today.  Here it is nearly complete, I just need to knit it's sibling now!


Sadly this morning we had to say goodbye to our little slice of Wales.  We had to be out of the Cottage by 10 so it was an early start, a big breakfast and into the car we got.  I just had to snap one last photograph of the view.


I can honestly say I was blown away by what Wales has to offer, I just feel so excited to have such a wonderful place not so far away.  We will most definitely be going back to explore more.

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