Yet another work in progress..

Here I am being ably assisted by Harry, assembling those crochet granny squares that were my first foray into the world of hooky.

Someone's up to no good..

Someone’s up to no good..

It was much easier – and quicker – to assemble this little project than I had anticipated.  Phew!  I made two panels of nine squares each, and joined these panels at three sides with another row of three granny squares.

Watch out, here comes the scarlet woman..

Watch out, here comes the scarlet woman..

That leaves one side open like so:

Can you tell what it is yet?

Can you tell what it is yet?

And finally, I made two long strips in the same colours, which look suspciously like they might turn into handles..

Have you guessed yet?

Handles-in-waiting

Handles-in-waiting

A bag!  It’s a project bag!  But it’s not quite finished yet, because I’m going to line it.  And for this, I need to learn a New Thing: namely, interfacing.  So not quite a finished object (you know I’m not very good at those), but it’s definitely on its way, and I’m very excited!

Easter pastelly bits and pieces

A very belated Happy Easter!

The Easter Tree is a family tradition here in darkest Devon.

The Easter Tree is a family tradition here in darkest Devon.

We seemed to have a bit of a pastel theme going on this Easter in the Hipoptimist household.  I have a love-hate relationship with pale pastel colours.  If I wear them, I look – well, dead, really.  I can’t wear that beautiful pale mint shade that’s in all the shops right now, in case somebody mistakes me for a corpse.

And there’s something about Easter that seems to bring out the pastel-lover in me. I love these little wooden decorations on my Easter tree:

Pastel - looks good on twigs.

Pastel – looks good on twigs.

Our two girls have discovered that these decorations (from Gisela Graham) mix rather nicely with their little Lego Friends collecting sets.  Pastel is no stranger to controversy: Lego was criticised for pandering to gender expectations by making ‘Lego for girls’.  Why can’t toys just be toys, wonders this little girl on youtube?

Lego Friends: Controversially pastel.

Lego Friends: Controversially pastel.

And if that’s the case, then this next yarny endeavour is also definitely one ‘for girls’ – check out these gorgeous colours!

Scrummy mix of pastels and brights.

Scrummy mix of pastels and brights.

This is Stylecraft special DK, which came from Mason’s Needlecraft – a beautiful bulk pack of scrumptions candy coloured yarn.  100% acrylic, so not the most special-est yarn ever, but cheap, and aren’t they yummy colours.

And what might I be hooking up?  Here’s a photo to help you guess..

A blanket?  Moi?  Surely not..

A blanket? Moi? Surely not..

I know, it’s getting ridiculous – how many blankets does one girl need?  But I can’t help it – blankets are the comfort food equivalent of all things yarn-related.  Let’s have another photo just to prove it:

*sigh*

*sigh*

The colours in this yarn pack remind me of the ones Little Woollie uses in her crochet – brights, mixed with pastels, but there are also a few heathery shades mixed in here. The pattern is the very easy granny stripe, courtesy of Attic 24.  I can see myself lying on the grass on this one, recovering from my next surgery in style.  All I need is a matching pillow – well, that and to knit another sixty or so rows of this blanket.  But it’s coming along quite fast, and I feel I might manage this a little quicker than the Mothers’ Day blanket of doom..

The Mothers’ Day Blanket – at last!

This is the second of my Mothers’ Day posts.  I was very excited about this one, because I don’t often have an actual finished object to show anyone.  But at last, the blanket for my lovely Mum is all sewn up and ready for snuggling in! Here it is, draped over my bed.

Happy Mothers' Day, Mum

Happy Mothers’ Day, Mum. Spot the deliberate mistake(s)

This blanket has taken me a year to make. I gave my mum the very first square a year ago, on Mothers’ Day.  And I’ve worked on this project all year – in my sunny little porch, in springtime, and then in the summer, when I was in bed after surgery.  In the autumn, when I was going through rehabilitation, I had to buy in even more yarn  – a very yarn-hungry blanket, this one!   And in winter, when I’d started back at work and the nights drew in, I began to knit the edging squares.  Sewing up all the squares and darning in all the ends has taken me a month.  But it’s worth it!

Lacework edging

Lacework edging

This blanket is by no means perfect – in fact, I believe there’s a deliberate mistake in every square! But it has been such a pleasure to make it for my mum.  And woohoo, I’ve finally finished something!  I have a sneaky suspicion my mum will ask me to back it with something, so it might actually come back to me before long.  But I did it!  I made something!  A whole thing, just by myself.  Hopefully the next project won’t take me a whole year..

Yes, it is as heavy as it looks.

Yes, it is as heavy as it looks.  But hey, warmth is good, right?

Mother’s Day: homemade gifts with heart

IMG_1495

Happy Mothers’ Day!  Did anyone else get some delightful homemade presents?

Clockwise, from right to left (in case you didn’t guess) are a ‘beauty bug’, a ‘flying chicken’, a ‘fimo ring’, a ‘ring pouch’ and a ‘mouse crochet hook holder’.  And there, on the card, is a lovely picture of me next to a love-heart.

I’m so immensely spoiled, and very lucky to have my two gorgeous stepgirls in my life.

Every mum needs a flying chicken on a piece of string.

Every stepmum needs a crochet hook holder in the shape of a mouse.

Unfortunately before I took this photo one of the offerings (a red ladybug to match the ‘beauty bug’) was destroyed by an errant Harry Cat.  Never mind, there’s still plenty to demonstrate that these two girls seem to recognise my love of making things..

IMG_1497

Now, how can I keep them out of reach of a predatory Bengal cat?

A project with heart…

What do you think of these fabulous labels, produced by Katrina who runs our local ‘knit and natter’ group?

Hatherleigh Hooker

Made with Love by a Hatherleigh Hooker!

Quite special, aren’t they?  This little label was put to very heartfelt use this week.  My bestest friend, my lovely bridesmaid, has breast cancer. We have known one another since we got stuck in a cupboard together at the age of 7.  Our parents discovered us after a couple of hours, and we emerged unscathed, but friends for life.  I have no idea how to say how much I care, without sounding pathetic.  There’s no unpatronising way to say I want to wrap her up in love and make it better.

I can’t do that – but I did find a little project that might help, and I wanted to share it because I thought there might be some people out there who would find it useful and inspiring.

The heart pillow project was developed by a breast care nurse who wanted to make life post-mastectomy more comfortable for her patients.  It’s a specially designed pillow in the shape of a heart, which patients can place so that the ‘dip’ of the heart is under their arm.  This eases discomfort associated with post-operative swelling and makes life more comfortable in bed, in the car and so on.

Even for a total beginner for me, it wasn’t hard to make.  It takes just two fat quarters, and I used two different patterened fabrics in 100% cotton.

Pretty pretty fabric

Pretty pretty fabric

So here is my effort.  It’s not perfect, but it’s made with all the love in the world:

Heart Pillow!

Heart Pillow!

Have you spotted the deliberate mistake yet?  Yes, I sewed the label on upside-down (doh).

At least it's readable when the pillow is under your arm..

At least it’s readable when the pillow is under your arm..

Heart pillow projects are starting up in lots of places, with the aim of supplying as many breast cancer patients as possible with pillows made with love.  Organising networks of people to make pillows and donate fabric seems to be key to all of this.  I wonder – is this something that UK craft bloggers can help with?  I know there are lots of crafty people out there (much, much craftier than me).

I can’t do the breast cancer Race for Life – hell, I can’t even walk it!  But I can sew (badly) for life.  Could you sew a pillow every once in a while?  If you’d like to help me think about how we can work on this together, let me know.

I don’t think I’m ready for this Jelly: My first sewing project

My colour-addiction continues. Check out the beautiful contrasts in my very first sewing project!

Stripes!  I love stripes!

Stripes! I love stripes!

For Christmas, Irish gave me a sewing machine, and I’m sew (geddit) excited! Unfortunately for the poor sewing machine, I am a total novice. The last time I used a sewing machine, I made a bag for my mother. I was so proud – it had a picture of a bunny rabbit on the front, and a pom pom on the back (bunny rabbit tail, see?). I gave it to her for mother’s day when I was twelve years old. She opened the little package, took one look and said to me, uncertainly, ‘Oh darling! A pair of panties! How sweet of you’.

This time, it will be different. I will crack sewing. I will produce something that doesn’t look like a playboy bunny wears it in Hugh Hefner’s mansion. But. It took me four hours to wind the bobbin on Sunday. I swore more than Irish does when he’s watching the six nations rugby.

Luckily one of the ‘yarn Ho’s’ from my local knit and natter group came to the rescue, and recommended I get started by sewing ‘jelly roll’ strips together to make a quilt. And in so doing, I encountered a whole new world of sewing terminology – of jelly rolls, charm packs, fat quarters, and other mind-boggling and rather intimidating phrases.
Anyway, jelly rolls look like this:

Click on the photo to buy this one.

Click on the photo to buy this one.

They consist of 2.5 inch wide strips of fabric, bundled together so that they co-ordinate. And, as my friend points out, they’re a great way to get to know your sewing machine. It turns out that straight lines are the easiest thing to sew.

The other reason I love them is that the strips of fabric are all so well put-together. The colours co-ordinate beautifully and it looks like you’ve spent hours in a fabric shop working out what goes with what – but oh no, you’ve just bought a jelly roll for £30 from eBay or similar.

So pretty..

So pretty..

You can tell from the close-up that I didn’t pin these strips (tsk tsk) and I’m not that good at sewing in straight lines – yet. But hey, in two days I put together all 42 strips in my jelly roll, and they look so cute. Next step – working out how to add a middle layer and a back!

Oops – I appear to have made another blanket – or at least be on the way towards it. But hey, a girl can never have too many works in progress, right?

Crochet for Beginners

It’s time to take a short break from blanketeering. My mother’s day blanket is a work in progress, but coming along nicely (to be saved for another post). But I confess, I am getting a bit tired of all the endless blues and creams. Which is why my latest ‘short project’ is an altogether brighter affair.

Happy Colours!

Happy Colours!

This yarn is Rico cotton dk, and it comes in really juicy, happy colours. Over Christmas I discovered the fantastic Attic24, whose blog has seduced me into choosing brighter colours, and into believing that truly beautiful things can be made through crochet, as well as knitting. I’ve never attempted crochet before, but with the help of YouTube, I was managing to turn out rather scruffy looking granny squares in an afternoon or so. In particular, videos from AussieCrochetChick were helpful.

And here they are, my rainbow squares:

My first crochet.

My first crochet.

I can’t claim to be an expert, but I’m surprised at how quickly it is to knock out a couple of granny squares in front of the TV. What’s more, I have a feeling that they won’t turn into a blanket! I do have an idea in mind for these little suckers, but I’ll keep it to myself for now.

Granny Squares - definitely not just for grannies.

Granny Squares – definitely not just for grannies.

They may not be perfect – but I think they look so cute and colourful. The perfect antidote to all the snow and slush that’s blanketing our isolated village right now. The only accompaniments I need are a log-burner and a cup of tea. DVD box set optional…

A woolly hug from my friends..PAO recovery week 4

I don’t know whether it’s the furious bouts of video game action, the increased confidence I have in my crutches, or the occasional sunny day that we’ve had recently, but week 4 sees a big improvement in my mobility and pain levels. It’s easier to get up and down the stairs, and I can sit, stand, and move about for longer. I am far less reliant on painkillers, although paracetamol still features rather heavily in my life! I celebrated my progress with a tentative glass of wine – and enjoyed it.

Highlight of the week was a visit from my my rudest and funniest friends from the local knit and knitter group, and we had a wonderful cup of tea and a gossip. It felt GREAT to be back hearing all the village gossip, and for the first time I could envisage myself knitting again.

And look! My friends brought with them a beautiful, hand-crocheted present! All my friends clubbed together and made squares for this beautiful blanket.

A woolly hug – definitely the best medicine!

I love how the use of red contrasts with the pastel tones – I would never have thought of doing this, but it really works. In fact the colours remind me of my favourite flowers, which are currently all over the house. I like to put little posies of them in vintage bottles. They brighten up dark corners of bookshelves and look gorgeous clustered with a little pile of books.

Who doesn’t love sweet peas?

Best of all though, my blanket has a secret message in one corner:

I did not cry at all when I read this, oh no.

‘Made with love from all your friends at Knit and Natter’. Oh, I wanted to sob! I’m so, so lucky to have such loving, and clever friends. If ever I needed some motivation to get moving and get back to my rather raucous and sweary evenings with the Hatherleigh Hookers, this was it. And with my first physiotherapy and rehabilitation appointment coming up next week, I think this motivation is going to come in rather handy…

Another blanket marathon.

When it comes to knitting, I appear to be a ‘big project’ girl.  My first ever knitting project was a gorgeous cardigan from Debbie Bliss’s Andes pattern book.   It would appear that a cardigan is not the easiest knitting project for a virgin knitter, and mine ended up looking a bit like the lab coat I used to wear in Physics lessons.

Since then I’ve migrated to blanket squares.  Now these I like, because

  1. They are portable.
  2. If it turns into a clusterf*ck you can rip the square up and start again with out ruining the entire project
  3. You get to practise lots of different kinds of stitches (see point 2).  I learned intarsia, cabling, bobbles and lace stitching methods this way.
  4. If you knit enough of them you can turn them into a really special ‘heirloom’ blanket

You can check out another of my efforts here, but this one (below) is for my mother.  I made the first square and slid it into a card for her on Mother’s Day.  I think I’m about half way there now. I probably  need about 20 more squares, plus more to add a ‘hem’ all around.

Mistakes? I’ve made a few..

As you can see it’s still a work in progress.  It looks scruffy – but so did my other one until I tidied the ends up and stitched them together.  I can’t wait to see the finished thing, but that might be a way off.    I am not a ‘natural knitter’!  At my village ‘knit and natter’ group, I do more nattering than knitting, and when I do knit, my elbows tend to get in the way of everyone else.  But hey, I don’t really go there for the knitting – I go there for the hilarious conversations (yes really).  And also for the swearing. It sounds  a bit American Pie (as in ‘this one time, at band camp..’), but the air in our village turns bluer than this blanket when us ‘yarn ho’s’ are having a coven meeting.

One or two ends to tidy up still..

The yarns I’m using are Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran and Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran.  They work interchangeably in this project as they knit up on the same needles and have a very similar feel.  I am hoping my mum will use this blanket in her garden summer house, which has gorgeous seaside views, so I chose sea blues, mixed in with neutrals.

Knitting – sometimes an outdoor sport.

All of the patterns from these squares were adapted from this book – truly a bible for knitters of squares. As a novice knitter I was stunned to find there are rather a lot of these books, but this is the best.  I know.  I knit a LOT of squares.

This is a Very Good Book.

And that’s it.  My latest work in progress, and proof that knitting blanket squares is NOT just for grannies.  Anyone with wanky hips can do it!

Work-in-Progress Wednesday!

Knitting is one of my big pleasures.  I love the idea that this is a timeless skill that has been passed on through generations, just as my grandmother taught me. I’m not very good at it yet! For a long time, all I managed to produce was…well, really long pieces of knitting.  Here (below) is a blanket that I’ve loved working on.  I would like it to be a kind of heirloom picnic blanket so when I’ve decided it’s big enough, I’ll probably back it with a kikoy towel or perhaps a brushed cotton sheet or some fleece to make it even cosier.

The ‘TOGETHER’ squares came about because ‘together’ was the theme of an exhibition of my local ‘knit and natter’ group.  Of course I didn’t manage to get the blanket done in time for the exhibition!  But through my friendship with the knit and natter ladies – also known as the Hatherleigh hookers – I’ve also got something even more special out of my favourite hobby.  A sense of belonging and community – togetherness indeed.

And woop – now it seems like knitting is actually cool – well, relatively speaking!   Perhaps it’s a way of rejecting the smash and grab consumption trends of the noughties, and tapping into the ‘grow your own’ ethos.  In that way it’s like seeing your garden come alive in springtime.  The pleasure is in the gradualness of it, the anticipation of seeing it come together (that word again).

I’m not the fastest or neatest knitter in the world, but since I love to look at other knitting blogs, I will try to share my progress once a week. Let me know what you think!

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