Friday, 31 May 2013

Knitted throw - a progress report.

I have been knitting furiously in 'spare' moments but I am still a little under half way there.

You may remember from an earlier post, that I am intending to use up supplies of blue, grey, yellow and white yarns from my stash. I am  knitting the squares in the traditional way for a throw - diagonally increasing one stitch at the beginning of each row, to a total of 50 stitches, using garter stitch. After one straight row I than decrease one stitch at the beginning of each row back to one stitch. I am using 'double knitting thickness' and this is giving me squares of just over 7 inches. I shall need a total of 100 squares and will then adjust the size by the addition of a border.

Once I had completed a dozen or so squares I tried laying them out in a random pattern to see the effect. It is actually quite hard to achieve a random placement in which squares of the same colour, or similar depths of colour do not cluster together in areas which appear to have their own unintentional pattern. After trying for a while I gave up and found some squared paper. I have sketched out a plan, by 'colour group'. I shall still have to pay attention to depth of colour when sewing the squares together. According to my plan I shall need 9 white squares (now completed), 9 yellow/cream squares (also completed), 16 striped squares (two completed) and 66 blue/grey squares (27 completed). I make this a further 53 to go - nearly half way.

The kitchen scales have taken up residence next to my knitting basket. Since many of the yarns are part balls I am checking that there is enough ( about 18 g) to finish a square before starting. A quick check showed me that I would need a further 3 100g balls ( and possibly something for the border) to finish the throw. The yarn I am using is of mixed quality - much of it acrylic. this would not normally be my choice, but many of the part balls were left over from knitting for my son when he was little and he didn't like the feel of pure wool. It has meant a very inexpensive project and, since it will cover the spare bed and will hopefully look pretty, without getting much wear, I am hoping that the yarn will not lead to too much stretching or pilling. Most of the yarn I already had - the three new balls were purchased at our market for a total of £4.47! I have plans for embellishing the final throw and I am hoping that all the materials required for this will already be in my stash.

The collection of squares so far -

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Bargain Bundles

 ......... and this one was definitely intended for me!!


When I was growing up, fabrics and yarns could be obtained from numerous places. There were several local, high street shops; thriving market stalls in three local towns and mail order suppliers who advertised in various magazines. 

My mother's sister was a keen knitter and bought much of her yarn from a couple of mail order companies. In those pre-internet days, the first step was to buy a shade card against which to make choices and place orders. Yarns were very keenly priced but she ordered exactly what she wanted - any element of surprise would have been most unwelcome!

My mother favoured 'bargain bundles' - a 'by-weight' package of specified quality and type - colour and other characteristics being a complete surprise. I can remember the excitement of tipping these packages out on the dining table for inspection. I still have the left-overs of some of them in my stash all these years later - some large felt pieces, a narrow lace bundle, a mixed trimmings (inlcuding broderie anglaise), and a mixed denims bundle. The latter was the only time that I remember the inspection process resulting in disappointment. Dungarees were in fashion and my mother was determined to make me some. There were some small pieces of lovely blue and white striped denim (I still have one piece!) and some solid blue, but there was only one piece which was large enough for her purpose. Unfortunately for me, lilac was neither flattering or fashionable!!

As I started to enjoy crafts I caught the bargain bug. Laura Ashley shops ( I bought from Chester, and also from Guildford - when I lived there after university) sold mixed bags of printed dress cotton off-cuts for patchwork. The bags were densely packed and, although clear cellophane, it was only possible to see the outer layer, the rest remaining a lovely surprise. I bought many of these bags, and made several items - I still have many of the fabric pieces - now considered vintage and thus more attractive than they were when new. 


I recently happened across Etsy shop - WorldofWoolShop. They have mixed bundles described as follows:

Basically this is top waste. It consists of dyed tops, dyed fleeces, natural tops, end of runs on the blending machines. Brilliant for felting, needle felting and spinning. This is perfect for beginners. PLEASE NOTE: This is waste, so every delivery will be different and could also contain blends and synthetic fibres.     

Wonderful! A bargain, a surprise and I love the idea of creating something from waste or left over materials. I thought I had better wait until we returned from our week end away before placing the order. It came this morning

Now this is a completely random bundle - they couldn't have known the designs which I currently produce, and yet, on sorting the bundle I found that I had:

 - meadow grass

 very suitable for my meadow designs such as this pincushion

- lovely sunset colours (there was also some bright yellow for the setting sun)

suitable for use in my sunset designs such as this bookmark

- and lovely 'moorland colours'

of the variety that I use to produce my moorland design - as shown in this brooch

Our visit to Bodnant Garden at the week end, has prompted me to reconsider a design idea which first occurred to me several years ago when visiting the gardens of Haddon Hall in Derbyshire. More about this in later posts. It will be necessary to have fibers suitable for felting a 'stonewall' and I looked through my collection only yesterday and realised that I did not have very much that was suitable. Just look what came in today's bundle:

That new design is obviously meant to be!!!

In case you are wondering the fibres have been pictured on the recently-swept conservatory floor where there is good light quality (a 'spillage-free' zone - unlike the kitchen floor onto which I would not tip a fibre bundle - just in case!). As pointed out in the sales description, the bundle does contain non-wool fibres. I am sure there is a 'correct way' to identify one from the other - I find the 'sniff' test to be very effective - sheep have a way of 'naturally labeling' their fleece which persists through all the various processes - at least well enough for a discerning nose to pick up! Everything sent appears suitable for felting - particularly when blended with existing stocks and I'm anxious to get started!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Craft Room Storage

There are several reasons for making items for my home. A genuine wish to recycle to reduce waste, a wish to have something which looks good (to me at least) in its place and economy are among these reasons. I suppose all three apply to my efforts to improve a collection of shoe boxes by covering them with wrapping paper. Many of the boxes had been in use for some years - storing tapestry wools etc, They had displayed their original brands and contents until last week. They are sturdy, fit neatly on the shelves, amidst books and other storage tins and boxes, and were free. The paper was inexpensive and I had several part rolls of double-sided adhesive tape. So here are two of them:

Here they are with the others on their shelves ( I'm not happy enough with the rest of the room to show you just how small the space is yet!)

The only problem I now have is remembering what is stored in each - I just used to reach for 'last winter's boots' etc!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Bodnant - Beautiful Blocks of Colour

I have spent several weeks having a clear-out and planning 'home improvements' however small they may turn out to be! The process is by no means finished, although the conservatory and my craft room (AKA our spare, and smallest, bedroom) are now tidy and free of un-wanted stuff. Both need decorating but will have to wait until the rest of the house is similarly sorted through and then they can take their place in the 'schedule of works' - yet to be drawn up. In the meantime, I shall continue with several craft projects aimed at low cost ( in materials at least) injections of practicality and personality ( some may say a new generation of clutter - but I shall keep them to a minimum) into these two rooms at least. 

A much needed weekend break gave us the opportunity to visit Bodnant Gardens. The peculiarly cold spring has upset the flowering times for many of our gardens. This may have been in our favour, since the azaleas and rhododendrons were still in full flower and gave exactly the views I had hoped to see. I have yet to edit the majority of the (150 - thank goodness for digital photography) photos which we collected. 

Just to get started I thought I would show you a few blocks of beautiful colour and texture - panoramic views of the gardens to follow in a later post.

Beautiful inspiration for stitching!