Tuesday, 31 January 2012

only a few

I have finished the quilt - but can't show it yet... but I can show you all the piggies (now well filled with sweets:)) and the two patchwork balls I made for a one year old and a newborn. the ball might still be a bit big for the baby, but they grow so fast, and at least I managed to put a lot of stuffing in, so that the "rattle" inside won't hurt, even when the baby lies on top. this rattle is my own construction. I tried little brass bells before, but when they are loose in the stuffing, they don't only loose their nice jingle - they start to move around. eventually I bought two kinder eggs (which I don't usually buy, because of the plastic rubbish inside). not for the toys or the chocolate - but for the yellow "egg" that contains the toy. I find them quite difficult to open - which for a rattle is a good thing. if I can barely open the thing, it's not likely to split open inside the ball. I half filled that egg with another "throwaway" product. small yellow and orange plastic balls, used as bullets in kids' guns. when we are long dead and gone, generations of gardeners will find those things in my flower beds, I am sure! eventually the fun wore off and the little balls ended up in my stash....

the quilt has very soft and muted colours, but I think small kids prefer "ping" colours and motives they might recognize: I chose flowers, apples, carrots, birds, hearts, dots etc.

 those are my piggies - they look well fed now, ready to burst at the .... zipper, hopefully not at the seams:) the one below in purple is a bit smaller, because the yarn was finer, and not as dense, but tight enough to hold sweets or coins etc...
when I went to the spinner's meeting last saturday we passed a garden center. I cannot get ericaceous compost here, so I brought a bag, to replant my new blueberry. I have four in large tubs now and hope for rich pickings. the leaves are already unfolding, which makes me worry, because there is a lot of frost forecast! I hope they don't suffer too much, but the containers are too big and heavy to bring them into the greenhouse:((
when I passed the seeds and plants stalls, I saw those red dots! I lost all my dahlias during the last two frosty winters - so I thought I'd better stock up on new pompoms. you might just see red dahlias - I see lots of orange wool and silk coming out of my dye pot in summer:)) I didn't plant them yet, this can wait another week or two or even three - until the frosts have passed. we lost several plants even in the greenhouse during last winter, so I'd rather be careful. I also planted 3 hanging strawbs and 5 normal ones - in pots, which are in the polytunnel for now.
and now I am off to send away that quilt!

Friday, 27 January 2012

not yet....

over here spring officially begins on the first of february. and for a week or so it looked like it might already be in the air! unfortunately it didn't really stay sunny and nice - we had several days of drizzle and rain again and then we had snow over night! not too much and most of it was gone by the next day, but still - that put a damper on my "spring spirit"! it feels as if our winter was mostly grey and wet (not sure if that actually shows in the official data, maybe it's just me?) and I am fed up with grey. I want colour! maybe that's the reason why I chose some colourful yarns for a few small projects? I finished the black shrug (no photos yet, because I can't wear it and without anybody "in" it, it looks rather odd), though I am not sure about the size; it looks rather small. if it is too small - I'll just have to make another one, I have enough of the black merino anyway. but not now - black is too close to grey to be enjoyable just now:))

I am making piggies... woolly piggies that is:))
I use odds and ends of handspun - maybe not ideal for grubby kiddie fingers, but I wanted them to be colourful, so here they come. the yarn is a leftover of a batch I dyed for another project (colibri), but it's not enough for a scarf or hat. the pattern is easy enough, just two larger circles and a smaller one for the face. two ears, two legs (yes, I know - it's a two-legged pig:)) and a tail. a zip and a few buttons, that's it. the knitting is done really fast, the putting together takes much more time! 
 this is the base material for the second piggie, just needs putting together. I finished knitting the third batch late last night, but didn't take a photo yet... the "herd" will be shown, when all is finished:) I hope the three little boys like their piggie purses....
this is only the base material for one block of my quilt - I don't want to show more yet; but the upper layer is nearly done, just needs a border. the back will be fleece, that's easy to put together. all the blocks were done by hand, but the rest I'll do with the machine, or I'll never get those long seams done....

tomorrow we are going to have our spinner's meeting - this time the demo topic will be wet felting. not really my thing - I prefer drier techniques:)) I won't take my wheel this time, because it's our "AGM" meeting and we talk a lot at those. it's not worth dragging the lendrum all the way to and from the car - when all I manage to do is to spin 10 yards of yarn! I'll take my knitting instead and a few small patches, to make two small fabric balls with rattle. one new baby in the family and one not quite so new (but I think a 1 year old still likes a ball with bell inside....) - I think a few more baby things are called for! this time it's a girl - finally a "victim" for something frillier maybe?

off to finish some blueberry muffins ....

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

"pickings" of all kinds

after the storm we had a few days back I checked the garden for any damage. nothing major happened here, though the ash trees dropped quite a lot of dead twigs and branches again. nothing unusual in that, we collect them regularly for firewood. but I also found that a lot of larger lichen tufts had blown off the trees. I try not to damage any on purpose because they grow so slowly, but when they blow down, they just rot away. and if we burn the twigs they grew on, I might just as well collect them - for dyeing. the tree lichen over here don't dye fabulous purples or pinks, but they do give nice light to medium brown tones. and the wool has a very special scent afterwards - a bit like a nice smelling medicine:)
I managed to collect two handfuls of them, which weighs practically nothing when dry. I need to be patient with those - and collect a good bit more during the coming year. I won't be able to dye a huge lot of wool with this, but it should be enough for maybe 2 or 3 skeins of sock yarn - eventually!
 of course spring will bring a few other dyer's delights - one of them just starts to flower (see header pic). fresh gorse flowers give a lovely  lemon yellow - but I need to wait until the shrubs are in full bloom. this makes them far easier to pick, because I just pick around the tip - and not in between the vicious spines that leave my fingers bloody - and tingling for days! another rule for gorse picking: don't choose a windy day:)

I also discovered that the pot with the cyperus esculentus "grass" had finally dried out in the tunnel. time to shake off the soil and pick the tiny brown tubers. somehow they always remind me of small brown animals....they are edible and taste nut-like, though they don't like our climate all that much and I have to grow them in pots. the leaves are rather unpromising - like coarse grass - and they don't like frost! which isn't a problem this winter, but killed nearly all my plants and tubers last winter:(

these are pickings of a different kind:) the white balls are sock yarn with silk. the dark purple is fine lace merino, which was on special offer - which I'd like to knit into a sleeveless lacy vest for myself. the two upper balls are sock yarn from opal - in van gogh colourways, which I like a lot. I also ordered a few more tunesian crochet hooks - can use them myself, but people might also try them out for themselves during my demo about tunesian crochet at the end of march....
our textile group project for this year is our very own exhibition in the "Museum of Country Life" in Castlebar. the exhibition will be in late summer/autumn, but we have to have everything finished by the end of may! the group has chosen the topic of "textile techniques past and present" (or something along that line:)) and we are trying to connect our modern projects to the exhibits of times gone by shown in the museum. I would like to take up the very old technique of sock knitting - and modernize it by chosing a special design with special materials. I will work the final project from handdyed (and most likely handspun) yarns, but I want to try out how my idea works with more readily available materials. I did already dye reds, pinks and rosy shades last summer, but didn't have the time to do greens and blues.

I also bought a darker shade - for a night sky maybe, and some grey/browns for walls or buildings. my plan so far is to design either a rose garden with an old wall/gate - or a garden  and a round tower (typical for ireland and one stands in the vicinity of the museum) in the background. or maybe I should do part of the museum itself? the modern building stands inside an old park and also contains the original old buildings... I just have to make sure to use very fine yarn for the final project to get enough detail into a normal sized sock:) the problem now is to decide what exactly to make. luckily socks are knitted up quite quickly - I think with a larger project I'd need years to finish everything....

I also agreed to knit a lace shawl for an exchange. the shawl will be "in the pink" - which is perfect, because I had planned to knit that pattern, but don't really want it for myself to wear. the construction looks fun, even though all the instructions are written and not charted. normally I'd prefer charts, but I have to admit that with a pattern like this one charting it would take ages, and one cannot really ask a designer to do that, esp. when the pattern is given as a freebie... I spun a very fine pencil roving made from 70 % wool and 30 % silk. three skeins so far, but there's more if I don't have enough. the recipient Uli will paint it with the natural dye extracts she also offers for sale here.....
of course I am also still sewing away on the quilt - so I'd better get back to that one now!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

bits and pieces

I've been busy making new (and better fitting:)) slippers in knitfelt. and bingo - this time it worked! I used a different pattern this time, same material, and I even needed less, so that I could replace the "hoof covers" with proper slippers. I felted them once and let them dry and the size looks good, but because they are so small, I cannot try them on myself. those are the two pairs before felting - for giant feet obviously:
 the ruler is a normal 12 inch/30 cm one! the upper slipper is supposed to be a size 42, the lower one size 36. sorry for the bad light, it's always raining outside and the flash has a life of its own:(
this is the larger (my) pair after felting. I had enough to knit a border around the opening for the smaller size, but not enough to do the same for this pair. I've experienced this before - I added a simple crochet edge - and it shrinks differently in the wash! it stays looser, which (with hindsight) makes sense, because normally crochet is denser than knitted stitches - and can't shrink as much. I knew that, it was just hard to estimate how many stitches to work to avoid having the hole too tight! I figured that it's better to have a bigger hole for the feet than one too small:) works fine for me, I just had to add some "anti slippage" goo to avoid accidents on tiles and timber floor!

I also made a pin cushion following a pattern I found in the interweave holiday gifts 2010. the original is done in fine wool, but I wanted to use cotton instead. this is handspun cotton in natural white and natural green. from the top....

.... and from the bottom. I do find it a bit weird that most of the pattern is visible from the bottom - and the fleur-de-lys looks odd the wrong way round! if I ever did that pattern again, I'd start later with the pattern, so that the tip of it is closer to the middle of the upper side...

I added the beads on a whim, because I thought it could do with a bit more colour. I stuffed it with wool, because the natural lanolin is supposed to keep pins from rusting. this one is going to be a gift - I don't think I need another pin cushion, even though it's nice and big with lots of space on it! but it was a fun knit anyway.

no time for diddling about now - I have to get going with that quilt! the main fabric is with birds, but it wasn't all that easy to find fabrics with birds in the right size and colour! I managed to find a few due to the help of quilting friends, but eventually I decided to quit hunting around further. I had some silicon stamps in stash, bought a few fabric paints to go - and started to print my own. the first batch wasn't that great, because I had to figure out how to add the right amount of paint, not too much to make blotches and not too little, to have the motif well covered... eventually I found out that I get the best results if I spread some paint evenly on smooth cardboard (glass or plastic would work, too), dip the stamp lightly into it and stamp - it doesn't leave smudges and gives clear results. you can even make multicolour motives by blending different paints only a little. it's fun to do - and I got rid of the leftover paint by playing mad artist on the last piece of fabric:)  I just have to wait for them to "cure", iron over them - and start quilting. in the meantime I'll cut the rest of the fabrics to shape.

I also finally started on the black shrug made of handspun merino. I found a better pattern than the one I had planned in one of the Barbara Walker pattern collections and did the gauge and calculating yesterday evening. it's only a 4 row repeat, with purled wrongside rows, which makes it easy enough for tv knitting. I won't be able to sew on the quilt all day! off to dig out the cutter and mat now...

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year!

it's hard to believe that christmas is over again. and the new year has begun! this year everything has been much easier, because we had the usual irish christmas weather: wet, windy and grey. we had to time shopping "expeditions" into town to avoid the heavy rains we had, but all in all this was much easier to do than trying to do everything on impassable icy roads! the forecast is for a cold and maybe snowy night tonight - but we'll be back to mild and wet again from wednesday onwards. I used to miss snowy christmas times, but after the last two winters we had - not anymore:))
the downside of all the rain is this: puddles everywhere, and before they have the chance to dry out we get more water from "upstairs"! all the tanks and bins are overflowing and there's no end in sight. the only places where the ground isn't muddy and squishy is under the old big ash trees - they use up so much water from spring to autumn that the soil beneath them is dry after the first 2 or 3 inches.... not even the soggy times we've had can saturate the soil underneath!

the veggie bed looks desperate, only the garlic stands like a field of little soldiers:) and there's still some kale nero di toscana, but it needs more time to regrow - and higher temps, too... and in the patch underneath the crab apple everest the allium "hair" is growing back again after mowing, despite the low temperatures.

inside a few christmassy bits are visible (apart from the tree and the textile decorations - I am not allowed to put them down before saturday!). normally I make one wreath for the door - but this year DH cut so much greenery that I just didn't have the heart to throw the lovely pine away.so I made a simple one with just a linen ribbon and two pine cone "layers" (they do look odd without the branch in the middle:) for the outside of the porch door....

 and a more elaborate one for the door from porch to kitchen. I try to use a lot of different evergreens from the garden, but I only ever use my red ribbon and real holly, no artificial decorations allowed. I used to hang this in the kitchen, but because it's warm in there and relatively dry, the green used to shrivel and shed needles very quickly. now that it's hanging towards the unheated porch, the lovely scent is kept much better and the wreath looks good well beyond the 6th of january...which means it will probably hang there until it really starts looking shrivelled:)

by now I have put away all the textile christmas projects. the last embroidery I finished didn't make it into a christmas card, but I didn't want to put it away unfinished. (so next christmas I'll have one finished card extremely early :)) this wasn't down to a difficult pattern - just to lack of suitable materials.
I started out with the four denser areas in white stranded cotton. the plan was to add small silvery beads instead of crosses to the more open "darts" - but it turned out that the ones I had were a teeny bit to big for the aida I used; they started to push each other into odd directions, which made the whole star look messy:( I unpicked them and replaced them with one thread of DMC satin thread. it has a lovely shine, which unfortunately isn't visible in the photo. thanks to Renate/stickeule for the freebie pattern....
this year was no exception to my "I have to hurry to get everything done" christmas. I finished several other presents, but had no time (or light!) to take photos. so these are the few bits I did manage to shoot:
I had planned to give a subscription to a german magazine, but wanted to give something handmade with it. I bought a magazine holder made from timber, which I sanded and varnished. then I copied the title of the magazine on a long ribbon made of wool felt and embroidered the title in multicolour thread. it's only fixed on the back with one small seam, could be taken off for washing etc. not a sensational design, but I hope it adds a bit of personal touch to an otherwise rather impersonal gift.

I also made some slippers in knitfelt... well, I tried to make some. I bought two different yarns for this, both are made for that purpose and I followed the instructions to the dot. after knitting they did look rather odd, very high on the foot? but I have felted in the washing machine before, so I wasn't overly worried. again I followed the instructions in the pattern - but it just doesn't work. the length of the foot is ok, but you'd have to have hooves to make the rest of it fit:( the short rows leave a knob of knitting under the heel and the sides are far to wide, even after the second felting. back to the drawing board or rather back to another pattern. not sure if I'll have enough yarn though! if all else fails the recipient has to wait until I can order more.... and what do I do with the two very oddly shaped "bits" now? any ideas?

 not all the gifts turned out to be faulty, though. I knitted Yolanda Teague's "Snapdragon mittens" and the pattern worked out perfectly. the main part is worked like any hand warmer with thumb. then stitches are taken up from the main part and some are cast on additionally to knit the mitten part, which is attached only on the upper side. the rest is a straightforward mitten shape, apart from the small piece of i-cord at the top. this forms the loop to attach the mitten, when it is worn flipped back.
the yarn is black alpaca with wool, quite warm - and deep black, even though it looks more like charcoal because of the flash... the cable pattern around the wrist was interesting to knit - I am sure I'll work that pattern again!
and today I finished my first pattern of the new year! well, ok, I cheated a bit:)) I made another pair of knitfelt slippers - in the hope that the new pattern fits better. so far it looks good, even though the unfelted slippers look gigantic! most of the second one was done yesterday evening, but eventually I had to stop because the countdown for 2012 started! I finished the tip and closed the heel with kitchener stitch this morning and they are "going for a walk in the washing machine" as we speak (yes, ok, I admit, I do wash whenever I need to, even during the holidays...). now I have to hurry to work on a quilt - I'll cut the paper tonight and can hopefully start the sewing tomorrow! high time, too - the next birthdays are creeping up!

I hope all of you had a good start into the new year - enjoy it as much as you can, even those days that don't run quite as smoothly as you'd like them to! and of course - always enough ideas and materials to play with:)