Monday, 27 June 2011

World Sewing Machine Day and my sewing/emb history

OK sew I missed it! but having caught up with blogs via my reader and having enjoyed reading my long-time sew-pal SewWolf's recent post on her embroidery history I am inspired to add my own!
but be warned, its a bit long and tedious and very probably BORING. 
My sewing machines consist of a rather elderly but perfectly working embroidery-only machine a Brother PE150 which belonged originally to my late Mother and which I inherited some 8 years ago following her passing from cancer on the occasion of her 62nd birthday which was way too soon (not least for her!).  For sentimental reasons I would not consider parting with this machine.  but sentiment aside, I've got to say that small, elderly and basic a model it may be it IS however damn GOOD at what it does best which is get you the basic embroidery design FAST and with consistently GOOD perfomance!
There is simply NO temperament or mood with this!  (along with no speed control!) But you don't need it! press start - it starts and continues until IT finishes or you press to STOP! and it stops! simples.

My Late Mother was reluctant to buy her emb. machine.  But I'm over running my tale and not starting at the BEGINNING.  She was reluctant to buy it because by this time she knew she had a terminal cancer and "why?" she asked would one want to spend ££ on a "novelty" machine just for pure "fun" especially when one might not have long with which to enjoy it?
At the time my step-father urged her to buy it! and enjoy it!  As did I and so, too, did our sewing machine dealer - in fact to the tune of an attractive discount! never one to pass up a "bargain" the deal was struck SHE bought her first embroidery machine!
In the short time she had with it - some 18months - I can honestly say she got the maximum use anyone bar an extreme embroidery fanatic could have rivalled!  Without all the fanciness of extra's and software and the other add-ons - just the SIMPLE standalone machine SHE managed to work her way through embroidery adventures on a range of different fabrics & garments (fleece jackets! table linens! towels! tees! and skirts/tops etc).
And all the while this was going on - I was puzzling over the manual for my bigger fancier (at the time) NEW sewing machine with emb. unit!  Fathoming my pc link, battling with the software and the MMG (miserable martian gremlin) who resided within and attempting to calm and restrain the excitement of the highly charged Bernina by pressing the speed button down to practically needle-punct-needle-punct. zzzzz and appeasing it by STUFFING the hoop FULL of stabilisers, adding the security of basting stitches and a good measure of spray on stuff to keep everything STABLE while it nibbled away at the material and chomped on threads that caught on the way round, snagged at the needle .. sigh ..
You'd be forgiven for thinking I was not happy.
but you'd be wrong!
For years I coveted the Bernina Artista 170+emb unit that I eventually splashed out and just bought! the year after I lost my Late Dad and at the time we had left with my Mum .. and I can honestly say its been MY "dream machine".
While I faffed about squeaking at the thought of spending all that money! and would I use the embroidery function! and COULD I use the software! my Mum was quietly having her own crisis before coming to her own decision to make HER purchase! well that did it! flipping heck! if SHE'S having one then SEW am I too! Mine was ordered and duly arrived the next week.
In the early days, I have very fond memories of my Mum bringing her little machine round to my house, while my young children were out at School, we would sit and experiment with stabilisers which we shared and different fabrics and try to learn HOW to embroider and found out why stabilisers were necessary! and how to tame threads and deal with tricky things like embroidering on RM clothing - at cuffs, on collars, above pockets etc - placement, positioning and fine tuning our experience meant between us comparing our two different machines improved our learning and together we shared a journey that was to be both our last AND our most fulfilling joint adventure as "mother and daughter".
For me, sewing has always been "emotional".
This would be a good time to start at the BEGINNING? right?
In the beginning: I couldn't sew.  Didn't want to sew.  Never thought about sewing!
My Mother DID sew, COULD sew, but didn't WANT to.  Mostly on account of being a young divorced mum of 2xsmall children with no childcare help on offer, she took in sewing and took to sewing to eke out a small living.  And it was hard work! and very low paid!  Customers were demanding! exacting! and difficult!  the work was tedious - she made teddy bears for a while, she dressmakes and did alterations, she made curtains and general upholstery of chairs to suit customer's preferences.  When she could! she stopped! (sewing).  And didn't encourage me in the slightest.
She wanted (what most parents want) she wanted "better" for me.  She wanted ME to do BETTER.  She didn't want me to SEW.
Now the thing thats longlasting for me is the fact that both our sewing histories are tied together, my sewing history is as much my Late Mum's as my own and now as we approach the anniversary of her passing, and what would be our joint 50th and 70th birthdays in August, I can reflect on this joint history and feel PROUD that we had something to share together, and I can be proud, too, that I played an important part in bringing back to her her own rediscovery of "sewing" and personal enjoyment of what to then had been a tedious, detested task to be avoided at all cost!

but I've still not STARTED. Sorry. the blog post I thought would be easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy to share is anything but!  And thats the thing with SEWING - there is always something to get from sewing and a love of sewing (and all things crafty) has seen me through some very difficult and emotional times as well as many very HAPPY occasions and none more so than the FRIENDSHIPS I've gained and kept throughout my sewing history and my MACHINES have been instrumental in this.
So in the BEGINNING, I had my first son in Mar.93 and by the following Sept.94 I had enrolled in a beginners sewing class to learn dressmaking - if I'm completely honest the MAIN (only!) reason was that the local ad.ed. centre was offering FREE creche facilities provided you booked a year's classes and the only one that I could get was THIS one!  I booked it because at that time, frankly I'd have stood on my head and learned to juggle upside down for a year to get 1.5hrs away from my crying baby son!!  (he CRIED constantly and loudly for the best part of his first FIVE YEARS.  I am happy to say that since stopping - at around 5yrs - he has turned out to be the nicest and sunniest natured LOVELY young man that any Mum could wish for! but I would not want to repeat those early years!).

I ought, perhaps, to have taken photo's? to break up the tedium?  Perhaps later I will!

Anyway, I wasn't the only "mum" to be taking advantage of this offer and the class was packed with new-mums equally keen to get away from the tedium for an hour and I made more friends and learned, too, the basics.  As I learned the basics something "clicked" inside me.  I LOVED SEWING! HURRAH! I ate sewing, I dreamt sewing, I lived for sewing!  In the early days a group of us "new mums" got together at the local health centre and formed a vital friendship network that lasted many years and one of the first things we did was sort out a "rota" by which through some complicated wizardry and complexion we EACH got a 3hr "baby free" slot about every week for three out of 4!  HEAVEN!  I used to FLING my son at one of the allocated "mums on duty" and RACE home to switch ON my sewing machine! bliss! it was my release and relief and took me away from the stress and tedium of my new status as a SAHM and was the first time since leaving school and joining the world of work that I was JOBLESS!

I bought a basic Husquvarna that lasted about 3months before returning to shop and coming home with my lovely Bernina 160QE which I loved to pieces and would NOT have swapped had it not been for the EMBROIDERY factor.
I'd long wanted the Bernina Artista 170, but couldn't justify the expense!  but with EMBROIDERY I could! hurrah! eventually I traded in and splashed out on my DREAM MACHINE.
It too is rather old! and definitely behind the times technically but I still love it, though I've not sewn much this past 5yrs or so, I can honestly say when I switch on and feel the pedal under foot, it still makes me feel good inside! and the things I appreciate include the wonderful stitch consistency! and top class performance! Sure I covet my long-time sew-pals model 200e (! sigh!) and yes I'd like to trade UP to one of the newer models, but unless I "have" to, I think I'll be satisfied with this one! This one suits me! I shall be happy if it lasts. And thats the main thing!

I could go on (and on ... zzz) but I won't because that would be too boring!
To complement my sewing room I'd like to add my wonderful Brother 747overlocker which was "cheap and cheerful" at the time and has just given me such consistently good performance with the trickiest of stretch fabrics I can't fault it!  Years ago I tried my BEST to swap it for a posh expensive Bernina! but even the shop dealer admitted that NO stitch would be better than the sample I'd taken in for comparison on my little old "brother"! and that disappointed me, at the time! I so WANTED the Bernina!!

I'd like to talk about my embroidery history too, as I made such a lot of really good and close friends through our joint adventure and my closest friends saw me through the darkest period - that of my Mother's death - but this will be for another day and another blog post, I think!  perhaps, too, I'll take some up to date photos of my sewing room and machines?

I'd love to hear your sewing or embroidery or machine history! please comment and share link to your post?

Happy sewing! (and embroidering!)

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Fresh Strawberries from the garden

Fresh from Garden
FRESH from the garden just minutes ago!  fresh strawberries and raspberries picked from our plants that have seen us enjoy some lovely fruits throughout the past few years we don't get a huge amount but enough for us four!
We'll eat these later with some raspberry ripple icecream - can't beat it on a hot summer's evening!
Sadly we've run out of GIN so can't finish the experience with a cooling G+T but you can't have everything!
I'd like to do a bit more in the garden - I'd like to start an interest in plants and vegetables and herbs - if my LateMother were alive she'd be able to help! and advise! (and come to think of it, like as not she'd DO something to set it up and probably finish it too!! she was a very keen and passionate gardener).

Labels - samples on my embroidery machine

Bertie oversees the embroidering

My Brother PED embroidering label

Samples on my emb. machines
In my quest for personalising my hand knit and sewn items with some sort of label, I've looked at creating my own.  Last week after finding myself unlucky to secure the one remaining best chair I decided to retire to the sewing room instead and sit and play on my comfy swivel sewing chair at my MACHINES instead!
Bertie obviously agreed with me that this was far more fun than the rather boring goings on downstairs (the cats are BANNED from doing ANYTHING likely to cause them to scratch at or shed fur on ANYTHING "new" and dh is watching them very closely!) and promptly positioned himself on the table overseeing the first experiment which was to embroider a tiny wool motif and some lettering on my Brother embroidery machine which is so old now it doesn't even show up on the Brother embroidery machine site! BUT its a really good little machine and has been such excellent value for money over the many years that both my lateMother and I have enjoyed with it.
Most of the sample labels you can see on the last photo were embroidered on this, but I did do some on my Bernina embroidery unit for comparison and while I prefered the "fancy" lettering for ease of use the Brother did better.  Not completely happy, but I am inspired and encouraged to progress looking into developing the idea of embroidering my own labels and I'd welcome any suggestions, tips, ideas or comments - please?

some "FAB" yarn
Picked up in HoF some more 25g balls of Patons Fab in bright colours suitable for another heart and more chill pills - novelty knits which I've started to enjoy and have been appreciated by others.
I resisted buying more yarn - sigh! - from the JL clearance even though they had some excellent half price Rowan yarns including Calmer and Lenpur and ASC .. I petted them all and set them back in their display stand and WALKED AWAY sharpish!!  I've still got clearance bargains from last time (and time before, and - cough - time before!?) so really I don't "need" any!  I might make an exception if I come across more Rowan milk cotton fine or dk, mind .. ;-)

I love Shaun the Sheep!
I LOVE Shaun the Sheep!  Really I'd like to knit him and I'm always on the look out for a bargain or discount offer - if anyone comes by anything please do let me know!!  There is a free pattern for a crocheted Shaun here which is good. Anyway, in local HoF haby in their current clearance I came across this! "Exercise Time!" at half price down to a fiver!  (not that I'm any good at cross stitch! but I'm going to have a go!)

Nearly complete! the finishing touches to the lounge is near!

Bertie atop the sofa outside

Bertie trys to work out WHY?

Ahead of new carpet being laid dh and no.1.son dragged out the old and VERY BIG/HEAVY sofa into the garden and the cats do not understand WHY!
Actually the cats do not understand anything! they are totally puzzled and slightly suspicious of all that is going on in our newly redecorated lounge and Bertie was snapped trying to clambour inside the sofa after no.1.son had sliced it open to get at all the money dropped inside!  We'd said he could keep what he found which turned out to be a little shy of £8 so HE was quite happy with this!!

The carpet was fitted on Thursday and the new curtains arrived on Friday - currently they are hanging from the pole "dressed" and tied loosely to train the triple pinches while we decide how long to keep the pole!
Advice from my friend and former colleague on the furnishing make up desk revealed that there IS a formula for calculating the desired length of a pole to best suit the style of heading but it seems to involve a lot of adding up, taking away, halving and doubling .. all of which has left dh confused as HE doesn't understand the concept and isn't clear on the method and I am just really really BAD AT MATHS ..

I will take photographs once the pole is cut and the finials are on and our furniture arrives which should be within the next week - subject to unexpected delay we had requested it no sooner than 6 weeks from time of order and sheduled the carpet fitting for the week prior - but you never know, do you? there may be a delay their end.  with this in mind, we elected to keep the old armchair and currently the four of us are fighting for a turn in the (only) best seat! while the unlucky ones manage with the folding picnic portable ones!

The new posh tv is seriously FAB! and even I am coming around to seeing that it was so totally worth the money in terms of damn good picture and sound quality and it just LOOKS nice too!!
We are looking out for suitable furniture to finish the room - we toyed with the idea of a centre coffee table atop a rug? but now are leaning toward a nest of tables instead - mostly for purposes of keeping the room as clear as possible but this may chance once the new furniture is in situ.
We have completely transformed the room.
We knocked out one entire walls worth of brickwork and fireplace, shelving etc and plasterboarded it, got rid of the dated artex ceiling and plasterboarded that and added inset lights and a dimmer switch, increased the number of electrical sockets (some slightly dodgy moments of testing when dh claimed I needed to be the one to switch on .. cough .. made WORSE by the "bang" and "pop" we got when I went into the KITCHEN to turn the light on .. and fused the entire house .. dh claims to know what went wrong and duly fixed it but all I'm saying is that HE got to "test" all sockets and switches from that point on!)
The wallpaper is so worth the expense! it cost the best part of £350 for the room but when you see the effect with the striped curtains I'm sure you'll agree its worth the money and yes we've totally splashed out on this room but it is our main room and it is the decorating task to end all decorating tasks and ought, we hope, to see us both through to "the end"!!
We donated our widescreen tv to British Heart Foundation who picked it up and took it away to sell in their shop and we hope it raises some cash for the charity and at the same time gives someone a good tv experience too at a cheap price.  The furniture is too bad to donate, unfortunately, as the cats have got at it as well as being somewhat grubby and tatty its a shame as the actual furniture is very solid and was in its day rather nice but we're looking forward to a newer slimline and smaller set of 3x and 2x sofas and with this in mind we've completely reworked the room to move the tv to closer to the patio wall and all four of us agree its much better!  it does, however, mean that we need to do something with the GARDEN now!!
Photo's of the finished room when it IS finished!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Looking for labels to add the finishing touch

If anyone has any ideas or links for nice labels for homemade knitted and sewn items - preferably UK based - could you let me know?
I had a nice set from a knitting magazine "freebie" and I've seen occasionally some in haby shops, but typically when I wanted to get some I couldn't find any!  A recent trip to a large Dept.Store got me excited about a "reel" of printed "ribbon style" label that was, the Assistant assured me, in "a shop. somewhere." she thought.  but wasn't able to say WHERE.  I've exhausted all local sources that I can think of and this is the best I managed to find.
sets of these are pricey and not completely what I had in mind, but I bought them anyway and hope they'll come in handy.

Baking and cook books

Bargain Cook Book     

While out shopping looking for cables for the posh new tv (managed to get two from PoundBase at £2 each which even my superscrimpy brother declared BEST price ever! hurrah!) I came across this book in a charity shop and couldn't resist buying it!  Its completely brand new and super bargain at £2-50 - hurrah!  Next to crafting, I enjoy baking and next to crafty-books I like cookery-books!  There were one or two books that I was tempted to buy, but as I'd watched this particular tv series I decided to stick with just this one - I'll let you know which of the recipes I make.
It isn't especially the "cheating" aspect that attracted me - infact I don't like this term "cheat" anyway? you hear it a lot when you dare to mention "machine embroidery" .. not to mention daring to mention CHOCOLATE or CAKE as "cheating" diet-wise?  However, that aside what I do like is the aspect of using storecupboard and frozen ingredients for convenience to save TIME.
I am "lucky" in that I have plenty of time! Being at home and not working outside the home you'd think I have lots of time and all of it spare and set aside for cooking.  But you'd be wrong! there are lots of demands on my time and sometimes I find I don't HAVE the time to spend on cooking and preparing all our meals from scratch.  but what do to in its place?  We don't order takeaways and rarely eat "readymeals" and while I can rustle something up thats quick, easy and cheap for myself - a portion of salmon, some steamed spinach, dry fried mushrooms and a dish of salad in MINUTES my family would rather eat worms than this! .. chips. basically. I rely on CHIPS on those occasions.  and the fish is battered and yes both are usually deep frozen and quickly fried but surprisingly even that takes LONGER to cook than my meal takes to prepare AND cook.
Like I say, I'll let you know of any successful recipes from the book!

Good old fashioned bread pudding!

An old time fave. of mine is good old fashioned BREAD PUDDING!
Unfortunately no one in the family likes it as much as I do, so I gets to eat it .. which is bad .. for the hips .. I have, however, found two people who enjoy it one being my hairdresser! who is coming round tonight to cut hair and so I've made a batch and plan to give him most of it! he can worry about his own hips?

8oz/225g bread - white or brown they advise cutting off crusts, but I only use the "left over" crusts that no one eats from the loaves of mixed white and brown bread storing in the freezer until I have enough to make a double portion of this recipe!
10floz/275ml milk
2oz/50g melted butter
3oz/75g soft brown sugar
2 tspn mixed ground spice (I use cinnamon)
1 beaten egg
6oz/175 mixed dried fruit

Preheat oven to gas 4/350F/180C
2-2.5pint/1.2-1.5ltr baking dish, buttered
Break up the bread into suitably sized pieces and place in a bowl.
Pour over the milk and stir and leave for 30mins to soak.
Add the melted butter, sugar, mixed spice/cinnamon and beaten egg.
Use a fork to beat the mixture well making sure no lumps remain.
Stir in dried fruit and spread mixture into dish and sprinkle nutmeg.
Bake for about 1.25hrs.

I double the above ingredients and make one "large" bread pudding which cuts up into quite nice "chunky" portions, I find that using the recipe as above its a bit thin and flat.  I like to eat mine as a "pudding" with custard but its equally nice eaten cold on its own with a cup of mid-afternoon tea.

Nearly at the end - at last!

Lilly disappears to bottom of box

Lilly jumping onto and into the box

Lilly Clambours out!
Our major task this year has been ongoing work in the lounge/living room and I'm happy with progress to date - yes its taken "for ever" to get to this stage, but I'm relaxed about that because in part I know that my dh IS doing an excellent job and the "end" result will be worth any wait, and also because this is fitted in between work and assisting me with some aspects of "domestics" that I cannot manage myself.  (mostly shopping and heavy lifting).  The other part is that I am in fact quite relaxed naturally about such things taking their time!!  I grew up in somewhat a chaotic household that was never quite "done" so a state of disrepair and ongoing tasks is "normal".
BUT I do have to chivy dh to maintain motivation and the biggest problem is that for me I feel he lacks a bit of direction and planning!  I think I know "best", too! and sometimes its been proven that I do! but not always! its difficult to strike a balance between interfering and pressurising & that of interest and encouragement.  Something that my LateMother was rather good at and I am less so on account of I can do the intial "brilliant job! well done! but now can we move on to ..?" but this rapidly descends into a shrieky slightly threatening tone of NOW .. PLEASE .. NOW! .. OR ELSE! .. which both puts him off and frightens him!
BUT as we near the end of the major tasks - the ceiling looks fab all new and with the lights, the wallpaper is excellent with its matching across the walls around the room from floral to plain and the updated feel to the room now we've rid ourselves of the brickwork and fireplace that so dated the decor we're left now with somewhat a MODERN feel!

This week we expect to see the carpet fitted and the curtains arrive and we await a call for delivery of new furniture and today the 2nd of the finials we'd had to order for the pole has arrived and tomorrow we take delivery of a brand new TELEVISION! a posh one! one of these screenless ones? know what I mean? flat and thin it will be the sleekest thing in the entire house and SO technical that we can even ring it up and request that it records a programme for us!

Toy mice!
BUT its what to do with the CATS that is the problem.
We have two cats and they currently live in our house making it their home and lying on our furniture, atop the tv and basically free to come and go rolling about the floors and the occasional scratch at stuff! but this must STOP!  and its how to manage them when the new stuff arrives!

My husband suggests they are now old enough to leave home .. ?  or live outside? ..
Although well behaved, cats do unfortunately have a tendancy to do horrid things like bring mice and rats inside .. (we've had some hairy moments lately with Lilly bringing them IN still alive and flinging them about our feet both no.2.son, dh and I have rather unpleasant experiences of this and it proves that we don't always pay our cats full attention that Lilly can bring stuff in under our noses and under our feet!).  With the new carpet there will be rules: apparently no one is to enter wearing shoes.  Which poses a problem, our patio door out into the garden is the main access for the garden.  Apparently no one is to USE the garden .. Long and short of it is, that dh has been set straight that lovely though the idea is to have a brand spanking "new" room at the end of the day it is a LIVING room and not a show room. 
Posh new litter tray
The cats have been given a new litter tray.  A covered litter tray.  With a swinging liddy door.  Which they are NOT impressed by.  I didn't think they'd like it, we've now taken the swinging liddy door off and they are at least starting to show SOME curiosity.  Usually the cats will leap into and onto and clambour about anything that resembles a box and we've had some stressful moments wondering whether because they've got IN they can get OUT particularly Lilly and her adventure down the back of the chest freezer once the wallpaper pasting table was removed leaving a narrow "gap" which HAD to be investigated.  right to the bottom. in an upside down sort of scramble and much use of claws and a bit of a tug from no.1.son we managed to assist her in a scramble back to front and upside down OUT of the narrow gap but it was a hairy moment!
Which is another thing.  Cat hairs.  dh has been wheezing and somewhat breathless for some months now and at first we put it down to the brick dust but now am starting to think perhaps he is allergic to the cats!  We plan to buy a new vac.cleaner for the new carpet and will look at this hypo-sensitive ones that pet owners are encouraged to buy and hope that this does the trick - well its either that or he gets to live in the SHED!?

For some time I've agreed that dh can choose a new tv.  In part as reward for the hard work in getting the house done and as a retirement styled gift or treat to himself for having worked hard all his working life both in and out of the home!  His reward is a posh new tv that arrives this week.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Lovely Maisie in the Lovely Little Sailor Girl Cardigan

Baby Maisie
The lovely baby-Maisie wearing the lovely Little Sailor Girl cardigan looking .. well LOVELY!
Super baby you can see more photo's here.  Thanks to Claire for sending the photo so I can see how it looks when worn - good job I didn't elect to knit the smaller size this looks just right and will be suitable for this weather as its an 80% bamboo mix.  (just hope it launders ok! gulp!!).

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Marlene the sock pattern

I'm going to hold my hand up, confess AND shout it outloud confessional style:


looks now for someone to help me DOWN from this tall step.
but finds everyone has FLED.
come back.

I can't be the ONLY one? .. can I? ..
to have seen a small flurry of excitement gathering and building over a certain pattern, a technique, a fabric a yarn or a design and thought MOVE ASIDE CROWD LET ME IN I NEED TO SEE THIS WHERE DO I SIGN HOW DO I JOIN STAND BACK I'M FALLING FOR IT!

Unless I've DREAMT it I even had an email/newsletter thingie come in with suggestions on strategies for avoiding falling into the "trap" of becing compelled to JOIN IN but I must have somehow scrambled for the DELETE button and got rid of it shoving the screechy tone of accusation that this is somewhat a WEAK WILLED form of sheepiness in following the herd ..
I wants to join the herd! if there something yummy at the bottom of the cliff then I'm for hurling myself off clutching needles and yarn too!

But is this RIGHT?
Ought I take steps to avoid this?
What is it about the power of internet groups that begin with one or two people vaguely mentioning in passing a particular pattern or technique and voila before you know it there's a KAL formed in a group and someone has designed a pattern and the yarn that goes with it is now selling out and has doubled its PRICE - someone WHISPERS that they have used a pair of posh needles? where's everyone GONE? apparently websites are crashing about the place as everyone has GONE apparently to BUY these needles .. and I'm left thinking WHY DIDN'T I SPOT THIS SOONER!?

Alright. I'll let you into a secret.  I've just bought Marlene.
but THEY made me!
I was quite happy to glance at mention of Marlene but I couldn't resist it any longer after I saw a pair hanging in the SHOP WINDOW and now of course I wants a pair too - EVERYONE has got this OTN's? and I want it too!

Exactly the same is happening with shawls.  I didn't even want one until I saw that everyone has got them and now I want not just one, but all! why is this? whats the matter with me?

Please tell me I'm not the only one??
(and better still, please tell me NOW the NEXT latest must-knit ..)

Monday, 13 June 2011

Arielle my summer knit project

Last night I finally CO for Arielle which will be my main summer knit project!
I spent ages swatching as I felt I wanted to be sure of getting gauge and as I'm inbetween sizes after looking at fellow Raveller's projects and comments on sizing I have gone for the size "medium".
stitch count achieved, but not row

My "new" resolve is to spend a little time doing a swatch if for no other reason than to NOT feel it was my fault if it turns out not to fit as I expected - I start off ok, whats a few stitches and rows? half way through I do a sneaky measure and decide that it will be fine and I could, then, stop?  but I don't - I am sticking to my resolve and find as I do EVERY TIME that I achieve the st count, but fail the row .. and as I do EVERY TIME I think "oh! well!" and use the recommended needles anyway .. waste of time? quite possibly? but it does give me the opportunity to get a feel for the stitches how they "knit" on the needles.
I'm using Rowan milk cotton, fine and it is a bit "splitty" - I need to take some care with the needles because in places where I've "split" or caught the stitch "wrong" it really shows up!! fortunately the few occasions it has have been on the WS but its enough to make me aware of being careful.
I prefer not to have to feel I MUST be "careful" but the deliciousness of both the texture of the knitted fabric AND the creaminess of this shade - 493 - makes it worth the effort - in short I love it already!

Arielle Back Hem

The hem is knit first on teeny-tiny 2.25mm needles and I was fortunate to find a circ. in that size and a pair of 2.75mm needles from "Grandmas knitting collection" - indeed I found 4 or 5 pairs in various needle lengths and states of straightness/kinks so I assume, then, that this was a popular weight of yarn and needle size in those days?
I feel I am becoming an expert in short row shaping!  and wrapping stitches!  knitting the lovely "Kate" shawl has set me up I think for life on how to do this and you can see from the photo above how the top edge is shorter and more gathered to pick up and knit from to form the main garment back section later .. just about 100 more rows .. sigh .. 39 repeats of the 8 row pattern .. I've done about 11 since last night

Steamed Treacle Sponge

The weather has been appalling! hasn't it? so cold at night had it not been for the fact the radiator is off the wall for painting in our lounge, I'd have put the central heating ON! in June!
I'm currently waiting for it to warm/brighten up outside sufficiently to put a washing load of woollies IN which is so wrong on all accounts - although on the positive side, for knitters its somewhat a more pleasant experience knitting in "the cold" compared to full sunshine and heat of a "normal" summer?
I've forgotten what "normal" is! To be honest, I've come to feel there is NO such thing as "normal" - but lets not get me started on health matters! I fear am about to go off on one again ... ha!
Skip the next bit and head down to the comforting recipe of a good old fashioned "steamed" treacle sponge and ignore me while I rant a while about ongoing battles to get my conditions sorted and the Dr's to co-operate:
For several WEEKS now I have been attempting to chivy my Gastro-Cons - or rather my "ex-Gastro-Cons!" on account of he's sacked himself from the job and left ME still in the same position as I was some YEARS ago but in addition to continuing digestive problems, I now have a headache.  Leaving that aside, as my Neuro-Cons. is looking into that with a series of tests for "epilepsy" which is his latest rather desperate in my opinion, thinking ..
SO why I am ranting?
I am ranting because the Gastro-Cons PROMISED to write to the Cardio-Cons. his professional opinion on my chest pain  and dump the responsibility for resolving it to him .. and he hasn't.  Now. I know why he hasn't.  He hasn't because frankly he's SCARED of the Cardio-Cons.  Every one is.  Apparently.  I had one Dr confidently state that the Cardio-Cons is the single most SCARIEST Cons. in the entire Hospital.  He scares, I'm told, other senior Cons. too.  I'm sure he does.  but thats not MY problem?  How they deal with scary-Cons. is not my problem other than it IS when no one approaches him to contradict him ..
Well its a bit boring and tedious but essentially I have waited 7 weeks now for confirmation such correspondance has been passed and each enquiry to Gastro-Cons-Sec sounds more and more like a fob-off .. FINALLY - after 7 tedious weeks of waiting and pestering - I've received a copy of letter to GP.  Which is one line stating I am "normal".  according to tests.  hmm. well, I'm glad to hear it! I'm happy to know this! I wants to be "normal"! but what about my PAIN? bah.
The secretary sounded slightly strained as she assured me that THIS was a "first" "quick" letter, and that there IS a further letter in the pipeline which will expand a little and mention - she hopes - the diagnosis of IBS .. but to be honest I could almost feel her crossing her fingers and everything else as she lied through her teeth to cover for the Dr .. we shall see.  I shall wait.  TWO more weeks. And then I shall write.  I am good at writing.  Letters of complaint.  For one simple reason: I note everything.  I cannot rely on my memory so I have to write it down.  and as an ex.sec myself from some 20+yrs ago, I am good at keeping notes and records including dates and NAMES.  yes. I shall write and THEN we'll see how quick the promised correspondence gets done ..?

I'm glad to get that off my chest!

Steamed Treacle Sponge
175g/6oz self-raising flour
75g/30z softened butter
50g/2oz caster sugar
1 egg, pinch of salt and about 90ml/6tbsp fresh milk

Grease a 1.1litre/2pint pudding basin and spoon the flavouring of choice in the bottom - I used golden syrup - you could use treacle alternatively you could add 45ml/3tbspn cocoa sifted with the flour and/or stir 25g/1oz choc. chips to make a chocolate version which I can confirm is very yummy indeed particularly if you melt chocolate for the topping!

Mix together the flour, salt and softened butter and sugar.  Make a well and add the egg and enough milk to give a soft dropping consistency and pour into the basin.

Cover with pleated foil (or greaseproof paper) tie with string and steam for 1.5-2hrs. 

Loosen slightly and turn out onto a plate and enjoy with hot custard or icecream .. yum ..

This is a firm family favourite  and very quick and easy to make you just leave it to steam while sitting and knitting and better still the joint of meat roasts along side finishing conveniently for you to "rest" the meat and steam the fresh vegetables while you turn out and cool the pudding!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Ben knits in the window!

Local KIP event at JL, Solihull

choosing patterns & supplies

me knitting!

me, again, knitting - again!

Knit-Pal-Sally & her gorgeous yarn!

happy knitterly chatting
Yesterday was WWKIP day and my best-knit-pal-Sally and I went off to local JL store where the lovely Ben was hosting a Rowan sponsored event to promote the day - he started proceedings by knitting in the window "live knitting" for passers by to enjoy (laughing at!) no doubt some did, but a lot came in and chatted with us which was nice!
We sat on the shop floor and enjoyed refreshments and chatted about knitting showing off our projects and wearing our handknits!  A 10% discount against Rowan purchases on the day for those that participated and it was nice to catch up with knitters from the regular group that meet twice monthly in the cafe and I have promised to attend next month!
I wore my Martha knit in felted tweed & Rowan pin and knit a simple scarf in KSH details in post below.
Ben told us that Rowan are planning new Membership options this year and plans for a mystery shawl KAL in 4ply later this year which Sally and I have both indicated our interest in!
I hope if you took part in an event yesterday you had as much fun as we did!
Happy knitting xx
First ball of yarn "Kate" shawl progress
 I'm progressing nicely with my "Kate" shawl having knit now almost the first of 8 balls of the lovely Rowan Felted Tweed yarn from stash and the pattern is starting to looking promising!
My knit-pal-Sally and I are becoming shawl knitaholics having both been bitten by the shawl bug over on Ravelry and after seeing another knit-pal wearing the most beautiful shawlette edged with beads draped artfully about her throat AND a few hints from the lovely Claire over here on HOW NOT to wear them - NOT old-granny-style half way down the back and NOT looking like have a broomstick to hand witch-style but trendily and casually "about" the neck and throat which seems to involve some artful tucking and placement we were BOTH sold on the idea and you can expect to find me draped IN shawls and lace weights wrapped bandage style from head to toe in the coming months .. 

Quick KSH Scarf
I needed something quick.  Easy to knit.  Small and portable.  pick up, knit and chat and put down to drink coffee .. THIS is currently OTN: a little bit of KSH yumminess which will drape about my neck in a lovely shade of hot pink which isn't, unfortunately, reflected well in the photo above! sorry! Did try various things on the edit pics but this is the best I could do! it IS a lovely hot pink, unfortunately in my haste to get it OTN's I discarded the ballband and can't even refer you to the shade no! sorry!
A super bargain - half price from somewhere just an odd ball enough for a small scarf the pattern I got out of a library book and jotted down for a future occasion!  The occasion being yesterdays KIP was perfect for this!  22st and size 6mm needles a dead easy pattern comprising 10rows garter st, and one eyelet row, knit until you run out of yarn OR become bored .. zzz

Pin and Beads
KnitPro cables

After the KIP event Sally and I headed off to here where we spent a lovely time chatting with Claire (sorry if its Clare! I ought to have checked and I ought to have asked for Rav.Id too!) who was very patient with two dithery-knitters fondling EVERY yarn and coming out emptyhanded!
to be honest I only wanted to get the cables for my KnitPro needles as seen above in various lengths to complement the set I am beginning.  Portree is currently "resting" on one but its a little too long at 80cm for comfortable knitting in the round and one just NEEDS the others!? the 100cm will be perfect for socks and mitts 2AAT for a start and as for the 40cm? well who knows and who cares I bought it anyway!
TEMPTED with the delicious pink Jitterbug in the window knitted as a sock sample - what can I say? its PINK ha! and its JITTERBUG! yay! might go back OR take advantage of their free 2nd class delivery and get them to fling it through the letterbox ..  I wanted and intended to buy a pair of KnitPros for the Arielle project I plan to CO this week, however we decided between us that a metal needle would be better suited as the bamboo MIGHT be too flimsy at such a tiny mm's. 
Had I known - or rather had I realised - it was knit in the tiny 2.75mm I might NOT have set my heart on this project .. but its too late now! I wants it and I'm prepared to spend ages knitting like a snail to get it!!  I have to hope now to find a pair of tiny mm's in my Grandmas knitting roll!

Sally was wearing a lovely little kilt pin with beads and stuff hanging to fasten her jacket and we both bought one that has the little loops from which to hang PROPERLY little beads and charms from here and I bought 4 tiny dice beads to make stitch markers!  About half way down is a tutorial on how to do it, if anyone has any other suggestions or links, please DO share!!? thanks.

A nearly finished room!

3 chicks face out

3 chicks watch us
PROGRESS is being made on the redecorating of our lounge/living room!
Very nearly complete we're on schedule for the fitting of carpet and delivery of new 3-piece suite end June/beg July and its all looking FAB!
Impressed the way my three chicks are totally co-ordinated to the wallpaper! poor Bertie the cat is not impressed that THEY are sat atop HIS perch on the tv and has been caught several times removing the chicks scattering them on the floor!  I'm half expecting to find at least one of them spilling their insides one of these days!
The trouble with CATS is that they do like to rip things apart to spill the insides.
LILLY is particularly good at this and her speciality is rats. LARGE rats. MULTIPLE rats.  whole FAMILIES of rats, not just families but COMMUNITIES of them.  No.1.son confidently stated that we are never more than a short distance from a rat whether we know it or not, and ever since I've been having NIGHTMARES about giving in and letting dh install a cat flap. 
the cats, especially Bertie, scratch at the walls to get out. you see. and naturally with all the new wallpapering going up dh is NOT happy at this.  and wants to get a cat flap installed. so they can go out when they want.
I am not keen on this. I don't know quite why. I just know I'm not.
And after the recent experience this weekend of no.2.son SCREECHING up the stairs around 1am for HELP! THERE'S A RAT AND ITS ALIVE !! in the room after he inadvertantly let Lilly IN with one in her mouth without noticing .. until she dropped it! and started squeaking.  or it might have been the rat squeaking. we don't know, all we know is no.2.son WAS squarking! followed, 5mins later, by dh SQUEAKING ..
Where was I? well I was doing what no.1.son in his room was also doing - shutting OUR doors firmly and returning to bed to hide beneath the duvets to blot out the noise from downstairs ..
About half an hour later dh trudged UP the stairs and collapsed on the bed.  too weak and faint feeling he said to get INTO the bed and promptly started SNORING.  which was annoying. on account of up to then I'd managed to feel like sleeping.
The cat it appears had brought in a rat - dropped it and fled (no doubt upon hearing no.2.son SHRIEK!?) and it was ages before she could be persuaded to find and take OUT the rat which by then was hiding behind the radiator ..
hence another reason for my reluctance to get a cat flap! think have managed to persuade dh against the idea as frankly whats a few claw marks down posh-wallpaper compared to 300 rats galloping up the stairs to rip out our throats in the middle of night .. ?  that. I think did it.  completely terrified she HAD brought in 300 rats unseen by no.2.son dh overcame his faint feeling and found HE couldn't sleep and thus didn't snore ..
Which is why, I think, he struggled the following day with installing the curtain pole!  tired and stressed about having his throat ripped out ..
He managed to get it in position and now we can completely frighten ourselves silly with the cost of having new curtains made.
Why? I hear you ask, am I not making them myself?
Well for one very good reason: I don't DO curtains! ever! well obviously I have, in the past, made one or two pairs but I've not enjoyed the experience terribly and not as it were ever FINISHED a pair - typically our house being somewhat old and not quite straight I have hung curtains with the intention of hemming them "later".  we all know what "later" means: never.  yes?
Plus, I want a more tailored look and a triple pinch pleat heading which means MATHS!
An initial quote means it may be curtains to plans for an end of summer weekend break BUT as I said to dh, we've waited YEARS for this to be done and I'd rather we invested our money in getting a nice room and boring as it sounds, I'd PREFER a pair of posh curtains to a weekend break ..

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Wallpaper Progress & knitty update

Mr Angry Pill

the patterned wallpaper

the plain wallpaper
Well the wallpaper is progressing very well despite our misfortune in finding one of the rolls of the plainer paper is apparently flawed with some sort of imprint that unrolling several lengths appears to be throughout the entire roll!  Later we plan to take it back to the shop either for replacement OR at a discount/goodwill.  At £35/roll I am certainly not accepting it for full price but it IS possible that we can cut around the flaws if we are forced to but  I shall be expecting not to "have to"!
We chose the co-ordinating paper and as it goes up on the wall we can start to appreciate just what a nice room we are going to end up with!  The new carpet is due to be fitted toward the end of the month, and hopefully furniture will arrive shortly afterwards - our next decision will be on furniture and storage ..
As part "reward" and part "retirement present" to himself, I have agreed to the purchase of a posh new large slimline tv ..
In return dh is talking of replacing my rather old and slightly dodgy exercise bike with a posh new treadmill thingie that is currently down to half price ..
(how to suggest I might actually prefer one of those embellishing/felting machines and/or stash of yummy cashmere .. ?)
This year is a big one for us celebration wise, dh reached 65yrs and nearly got to retire in Jan, followed by no.1.son in Mar 18yrs and soon no.2.son will be 16yrs and I will be .. 50 .. shhh! now! we'll keep that one quiet! FIFTY how did that happen? what happened to at least 15 of those last years??   Well its all numbers really, don't you think?
I don't get all bothered about age or excited either - in fact half the time I can't remember how old I am and once famously nearly "missed" my 40th on account of believing I was still 38yrs.
The sad part is that at 20yrs & 2weeks older, my LateMother would also have been celebrating her 70th birthday and this thought brings back happy/sad memories of our last joint-celebration of my 40th and her 60th just two short years later on the occasion of her 62nd Birthday she died.  Which always makes it awkward for "remembering" each occasion, but is, I admit, also rather convenient and I am increasingly less emotional about this coincidence with passing of times.  BUT I expect with it being my 50th and not her 70th will make me pause to reflect this August.

On the knitting side, the shawl is progressing and I've still not knit a whole ball so the yardage is looking attractive; I've been asked to knit more of the little novelty chill-pills by both of my sons and they have requested the different emotions too!  I experimented with leftover sock yarn on smaller needles and they both declare a preference for the larger palm sized version in dk!
It takes a surprisingly longer time to knit than you might think given its size and small number of stitches and if I'm honest I'm not thrilled at the prospect of commiting so much time to novelty knits BUT as I don't often get requests, I'm not refusing!
After years of trying to FORCE my handcrafts on family and finally giving up and vowing to become a totally selfish knitter, its a bit mixed to now find that my knits are in demand AND being requested!  both lads have asked for teddies, and my sil has asked for fingerless gloves ..
I shall need to start doing another review of progress and start setting some goals!

Earlier this year I set about knitting Portree from Rowan magazine 46 and planned to use the left over yarn for Baxter Mittens from the same magazine.  I have decided to put this on temporary hold for two reasons: firstly, because it is more of an autumn/winter knit and I want to knit something to wear NOWish and secondly, because I have discovered that I have a slight "problem" in keeping track and following the pattern which is one that developed soon after my stroke at the last ablation Sept, 2010 and its a bit frustrating at the moment!

Having almost complete the lovely Cloud from Rowan Calmer Collection I have resolved to making this my next priorty - I will blog and take photo's soon but my aim is to get the lovely Arielle OTN's as soon as possible from the book Misty.

buttons for Arielle

Yarn for Arielle
Having been fortunate to get both yarn and buttons at a very favourable price, I splashed out and bought the book! and have so far knitted one project but its Arielle I have my eye on!

Adore in KSH

Adore in KSH
 A bit of KSH yumminess about the neck is always good?

Perhaps I need to do a half-way review and reset my goals?

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Chill Pill!

chill pill
I couldn't resist knitting this! I've got another one on the go, on smaller needles using sock yarn and might make a few more ..
An Afib pal has suggested customising the colours to suit popular meds, now I need to find the colours for a good strong tranquillising med to make one for my GP!! x

A bit of home baking

Chocolate Sponge

Cream filled fruit scones

Victoria Sponge

Apple Pie
This year there has been a lot more baking - in the past I used to bake routinely but this slowed to a stop and its been a nice change to go back and rediscover some old favourites - Victoria Sponge cake - at the same time exploring new variations and trying different recipes.
My particular favourites are the scones, rock cakes and fruit crumbles, pies & bread pudding!
My family have their favourites too - dh and no.2.son and one of my brothers prefer chocolate based cakes & puddings, no.1.son plain and I like fruited ones.  Generally we ALL like the fabulous ginger biscuits and basically stuf I bake gets eaten pretty quickly by one or other if not all of us!
My husband had plans for his "retirement" which hinted at an interest in the kitchen, but these are on hold as he has returned after a short "retirement" (2weeks, 3days) to work 4days per week.
When you've the time to do it properly and enjoy the process it is satisfying and as well as providing the family with yumminess happily home cooking and baking is very CHEAP too! hurrah!
Some of the classics we're enjoying at the moment include cheese and bacon quiche, toad-in-hole, mince & onion pie and a lovely spicy chicken curry from here.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Princess Kate Shawl ravelry KAL

First attempt

Second attempt

As it is after a rethink
OTN's as from last night is the Princess Kate Shawl I'm knitting along with a few other pals on the KAL that Eleanor is running over on Ravelry.
I'm on my 2nd go having ripped out the first when I became aware that not only had I not understood the pattern instruction to PURL was not a "mistake" or typo but was in fact what set the ruffles! Annoyingly I had realised it on ONE half and not the other hence it was apparent I'd gone "wrong"!
Additionally, I seemed to have not "got" the sequence quite right for the knitting of the "wraps" either in particular on one side - the left as you look at it!
The pattern is deceptively easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy and I got into the knitting without being fully aware!  I canvassed opinion from a terrified family about what to DO .. rip? or carry on? and generally opinion was to rip and start over!  I'm CROSS with MYSELF therefore, for going wrong again! I think I'll mark the relevant rows with a highlighter pen!
I'm using the delicious Rowan Felted Tweed yarn which is going to give me both the look and the feel of the tweedy original that inspired the pattern in shade 156 (discontinued, I believe.  I purchased 8 balls of this some time ago and had planned to knit another Martha with it but this is a better use of the yarn I feel although I was VERY tempted with some of Eleanor's yarns!)

I'm using a 60cm circ size 3.75mm addi turbo needle and so far I think my tension is right for both the yarn and the pattern and with 8 balls I think I'll be ok - the instructions are to knit to about half the yardage available so I'll just knit and see how it looks before commencing the 2nd side and accept the size as what I gets for my yardage!

I'm not an experienced knitter of shawls or wraps, but I've thoroughly enjoyed wearing my Birds Nest in the delicious KSH which is rather similar in colour but a different shape and altogether more patterned being lace-styled.  A good cyber-craft-pal Pauline has also treated me to a lovely cone of the deliciousness from here! too for good measure! and I have about two pattern ideas from which to select - both from The Knitter more on that later!)

Birds Nest Shawl 
Cone of Yumminess Gift