Recent knitting

•May 10, 2011 • 2 Comments

My poor husband is convinced that I have lost my love for sewing, now that knitting has come my way! That seriously is not the case, but I have been sewing nearly every night for at least 3 years and it is kind of nice to have a ‘hobby’! I think it has a lot to do with learning a new skill and the excitement of achieving something I thought I couldn’t do. I am really, really pleased with how much I have learned and how well I am doing. If you know me at all, you’ll realize how unusual it is for me to say that I have done something well, regardless of whether I have. I’m slowly coming to accept that being proud of your accomplishments does not necessarily make you cocky and conceited. Perhaps finding that balance is as much of an achievement as learning to knit lace or cables or socks!

I have just completed my first lace project, a fairly straightforward Shetland Lace scarf. I used Pima Lino Lace in a vibrant pink colour. This cotton/linen blend knits up very well and is soft enough not to irritate my neck, unlike the alpaca I used for the Ruffle Scarf.

Shetland Lace Scarf in Pima Lino Laceweight yarn

Shetland Lace Scarf

I did start work, several times, on the Abrazo shawl pattern I bought from Twist Collective, but have since frogged it and started afresh on another project. (Did you see that? I used the word ‘frogged’ like I knew what it meant! I’m figuring out the lingo! PS I basically means unravelling something you have knit. Perhaps you actually have to finish it to be able to frog it, but I’m sticking with it!) I have used the 100g Confetti Sock Yarn in shades of grey for another lace scarf project, this time a free download from SweetGeorgia Yarns, the CashSilk Fern, though I am clearly not using CashSilk until I feel safer in justifying the cost of the yarn for a project for myself! This is how far I am on that project:

Lace pattern scarf using Confetti sock yarn in shades of grey

SweetGeorgia Fern scarf

I really like the shades of grey and the pattern. I could see me doing this again using a different yarn, but I am so eager to try new patterns that it might be awhile before I do this again.

I have a glove project on the back burner, but the sort-of arrival of spring has me thinking more about light weight scarves than angora gloves, so that might not progress too quickly! That said, I have just started my first pair of socks and am loving them so far. The stitches are so small and neat and the patterning of the Nova Sock Yarn is vibrant and appealing, although perhaps not my usual colour choice!

Sock knitting in progress

First sock

There are a few other things happening around here, apart from knitting! Yesterday was Mother’s Day and Bri took the girls to Mad About Ewe to get a gift for me. Damn, did I say something was happening other than knitting?! I was wrong! My lovely, lovely husband and children bought me a skein of Centolavaggi laceweight Italian Merino, as well as a set of sock tubes. On top of that, the most beautiful “I Love You” plaque and several fabulous paintings, lunch at A&W with my Mum and an afternoon of gardening. A wonderful day, all in all. Brian spent the afternoon constructing the new playhouse for the girls, as part of the Secret Garden project. We are such a lucky family, to have one another and to have this wonderful space to play, grow and explore.

Peek-a-boo view of the girls' playhouse at the bottom of the garden

Peek-a-boo view of the girls' playhouse at the bottom of the garden

Bag thief on the loose

•April 16, 2011 • 1 Comment

Apparently , there is a bag thief on the loose in Melbourne, Australia. Nikki M from You Sew, Girl! has been exhibiting at the Quilt Conference and someĀ  nasty piece of work has stolen one of her sample bags. Not just any bag, but one which features in her new book and is made using hand-printed fabric from Ink & Spindle and a button from her Nan’s stash. Following the theft last year of her beautiful fedora, this has really dealt a blow to her faith in people.


Wanted

I highly doubt anyone in the vicinity of Melbourne is likely to read this, but it might serve to highlight how personally devastating it is for a designer and maker of things to have their work stolen, physically or otherwise. It has also reminded me, with a show coming up, that vigilance is essential and I must not be naive to the possibility of products going missing.

Just finished

•April 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I just finished knitting a hat for my daughter and am quite pleased with the result. Of course I am. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be posting about it here!! This was not my first hat (6th, actually. Wow.), but it was my first attempt at using beads in my knitting. Let’s just say I am not the sort to be contented with knitting endless samplers and dishcloths. I am so excited about this new hobby/obsession of mine, that I want to learn something new with each project. That said, I am not rushing in to the big project – a cardigan – until I have a good grounding in a range of techniques and have experimented with various yarn types and weights.

Anyway, this is supposed to be about the hat, so here it is:

Milly's beaded hat, variegated purple yarn

Milly's beaded hat

No, that is not Milly, but she was in bed and I didn’t want to wait until tomorrow! The hat is knit in the round on 3.5mm circulars, then finished with DPNs, obviously. I used a variegated purple yarn, a favourite with all three of us girls. It is the Fabel yarn by Drops and is a 75% wool superwash, 25% polyamid. It is the first time I have used it and I like it very much. The colours are great and the yarn felt nice to work with. I will definitely be using it again and think it would work well for socks, gloves and more hats. As for the beads, I have to admit they are nothing special (read: Dollar Store craft section), but the colours are pretty and the effect is subtle. I will be using beads again in future projects.

I am still working on the Helix Scarf KAL, but will no doubt start something else before long. I purchased a pattern for a shawl/wrap from Twist Collective and would love to get started on that. We are going to a wedding in May and I would love to have something special to wear that I have made. No outfit yet, but I’ll think of something!

Off my needles

•April 9, 2011 • 4 Comments

One of the things I have been working on is a ruffled scarf with optional beaded cast off, from Le Tissier Designs, aka Lynette Meek. The sample in the store is in a really pretty purple yarn with lovely beads and that is what attracted me in the first place. However, I decided to try something neutral that would work well with summer outfits. I chose a cream 100% alpaca yarn by Drops Studio. Unfortunately, I misinterpreted the instructions and ended up with far more stitches than I should have! Rather than ending up with 700 stitches, I had 2106! Don’t ask. Due to the abundance of stitches and shortage of beads, I decided not to use them this time. In truth, with this much ruffle, it doesn’t need beads, but I will be making more, in different colours and with beads!

Ruffle scarf in cream alpaca

Ruffle scarf in cream alpaca

Helix Scarf Knit Along

•April 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I am thoroughly enjoying knitting, so much so that I don’t want to do much else at the moment! Thankfully, I have wholeheartedly embraced circular needles, which means I am able to knit in the car – straight needles are considered rather more dangerous in the event of an accident. I’m a safety girl!

I have decided to join in the Knitting Daily Helix Scarf Knit Along, although I am participating with my LYS (Local Yarn Store). What better way to meet other knitters and get feedback than spending timeĀ  in such a lovely store with very helpful and knowledgeable staff and a steady stream of passionate knitters! In case you don’t know, I’m referring to Mad About Ewe in Wesley Street, Nanaimo. When I first started knitting, I was all for getting bargain yarn at Michaels, but it hasn’t taken me long to realize that the knowledge base of the staff at Mad About Ewe far outweighs the bargain factor of Michaels, which has a fair selection of yarns, but they are no help whatsoever if you have any questions.

Anyway, this is what I am working on for the KAL. I have two versions, because I couldn’t quite make my mind up about what to do for it. Once I figured out the pattern and realized it was really straightforward, I wanted to make it more interesting! However, I don’t have beads to fit the first yarn, a merino superwash by Cascade Yarns in a gorgeous, subtly variegated green, so I’m sticking to the pattern.

Helix Scarf KAL in green merino superwash

Helix Scarf KAL in green merino superwash

 

Having said I prefer to shop at the LYS, I still have a fair bit of yarn purchased elsewhere and I had a single ball of Lion Brand “Amazing”, which is a self-striping 53% wool, 47% acrylic mix in the Ruby colourway. It was really pretty and cost 99c, how could I turn it down?! Sadly, there is no way it is going to make a scarf, so I’ll be unravelling it and either using it for something else or changing the pattern to make a narrower Helix Scarf.

Helix Scarf KAL self-striping wool blend in Ruby colourway

Helix Scarf KAL self-striping wool blend

I have other projects on the go and I haven’t show you my new gloves yet, so I’ll be back soon with those.

On my needles

•February 26, 2011 • 2 Comments

Once again, there has been a quiet period here on the blog, but that certainly does not mean that nothing has been happening behind the scenes! Since Milly’s birthday at the beginning of the month, we have another round of sickness, this time including me. I have been ‘lucky’ over the last couple of years in that I’ve been able to avoid colds, flu etc while I was suffering from the herniated disc issues. Good job, too, as the slightest cough or sneeze combined with that is less than appealing. My back has actually, finally, been improving, much to my great delight. Unfortunately, the coughing brought on by this cold has messed things up a bit. Tomorrow will be better!

DH’s new job has turned out to be more of a stop-gap than a career and he has been headhunted by another company which has been able to offer much better prospects both for job satisfaction, career progression and also for family. He starts in just over a week and is totally over the moon about it. It is also a local job, so no return to the 6 hour daily commute of the old days! Hurrah! We are so excited about all that it means for the family, as the last two years have been, like for many people, an exercise in caution. It will be nice to relax a little and maybe indulge in a few things. We are not deprived by any stretch of the imagination, but we also don’t spend on a whim or buy things on credit. It is hard to justify luxuries when your income is not assured. Now we can consider some of the purchases we have put off – a new stove, a chair I can be comfortable in, model rail paraphenalia, radio restoration supplies. I have to admit that I have continued to buy fabric, feeling that is more a necessity than a luxury!

You may know that my personal goal for this year was to learn to knit. Mum taught me the basics when I was a child and I have dabbled from time to time, but have always been put off by what appeared to be the foreign language of knitting patterns. Ironic, really, when my university degree was the study of foreign languages…. Anyway, I set my mind to the task and am, I must admit, hooked. I have spent a lot of time thinking about yarn, needles, patterns, supplies and bags and have a list of future projects in my notebook. I have taken a methodical, organized approach to my goal and have a basket for my yarn stash and patterns and a notebook where I have recorded the needles and yarn which both mum and I have. Very handy when we are in the store contemplating a new project. I also have a larger notebook where I make notes about each project I undertake, the yarn and needles I use and my verdict on the pattern and outcome. I have been relatively diligent about doing swatches for each pattern and have included these in the book, too. This hobby has motivated me to design a needle roll and a knitting project bag. I have completed the prototypes for both and they are being tested at the moment.

Handmade knitting bag, designed by Fiona Ballard, Pip 'n' Milly Creations

Knitting bag prototype

Rear of handmade knitting bag, showing zippered pocket

Rear view of knitting bag

Interior shot of knitting bag, showing multiple divided pockets and clear vinyl pockets

Interior shot of knitting bag

The bag measures 15.5″ across the bottom, 11″ high, 6″ deep. The front pocket is large enough for magazines, patterns etc and the front has 2 magnetic catches, depending on how full the bag is. There is a zippered pocket on the rear of the bag and the interior has multiple divided pockets on one side and clear vinyl pockets on the other. I’ll be using it in conjunction with the needle roll and the bag will carry all the general tools and gadgets, plus whatever I need for the specific project I am working on. It also has a key clip and enough space for my personal stuff, in case I don’t want to carry a handbag. So far, so good, but I’m working on a version with a divider, as I’m already finding I have more than one project on the go at a time.

These are the things I have been knitting since I started a few weeks ago. We are still in February, so I guess I’ve actually accomplished quite a bit!

1 – Scarf – predominantly seed/moss stitch. I have made scarves in the past, but this is the first time I have actually tried to do something other than straightforward knit or purl. I used it as a large swatch and may well unravel and knit it again now that I have more confidence. I do like this stitch a lot.

Seed stitch scarf in turquoise yarn

Seed stitch scarf

2 – Chunky scarf

Mum inspired me to try cables, after she picked up her needles after a gap of 26 years and immediately started making some lovely cabled handwarmers for me. I did a practice swatch, then moved on to my first ever pattern. Not sure why I decided to start with one that incorporated aran-style chevrons, seed stitch and bobbles, but the picture was very appealing and at least there was no shaping involved. This was from the Debbie Bliss book, The Knitter’s Year, and is a complicated pattern for a beginner, so I was inordinately pleased with myself for conquering it.

Cable scarf with seed stitch, bobble in grey

Grey cable scarf

3 – Tea cozy

My Nan used to make tea cozies like this, so I was nostalgically delighted to see this pattern in the Debbie Bliss book. I knitted it in my favourite colours of dark, dark pink and purple (Berry and Grape from the Red Heart Soft range by Coats).

Traditional English tea cozy in dark pink and purple

Traditional English tea cozy

4 – Mittens

I suffer from poor circulation in my extremities (hands, feet, nose) and have had to resort to wearing multiple layers this winter. I think my herniated disc and subsequent lack of exercise have exacerbated the issue. Hopefully it will improve in time, but for now, I need layers! I picked up this pattern from Mad About Ewe, here in Nanaimo.

Basic mittens, turqoise

Knitted mittens

These were knitted in the round on double pointed needles, so yay for tackling another knitting technique!

5 – On my needles right now – 2nd Chunky Scarf

I’m doing the chunky scarf again, this time on larger needles and using the Softee Chunky yarn from Bernat that I used for the mittens. I’ll no doubt be making myself a beret soon, too!

cable scarf 2, larger needles, turquoise yarn

cable scarf 2

I’m also working on a pair of baby bootees, but I’m stumped by the next section of the pattern, so I’ll have to go away and find some help.

Happy knitting!

Four years on

•February 2, 2011 • 4 Comments

Four years ago today, we welcomed little Milly into our family. She was such a quiet, peaceful little thing way back then, but oh, how things have changed! From the time she could talk, boy oh boy, has she talked! Getting her to stop is the challenge! She loves to chatter, dance, watch movies, do puzzles and play with her dolls. Her favourite foods are mushroom soup, mac and cheese, red pepper, pancakes and cheese on toast. Dresses are still her preferred attire, especially with shiny shoes! She’s a cheeky little monkey at times, but she’s healthy, happy, always ready for a cuddle and smart as can be.

Baby Milly

Baby Milly

Milly, a few days old

Milly, a few days old

Milly, one day old

Milly, one day old

Milly and Pip

Milly and Pip

Milly wasn’t too concerned about having a party for her birthday, so we decided to have a little play date with a few friends from pre-school and the school run. Mum and I dropped her off for Beach Kids, then ran around like headless chickens getting the house tidied up and the table set for her tea-less tea party. The day before, we had made heart-shaped cupcakes, gummy candies, marshmallows and I spent the evening making tissue paper flowers. I had made some paper streamer things a few days before and was eager to see how they would look in-situ. I think things turned out rather well, all in all!

Ready for the guests to arrive for Milly's tea party. Paper flowers, circle streamers, party food

Ready for the guests to arrive

Milly, age 4, with her cake and in new dress made by Grandma

Milly, age 4

Here, Milly is wearing the dress Grandma made for her. She has only just started to sew again after many, many years and she did a stunning job.

Here’s the ruffled peek-a-boo jumper I made for Milly, using a pattern from Mary’s fabulous book, Little Girls, Big Style.

Milly in her ruffled jumper

Milly in her ruffled jumper

Happy birthday, my little darling!