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February 2016

Yarnalong adventures

with Ginny

Yarnalong 24 02

Last Wednesday evening while working on the blue 23rd block of my throw, you may remember that this was the last solid coloured block I could make with the yarn I had left, I made a mistake. I was about 16 rows in and it was down on about row 9. I'm not a very good frogger when I need to pick up the stitches again, if it's the whole article i'm ripping out I can do it! So I tend to tink back the stitches (rows!!) until I reach my mistake. Because of the nature of this square, (those cables!) and the fact I was only 16 rows in, I just frogged the whole thing to start again. Not the end of the world I thought.

Until that is, that I decided to skip this last solid block and have a go at the stripey block instead. So I glanced over the pattern quickly only to discover that I need to keep the first and last three knit on every row stitches in the same colour as the first and last 4 knit rows. ie, one colour to surround the stripes. How the heck do you do that??

Oh well never mind, i'll just move onto the intarsia block. I'm sure it will all come back to me when I start. Did it heck!

I sat there on the sofa with my project bag on my lap and felt like crying. In a matter of 5 minutes I was fed up with it and ready to put it in a cupboard out of sight, out of mind and move on. Instead I didn't put it in a cupboard, I just left it next to my chair and picked up some sock yarn to move onto something altogether different that I would need to concentrate very hard on and take my mind off stripes and intarsia for a few days!

Besides my cocoon bed socks, I have never attempted a sock before. The needles are freakishly tiny and very pointy as they jab into my hands! I never thought I would make socks but I was desperate to try them having seen the lovely creations each week on yarnalong. I have thoughts on sock knitting that I will share soon. Thank you Steph@woolthyme for the cheerleading, I am determined to finish this pair of socks!

So back to the throw......Yesterday I topped up my yarn supply and added a green and grey to the colour scheme. And booked a refresher intarsia class where I will relearn on the actual blocks I need to knit, there are only two so really I can do this!!

I wanted to finish watchman last night but we ended up staying up too late and I was too tired for more than a few pages. It's scary to think that our attitudes towards our fellow man are little changed over all these years. Sad really.

Happy crafting everyone!

Ciao xx

A little knitted gift

Wash cloths 1
Wash cloths 2
Wash cloths 3

Last Christmas I wanted to include a little 'knitted something' in my parcels for the girls. Initially I had planned to knit bed socks but having 10 days between returning from Cape Town and Christmas day, I ran out of time.

Instead I took out my stash of hand knit cotton and made some little wash cloths. They are simply knitted squares using moss (or seed) stitch, I think I cast on 21 stitches, and a little crochet chain loop (made with the tail of yarn when casting off) for hanging.

They each took about an hour to knit (i'm still quite slow when it comes to moss and rib stitch), which makes them a great last minute gift for the lady who appreciates a bit of hand made love.

On their own or backed with fabric make great pot holders too. Which reminds me, I must replace mine!

For the little tags, I dug through my very neglected scrapbooking stash. Each time I do I realise just how much I miss it! Products used: cardstock, snowflake punch, corner rounder, anywhere hole punch, brad.

Ciao xx

Stepping out of my comfort zone

and joining Ginny on a yarnalong

Yarnalong 17 02 16

I'm on block 23 of 40 and this is the last solid block with the yarn I have. Next Tuesday I will top up my yarn supply. In the mean time I have left overs to  do the stripey blocks (I think there are only 4) and I must tackle the intarsia block. I'm excited and nervous to get working on the intarsia block because although i've done a class, it was a long time ago and i've kinda forgotten. Thank goodness for the www!! So looking forward to updating next week when there is something a little more exciting to show.

Not much reading went on over the past week so i'm still making my way through Go Set a Watchman. And still loving it.

Happy Wednesday!

Ciao xx

Don't get stuck in a rut

Ken Hom book

Last year my husband watched a James Martin Saturday Morning with the American (Chinese) chef Ken Hom, and declared that we should start making stir fry for dinner. It was just before dear husbands birthday so I added the Ken Hom 100 quick stir fry recipe's book to his gift and set about clearing a bit of kitchen cupboard space for him to store his ingredients.

There are a few standard store cupboard ingredients that you need for most recipes, like sesame oil, nut oil, corn flour, Chinese rice wine and soy sauce (both light and dark). And then others that add flavour like black bean sause, satay sauce and fish oil, these have a once opened fridge life so we were careful not to buy huge jars to begin with!

We do at least 2 stir frys a week that need more fresh veg ingredients which meant updating our menu planning regime. At first I thought it would be a faff and didn't relish the idea of in store shopping again. But like with most things in life, if you plan carefully and think about where you need to go and what you need ahead of time, you can get it done relatively pain free.

The fresh veg that we use in our stir fry last about two weeks (and I have a small bag of frozen stir fry veg for emergencies). We've found a Chinese supermarket not far from home which happens to be in close proximity (ie next door) to a supermarket and outdoor fruit and veg market. This means fresh stir fry ingredients and any other shopping needs (like soap and cat food) are done in one stop!

We use mostly chicken and pork in stir fry and have found a local butcher that does excellent deals on chicken breasts. I cut them into strips and portion off to freeze. The packs are quite big so again it's a fortnightly visit.

This is a very different way of shopping to how I started doing things 18 months ago, but we're really enjoying the stir fry and it's so quick and easy. We cook more meals together, with me preping and giving instructions (from the book!) and dear husband doing the 'woking'. Eating and shopping like this has brought our food bill down further which in my book is a huge bonus!

My meal planning isn't 'this is what we're eating on these days', more of a shop for certain meals and then decide what to have on the day.

Happy days

Ciao xx

Slow and Steady

and joining Ginny on a yarnalong

Yarnalong 10 02 16

Progress on the knitted blocks is slow but steady and I am loving watching the pile of completed blocks grow each week. Some blocks (like that blue one in the photo above) have proved to be the most fun to knit despite the concentration required to read each and every pattern row as there is no regularity. This in progress block is number 19 which means i'm so close to half way and this is SO exciting!! I'll need more yarn on my next visit to Jolie at the end of February, but I have enough to keep me going till then (and payday). I'm considering adding a dash of green, not for a solid square, maybe in the stripes and intarsia squares. What do you think?

Loving Go Set a Watchman! Oh I am torn between racing to the end or having it last another week.

I'm exploring sock patterns so hoping there are lots of socks in progress as I visit the yarnalongers!

Ciao xx

Igloo socks

Igloo socks 3
Igloo socks 2
Igloo socks 4

These sweet bed socks from the book Simply Knitted With Love are a very quick and easy knit. Knitted flat on two needles I should have known and I can't believe it took me so long to try them! I did however make them way too big and had to frog a bit to resize which put my completion date back by a day.
I knitted them on the recommended size 6mm needles but I think I will try a second pair in a 5.5mm needle as I'm a slightly loose knitter. Of course i'm doing this to make sure I get the pattern just right *wink*

After seaming up and sewing the toes I put them on straight away and boy they are toasty warm! Rowan cocoon is a messy yarn to work with as it fluffs all over your clothes but it is so soft and lush that it's a perfect choice of yarn for this project.

I can confirm that these bed socks will go on my Christmas gift making list! (is it still too soon?)

Ciao xx

It's important to enjoy the journey

and joining Ginny on a yarnalong

29 01 Bag of blocks

Although I am making good progress on my TO MAKE list and getting lots ticked off, I haven't really enjoyed the whole process of creating for a little while. I've felt like I'm always thinking ahead to the next project and I guess this has resulted from having such a huge stash of yarn that was bought for specific projects and feeling like I really should be making them! 

This patchwork throw however has been a delight to make and I have loved learning pattern reading on a whole new level. Having finished the bed socks on Sunday (full post and photos will be on the blog on Friday), I was so looking forward to getting back to the knitted blocks.

I'm sure this throw will be my yarnalong project for a while yet, but it is a journey I'm thoroughly enjoying!

Reading Go Set A Watchman. I've not read much in the past week but so far i'm enjoying it.

Ciao xx

A month of planning

01 02 planner post 2

01 02 planner post 1

I'm pleased to say that I survived the first month of using a planner alongside my diary and totally loving the process.

Initially I wondered if I was making a big mistake outlaying cash on the Carpe Diem planner. Don't get me wrong it's pretty as heck and I love it but not knowing if it would sit on a shelf after a lousy few weeks of use was scary. Especially considering my planner track record!

It didn't all fall into place immediatly and I made a few blunders that would usually have left me feeling dissapointed. The first month of my planner doesn't look like I imagined. 
This is a huge learning curve for me, as I'm the type of person that wants to perfect a new hobby or craft or process before I've even picked up the tools. I over research and over analyse. My urge for something to be perfect on the first attemp often stops me trying new things.

The great thing about this style of planner is that the layout and options of style and design are flexible. I have moved a few things around as January progressed and have a much better feel for the pages I use most and those that I need and want but not all the time.

Initially I wanted to have four months in the planner at a time so I could add photos and ephemera and it not get too bulky. Then remove each month as it finishes, archive and bind it all together at the end of the year into a mini scrapbook. But it turns out I want to see and use the whole year. This became apparent when we booked a weeks holiday in September and I wanted to add it in my planner straight away. So i've added the month to view pages back in but not the weekly pages. This makes the planner less bulky and I get to access the whole year. A planner has to work for you and be adaptable to what's going on in your life, if it can't, then it's not the right planner for you.

One thing that irritated me was the 'curling' of the last page when I closed the book. It seemed to get a bit scrunched and bent and that was annoying. So I used a sheet of clear binding acetate, cut to size, and punched as a 'back page'. It slides against the inside fabric covering making the book close better protecting that last paper page.

Having found the perfect planner for me, I needed to form habits to make it work for me and ensure I use it. Of course it comes everywhere with me but if I don't take it out my bag and use it then it's just extra weight I can do without. Here's what is working for me so far:

  • Every morning when I get into work I get my desk draw key, pen (I'm very particular about the pen I use and mine comes everywhere with me!), phone and planner out of my handbag.
  • While my laptop is firing up I open my planner to today and check if there is anything to do or add to my days plans. I chose the weekly pages because I work full time and don't have a huge amount of 'out of work chores' in my life. This planner is for me and not work. I also glance back at yesterday to see that everything was done and carry over anything that wasn't and needs to be rescheduled.
  • My planner stays on my desk as a reminder to do any of the days tasks. If I have calls to make I take it with me to lunch or to the kitchen if it's a quick call that can be made while the coffee machine whirls out a cuppa, ie calling/texting to order wood, or book a car MOT.
  • I usually have a quick glance when I get in from work and if there is nothing left to do I don't look at it again until the morning. If however there are things to discuss with dear husband then I leave it out as a reminder.
  • On a Monday I have an hour after work before an appointment so I sit in a lovely quiet Hitchin pub, with a coffee and do some 'making pretty' on my planner. It's me time and a good opportunity for me to add any goals and review my yarn craft lists.
  • The weekends are slightly different. Saturdays can be quite busy, so although I'll add tasks to my planner I tend to also add them to a separate slip of paper that I can take with me. I have a quick look at the planner first thing and grab the slip of paper. I don't like to plan too much for a Sunday so I don't schedule any tasks on that day. I do however have a quick look first thing for birthdays.

This may not be how I manage my planner at the end of the year and my methods may evolve but this is working for me now. Good habits are the key to effective planning, ticking off tasks and reaching goals.

If you have an effective way of using your planner or ideas please share!

Ciao xx