Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Aargh ... flesh eating yarn!!!

So, there I was happily knitting a bed bug in the glow in the dark yarn that I had been super excited about. Then, my hands began to feel itchy, then sore. I tend to wrap yarn around my right hand when I'm knitting and when I unwrapped it I was all red and scaly! I know, pretty nasty. The same was true on my left hand where I'd handled the yarn. Whatever is in it to make it glow obviously disagrees with me.

'Oh noes!' said I. And I'm sure that's what you're thinking too.

So the little bed bug is on hold for the time being. The rash has gone away but my skin in still sore and scaly. Is it worth turning into a lizard woman for some awesomely cool knitting ... I'm not sure yet.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Fat Controller is a modern day Dr. Frankenstein - there, I said it!

Thomas the Tank Engine is deeply creepy. This is not open for discussion - it is fact.

You know how people say that the devil’s greatest feat was convincing the world he didn’t exist? Well, Thomas’ greatest feat is convincing the world that he is just a congenial, friendly tank engine. He isn’t. I’m disturbed that more people aren’t suitably freaked out by him. He is a train with a face!

I know, I know, there are loads of other kid’s programmes where vehicles have faces. But think about it, the trains in Chuggington, the car in Brum, even the vehicles in Engie Bengy and to a certain extent, Finlay the Fire Engine, all make use of the features of said vehicle to create a face. Windows are eyes, headlights can be a nose and natural joins in bodywork can be used as a mouth.

Thomas is a train with a HUMAN FACE! That’s horrific! Where did he get the human face?? Whay haven't parents risen up in outrage about this monstrosity - I mean, they kick up a fuss about everything else, from disabled t.v presenters to bums on X-factor.

It's my belief that the Fat Controller is the sinister figure behind this train animating process. He must be an insane psychopathic killer who hunts down hobos and steals their faces before fixing them onto the bodywork of some poor steam engine like a crazed stop-motion Dr. Frankenstein. No one notices the missing hobos, the island of Sodor is free of riff-raff and it would explain the constant stream of new tank engines for merchandising purposes. Notice the deathly grey pallor of Thomas’ face? That can’t be healthy.

Unfortunately my sons love him and I don't think the above rant makes for good parenting when it's aimed at wide eyed two year olds

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Super cool stash!

I may be developing a semi-serious stash addiction. The boyfriend has started mocking me for this since I told him to hang on to any buttons from old clothes so as I could use them in crafty ways. However, since this house was collapsing under the weight of his various collections when I moved in, I think it's a little bit rich of him to pass judgement. At least my knitted things are useful!

Anywho, today I received a parcel from the states which was uber-exciting! I have not seen this yarn anywhere in the UK and although postage from the US is a little expensive, I had to get some.

That's right - this is glow in the dark yarn!! How awesome is that?! I have a mochimochiland pattern that I'm going to knit with this. I'm making glow in the dark bed bug toys for my twins' bedroom. Can't wait to get started. I just hope it knits decently as sometimes novelty wool can be a bit iffy. But now that we're no longer snowed in, I don't have the luxury of indulging my knitting habit and my mum has requested a set of the snowmen from my last post so who knows when I'll get round to it :(

Monday, 6 December 2010

Teeny tiny snowmen in teeny tiny scarves.

So, in my last post I mentioned that my yarn and needles were packed away, and that was indeed the case, but in my internet travels I came across the most awesome kntting site. I was looking for inspiration for my other top secret craft projects when I stumbled across Mochimochiland

The projects on this site are exactly my kind of thing - I've always loved Japanese culture and especially all things kawaii (that's 'cute' to you and me) and with patterns costing only $5, how could I resist a treat or two?!

In fact, the project I'm sharing today only cost $2 and all of the yarn I used were just scraps lying around the bottom of my knitting bag with no purpose, so it was a great, thrifty little job.

These guys took no time at all to knit up - two nights in front of the tv and they were done. I still have plenty of yarn left for loads more. They were originally meant to be much smaller, but I didn't have the right size needles - I used 3.75mm instead of 2.75mm. But I think if I had made them much smaller, they wouldn't have been manageable for me. At the moment they are hiding all over my mantelpiece as I think they have mischevious personalities! But I could just as easily add thread to their tops and use them as tree decorations.

If you like knitting projects that are a little funky and definitely unique you should pop over to mochimochiland and take a look.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

I'm a bad blogger ...

... and a bad knitter, but it seems I excel at popping out babies. Baby number three finally graced us with his presence on the 9th of September; a mere ten days late.

We've called him Oliver and he's quite a good little thing. Unfortunately, even the best behaved baby in the world still takes up most of your day with changing and feeding and laundry and nursing him back to sleep. That, combined with changing and cooking for my other two as well as the regular household chores means that my needles and yarn have been packed away for the time being. So todays post will be a blast from the (recent) past.

Last year I knitted some pretty cool hats for my twins but this year they've had to make do with the shop bought variety.

It's not clear in the photos, but they were little earflap hats, and the pattern I used was the only one I could find that knitted the hats in the round all in one go, earflaps included. With super chunky wool they were really quick and easy. Unfortunately, I found the pattern online, printed it off and have since lost it. And no, I haven't even the faintest idea of what site I found it on. I'm sure I'll find another pattern that's just as good for next years hats, but the loss of this one still smarts a little.

Always determined to try my hand at something new (which is probably why I never go beyond beginners level in so many areas) I have taken a shine to the idea of quilting. I've fallen in love with Moda charm packs as so many of the fabric patterns are right up my street. However, I am not mad enough to try my hand at making a quilt with owning a sewing machine, so that's on the back burner for a while. I do have some super secret craft projects on the go at the minute but won't be able to share them just yet.

I can't promise to be a better blogger from now on, but I will certainly try!

PS: For anyone who remembered the cinderella-like destiny of the little red hat featured in my second ever post, I have sad news. It doesn't fit Oliver either. It seems that all of my children have very large heads. Poor little hat :(

Friday, 27 August 2010

Update: Still no baby!

Just a quick post to say that there is still no sign of baby no. 3. I felt sure he would be here by now, especially since I had a grocery delivery coming on Wednesday and plans to go out on Wednesday night - what child would be able to resist causing mayhem when you've made plans? At least I can console myself with the fact that he might be quite a good little thing and no trouble at all - unlike his brothers, who are currently beating each other with plastic golf clubs.

Yesterday was spent frantically cleaning. And before you all yell 'nesting!', I'm usually quite anal about cleaning anyway, and yesterday was the first day I had any energy for about a week. I'm quite sore for it today though, and although I can feel some strange period-like cramps, I'm not entirely sure that that isn't because of all the hard work yesterday. So let's not count our chickens just yet!

Fingers crossed it'll be soon though!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Baby Blanket

Of all the things I've knitted on my recent spree, this is by far my favourite. I love the colours and am so proud that I managed the intarsia method. It's a little buggy blanket, which we'll probably use in the moses basket or car seat. It is double thickness, so really cosy and is checked on one side and striped on the other.

I love it for it's unusual colours. Most baby boy items are pale blue, but I really like colour and so was really taken with the greens and lilac. It is a unisex item but if I was having a girl I would probably have substituted the dark blue for another purple or pink shade.
So, the only thing I haven't knitted for this baby that I had planned to is a hat. In fact, I knitted a hat, but the cotton I used kept separating into it's strands and the end result was quite patchy. I may try again when I've had time to look up another pattern.
All that's missing is a baby! I still have eleven days left to go, though my midwife has mentioned that she thinks I'm a week further along and so it may just be four! Either way, he seems in no hurry to go anywhere. Yesterday was spent in Glasgow which I class as a very long walk and the evening was dedicated to trying out some old wives tales for getting a baby moving. Unfortunately he was not impressed. I have an inkling that this one will be overdue :(

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Action Knitwear!!

I finally received a photo of my dad proudly wearing his birthday jumper. It is a bit of an action shot - both my parents love mountain climbing and this is him halfway up a mountain on his recent holiday. I am proud that the seams managed to survive such strenuous activity though! According to my mum he is particularly pleased with it, being an unexpectedly sentimental fool.

In other news, my latest baby project is currently on hold, at almost 3/4 completion. The pattern seriously underestimated the amount of yarn required and I have to wait for some more to arrive. Now I'm going to have all sorts of issues with dyelot numbers, but hopefully any differences won't be too glaring. The race is on to complete it though, as my due date is about 3 weeks away! Eep!!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Tiny little booties and anonymous secrets.

So, my latest baby creation is a teeny tiny pair of booties. Those who know me will not be surprised as I've knitted these for my twins when they were little and passed the pattern onto my MIL. These are the ever popular 'Saartje's booties'. This is definitely the most popular bootie pattern on Ravelry at the mo with over 8000 projects and really nice variations. Just google them and the pattern will be the first result. They only take about two hours to knit, but can be fiddly to sew up as they're so small.

I am currently half way through my favourite baby project so far and I'm hoping to have it finshed soon. I was forced to learn the intarsia method as I went along but once I figured out what the book was trying to tell me, it was really quite simple. I don't have any other baby knitting plans after this, though I am undecided about a little jacket which I might attempt.

Now for something completely unrelated - secrets. I'm an avid follower of the Postsecret website. For those of you unfamiliar with it, basically people send anonymous secrets on postcards and they are published on the website every Sunday. There are also books of secrets too, which I would sometimes browse on quiet days when I worked in a bookstore. So every Sunday morning I sit down at the computer and peep at other people's secrets. It satisifies the nosy side of me. Some are heartbreaking, some are funny and some just make you think. But more often than not I find that they make me thankful for what I have. Go check it out if you have time.

And finally, a massive congratulations to the boyfriend who got a new job this weekend!!! He'd been made redundant last Christmas and since then I think unemployment was gradually taking it's toll on him. I couldn't be more proud!

Friday, 23 July 2010

Look at the Birdie!!

Since my needles have been free of the jumper I have been steaming ahead with some of the baby projects I had planned. The first of which was a tiny little birdie stuffed toy which was really simple to make. He may not be elaborate but I prefer simple colours and patterns when it comes to kitting out my kids and this new one will be no different. I recently bought a book of baby patterns and this is the first of many of the items I will be making from it.

I used some yarn I had left over in my bag - a really nice cotton and merino wool mix that I bought absolutely ages ago. He was super fast to knit and is basically just a long rectangle of stocking stitch with some ingenious folding and seaming that turns him into a little pyramid. If I were to make any more of these I'd try some funkier colours and different animals to see what works.
And speaking of experimental knitting, the boyfriend has now put me to work on some ideas of his own. Using this technique, he is having me knit superhero versions with the appropriate logos in fairisle. I'll admit, I've never tried knitting motifs before but after a few trial runs with some cheap acrylic yarn, I think I've got the knack now. They have tentatively been dubbed Super Sacks and hopefully our boys will have the cutest little collection of first superhero toys that are completely suitable from birth. What more could a geek dad ask for?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Cue some suitably epic music ... the jumper is completed!!

At long last I have finished the Herculean task that was a pretty basic jumper. Let's face it - there was no colour work, no cabling, nothing that would tax any average knitter. But I found the endless hours spent knitting the front and back extremely dull, not to mention the final sewing up which was made more difficult by the aforementioned yarn issues. I just don't have the patience for great big projects, and the fact that I had lots of exciting little baby projects lined up only made me more impatient with the whole thing.

Maybe in a year or two I'll attempt another adult jumper. The boyfriend was quite taken with it and mentioned more than once that he would like one just like it. But if I thought knitting a jumper for my stick thin rake of a dad was a chore, the thought of knitting another for a man who wears XXL and can best be described as 'burly' brings me out in hives!! Maybe if I find a super chunky wool and use larger needles it'll only take me a few months! It is flattering to hear him praise my work though, as he has fiercely resisted my offers to knit him scarves and hats.

In the end, the complex pattern quickly made sense, and after the inital disaster, there were no more problems. The neckline, with it's three buttons and collar, was really satisfying to see come together, and I'm glad I opted for a pattern with a little more interest than your basic pullover. Fingers crossed it fits! It is now winging its way to Belfast, by next day delivery, for my dad's birthday tomorrow. Talk about cutting it fine!

Sorry for the poor photo. It was hastily taken last night before the whole thing was parceled up. Hopefully I'll soon have one of the man himself wearing it. I'm actually really proud that I managed the button holes and collar as it was something I've never attempted before. I even made a little tag for it, with a logo and everything - that's right, you're witnessing the creation of a brand! Now, if only I could find enough people willing to wait great lengths of time for a slightly mis-shapen jumper which they would happily pay for, I'd have my very own cottage industry!

The best thing about finishing this jumper though is that I no longer have to work with that horrid yarn. After my rant on here I found that tons of people have similar complaints with Debbie Bliss yarns, so that is definitely a brand I will be staying clear of in the future. I now have a few quick and easy baby items on the go, in beautiful soft cotton and merino wool mixes, and I will have tons of things to show you in the coming weeks.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Woolly Rant

I'm nearing the finish line with my very first jumper, and beyond the initial ribbing disaster, there have been no further knitting hi-jinks to report. I have, however, developed a deep love-hate relationship with the yarn I'm using.

I prefer to knit in decent wool or cotton rather than acrylics or blends, especially if an item is a gift, as this particular jumper is. The price of the yarn usually reflects it's 'luxury' status, and I am usually happy to pay the extra cost. However, this jumper was my first knitting project using Debbie Bliss branded yarns and I have to say, I am not impressed. I usually stick to Rowan as I love their milk cottons for knitting soft baby items. However, my local wool shop (which is a bit of an overly grand way of putting it, as it is actually just the wool department of John Lewis) had Debbie Bliss Luxury Donegal Aran Tweed yarn in the exact colour that I knew this person would love. So I bought it.

And the problems began. I found that the yarn had random bits of twig and straw wound in the strands, which would have made for one scratchy jumper. I think I've maanged to catch all of the stray bits, but this was a pretty common issue over 10 balls of yarn, so not exaclty an isolated incident. Then, despite being careful to buy from the same dye lot number, two of my balls had bright purple threads in places. I know a tweed is a mish mash of colours, but beige and browns are acceptable, not purple. There were also random knots along the length of the yarn and in places it was obvious that the strand had snapped and been hastily, and crudely, knotted together by, I can only assume, the manufacturer.

But the final straw came last night as I was carefully seaming the shoulders. The yarn kept simply snapping! I was not impressed at having to unpick several inches of yarn to properly weave it in. With the cost of wool, even acrylics and man-made ones, reaching ridiculous rates, it seems that it is no longer cheaper to knit your own things. And with shoddy, so-called designer brands not delivering the promised finish, how do we know which to avoid?

Oh, and the response from a 'representative' of Debbie Bliss when I complained? Basically, because the yarn is made from natural fibres and not man-made, there will be weaker spots and flaws in the yarn. Deal with it.

I'm seriously unimpressed.

Right, rant over! Normal service will now be resumed!!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Cat pee

This is one of the 'other happenings' promised in this blog title that is not about knitting. These posts may become more frequent depending on how many amusing stories I have to tell. And whether or not anyone else actually finds them amusing.

This one, thrillingly, is about cat pee.

We have two cats - one very old and one very young. And what do the very old and very young of any species have in common? Poor bladder control.

Actually, now I think about it, these two cats may actually have superb bladder control. It's the only way to explain how they can saunter past the litter tray, down the stairs, into the bathroom and pee on my bath mats. That's right - I can no longer have bath mats in my house because one, or both, of these cats has a secret vendetta against me.

It started, innocently enough, with the very old cat. If I left clothes lying on the floor next to the bed, I would wake up to find them soaked in cat pee. Maybe she's trying to tell me to tidy up - although my dear other half has just about all of his wardrobe stored on the floor on his side and it all stays bone dry! I knew it was her because we were between kittens at the time - due to our poor kitten screening abilities we always end up with suicidally stupid little cats and sadly, one met a premature end under a car. My first thought was 'oh, poor thing, she can't make it downstairs to the littler tray in time,' and being that she is elderly, we bought and filled an upstairs tray to save her the embarassment of having to pee on clothing.

But, one night I woke up to find her sitting on my jeans, staring at me and peeing with gay abandon! (I assume it was gay abandon - cat expressions are hard to read.) That was when I became convinced that she hated me. I had moved in and usurped her as queen of her suburban, 3 bed, semi-detached castle. Unfortunately, boyfriend is in some kind of hypnotic, feline thrall to this particular cat, and no amount of bitching from me could make him see this as a problem. Until she peed on some comics.

Mysteriously, the guerilla peeing soon stopped, and life went back to normal. Until the bath mats. And now that we have a new furry friend with a death wish I have no idea who is responsible. There are also suspiciously smelly spots on the hall carpet. My house always smells of cat pee, which is deeply embarassing to me - though not to the boyfriend, who doesn't seem to notice this.

This whole saga has made me a little more unhinged than usual, so caught up am I in trying to catch the furry culprit. But they two of them are wily buggers - they once even managed to come into the bathroom while I was showering and pee on the clothes I had just taken off. I didn't even notice. This means war.

So, until this pee bandit is apprehended, there is a high likelihood of sustaining a head injury while showering at my house. Just remember, that as your face hurtles towards the tasteful green tiling, to curse the damn cats. I accept no responsiblity for their mayhem.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

What's on my needles

Well, it'll come as no surprise that I'm still hard at work on the jumper. I've finished the back and have made a good deal of headway on the front. But, sooner than expected, I've run into problems. In fact, the problem occurred ridiculously early in the knitting and has only just been spotted. Some of you who are more eagle-eyed might have noticed a slight oddity in the first picture I posted of this folly, but I myself didn't notice until I started knitting the front. The problem lies in the ribbing at the bottom of the jumper.

This is the ribbing on the back.

And this is the ribbing on the front.
Spot the difference. Anyone? Well, as is painfully obvious, the ribbing on the back is non existent. In real life, it does have a slight ribbed look to it, but not nearly elasticated enough to serve its purpose, so the back of this jumper is going to gape. And how did this happen? Simple. I counted on two stitches too many and didn't realise my mistake. Counting out 108 stitches can easily be messed up and I honestly thought I had cast on the right amount. And given my niave knitting style, I assumed that this was how it was supposed to look - I blindly followed a pattern even though the stitches were insanely tight and I knew that this was not how proper ribbing was knitted.
Apparently, though, the recipient of this woollen monstrosity will be thrilled with it, for reasons best known to himself. So all's well that ends well, right? Well, it's not entirely straight forward from here on in as I foolishly chose a design with a collar and buttons for my first attempt at jumper knitting. I can't really make sense of the pattern and I had to look up online what a placket was. So the front may still go a bit wrong.
In unrelated news, I will soon be the proprietress of an Etsy shop. Not selling poorly knitted jumpers, obviously. Rather it will be selling photographic prints. I know - epically fancy, right? I will be representing a member of my family who is a dab hand with a camera but a bit lousy with the ol' interwebs. So stay tuned for more on that.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Mittens and babies and cats ... oh my!

After 2 or 3 (or more truthfully, 40 or 50) false starts, I finally got the hang of knitting in the round on 4 dpns. For anyone still struggling with this, there are some fantastic videos on youtube that I found a great help - actually seeing a demonstration makes it much easier to master yourself. It's definitely tricky, especially when knitting tiny mittens or socks, but bear with it because it is a rewarding technique. I suceeded in making a pair of mittens for each of my twins - one in red and one in green.


After knitting nifty little i-cords to thread through their jackets, I proudly hung up their winter clothes in the hall. This proved to be a massive mistake. Several days later, a mitten became detached from it's i-cord. Just shoddy sewing, right?

Then, the following week, I noticed chubby little baby fingers poking through the top of my lovingly crafted mittens. Oh no! A frantic DIY job in the street and some unskilled repairs when we got home seemed to solve the problem.

Just when I was beginning to lament the durability of my first ever pair of mittens, the mystery was solved. One evening I heard a stange scratching in the hallway and when I plucked up enough courage to stick my head round the door, I was confronted with our newest kitten attacking the dangling mittens with gusto!


The sad, shabby little mittens managed to last the winter, but the knitting destroyer is still at large. This week she managed to find the previously mentioned jumper and chew through my working yarn - this means war!!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

What's on my Needles ... or How I Started a Jumper and Lost My Mind.

I'd like to say that this will be a regular post showing off my latest knitting project but what's more likely is that it'll become an epic, never-ending saga involving a beige jumper. But never fear! It'll probably be filled with laughter, tears, tragedy and triumph - hopefully more triumph than anything else. So why not come along for the ride?

I'm knitting said jumper for an unlucky family member's birthday which is 6 weeks from now. Plenty of time. Or is it? So far I have knitted a third of the back in a week. Not great :(

I'm using Debbie Bliss Donegal Luxury Aran Tweed Yarn in colours 03 and 04 and this pattern. I'm leaving out the fairisle pattern as I don't think the recipient of this jumper will like that - and also I'm lousy at that type of thing. I can't handle too many colours at once!

So, I'll be back with an update sometime next weekend, and hopefully I will have completed the back - keep everything crossed for me!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

The little hat that couldn't

Last autumn I decided to knit winter hats for my twin sons. I can never find anything I like in shops - baby clothes seem to come in a variety of bland pastels or irritating 'themes'. Usually doggies. I was determined that they would have something cool to wear. So I found a ton of really cute little hat patterns, found some leftover wool and started with gusto.

The fly in the ointment was my sons' enormous heads. I'm not kidding. These kids are small, but their noggins are massive!

The resulting little red hat just wouldn't fit!! I was devastated. It took me quite a while to knit it on two needles and then sew it up afterwards (which is my biggest pet hate). This was before I had learned to knit in the round.

And it's not half bad.

Poor little rejected hat! It now sits forlornly at the bottom of my knitting bag. But with a new baby due in August, who knows! Maybe he won't be cursed with a giant head and he can help this little hat fulfill it's destiny.

So there you go, sometimes despite no dropped stitches, pattern mistakes or loose threads, you can still create a bit of a disaster.

Can you do better? The pattern for this hat is here.

Other cute hats I should've used, but didn't:

Apple hat

Triceratops Hat

Stripey Baby Beret

Harper's Hood

I ♥ Knitting

Despite my limited sucess, I really do love knitting. I love going to buy new wool, hunting out quirky patterns and building up an extensive range of needles. And I love the thril when something actually comes together in the end to form a wearable item.

There are some truly wonderful knitting blogs out there, with breathtaking work on them. Some people are natural knitters and seem to have the knack - I am not one of them. And maybe you're not either. Maybe you too just muddle through, hoping that it will all come right in the end. Maybe you are intimidated by all the fantastic knitters out there, and a little jealous too.

This is a support group. My name is Emma and I am a mediocre knitter. Let the healing begin.