enough with the tiny sweaters already

Cute as said tiny sweaters may be, I’ve had about enough of the whole ‘coerce knitters into making stuff’ thing. I had an article pop up in my feeds this morning that made me LOL and tut with knitterly ire at the same time.

The Tour de France will be passing through Cambridge in July this year, as part of the UK leg of the event. A cycling enthusiast wants to decorate the streets of Cambridge with miniature knitted jerseys as bunting. BBC News story here.

When pressed further he admits that a) he doesn’t knit, b) it’s not an original idea, and c) it’s not even an original idea for this Tour because Harrogate have already arranged the exact same thing.

So, let me get this straight. He wants 3000 hand-knit jerseys by July. He doesn’t knit. It’s not even his idea. And this will ‘show how different Cambridge is’.

oh yeah, sure

He claims that “knitting is in Cambridge’s DNA”. I am from Cambridge. Knitting is not a thing. Cycling is a thing. Punting is a thing. The uneasy coexistence of town and gown with occasional outbreaks of violence is a thing. But not knitting, not any more than anywhere else in the country. It’s nice that he wants to do a thing but surely you’d pick something that was actually relevant to your town?

The Harrogate campaign was launched in November, at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show, with plenty of time to get things knit and sent in. They received items from at least 15 countries, enlisted the help of multiple shops and community centres to collect the jerseys, and even designed their own pattern. They received 16,000 jerseys and are now starting to string them together. A well-planned and relevant campaign.

Cambridge guy is only just thinking about this, four months before the event. He doesn’t have the council on board (they said they were ‘interested’, which in councilspeak normally means ‘please never mention this again’), he can’t do any of it himself, and he has no idea how long it will take.

I mean, it’s one thing to be all ‘oh hey, you’re a knitter, can you knit me *massively complicated or huge item*, I’ll pay you for the yarn’ and be blithely ignorant of the time investment but to want three thousand items is really pushing it. It’s not like people go oh, ‘you work in IT, I’m sure you’ll be willing to spend hours helping me set up a website for no pay.’

Oh no wait.

This isn’t even charity. People love to knit for charity, almost as much as people love to tell people that they should be knitting for charity. See the knitted penguin sweater debate that’s flying around at the moment; every knitter in existence must by now have been harangued by a well-meaning friend to knit a penguin sweater, even though sticking acrylic yarn on an oil-soaked penguin virtually guarantees spontaneous combustion. In fact that should be the new motto for the campaign:

If you wouldn’t put it on a baby, don’t put it on an oil-soaked penguin.

Hint: actually don’t put a sweater on an oil-soaked penguin. It can lead to burns, and not just because you made it out of acrylic because ‘what’s the point in using good yarn, penguins won’t appreciate Wollmeise’

Moral of the story: If you want to be different, be different. And if you want to save penguins from oil spills, don’t rush to the cutesy option of tiny sweaters, do an actual helpful thing and give the cleaning crew some cash.

Finished Object: Little Birds

In the grand tradition of knitting bloggers trying out new knitting techniques for the first time, I present to you My First Steeked Project, In Pictures.

I started knitting the Little Birds cardigan in September. For a short while it went everywhere with me, including the beach.

Little Birds on the beach. #knitting

I even took it to a work do, to cope with a sudden and intense bout of social anxiety. As I sat there, alone, Little Birds in my lap, strand of yarn in each hand, I felt like a god. Eventually I even managed to separate myself from my knitting and Have A Conversation. I was proud.

Then I noticed that I was running out of yarn. I panicked about the problem, then I ignored the problem, and eventually pulled myself together and did something about the problem. This is my usual way to deal with problems. This particular problem took three months to get from realisation -> resolution, which in comparison to how long crafting problems normally sit around being ignored is a pretty speedy turnaround.

Little Birds is coming together, into a misshapen pre-steek point.

Lots of panicking in this post so far. Don’t worry, it doesn’t last for long.

Eventually the remaining yarn turned up, and I could finish the knitting. I re-discovered the technique of steam blocking, which had an absolutely magical effect on my previously uneven, puckered colour work. I carried my floats like a boss, but you know how knitting likes to misbehave.

it is amazing, the difference that a tiny bit of steam blocking makes. nearly steek o'clock!

I read around a bit, researching my steeking technique. Probably the most useful post I found was this one from Elinor Brown, which has lots of pictures and instructions for various steeking techniques.

Supposedly, with Spindrift, you can just cut away and not worry about reinforcing the steek, but since it was my first time steeking I decided to go for a row of crochet, and take the obligatory ‘scissors on my knitting to terrify my knitter friends’ picture.

deep breaths. #steekoclock

I had poured myself a nice strong V&T in case of need, but it turned out that cutting it wasn’t a big deal at all. The crochet edge held it nicely and what was previously a misshapen lump of knitting began to look like an actual cardigan.

et voilà! #steekoclock

Then I got to add the border, tidy up the steek with some oversewing, and do some more steam blocking to finish it all off.

Steam blocking is my new favourite thing. No damp cardigan sat on the floor for weeks!

Then, buttons.

Finished!

Ta-daa! All done. Steeking was actually the least stressful part of the whole project. Now the biggest problem is finding an outfit with which to wear it. But, until that point, I am 2 for 12 on my 2014 crafting goal, and feeling good.

My finest sewing moment of 2013: a 1920′s dress in a week.

From themed invitation to finished dress: story of a sewing project I totally should have blogged at the time but totally didn’t.

The theme for my work’s 2013 Christmas party was 1920′s/Speakeasy/Great Gatsby. Do I need an excuse for Making A Thing? Hell no. But a themed party is an even better way to exercise my Making Things Skillz. The invitations went out quite early, but somehow (somehow, I can’t imagine how) I wound up a week before the event with no dress, and not even a backup. I had to start thinking, and quickly.

Now, of course, the 1920′s silhouette is slim, straight, and somewhat severe. I am none of these things (barring my librarianface), so any dress would have to be balanced very carefully so as to fit the theme, but also make me look good. I spent a long time trawling image searches and pattern sites to try to get inspiration. What really sparked things off was a Great Gatsby-themed dress by Cation Designs. I thought the layered approach was very pretty, authentic, and would give me a good opportunity to say ‘hey, I do have a figure under here’.

I wandered the fabric shops in search of a suitably frou-frou fabric, but the answer was under my nose (and in my stash) all the time.

Blue chiffon

I’d bought this crinkle chiffon online as a reward for getting a job interview (possibly the job interview for this job? That would be a nice coincidence), intending to make a top, but the pattern turned out far larger than I’d expected. Oh, internet fabric shops, how often you betray me. But for a dress, for a themed party? Distinctive, frou-frou, perfect.

For the lulz, this is my original sketch of the dress.

Suddenly, it was there. In my head. The whole thing. I knew exactly what I wanted from it. I would draft it from an easy-fitting bodice block, and extend it down to hip level. I’d also give it some very gentle bust and waist shaping. For the skirt section, I’d make a very gentle arc to give some movement around the knees and break up the tube effect. Underneath would be a white slip, perfectly cut to conceal my underpinnings, and with a more tailored fit to maintain the whole ‘I do have a waist, I promise’ effect.

The sewing process took about a week of after-work sessions. I don’t really know how to describe it, other than a manic episode. I was a woman possessed. It just slammed into my head and my hands did the work and then it existed, on my tailor’s dummy, exactly as I’d imagined it.

1920s dress

I was sort of terrified. I’d never worked with fabric this delicate, so I did a lot of basting and tailor’s tacks. To deal with fraying ends and a delicate, sheer fabric I learned how to do French seams, which turned out to be about my favourite sewing technique ever.

for someone who pinks her edges and pretends not to notice the frayed threads floating behind her, this is witchcraft.

Every time I settled down to cut a piece of fabric or perform some arduous task like finishing my neck and arms with bias tape, I announced to nobody in particular ‘well, if I do this wrong, the whole thing’s screwed’. I needn’t have worried.

*assumes heroic pose indicating success*

I’m glad I didn’t do self-facing. For a start, I would have had to buy a bias tape maker gadget thing. And I wouldn’t have had enough fabric. As it was, I barely squeaked a sash out of the remnants. There is literally nothing usable left of the 2 metres of fabric I bought. I think that is pretty cool, in and of itself.

I teamed the dress with the obligatory string of pearls, some silver feather hair grips, and a ton of hairspray. Oh, and these, in a rather spiffy return to my internet roots.

back to my internet roots.

I was so, so, super-stoked by all of this. I was probably the most obnoxious person in the room as I tottered around all HI HI I AM MINGLING ISN’T THIS FUN DID I TELL YOU I MADE MY DRESS LET ME TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT. HEY LOOK FREE BAR. There was a roulette wheel. I lost my chips in three spins and laughed. Someone said I looked like a movie star. At one point a colleague came in from the smoking area outside (aka, outside), shaking the rain from his fedora, shrugging the trench coat from his shoulders, and augh it was like a TNG private detective holodeck episode.

I’ll leave you now, as my boasting is possibly going too far. But I’ll just say one more thing: this back view, the cutesy bow-tied opening that goes down far enough to allow a risqué glimpse of slip, is exactly, exactly, as I saw it in my head. This is probably my proudest sewing moment ever. I hope I have a lot more of these moments. :)

This is genuinely, literally, exactly as I imagined it.

First knitting project of the year.

On Friday, for the first time this year, I decided to sit on the beach to have my lunch. It was a lovely sunny day, the sea was relatively calm, and it was just the right temperature to sit, stare blankly at the sea for a while, and retreat inside when the cold started to seep inside my coat. I looked up mid-sandwich, and found that I was being watched.

A variation on the usual beach lunch monitor.

Ever since the storms, there have been large numbers of crows hanging around the beach. Murders, even. Presumably there’s some good eating to be had among the piles of washed-up seaweed (I know I’ve seen a lot of very happy labradors eating everything in sight). But this one has obviously been taking lessons from the seagulls, and was giving my sandwich a very close look. I decided it was a sign that I needed to a) eat faster and b) crack on with Little Birds.

First project of the year complete!

First, though, to get the gloves out of the way. I finished knitting the fingers while chain-watching Farscape (keeping with the space theme) and just wove in the ends this morning. These will now go to live in my work bag to be ready for when it’s actually cold enough for knitted gloves. That’s going to happen, right? And I’m not going to have a breakdown when I find I can’t use my phone with them on?

In the meantime, back to Little Birds. The additional Sprindrift I needed has turned up, along with *cough* a bit extra that may have accidentally fallen into my basket because it seems frivolous to only buy two balls of yarn when it’s effectively coming from overseas, right? I’m not ashamed to say I whooped with joy when this package turned up at my desk. I already have the pattern planned, now I just need to decide whether it needs to be bumped up the queue or if I can be patient.

My favourite kind of delivery.  :huffs yarn:

:drums fingers impatiently:

increasing the making

Step one towards making 12 things in year is making one thing.

Little Birds is coming along nicely, but as you may remember, I’m nearly out of yarn. I put in an order, but at present my yarns are still sitting in the Shetlands, probably waiting for a plane. So it sits, shoulderless, hibernating. Roosting, even.

One sleeve... #knitting

But I can’t sit idle; I have a goal to work towards. So I found a nice quick project to get me off to a good start – Galaxy.

Galaxy is a super-cute glove pattern by Satta Designs, with beeeeaaaaads and faux cabling. When I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for one of my home-dye-jobs – a black sparkly merino sock yarn. I figured that that and some clear rocaille beads would be a striking and spacey combination, particularly appropriate as we’re currently chain-watching TNG on Netflix.

It is, indeed, a quick project; I’ve already finished one and am already to the fingers on the second one. I haven’t done much beadwork before but I do really like it – these beads are attached using a crochet hook, which means I had to spend half an hour searching for my teeniest tiniest crochet hook (1.00!) and a pot to store all the beads with holes too small to use.

FINGER TIME  LOL  halp

I do have some quibbles with the pattern – all the fingers start in the same row, which is not how my hands are shaped. And there’s a bit too much scrolling between instructions and charts, but I suppose that’s the price of technology. But the charts are flawless and it’s a great speed-knitting pattern and augh it is beautiful.

One glove.

whoopscareless’ Galaxy Gloves on Ravelry

Have you got your New Year’s making off to a strong start? What have you got on the needles (or craft-appropriate equivalent)?

New Year, New… something.

I’m not normally one for making resolutions. Too much effort. If I give myself a target I will immediately begin to procrastinate and sabotage myself. Or something will happen to put me behind schedule, and I start to feel resentful, and throw in the towel. So I give up some arcane craft or sport, with great success. I’ve still never gone hang-gliding, which is something I gave up in 1998.

But, you know, there are some positive things I want to do. I have a huge reading pile. I have a lot of running gear and gadgets. And my first pairs of hand-knit socks are developing holes.

So this year, to address those things, I want to:

  • read more
  • run more
  • make more

Obviously, those are not SMART goals. Doomed to failure from the start. Let’s see if we can make these better.

In 2014 I will:

  • read 36 books (same as last year, should be fine)
  • run 240 miles (200 last year, with biiiiig gaps of lazy)
  • make 12 things (only 8 last year, shamefully low)

3 books, 20 miles, and one crafted item per month. All easily trackable through Goodreads, Runkeeper, and here. If I reach them early, I can come up with stretch goals. And the bonus of only choosing positive goals is that I don’t to come up with a reward. Except for the running, which might need some bribery. 240 miles will be halfway to a new pair of shoes, so I guess there’s that.

I’ll leave you with an image from last Jan 1st. Back then, we were only visitors to Brighton. Now, the weather is hilariously bad so any pictures won’t have the same sort of… charm.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8504/8332512903_c155956be1_n.jpg

I LIVE HERE DID I EVER MENTION THAT OMG

:panicflail: #2

I think I have a problem.

I told a story the other day about not being able to find the rest of my yarn.

I’m now faced with an equally terrifying prospect: I might not have had enough of it in the first place.

For probably the first time in my knitting life, I trusted a pattern. From sizing, to yarn brand, down to the exact quantity of yarn. Seven of the base colour, two of the birds, one of the leaves. Easy. Fine. None of the other project pages said anything about stingy yardage allowances.

But…

I’ve done the body.

Little Birds, first chart done. #knitting

I’ve done a sleeve.

One sleeve... #knitting

Actually I’ve done a sleeve and a half, but I haven’t taken any pics of the second sleeve because I covered it well enough with the first one.

Half a sleeve. #knitting

But… I’m on my last 25g skein of the base colour. I have half a sleeve, the shoulders, and the not-button band to finish. I am bricking it. I really don’t think I have enough. I searched the house for all the ball bands (hurr) to make sure I had counted right and hadn’t lost a ball (hurrr) somewhere around the house. I have, haven’t, and this really is all I have left.

I know there’s nothing to do but keep knitting and deal with the situation as it comes, but it’s really nerve-wracking.

Do you have any comforting words for me? Please?

November is Coming.

2013 NaNoWriMo Participant

It’s that time of year again.

As soon as October rolls around, the NaNoWriMo machine lurches into action. Eventually, I see an email, and I think ‘huh, I should probably think about that’. I then ignore the issue, wait until the morning of 1st November, come up with a half-assed plot and then stress over that for a month.

It doesn’t seem to be happening like that this year.

For a start, when that first email came round, I thought ‘huh, if I end up doing it, I should probably donate.’ I donated in my first year, but not since then. And I love NaNo, and I want them to keep on doing what they’re doing. So I went on the store, and saw the NaNo power-up mug.

November is coming. #nanowrimo

+20 buff to hyperactivity for 30 minutes. SOLD.

Then I was like, well, I’ve bought a mug, so I may as well participate. I’ll think about it later, though, make a proper decision when I’m better able to do so.

Then a couple of nights later I dreamed my plot. No joke. I’d had no proper sleep for weeks, and then the first night I actually sleep long enough to dream, I come up with some batshit crazy plot which is part dystopian future, part psychological thriller, part metaphor for modern life. I have two ready-made, reasonably interesting characters, a full world, and a reasonable premise around which to build the whole thing.

So, the preparations are beginning. I have multiple files of brainstorming notes, across DropBox, Evernote, and my snazzy red notebook. I’ve switched onto movie soundtracks for running so I can drift off into plot points while I tread the promenade. AND I just realised that I booked a week off work in November.

brace yourselves: November is coming

Anyone else in? I am whoopscareless over there, and I am open to buddies if you tell me where you found me. :D

What to do with a thousand eggs?

Last weekend, DG was away with his friends for a stag do. He took the TV, the Xbox, and most of our soft furnishings. I saw some of their adventures through Instagram, which I think might be against the rules of stag events. I think it’s just as much against the rules for me to talk about it now, but who’s counting? #nofilter #nolifer?

Anyway, in preparation for the weekend he, or someone like him, over-estimated the amount of breakfast ingredients that would be required. Maybe they’ve become more wise and sensible since their student days, perhaps they can look at the second full English and say ‘no’, maybe they just didn’t drink enough to need so much beer soaking. Whatever the reason, we’ve ended up with a fridge *full* of eggs. Seriously, I’m having digestive terrors just looking in there.

The beer is pretty much gone, though. I helped. :D

So I’m trying to think of the most painless ways to get through at least 20 eggs before they go off. I’m not afraid of using elderly eggs, so I suppose I don’t have to really power through them. But as I usually end up using the last egg of the half dozen several weeks past the sell-by date, I should probably start planning now.

First on the list is, naturally, cake. I made some spiced banana cake the other day, as they also had a couple of manky old bananas left. It was ok, if you like banana cake. Which I don’t. I always do this. I hate the idea of wasting food, so I use more expensive ingredients to make something I like even less than bananas.

CAEK  #cake   #caaaaaaake

Next one planned is a lime and poppy seed cake, just because I was in the supermarket and saw a lime. Somewhere I have a default cake recipe I use as the base for all of my cakey experiments – I shall have to dig that out and have a play.

Other than that… hard-boiled eggs to have for lunch. Omelettes? Yorkshire puddings? Pancakes? The possibilities are intimidatingly endless. I need an adult.

First person to make an egg pun gets fired.

sparkletaupe

New project.

Notice how I totally didn’t post yesterday? Yeah. Didn’t wanna. I liked my Sunday post so much I wanted to leave it up a bit.

Back in the game.

I started a new project last weekend, at precisely the wrong time. Mid-afternoon on Sunday, while working through the washing, and with an achey hip from an earlier run. Just in time for the evening, for the week of work, and then DG being away for the nwxt weekend which is my cue to crack open a box of wine and eat potato 24/7. Too greasy for sewing.

Anyway. Back in the mists of ancient time, the USD:GBP exchange rate was great, so I bought a number of patterns direct from the US. I’ve used most of them, but this one has been sat in my pattern file forever.

I decided that this set was a great deal as it could provide an entire wardrobe. If, that is, I wanted an entire wardrobe made out of cotton jersey. One never knows.

I’m making the dress, but with the short sleeves. I have a grotty old wrap dress in a very similar style that I wear around the house on weekends, so it’ll be nice to have something similar that I can actually wear outside. :D

My only concern was that I’ve not worked with knit fabric before. I spent about ten minutes researching before I began, and came across this guide to conquering knits. After reading that, I threw caution to the wind and began.

Being good and transferring my markings. #sewing

I’m going to have to knuckle down and get this done pretty sharpish. I have another Super Awesome Potential Project to be thinking about, so this can’t be hanging around, harshing my creative mellow.