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In between…

In between writing and teaching and travelling and other life priorities, I have managed a little craft work in the past 12 months… but very little blogging!

Finished things:

A quilt for my Mum, last Christmas:
Hand made quilt with floral fabrics

20121230MumQuiltDetail

Some lacy socks:
Hand knitted socks - Double eyelet pattern

Some plain socks:
Blue-purple plain socks

And some more plain socks:
Midnight blue plain handknit socks

A rustic, comfy top-down cardigan:
Handknit cardigan

Oh, and my other finished creative work – a book!
20130821BookBox

Unfinished projects:

Sadly, most of the projects mentioned in my previous posts last year are still languishing unfinished, although I have made a little progress on some.

The aqua quilt is pin basted and part-quilted – just over a third of the 63 blocks are done.
Quilting in progress

I have to clear the dining table for quilting a whole quilt, so I have been trying to keep it a little tidier than usual so that I can quickly set the machine up there if I have an hour or so to play.

I’ve temporarily put the aqua quilt aside again though to work on the quilt for my nephew – I finished all 48 blocks and here’s all of them laid out in one of the patterns he designed:

Log cabin quilt blocks laid out in asymmetrical design

I finished sewing them all together this evening, but haven’t pressed the final lot of seams yet. I’ll probably add a narrow white border, then a black border, and I think I’ll back it with a grey fabric if I can find a suitable one. I’m not sure yet how I’m going to quilt it, but it won’t be too fancy.

The lace shawl I was designing early last year is still not finished. One day…

So, that’s a quick summary of a year’s creativity! Now, must get back to writing the next book!

Winter

It’s a month since I last posted. I don’t have a lot of textile work to show for that month, but there is some progress.

The aqua quilt is pin basted,and waiting to be machine quilted. It may be waiting a while.

I now have 4 blue and teal star blocks, but that project is on hold for now.

My new shawl design is also on hold, as is the cardigan I’ve been knitting for a while.

I have finished something – a pair of plain socks. I’m calling them my lumberjack socks, since they’re good boot socks and the greens remind me of pines. The yarn is Cleckheaton Country Tartan 8 ply.

Green boot socks

I knit while I’m writing, and plain socks are best. I’m a slow writer, so I spend a lot of time staring at the screen, searching for the right words. The knitting is a kind of meditation; it helps to shift my brain into a creative mode, and keeps my hands busy so that I don’t go clicking all over the internet. With plain socks, I’m not reciting a pattern in my head and I can drop them the moment words come to me so I can type. I’ve got a lot of writing to do in the next few months; I have two more lots of the Cleckheaton yarn (blue and red), so I see some more socks in my future.

The only other creative project I’ll be working on for the next month or so is a quilt for my nephew’s 18th birthday. It may not get done in time but we’ll see. I had some black and white fabrics, and bought some more on Friday – although it’s pretty hard to find non-floral B&W (not grey) fabrics in our town; I went to the quilt shop, Lincraft, the other fabric shop, and raided Big W’s fat quarters, but there wasn’t a huge choice anywhere.

However, today I’ve selected the ones I’ll use; I’ve made 4 blocks so far, and cut up most of the fabric for the remaining 44 blocks. I will have to get a little extra of 2 of the fabrics but I have enough to go on with for now and will go to the local quilt store during the week. My plan is that when I need a break from writing, I’ll make blocks.

My nephew plans to be an architect – so what better structure to use than log cabin đŸ™‚ I haven’t decided how I’ll put the blocks together yet. I’ve been playing with the 4 completed ones to see the different effects – isn’t log cabin such a versatile and magical block – so many possibilities!
Log cabin quilt blocks 1

Log cabin quilt blocks 2

Log cabin quilt blocks 3

Log cabin quilt blocks 4

Stitching ups and downs

It’s been one of those years – and it’s still only April. Life has been a rollercoaster, my knitting mojo has been wandering elsewhere, I’ve taken up quilting, and I’m itching (still) to get back to weaving.

Knitting-wise, I finished a couple of things in time for the Armidale Show at the end of February – a pair of girly socks for my Mum (who wears a lot of blue and pink) and a Lazy Lara Shawl, which I gave to my sister for her birthday.

Faux-fair-isle socks Handknitted shawl - "Lazy Lara" by Birgit Freyer

The socks won first prize at the Show in their category, the shawl came second in the shawls, and my Majbritt Doily from the previous post won first in its category.

I was working on a new shawl design, but striking problems with it and doing much ripping and tinking trying to get it right… then my Dad died in early March (he was elderly, and wanted to rest, so I can’t be too sad that he’s out of pain) and my lace-design concentration evaporated. I have done some knitting since then, but simple things – I’m working on a pair of Thuja socks for me, a pair of mittens for DH, and a beret.

Just days before my Dad died, one of my closest friends was diagnosed with a cancer that turned out to be very aggressive… and in just six weeks, she died. In the last terrible week, when we knew the text message could come at any time, I could hardly concentrate on anything. There was nothing I could do to help her; she was sedated, and had asked that nobody but her partner be with her in the hospital. Amongst many other talents and skills, she was a beautiful quilter, and so in that week as a way to connect with her and hold her closely in my thoughts, I turned to the pieces of patchwork fabric and supplies I’d been starting to collect and began to teach myself patchwork and quilting. I had her in mind as I did, especially her careful approach to crafting, and her attention to detail, inspiring me to be less slap-dash than I might usually be – with, of course, good results.

Here’s my first quilted 9-patch square – finished and bound so that I can use it as a teapot mat:

Purple quilted 9patch square

I just wish that she was still here, as we often shared a pot of tea.

My next project was one I’d been mulling for a while – a pouch for my laptop (it’s been in use, so please forgive the creases!):

Quilted laptop pouch

And then I decided to have a go at a more complex star square, and hand-quilting.. and i have another tea-pot mat (but maybe I need a brown teapot to go with it… or perhaps I should make a blue one next):

Hand-quilted star patch teapot mat

I’m planning to try my hand at a quilt soon, and some fat quarters and jellyrolls may have followed me home. I’ve washed and ironed a range of blue fabrics, so I might start a sample square or two soon – just as soon as I finish some work projects.

I’ve also been in the drafting stages of planning a blanket warp for the loom – I have the draft (8-shaft block twill in three colours), but have to get the yarn before I can really start it.

So that’s where I’ve been, these blog-silent months, stitching in various ways through the ups and downs of life.

Majbritt Doily

As I mentioned in my last post, I plan to knit some doilies to go with my new teacup sets. I know some people think doilies are dreadfully old-fashioned and useless, but I’m not one of those people! I love the simple beauty of lace knitting, and to me doilies are both functional and decorative, protecting a table surface as well as being lovely in themselves.

I’ve finished the one I started a couple of weeks back. At 43cm diameter, it’s more of a table centre than a doily, but I’m very happy with it:

Handknitted doily - pattern Majbritt I by Esbensen & Rasmussen

The pattern is Majbritt I (Ravelry link) from the book Handknitted Lace, (Book Depository link) by Sonja Esbensen and Anna Rasmussen, which I bought a couple of months ago and have been itching to knit something from since!

The designs are charted, which I love (hate reading rows upon rows of written directions, especially for lace!)

I had a bit of a panic, though, the other day. After a week of mad work finishing the edits on the latest book, I picked up the doily again for some relaxing knitting. I knitted round 41 and 42 fine (even round are plain rows). I started round 43 – and it Would Not Work. I didn’t have enough stitches, and the pattern didn’t ‘fit’. Something had to be wrong. I spent some time googling for errata, and checking Ravelry to see if anyone else had the same problem. Nothing. Sigh. There has to be a fault with the pattern, right? Sigh again. I’m an experienced knitter. I can look at the picture and work out what it’s supposed to be. Looking at my knitting, the error had to be in the previous round’s instructions. So I tinked back round 43, and round 42… oh, and the other round 42 – oops, how did THAT happen?… and for good measure, round 41 as well.

(Should I mention here that the mad rush to finish the edits had included an all-nighter? And that I am not as young as I used to be?)

Needless to say, there was no error in the pattern. It was perfectly correct. And it is a lovely pattern!

And only socks…

I haven’t posted for a while. In between writing and working, there hasn’t been much time for knitting! I did finish the novel and sent it in to my publisher; now I’m working madly on revisions – in between uni lecturing and marking.

But I have finished (another) pair of socks. These were cast off last week (or maybe the week before – my brain is in a haze):

Handknitted socks. Pattern: Charade

The pattern is my adaptation of Sandra Park’s Charade pattern (Rav link). Okay, so it’s mostly just the stitch pattern from Charade, with calf-shaping and my standard heel and shaped toes. My Ravelry project page has the details (which I’m too tired to type out here.)

I’m running low on sock yarn – I like lightly variegated or semi-solid ones the most – so for the first time, I used a 50/50 wool/silk mix for socks from my shawl stash. I’ve not made wool/silk socks before, and I’m a bit nervous about how they’ll wear, so I haven’t worn these ones yet. Oh, well, they look pretty in my sock drawer! I will put them on at some stage, but I think I’ll admire them a little longer before I take that risk.

Not a lot of knitting on the horizon at present due to work pressures – maybe a few rows of some plain socks here and there. Revisions on the book have to be in by November 1, so I’ll be glued to the computer until then.

 

Midnight Socks

I’ve had butt in chair, manuscript open on the laptop, and basic knitting keeping my brain focused and my fingers from clicking all over the internets a lot lately. Here’s part of the result – my Midnight Socks:

Hand-dyed Hand-knitted socks

The yarn is my hand-dyed Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 4ply, and I love the way the yarn knitted up in the very plain pattern.

Rav Project link

The novel’s coming along – not quite as fast as I’d like, as the deadline is rapidly approaching, but edging forward every day. So now I’m going to get off the interwebs and go and write some more. Although I might have to cast on another pair of socks to meditate my brain into creative mode!

Finished Helmi

I’ve finished my modified Helmi cardigan – and I love it!

Handknitted cardigan. Pattern: modified Helmi. Yarn: Bendigo Rustic 12 ply

(Okay, so I don’t love my over-weight shape, but the cardigan is comfy and warm and should still look fine when I’m skinnier in the tum and butt!)

I didn’t do buttonholes in the front band; for the closures, I’ve used wooden beads I’ve had in the cupboard for years, and crocheted loops. I’m planning to re-space the ‘buttons’ so that they’re closer together and it doesn’t fasten quite so low.

But all in all, I’m regarding this cardigan as a success, and I’m definitely a convert to top-down knitting. This is the first jumper/cardigan I’ve knitted for some years that I actually like as a finished product on me. And since I’ve received four cardigan-lots of wool form Bendigo Woollen Mills recently, and we’re only part-way through a cold winter, I’d better go and cast on another cardigan!

Finally a FO

I’ve been working full-time, teaching at the university this semester, and so there has not been much time for knitting. This morning, I finally finished a pair of socks that I started in early February:

Handdyed Hedera socks

The pattern is the popular Hedera (Rav link) by Cookie A, and this is the second time I’ve knitted it. As my ankle is thicker than Cookie’s, I’ve again used 3mm needles for the leg, and 2.75mm needle for the foot.

The yarn is Bendigo Luxury 4ply which I dyed myself, some months back; I’m very happy with the saturation of the aqua and the touches of deeper purple. In fact, I love the socks!

Now to cast on for my next project – as knitting time is so limited, I think I’ll use some deep blue yarn from Saffron Dyeworks for a pair of plain socks, as I have no dark blue socks in my sock drawer:
Handdyed yarn from Saffron Dyeworks

Plain socks

Handknitted socks

They’re not fancy. There’s no lace, or cables, or other decorative stitches, just simple rib and stocking stitch teamed with a subtly striped yarn. I have another pair like this, in greens, and I love them as much as my fancier socks. The yarn is Trekking XXL, a good hard-wearing yarn with colour schemes that blend into each other. The pattern was a Patons pattern that I have memorised – and possibly adapted – over the years. It works. I added my shaped toe.

Plain socks, perfect socks.

Monkeying around

I managed to drag myself away from playing with sourdough starters and baking bread long enough to finish my latest Monkey socks today. The yarn shade is called Pier, so I call the socks Monkeys on the Pier.

No Purl Monkey Socks

Shaped toes on handknitted socks

Pattern: I’ve used the No-Purl version of Cookie A’s Monkey Socks pattern = although as usual I’ve just done my standard heel, and my new standard shaped toes.
Yarn: Morris Empire 4ply, bought from The Granny Square in Newtown, Sydney (as a little present to myself before I went into the hospital – which is just around the corner from the shop).

So, that’s one pair of socks off the needles. I’ve still got two others on the go – one, a plain pair in brown Trekking yarn, is about 40% done and will be the next to be finished. Probably. Then I might get back to the experimental Brangian socks, although whether they’ll be finished or frogged I’m not sure.

I’m going to be working full-time at the local uni for first semester, starting in February, so my knitting time will decrease, and therefore I’m going to be strategic about what I choose to knit. It’s a interesting challenge, knitting from stash but at the same time making sure I fill up gaps in my wardrobe. I have quite a few hand-knitted socks, but, for example, I only have one pair of red socks, and they’re dark red and lacy. Fortunately, I have some Bendigo Luxury 4ply in my stash, in the beautiful Ruby shade. I have a great pair of plain, basic greenish socks – but a lacy teal pair would be good, too… and I do have more Empire 4ply in a deep teal đŸ™‚ So, I can certainly keeping my fingers productively and strategically employed for a while!

Oh, and about that sourdough… this fruit loaf didn’t rise as much as I’d hoped, but it is still scrumptious (especially toasted with butter and marmalade):
Sourdough Fruit loaf

Now, I’d better go and make a sourdough chocolate cake, as we have visitors coming this afternoon!