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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Handspun from OSSP & Crocheting with Wire

Just look at what my wonderful one skein secret pal sent me for July! The package containing several nicely and separately wrapped items arrived in the post yesterday. Inside I found 75g of the most amazing handspun yarn being (in my pal's words) plum, chocolate and purple merino singles plied with two very fine silk yarns in the palest of greens AND 25g of handspun merino in three colours. Also included in the package was a note on a very nice Liz Rice postcard "The Aspis" (a quilted hand-rolled felt) and two tubes of beads in gorgeous shades of blue and green.

Click on photo to enlarge

I'm just so thrilled with everything and am feeling so lucky that I have such an accomplished pal who can spin and dye to such an excellent standard and who has actually spent all that time spinning this yarn for me! I'm thinking to knit something with these two yarns using the smaller skein as a trim but I'm not a great hat wearer so will think of something else. Apart from the wonderful colours, the merino is so luxuriously soft I just want to keep petting it. I don't know how she could bear to part with it but I'm very glad to have it!

And here's my first attempt at crocheting with wire.

Click on photo to enlarge

It's a crocheted wire choker inspired by a similar one I saw in the current Bead and Button magazine and was worked on 3.5mm, 4.0mm, and 5.0mm steel crochet hooks in 28 gauge wire in a gunmetal colour. The central medallion is silver plated and it fastens with a red and navy paisley style button and a beaded loop.

EDIT: The above is another photo showing the choker being modelled by my dress form and I also forgot to say that the deadline to enter the draw for a piece of my handmade jewellery is tomorrow so, if you haven't already entered but would like to do so, don't forget to leave a comment on my post of 12th July. The winner will be announced on 1st August.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Busy Bee!

Where does the time go??!! I've just worked out that I should be okay to do all the things I want to do if I have about another six lifetimes at my disposal or, failing that, I suppose I could make do with five at a push. I'm sorry that I haven't had time to drop by people's blogs for a few days as I've been so busy but that's next on my list of 'to dos' and it's one of the few 'to dos' that I really enjoy! Thanks for all the comments on my last post and I think I'd better start by answering questions that were asked as I don't seem to have had time to do that either! So, here goes.

Kelly asked if I had a wire jig. Well, Kelly, no I didn't have one but I do now and thanks for bringing their existence to my attention! LOL

Piglottie asked if Stash had any Handmaiden Seasilk. Yes, they did but not a lot when I looked as I'm told it had been flying off the shelves. They did say they'd be getting some more in though.

Piglottie also asked about my e-Shop. I'm hoping to work on it this weekend and get it up and running in the next week or so and I'm so excited that some of you have expressed interest in the jewellery and offered me so much encouragement. Peeps, you're the best! As soon as it's up and running, I'll let you all know my website address.

Now, just look what came in the post today! This is the beautiful spindle that I received from Stacey!

It's called 'Tribal Sun' and Stacey also included some instructions on how to spin and a very generous amount of fibre for me to practice with in my favourite colours. Thank you so much, Stacey! (This is where I do my enabling bit!) As well as the wonderful spindle designs she has in her shop, 'Made by Ewe', she has lots of yummy handspun yarn, too, so why not go have a look see?!

I also bought something that I've been intending to buy for some time and that's a Colour Wheel as I think it'll be invaluable for both knitting and jewellery designs.

One of the latest pieces I've made is this 'Rainbow' Necklace which is much prettier in reality than the photograph shows and is made from eight different colours of Swarovski Crystal Bicones interspersed with silver spacers and Gutermann beads with a star pendant as a focal centrepiece.

The star pendant I felt complimented the rainbow theme of the varicoloured crystals because, although it isn't exactly a light catcher, it does change colour as you turn it this way and that. No matter how many photos I took, none could quite capture the light reflection of the Swarovski Crystals or the subtle changes in colour of the star pendant.

As I said, I also bought a wire jig but, at present, it seems easier shaping the wire with the round nosed pliers as before and certainly easier with them at the moment to get uniform shapes/sizes. I suppose it's just practice, practice, practice. I made these practice earrings (left) on the jig but I'm not at all happy with them.

Despite the old adage that it's a bad workman who blames his tools, part of the problem is that I actually DO need the right tools now that I'm going into things in more depth so I think I shall have to make one or two more investments. It would also be somewhat helpful to use the gauge of wire that is recommended for the jig but I didn't have any and figured that the wire I was using would probably work out cheaper for practicing with as I was bound not to get it right first time!

Now, just to prove that this is still a knitting blog, I finished all the pieces for the Rapunzel baby cardi and they're now blocking on the kitchen table (hopefully they'll be blocked by the time DH sits down to dinner or else he'll just have to share the table with Rapunzul! LOL

The front and neck bands have now to be knitted in one piece on a 2.75mm circular needle which I didn't have so DH has kindly bought me one today in London in his lunch break. As the edges were so curled (being stocking stitch) I thought it might be easier to give it a blocking before doing the finishing. I got some lovely flower shaped buttons for it from C&H Fabrics and I also still need ribbon to slot through the eyelets of the edging.

I've finished the front (or back as they're identical) of the long top, too, but Blogger has decided I've had enough photos for today so you'll just have to wait to see that one.

Now, all I have to do is go get dinner ready and then water the troughs and pots in the garden after another sweltering hot day here in the Garden of England! Then I can relax and go blog visiting.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Earrings and Stash

Yesterday, at last, I found myself in Putney in a certain shop (clue - air conditioned and full of something we all love). No prizes for guessing I was in Stash Yarns and everything that everyone has said about it is oh, so true! I was impressed by the yarn on the needles all ready to knit so that one could try knitting with the different yarns before buying and the sheer array of yarn that I'd never been able to see and touch before. I met Natalie (Michelle's in the US at the moment) and got to meet Nickerjac again. I had a good look and feel of the Handmaiden yarn (or should I say the bit that was left as it had, apparently, been flying off the shelves like hot cakes!) I loved the texture of the Mission Falls Cotton and the colours of the Koigu were amazing. It was with a great effort of will that I stopped myself from buying the Koigu yarn for the delectable new Koigu Oriental Jacket which I've fallen hopelessly and madly in love with. Nickerjac and I, however, have agreed that it's probably better both from the points of view of getting just the right colour palette and for saving one from bankruptcy to buy a bit at a time and gradually acquire the yarn to make it with.

So, what did I buy? Well, I was relatively restrained and bought only two skeins of yarn. Admittedly one was a 200g skein of Handmaiden Silk Spun which is enough to make the Silk Vee the pattern of which comes with it. The other skein is Feza Premier and isn't for me so doesn't count! I also bought the Mason-Dixon Knitting book which has been on my wish list for some time.

I have a few bits of news! I've bought my own domain and am in the process of setting up my very own e-Shop so that I can sell some of my handmade jewellery. I've become quite addicted to making it you see and there's a limit to how much I can wear myself and how much I can actually afford to give away. A couple of potential opportunities have also come up knitting-wise but I can't say too much about that at the moment.

The last few days have seen me experimenting with earrings. Firstly, I made these silver feather earrings.

Then, I made a couple of single earrings (below) which I'm going to cannibalise as they were only experiments. Actually, the one on the left I'm rather proud of and I'm going to save the bottom bit and just discard the top bead as it's a bit too long and dangly, I think. The bit I'm chuffed about is the wire work at the bottom which was my very first attempt at this sort of thing which I've taught myself from instructions in a magazine.

I've finished the back and the left front of the Rapunzel cardi but I doubt if it will be ready in time for Tuesday to give to the new baby (or rather the new baby's mum) as work is very busy at the moment and I seem to be spending a lot of my spare time making jewellery!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Beaded Lace Scarf Blocked

Okay, so after subjecting you to the sight of wasp larvae, I thought I'd show you something a bit prettier - the finished and blocked Heartstrings Beaded Lace Scarf.

It's only relatively recently that I really understood just how much a good blocking can transform a garment especially if it's lace when it really opens up and shows the pattern. What comes off the needles as a crumpled mess goes through a complete metamorphosis post-blocking (a wet blocking that is). Until I knitted River, I was afraid to fully immerse a lace item in water dreading the outcome but I took the plunge, literally, with River. After I saw the magic that occurred after a good wet blocking, I was convinced and now, whenever I knit lace, as soon as its off the needles I can't wait to get it wet! As a lot of you will know, it has to be done very carefully though. I decided to photograph the process and post it on here just in case there's anyone reading this who, like me before I knitted River, is a bit unsure as to how to wet block or hasn't yet had the confidence to do so. The only trouble is that I forgot to take a photo of it when it came off the needles (doh!) so you'll just have to believe me when I say it was, indeed, a crumpled mess.

So, here it is soaking for half an hour in tepid water and a very small amount of Silk & Wool Wash. Some people use Lavender Eucalan but I just use Persil Silk & Wool Wash because I can get it from the supermarket and it seems to work fine.

Then I rinsed it in the same temperature water being very gentle and not wringing it at all but gently pressing water out in between soak and rinse. It's important not to shock the material by a change in temperature so best to make sure the water's in the sink at the right temperature first before putting the item in. After it was rinsed, I placed it on a large very absorbent bath towel.

Then I wrapped it up in the towel so that I could gently press water out of the scarf which would then be absorbed by the towel.

It was then ready to pin out. I suppose, ideally, I would use a blocking mat which has lines on it to help guide straight blocking, etc, but I've never found one big enough in the UK. A second option would be one of those really thin mattresses but I don't have one of those either. So, what I use is a duvet that I keep especially for blocking and I use it on top of the bed. The fact that it's not completely flat doesn't seem to have caused any problems. So, here it is pinned out at the points and I used a tape measure to get it to the blocked length and width stated in the pattern.

When it was completely dry, I removed the pins and voila!

For some reason, I was under the impression that I'd need two skeins of the Posh Yarn cashmere/silk laceweight so bought two but I still have 10g of the first skein left despite the scarf being quite a generous size at 60" x 11". I don't think I'll be making another beaded lace scarf with it any time soon though. Any ideas as to what I CAN make with it??

I'll leave you with a close up.

I'm really pleased with the way it's turned out and hope that, provided I can get permission from the designer to sell it, someone will be prepared to pay a reasonable price for it at the cancer charities craft fair in November!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Well, feeling in the mood for a spot of gardening on Sunday, I went into our shed to collect a few bits to notice a load of little bits of yellowish white stuff strewn all over the place and quite a few wasps buzzing around. I had to be very careful as I got what I needed from the shed and it didn't take too much working out that the probability was that there was a wasps' nest in the shed though I couldn't find it at the time. I wasn't particularly enamoured with the thought of being stung by an army of wasps every time I wanted anything from the shed so there was no option but to call out pest control.

The guy arrived on Tuesday morning, investigated the shed and then got suited and booted.

It took him quite a while and a fair bit of rummaging around and using his wasp sleuthing skills before he finally detected where the wasps' nest probably was.

The main area of activity appeared to be centred in the corner where our garden hammock cushions were stored in a plastic bag so he very carefully and gingerly removed the cushions from the shed and onto the lawn.

Lo and behold, the wasps' nest had actually been built inside one of our hammock cushions which explained the yellowish white little bits strewn around which were tiny fragments of foam from the cushion which they had chomped their way through in order to make space for building!

At this point, it became clear that the only way to get rid of the wasps' nest was to spray it which would obviously kill the wasps and larvae inside. I was fascinated to see the architecture of the nest and was a bit saddened that the wasps had to be killed but how was I to use the shed if they were to stay there, not to mention I wasn't all that pleased about the destruction of the cushion? Wasps, I read, are regarded in the main as helpful insects as they keep control of the number of flies. They could be less than helpful, I suppose, if one was so allergic to their sting that anaphylactic shock might be a problem which I know is an issue for some people. Then, what about Buddhists - how would they cope with a situation like this - given that one of their religious doctrines is to harm no living creature?

Anyway, the nest was duly sprayed and the guy said he was relieved that the nest wasn't bigger as one of his colleagues had been covered from head to foot with wasps on one occasion on disturbing a nest! He told me that the queen wasp would always start building the nest on her own and then lay some eggs. When those eggs hatched, the offspring became her minions and her job was then just to stay at the centre of the nest and lay more eggs - tons of them - in other words, she's just one huge ovary who's only purpose in life appears to be to lay eggs! All the other wasps go and collect food, materials for nest building, etc, or defend the nest.

Here, the pest control guy is showing me some of the larvae.

And here he points out the queen, right at the centre. She's bigger than all of the other wasps and she's also much brighter as, being indoors all the time unlike the others, her colours don't get bleached by the sun.

Here's a photo of the cushion showing the wasp' chomped hole in it after the nest had been removed.

Surprisingly enough, wasps building nests in stored garden furniture cushions isn't all that uncommon so if you've got some stored away in your shed, it might pay off to be vigilant. They'd also chomped a hole through the canopy so it goes without saying that the garden hammock is pretty useless now.

All that remains to be done is to clear up the little bits of foam that are scattered everywhere like snow which I was told to do after a couple of days as the remaining wasps would hang around for a while wondering what had happened to their house.

The beaded lace scarf is now blocking and I've started the baby cardi for Sharon's new daughter, Fern. I'm hoping that I'm making it large enough that at least she'll get some wear out of it once it's cool enough for it to be worn! It's 'Rapunzel' from Paton's 'A Princess Tale' and I've chosen Debbie Bliss' Baby Cashmerino to knit it in.

As you can see, it has a lacy edging and butterfly motifs at the front. I seem to be crazy about butterflies at the moment (though not wasps!)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Scarves, Choc Ice and Funky Feathers!

Thanks for all the comments on the jewellery. I seem to have become quite addicted to playing about with beads and baubles and my bead stash is gathering apace. In fact, on Saturday we went to Brighton again and, of course, I couldn't resist calling in at Beads Unlimited especially as I wanted to buy some rattail for Celtic Knot jewellery. Rattail is a rather ugly name for a cord that is, in fact, very lovely being satin and shiny!

I intend to teach myself Celtic Knotwork and I made a start on Sunday except, what do you know, I didn't get everything I needed such as, for instance, PVA glue. So, I started off with a basic Celtic Knot ring using a Turk's Head Knot but was unable to finish it as I didn't have the glue. Here it is in its unsealed and unglued state!

Apparently, this ring is ideal for lovers as it represents the interweaving of their lives and futures. There are various other knots to learn such as the Button Knot, the Braid Knot, Figure of Eight Knots and Interlaced Knots. For one of my first projects, I'd like to make a Button Knot necklace which is basically beads separated by spacers and Button Knots.

I also made a couple more pins and a choker. This one I called the 'Funky Feather' Pin. Here's a close up.

And here's another shot showing how it looks as a scarf pin.

But never mind about the pin. What about that scarf!! This is one that Tina has sent to go towards the charity craft fair. It's Midwest Moonlight from the Scarf Style Book knitted in Rowan Cotton in the bilberry colourway. Isn't it just lovely?! So, we're having no more of Tina denigrating her knitting skills and hiding her light under a bushel and then producing a magnificent scarf like this, are we?

And, as if that wasn't enough, she also sent another gorgeous scarf - Wavy! Here it is below knitted in the same bilberry colourway of Rowan Cotton which is luxuriously soft!

Thanks, Tina, you're a star!

At the weekend, I also made another green and amethyst pin to replace the one I sent to Louise as a late birthday present and below is another shot of the gorgeous Midwest Moonlight scarf closed with the pin.

I think I may start a photo gallery in Flickr showing all of the items that people have knitted and donated to the charity craft fair as there's quite a collection by now. Here's the most recent moebius scarf that Mary-Lou has donated.

Chunky chokers are very much 'in' at the moment - the type with randomly placed beads and pendants of various sizes and lengths. So, I decided to make one in browns and blues and called it 'Choc Ice'.

It actually looks much better worn with a low neckline but that's very difficult to achieve with a dress form that is sized so that there's a gap in the middle of the bust which keeps swallowing up the central pendant!! Unfortunately, the photo below turned out a bit on the dark side but, nevertheless, here's another shot!

By the way, if you haven't done so yet, don't forget if you leave a comment on my previous post, you'll be entered into a draw to win a piece of my handmade jewellery or stitchmarkers.

I'VE FINISHED THE BEADED LACE SCARF. YAY!!!!! It now just needs blocking and then I'll post a photo. I need to write to Jackie at Heartstrings as I'd like her permission to sell it at the charity craft fair. I'm also carrying on with the Long Top but am thinking that I need to knock up a quick baby cardi as the next meeting of the charity craft fair organisers is in a week's time and, Sharon, the main lady, has just had a baby girl, Fern!

*** STOP PRESS *** Word on the street has it that a new UK knitting magazine is due to be launched on 24th August. The title is 'Knit Today' and it's being produced by the same people who do the 'New Stitches' embroidery magazine. Reports are that it will be aimed at more advanced knitters!

Lastly, I'd like to leave you with this poem which was sent to me by Val who was reminded of it by my 'Evergreen' Necklace. Val is the lady mentioned on the Posh Yarn site in relation to the lovely free Sea & Shells Stole pattern. The title of the poem is 'Overheard on a Saltmarsh' and it's by Harold Monro.


Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?

Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?

Give them me.


Give them me, give them me.


Then I will howl all night in the reeds,
Lie in the mud and howl for them.

Goblin, why do you love them so?

They are better than stars or water,
Better than voices of winds that sing.
Better than any man’s fair daughter,
Your green glass beads on a silver ring.

Hush, I stole them out of the moon.

Give me your beads, I want them.


I will howl in the deep lagoon
For your green glass beads, I love them so.
Give them me. Give them me.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

First Blogiversary Giveaway

Firstly, thanks for all the advice on the question posed in my last post as to what I should drink. I think I've solved it now but have had to compromise a bit because I really missed my cups of tea too much. I'm now having the odd cup ot Earl Grey but extremely weak with lots of milk added. I know that the proper way to drink Earl Grey is black with a slice of lemon but I don't care because I'm not that posh! LOL

And so, it'll be one year on 31st July since I started this blog and, to celebrate it, anyone who leaves a comment on this post from now until 12am on July 31st will be entered into a draw to win a piece of my handmade jewellery. So, as well as my regular readers who comment, if you're reading this and haven't commented before, why not say hello? I'd love to hear from you though if you'd rather not that's cool, too. The winner can choose which piece they would like (jewellery or stitchmarkers) from my photo gallery here and, as shown below, I've made a reasonable amount in the short time I've been doing it. If a piece is chosen that I haven't got any longer, that's okay, because I can make another just like it. The winner will be announced on 1st August.

A few more bits I've made are another set of 'Frog Me Not' stitchmarkers (after sending the first set to Rain at the Frog in Knots blog, I rather missed them so decided to make some for me!);

'Evergreen' Necklace made with glass beads and copper chain;

Green and Amethyst Pin (Nathalie's now got some blank pins in just waiting to be embellished with beads, etc, so I was really pleased to get some to play with and lost no time in experimenting with this one!)

Here it's being worn on the Frilly Scarf but they seem to be 'in' at the moment and can be worn on wraps, to keep shrugs and cardis closed, and I've even seen long dangly ones on the waistband of jeans. Nathalie was wearing one like this and it looked really stylish. I've also noticed in the shops that pins are being worn with buttons on as well as beads.

Next up's the 'Jet Black' bracelet to match the necklace I made ;

And, finally, the Safety Pin Bracelet!

This would make a great little project for kids, perhaps to fill in a rainy afternoon during the school hols, Its simple yet effective being beads threaded onto safety pins and then the fastenings pressed tightly with flat nosed pliers to make sure they don't open again afterwards. The safety pins are then threaded onto beading elastic making sure they are alternately opposite sides up and a bead is placed onto the elastic in between each safety pin. This is done for the holes at both the top and the bottom of the safety pins. The elastic is then either knotted or crimped to secure and the knots or crimps hidden under a bead and that's it!

Knitting-wise, the beaded lace scarf now only requires three more of the 20 row pattern repeats and a good blocking to complete it. I'm amazed that it looks like it's only going to take one skein of the laceweight Posh Yarn which is excellent yardage though I shouldn't be altogether surprised as the yarn is extremely fine!

I've also cast on for the Long Top in Sirdar's "California Girls" booklet in Sirdar Luxury Cotton.

I'm not normally a great Sirdar fan but I have to say that I like this cotton which is very soft. It does have a tendency to split so you have to be careful when knitting but I suppose this is the trade off as it needs to be loosely plied I think to achieve this degree of softness.

In other news, Maidstone Knitters met for their July meeting last Saturday and welcomed another couple of new members, Marie and Sue. Sue's a textile artist and brought along some of her work to show us. She knits with plastic as she likes to draw attention to the increasing volume of plastic which we use in the hopes that we might start to turn the plastic tide. One of the objets d'art she brought along to show us is the dress below, entitled 'Address'. It's made from postal plastic - all those items which used to arrive in brown paper envelopes and now come in plastic bags. Isn't it amazing?!

If you'd like to have a look at some of the other pieces she brought along to show us (all knitted in plastic) have a look at Maidstone Knitters' blog. At our September meeting, she's going to show us how to create a knitted bracelet using wire and I, for one, can't wait as I was strongly coveting the one she was wearing!!!

EDIT: For all those who've asked in the comments section about the kilt pins, I got them from the Pink Palace in Maidstone and, yes, the twists are already in the bars.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Swapsies and the Month of Purple

Today I received two packages in the post. One was from Marie in Brussels and the other was from an eBay seller. The contents of both parcels are pictured below.

The two Maybelline eyeliners are my part of the "Gimme Your Stuff" swap with Marie as she's been frantically searching for this eyeliner in a specific shade (iced chestnut) for some time and it appears to have been discontinued or at the very least extremely scarce on the ground! I tried all of the usual places to no avail and then found not one, but two, on eBay!

Marie's part of the swap was to send me the lovely crocheted spring flowers bracelet that she made with the finest crochet cotton. The coloured parts of the petals on the crocheted flowers are actually composed of tiny little beads so, as you can imagine, it's very intricate. Marie also sent me the cute card picturing the cat playing with a ball of yarn. Thanks, Marie! The eyeliners will be packed and sent to Brussels first thing in the morning.

July is Project Spectrum's violet and purple month and so, being as these are among my favourite colours anyway, I thought it was a good enough excuse to make a necklace in purples.

Nathalie at the Pink Palace is getting new beads in all of the time and I noticed these very attractive new glass ones last time I visited and couldn't resist. The photo below probably shows the beads off better.

Knitting-wise, I'm still plugging away at the Beaded Lace Scarf and am almost finished another hat for the charity craft fair (the Beehive hat) in some of the donated yarn. The new Knitty is up and I've decided to make these for my One Skein Secret Pal and I rather like the look of this, too.

Now I have a question for you. Well, on Tuesday I had my teeth cleaned and polished by the dentist and I'm now the proud owner of sparkling white gnashers. I've decided to stop drinking tea, coffee and red wine (all beverages that stain the teeth) and haven't had any since Tuesday. It was quite funny because, after leaving the dentist, I went into the village deli to waste some time whilst waiting for the bus and automatically ordered a coffee which I then had to ask if they'd mind changing to a herbal tea! Since then, I've been drinking herbal teas, mostly chamomile and peppermint, and lots of water and the odd Bacardi Breezer. I do have some fruit teas in the cupboard but, to be honest, I can see that I'm very quickly going to get bored with fruit and herbal teas! I'm not keen on drinking too much squash and fruit juice is apparently over acidic for the teeth unless diluted. Fizzy drinks can also often contain acids that eat into the enamel of the teeth so what am I to drink?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Frog me Not!

I've been looking at the different ways to make stitch markers including Lixie's method in the kits she sells and have made my first set - the "Frog Me Not" stitch markers!

These are 'good' frog charms and not the evil frogs that cause the frogging of one's knitting. I'll give you three guesses as to which blogger's going to receive these as a pressie??

Other stuff I've been up to includes hitting the sales at John Lewis, getting on with the Beaded Lace Scarf (I'm now over half way) and making another necklace "Jet Black".

It looks quite dramatic, I think, against a plain white background! Although not obvious from the photo, the beads are in three sizes with two large ones either side of the Celtic cross graduating outwards through medium to the smaller size.

They're not real jet beads of course but next time we go to Whitby, DH has promised to buy me a piece of genuine Whitby jet jewellery from here. They've got some lovely pieces.

I've also been concentrating on making one or two bracelets for children suitable to go into the little bags I knitted for the charity craft fair.

Just el cheapo plastic beads from Hobbycraft but okay I think for their purpose.