The cushions won…

Yup, almost a whole month since my last post a pretty much all I have to show for it is an exhausted demeanor and a sofa full of cushions. I’m afraid I went for the (very) easy option as my brain seems to have gone away altogether. Everything is feeling like hard work at the moment. I have actually cut out a pair of pj’s but they aren’t coming together at any rate at all. So please admire the cushions.

IMG_1318

Ok? They don’t all live on that sofa all of the time but I grouped them for the photo.

I have also managed to finish the EZKAL from Kates blog. You might remember from my last post that this has ended up too wide across the front neckline for me (picture here) so I needed to pull the knitting back to just above where I joined the sleeves on. I have to confess that I left this for a ridiculous amount of time as I simply didn’t have the brainpower to handle what needed to be done. When I eventually DID get around to it the task was nowhere near as difficult as I anticipated.

Using pattern cutting, and previous knitting, knowledge I decided I needed to reduce the stitches low in the raglan shaping to take the excess away from the point above the bust. Not hard, I just increased the decrease rate to every row rather than alternates until I had reduced by the number of stitches to reduce the neck appropriately. I wanted the neckline to be a little away from the neck ( more boat rather than a little round jewel neckline) so tried the jumper on a couple of times to get the position about right. It is probably still a little higher than I really wanted it but I wasn’t prepared to pull down again.

I’m pretty happy with this frankly ridiculous garment, and I know I will wear it a lot. I would have preferred not to have the camel colour as the ribs and by my face but it was the colour with the largest quantity available so hey ho. It is longer than I expected which is odd since I was using the same measurements that I used for the pink alpaca sweater but I’m happy. It is also a bit bigger than expected too – maybe using the acrylic made my gauge a little ‘off’ – but over all I can’t say I’m upset about that. I have to say thank you to Kate for introducing me to the Elizabeth Zimmerman system of knitting as I’m really enjoying her methods.

I’m on a promise to make another of these for my daughter now and hopefully it will take less time than this one. There’s a reasonable amount of decent tv at present so once I have set up it should be a good mindless knit.

Hopefully I will manage to achieve more in September than I have in the past few months but I’m making no promises. I hope you’re achieving more than I am. It wouldn’t be difficult 😦

Kim

 

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Past the finishing post……

….. at least for The Managements quilt. You might remember that this was started an age ago, took way longer than I expected to cut and sew the topper, and I gained speed whilst hand quilting the layers together listening to audio books from the library. I finished this a little while ago but circumstances have been such that I didn’t get a photograph. So here it is. Ta dah!

He is happy with it – honest!

As you may recall this was inspired by the Bridget Riley picture ‘Nataraja’. Himself chose the fabric for the topper, and I was left to make something that looked a little like the original – but not a ‘faithful copy’. I’m pretty happy with this as my first attempt at quilting, and although I’m in no hurry to repeat the experience I’m no longer totally averse to the idea.

The circumstances I referred to earlier have been that my mum has been in hospital for about five to six weeks and was unable to go back to the circumstances she was living in before. Cue a mad rush to redecorate and carpet a little apartment in an extra care facility with five days to complete the work and have enough of her belongings moved in for her to get by. And then empty her bungalow.

Wow. She has always been very clean and tidy so it came as a complete shock to discover that every cupboard and drawer had been filled to busting. It turned out to be a much bigger job than my sister and I expected. Despite that I have enjoyed my time with my sister, and visits laden down like a pack horse to mum with extra stuff. I’m pleased to say she is in and fairly comfortable now – and has already tested out the care staff by falling off the bed! They responded admirably so I know we have made the right decision.

I had been getting on well with the EZKAL from Kates blog but that came to a total halt when I needed to go to Northumberland. It was, in fact, just after I had discovered that the raglan decreases were a bit too slow across the front for me and that I need to pull the bodice section out and start again once I have done some calculations. I realised that if I got to the width I wanted I would lose the opportunity to have a boat neckline rather than a jewel neckline. I did take a picture to check it so I will show my progress so far. I’m pretty happy with how it’s looking, and have already agreed to make another for my daughter in yarn from stash in a strawberry pink and off white.

Too much front width

I’m actually starting to itch to sew now – I keep looking at fabrics in the stash with a view to getting started. I also want to make some cushion covers for my front room (I already have the fillers). I wonder what will win?

Anyway, a word about stash – and all those other things we hoard. After my experience this last couple of weeks I will be clearing some of mine out and I suggest you look closely at yours – unless you want your kids to curse you when it comes for them to do it!

I promise a less rushed post next time. In the meantime enjoy your days – whatever you have planned.

Kim


Perfect weather for knitting!

Summer has arrived here in the UK – not sneaking in slowly to give us any opportunity to get used to it but arriving with a BANG! In UK terms it has been unbelievably warm hot for what feels like weeks and there is no sign of rain at all so it can only be a matter of time before someone starts bleating about hosepipe bans. Actually there is a bit of 1976 about this weather……

Anyhoo, the knitting is sticking to the needles at the moment even though I am using talcum powder to try to keep my hands dry. Despite that I have been making progress on the Elizabeth Zimmerman KAL that Kate is hosting. I was determined to knit with what I had in stash – and since there were stripes suggested it gave me the opportunity to go a little wild. The Management said that the sleeves looked like a minor football teams away strip to begin with but changed to just sniggering as they got longer. He now confesses to quite liking them. What do you think? (Be honest – it isn’t going to change things at all and I have broad shoulders so I can take it 😉  )

 

EZ Mad stripy sleeves

The quilt is making good progress too. I now have all of the ‘done’ section rolled such that all that is left to do shows the finishing line. TM comes in occasionally to check on progress and seems happy. I’m very happy to be in the workroom as it is downstairs and is beautifully cool by comparison with the rest of the house at the moment. I think this will work very well as a solo cover on our bed when it’s as hot as this. Must get a move on and finish the hand quilting so I can get the bindings done.

Almost finished the hand quilting

In the way of delightedly retired people we have also had a few trips out. The first was very local – the newly re-opened Royal Worcester porcelain museum. It was both wonderful and very quiet. If you are in the area it’s worth an hour or so of your time.

We also celebrated a significant Wedding Anniversary recently and had a meal at a lovely place near Abergavenny. Having got that far TM said we might just as well have a couple of nights away in Swansea – ulterior motive already spotted since I knew he wanted to visit the birthplace of Dylan Thomas.

Even if you have absolutely no interest in poetry or Dylan Thomas the house was magnificent. It had been renovated by the current owner (a big Dylan fan) to a brilliant standard and was a joy to wander around. It reminded me a little of an elderly aunts house from my childhood.

The weather was stunning and we enjoyed a wonderful day just wandering around Mumbles, and the on to Rhosilli which was just beautiful. I definitely want to go back and spend longer. I wouldn’t even mind if the weather wasn’t quite so stunning (I did get an uncharacteristic sunburn – I’m usually very very careful as I am so fair skinned). Check out these magnificent views.

I know there was a fair walk to get down onto that fabulous beach but really, it was almost deserted! I’ve been a bit biased about Northumbrian beaches in the past but this one was well up on my favourite beaches list.

It’s been wonderful here (and there!) since my last post – and to top it all I was nominated for a Mystery Blogger Award by Linda who blogs HERE

the-mystery-blogger-award

I will respond to this in another post when I can do it justice. Thank you Linda!

Off now to keep cool do some more hand quilting. Whatever you are doing, and in whatever conditions, I hope you are enjoying it.

Kim


Notes from ‘The Dark Side’

Fits the bed now!

Remember me? Yes, it’s been a while.

Much to my surprise I have been thoroughly enjoying the quilt. Yes. That quilt. And look – the topper is now big enough to fit the bed now – hurrah! I really didn’t think I was ever going to get to that point.

In fairness that did throw up a whole other set of dilemmas – the main one being how to actually ‘quilt’ the wretched thing. So many people had advised against hand quilting that I really shouldn’t have considered it – but I did and eventually decided that it was the way I wanted to go.

Those pieces have taken an age to put together, and I would love to say that all of the joins are perfect but they aren’t. Also, the nature of the design meant that there are areas where the stitching would go across blocks of darker colour and I decided that I really didn’t want the stitching to be very noticeable. So ……. hand quilting it is.

Comfortable work station

Hand quilting – for better or worse

I have moved my cutting table from the (darker) back room to a position in front of my work room window which is beautifully bright. I can work there until fairly late in the evening at the moment without any problem. I have also nicked  borrowed The Managements Pilates ball so I’m sitting better whilst working. These steps, and the discovery of Audio books from my local library, mean that I can quite happily spend a couple of hours (or more!) zenned out while I hand quilt. Who ever would have expected that to happen!

Anyway, as a result of that (and the fact that the Football World Cup is about to start) means that I am making good progress on the quilt, and expect to continue to do so. I’m not sewing anything else at the moment but I really feel that I about ready to consider sewing again from a much happier place.

EZ Alpaca sweater

You might remember the alpaca yarn I showed in my last post which is now a completed sweater. I followed the most basic of the Elizabeth Zimmerman designs and have been very happy with the results. I’m slightly surprised at just how warm and heavy this turned out to be – and I shouldn’t show any surprise that completion coincided with the change in the weather here in the UK so it is now way too warm to wear this! Never mind, I’m quite certain that it will be well worn in due course.

I enjoyed the whole Elizabeth Zimmerman method of knitting (Pattern – what pattern?) and when Kate publicised on her blog HERE that she was willing to arrange a KAL (knit – along) using the EZ methods for a raglan sweater I was very happy to join. I am just using as much of the scrap yarn (of the same type) that I have left from previous projects so it isn’t going to be a classy knit! Since I’m hardly a classy dame I really don’t care  😉

Hoods on tour

Aluminium jewellery

We managed to slip a quick week away to Puglia in Italy a couple of weeks ago and had a very fine time. Those who follow me on instagram (@kimthemateriallady) will have already seen some pictures. We were very much in need of sunshine – which arrived in the UK just as we were packing the case. Thankfully it hung around and we are still enjoying it.

Italy, and particularly Puglia (since that was where we were) was fantastic. We generally ate and drank too much, and smiled a massive amount which has made our smile wrinkles even deeper which troubles me not one jot. I don’t often buy mementos of holidays as they are so frequently regretted on return but I was delighted to find these pieces of jewelry in Vieste. It looks quite heavy but is actually aluminium so it is fabulously light – and was hand made by the gentleman I bought them from. Better and better – and worn frequently since return.

Elderflower cordial – bottled sunshine!

The wonderful weather has meant that the wild flowers are looking wonderful – and I was particularly waiting for the elder flower so that I could make cordial. I was a little late making this for the first time last year from THIS RECIPE. It was delicious – and even freezes so you can save some for when winter all seems to be getting too miserable as it tastes like bottled sunshine. I managed to pick sufficient for a double batch on a fabulously sunny afternoon and now have it safely tucked away. I’m keeping note of the elder bushes I see as I also have a recipe (untried) for elderberry cordial which is supposed to be really beneficial to health in the winter.

Oh heavens, I appear to be turning into ‘The Wise Woman’. Take no notice of me.

The Management was all ready to go down to the museum a little while back and I took advantage of the moment to take a picture of him in full shelter regalia. Not meant to be actually 1940’s kit – just inspired by. The only new thing is the sweater I knitted. We have been fortunate enough to find everything else in Charity (Op) shops, or from the clothing he already had. Doesn’t he look cute?

Full shelter outfit

I will try not to leave it quite so long before I report in again – but as you can see I haven’t been (totally) slacking. And the garden aint looking too bad either.

Kim

 


Just catching up….

I’m still in a ‘no-sew’ mode so progress on anything is very slow. I have started to feel just the merest stirrings of a sewing urge so I’m hopeful of something to show you guys sometime soon!

I have, however, been knitting. I have finished the Purl Soho Botanical Yoke sweater that I was making. Hurrah! Pictures and details….

Heath Robinson knitting

You may remember that back in the mists of time I bought this gorgeous yarn from Colourmart. It was very fine and needed to be ‘navajo plyed’. If you need information of this click HERE . Basically this meant that the fine 80%Merino/20%Cashmere I had chosen was used three strands at once which brought the yarn weight up to be perfect for my sweater.

Now all of the yarn from Colourmart is actually intended for industry rather than hand knitting (not that that is an issue!) and comes on cones. After spending an unreasonable amount of time chasing the cone around the floor I came up with this rather odd looking but very effective way to cope. The cone is sitting on top of an egg cup, which in turn is sitting on top of my kitchen paper holder. Not pretty but very effective in allowing the cone to spin freely as I pulled on the yarn. That speeded things up significantly 🙂 .

Yoke detail

Happy? Yes!

Having said that, this isn’t a particularly ‘quick’ project. All of that knit 2 purl 2 rib gets old pretty quickly, and when you get to the exciting part on the cabled yoke it can get a bit tricky. Cabling ’24’ is a bit, well…… tricky. And not entirely easy to knit. Fortunately you only need to do that massive cable twice. Things get much easier after that.

Another feature of Colourmart yarns is that they are treated to run smoothly through industrial knitting machines. That makes them a bit firmer knitted up before they are given a bath. I did wear my sweater a few times before I washed it and found the polo neck a little bit ‘scratchy. I washed it by hand so that it didn’t all go horribly wrong in the machine and it has softened up nicely. It took AGES to dry as it has been so cold and damp here in the UK. I think we are all desperate for some consistently warm (and sunny… please!) weather. Anyway I am counting this as a win and I’m sure I will get lots of opportunities to wear it .Through our ENGLISH SUMMER 😦

Quilting progress

I have been trying to clear things around the house. You know, those odd jobs that I have been trying to ignore, all the things I would rather not do … so I haven’t. It’s been the equivalent of the ‘crate of shame’ or the ‘drawer of doom’ where sewing projects go to be ignored. Some of you with very good memories will remember the quilt I started to commemorate The Managements 60th birthday. I confess some time has passed since then and the quilt has been largely ignored. Actually not true, I snarl at it every time I have to move it to get to something I want in the sewing room. Well bullets needed to be bitten and I have got the whole lot out again into a much more prominent position so that I am totally shamed into getting on. It has grown fairly well over the last couple of weeks (hey! I have been sewing!) and I am starting to feel that it might actually become a functioning quilt. I did have a short time when I considered the whole thing ‘migraine inducing’ but the colours and patterns seem to be settling down as they get bigger. I still feel unbelievably stupid for taking on such a large and complicated project as my first attempt at quilting. Hey ho.

Celias Hot Cross buns

Perfection 🙂

One of the things I have been enjoying very much of late is baking sourdough bread. Celia recommended ‘Artisan Sourdough made Simple’ by Emilie Raffa a while back and I really love this book. If you love sourdough and don’t have it yet I heartily recommend it. There hasn’t been a dud recipe yet, and Emilie blogs as The Clever Carrot so you can check her out there before investing if you don;t want to take my word! Not in the book but absolutely delicious were Celias Hot Cross Buns. Shared with friends (those that didn’t get scarfed down disgracefully quickly by Himself and I) they were a roaring success and will be made throughout the year without crosses and just called ‘buns’!

A few things have made my bread making more pleasurable recently. Firstly I reclaimed a electric heated pad which was bought years ago for an elderly Siamese cat I was slave to. She felt the cold something chronic so during the day (when she couldn’t sneak into bed and be my furry hot water bottle substitute) she enjoyed this. It did go off to my mothers elderly cat until her recent demise when it was returned. Mine looks a bit like this one and makes a great job of the ‘overnight rise’ when my kitchen is freezing. I do use it for the other rises at the moment as its still cold here. Once the sun starts to show its face again maybe the bread will manage without it. The next thing is the  Lékué bread maker. No, not electric. This is a silicon bowl which you can use right from the start – measuring and mixing the dough, kneading, leaving to rise  AND COOKING! Yup, this baby goes in the oven. And the dishwasher – I’m officially in love. Finally is a Lakeland Magic tray liner. Fabulous. Absolutely non-stick – even for the filled focaccia from Emilies book which stuck like to the tray like it would never come off just slid off this baby. Reusable and dishwasher friendly if needed – but it’s unlikely as it is so slippy and any residue just wipes off mine. I’ve used it about a dozen times at least and it still looks great. I would definitely buy this again but think it will be a while before I need to!

EZ and Alpaca

I have started knitting again. This time I’m knitting one of the basic Elizabeth Zimmerman yoked jumpers that I became aware of from Kate. I would have loved to join in her knit along but had other projects that made it difficult. I’m using some beautiful alpaca DK that I bought from the WRE It’s knitting up beautifully, and The Management (who has been helpful winding those skeins into balls) says he likes it because ‘it’s not a girly pink’. It’s still for me.

Wax Cloth I shouldn’t have bought….. but did.

I had a lovely day out in Birmingham yesterday with Fairy and friends. It was unusually clement – sunshiny even (sadly didn’t last) – and we were able to enjoy a walk round the markets. Neither Fairy or I really needed to buy anything. We had both said so. So why did I come home with this length of African Wax Cloth? Other than the fact that the colours are absolutley fabulous, and will mix with a number of the fabrics already in my stash? Anyway it’s home now and I just have to locate that sewing mojo. Do send it back if you find it 😉

Enjoy life out there

Kim x

 


Elizabeth Zimmerman is ace!

Yup, it’s official – I really like Elizabeth Zimmerman’s knitting style. If you like being taken by the hand and led all the way through a pattern then she may not be for you but if you are prepared to ‘freestyle it’ a bit then she’s great.

You may remember I was knitting the ‘Stu’s Fair Isle’ pullover from the Knitting Workshop book which I still have from our local library. I’ll confess to having a good giggle at the instructions (such as they were), particularly when I read the instructions on guage – “6 stitches to the inch. GET IT RIGHT” (Her capitals). And I should have been paying attention.

In a straightforward stocking stitch this was achieved perfectly. What I hadn’t considered was that even doing my best to CARRY WOOL LOOSELY (again, her capitals) whilst knitting the fair isle pattern I clearly made it a bit tighter. Not horribly so, but I think The Management could do with a little more wiggle room. He thinks not as he is ‘going to the gym now so I should shape up sometime soon….’. I think we all know how often that works.

Anyway, in all his glory, here he is wearing the pullover within seconds of it being finished. I think he likes it!(Sorry for the fairly numpty I-phone picture)

Happiness is a finished fair isle pullover

Back to the pattern. Before I realised I was going to have to actually do a bit of work on this pullover I followed the fair isle chart exactly as printed. It didn’t fit the number of stitches I had. Nor any of the other sizes with the exception of size 40.  Lesson number 1 was that when it comes to the patterns you really are in charge. Pay attention.

I spent some time rejigging the pattern so that all the designs were divisible by 12 which meant that they fitted the stitch number I had. No problems at all after that. As you are working ‘in the round’ and all rows are knit rows this pattern knitted up much more quickly than I expected.

Can we talk about ‘steeking’? Following EZ’s instructions I knitted this all the way up to the shoulders – adding ‘kangaroo pouches’ and various other completely unknown methods – before being instructed to cut into my knitting. Yes, that’s basically what steeking is. Terrifying. I selected a ridiculously short stitch on my sewing machine (after  basting guide lines) and sewed three anchor lines rather than the two advised. Belt and braces? No way was this going to unravel if I had anything to do with it. And then I had to cut into the work I had spent so long knitting. If I could have safely done it with my eyes closed I would have done – I’m pretty certain I wasn’t breathing at this point. OK, long story cut short. No problems!

I picked up the armhole and neckline stitches with heart in mouth. I was convinced that this would end up in pieces on my lap but I can promise that it was absolutely solid. I was pretty confident that if the results hadn’t been predictable then there would have been warnings all over the interweb so I really shouldn’t have worried. If you ever have to do this then be brave (and don’t put it off for days in fear as I did). Herringbone stitching the cut edges down has made the insides actually look fairly presentable which I wasn’t confident about.

Anyway, I have done what I needed to ensure he now has a jacket, tie, and hand knitted sweater …… and the builders haven’t finished their stuff so the shelter isn’t going to be opened straight away (probably a good thing as the poor man would freeze in there at the moment!). He still needs to source suitable trousers and decide on a suitable shirt and shoes but I’m leaving that to himself – I feel that honour has been satisfied from this end!

 

View from our room

Snowy view from Salts mill

Another Snowy view from Salts Mill

Hockney at Salts Mill

I imagine you are all getting bored with the UK weather pictures now. The funniest thing I have read about last weeks storm was ‘In the UK it’s The Beast from the East’ but the Finns are calling it Wednesday’. So right and totally hilarious. I’ll confess a sense of humour failure after sitting for almost two hours in the same spot on a Yorkshire motorway as we traveled home after a trip to the Frozen North. We hit Northumberland overnight to attend a much loved (but exceedingly elderly) uncle’s funeral before spending a night in Skipton – after a wonderful bright snowy drive through the Yorkshire dales which were beautiful. We also took the opportunity to visit Salts Mill in Saltaire for a Hockney exhibition. It was wonderful and we will certainly visit on another occasion when we might even get to walk the wonderful area around there.

 

Excited!

Costumes for our delight

Princess Margaret’s wedding dress

I had a very relaxed day at home….. before setting off into another snow storm on the way to London for a V&A talk on Costume and the Crown. I wasn’t going to miss that! The darling daughter was even willing to join me so we enjoyed a meal in the gorgeous members room before enjoying a very fine talk from Jane Petrie, the costume designer from series 2, and Vanessa Kirby who plays

Looking very pretty in the gathering dark

Princess Margaret. I enjoyed the talk, as did Jess, but I did hear some mutterings that suggested that it hadn’t been sufficiently focused on costume for some. We were able to have a good look at the few costumes that had been brought along for inspection – something that initially horrified Jess until she realised they were made for TV rather than original.

 

The following day was a lovely trip to Greenwich to enjoy the Royal Observatory. If you have the least interest in astronomy, particularly its relevance to maritime history, then this place is an absolute must visit. I enjoyed a show in the Planetarium too – wonderful! Again it’s

My feet and the Prime Meridian

I’m assured there’s a good view…

somewhere I am going to have to revisit just to see what must be just about the best views over London there are when it’s not misty as all get out! The Cutty Sark is in one of those photographs – no prizes if you spot it though.

 

I’m looking forward to a very quiet couple of weeks, I might even sew (although I have absolutely no sewing mojo at all at the moment – Lesley from Sewniptuck suggests a bit of stash fondling). That may work. Possibly. Maybe. I’m still knitting the Botanical Yoke sweater, now back on the needles stolen to make the fair isle, so I’ll quietly bumble on with that for now. And think kindly sewing thoughts which might ignite a desire….

Still knitting

Stay warm out there, and keep on with whatever craft makes you happy.

Kim

 


I suck at stashbusting

Yup. It’s absolutely official after yesterday. But I do have mitigating circumstances M’Lud.

Ok, I need to explain myself. After The Management retired he started to volunteer at our lovely local museum and was given the job as the person in the air raid shelter who explains how the war affected Bewdley and the surrounding area. He did all of last summer wearing ‘civvies’ but it was discussed and decided that he really needed to wear something not exactly period but more in keeping with the time. And it’s often freezing in there so he needs to be warm too. So we were thinking something a bit like this maybe….

1940s men's fair isle sweater vest

Well…. maybe not exactly like that but you get the idea. I did find another image which was full length but he looked a bit of a ‘spiv’. Anyway, the air raid shelter was originally built for the Post Office staff so maybe he would have been a Post Office Clerk, or since he’s The Management a Post Office Manager. This is getting a bit off topic.

Well I have wanted to use one of Elizabeth Zimmermans patterns for ages – Kate has been making some wonderful jumpers for herself here at Fabrickated . I managed to buy one book from Amazon, and got another from the library – EZ’s Knitting Workshop – which has a sweater that pretty much fits the bill for himself – check it out on Ravelry! And I get to use EZ’s methods. Score!

Well, I started looking for the shetland wool I wanted to make this in, located it online and costed the project, but left it unbought for now. Then what should happen but I get an email from the Worcester Resource Exchange to say they had lots of yarn for sale. It would have been rude not to go and…can you believe it!  The exact same yarn at a third of the cost. Well, I couldn’t turn that down could I?

The colours go brilliantly with a tweed jacket we found in a local Charity Shop, and a tie bought from E-Bay (I can’t believe how difficult it has been to find a suitable tie!). All we need is a pair of shoes and suitable trousers to go with the sweater and he will be done.

While I was there some sock yarn jumped into my bag too. I couldn’t stop it! Honestly – just look! How beautiful is that? I’m hiding that for the time being.

I’m up to the armhole divide now on my Botanical Yoke sweater if I use the length given on the pattern. I’m tempted to add a little extra length but will try the red one on again before making a decision. I will have to put it to one side for the moment so that I can concentrate of getting the Fair Isle sweater ready for the museum season starting in March.

Better get a move on!