Sometimes life needs to change.

I am not going to make any apology (this time) for having taken so long to post anything new – but I will tell you what has happened here Chez Material Lady.

Immediately after my last post I worked like a crazy lady (no sniggering in the back!) to clear the decks of client work before going on holiday with The Management. We had a fabulous time in the amazingly beautiful medieval walled city of Carcassonne. If you ever get an offer  of a holiday in this part of France take it – Carcassonne looks like medieval Disney. And is the home of cassoulet.

Beautiful Carcassonne

Beautiful Carcassonne

We had a fabulous time…..until I got food poisoning on a day out to Avignon. Big style. After almost a week on fluids and very little solid food I rather foolishly went on a trip to Gozo with some diving friends – I know I probably shouldn’t have done but this had been arranged for ever. The logic was that if I wasn’t well enough to dive then resting in the sunshine would be good for me. I confess that despite still eating very little I did go diving – and wonderful it was too – and very much enjoyed the rest in the sunshine. Lots of rest and back home to start work again.

The lovely bay in Xlendi, Gozo

The lovely bay in Xlendi, Gozo

Or not. My batteries were on empty, and for the first week back almost every time I sat down I went to sleep. Thankfully I had left little client work that needed urgent attention so I was able to just rest, but it did make me consider what I would have done if there had been lots as it has taken weeks to start feeling anywhere near normal again.

I hate to let anyone down, and I always try to ensure that work is completed well within a deadline just in case there should be a problem (I am glad to say that I can’t remember the last time I needed it). I have also been fed up with not having time for my own sewing – it is clear from my lack of progress in the GAM challenge that I am not attaching enough importance to what I would like to make for me. So…I have removed my listing from the Yell.com site and intend to gradually reduce the amount of work I do for other people. I have loved the 20+ years of professional sewing (so far) and intend to continue – but in a reduced capacity. Hopefully that will give me time to play a bit more.

Larry front

Larry front

Larry back

Larry back

During all the time sitting around doing nothing (pffft!) I have at least finished knitting Larry.This is a pattern that is available free of charge on Ravelry which I saw on ‘Pendle Stitches‘ and I fell in love with it. I know it was shown on Ravelry as a mans garment but I thought I would enjoy wearing it. I knitted it in Rowan Pure wool Aran which is so smooth it feels almost like cotton, but with the warmth of wool. As Evie said it was a wonderfully easy knit (despite the fact that she had some difficulties) and is a great pattern for clattering through whilst watching the telly, or listening to audio books (my new addiction – Overdrive app to access the libraries supply on my new Kindle. Brilliant!).I used the sewn cast/bind  off again around the neck and cuffs (the sleeve stitches are picked up at the armhole edge) and love the finish. I know I don’t look as good as Evies lovely hubby in my Larry but I love it and know I will wear it loads now that it is getting cold here in Bewdley.

I am still working on the pattern for Kenneth D Kings ‘Jeanius’ course on Craftsy but I am about to make a muslin to test the pattern. This has taken so long that I need to make good use of this pattern once it is right.

Don’t work too hard out there!


In which I show my ‘Backbone’

Well time has been running away again and you could be forgiven for thinking I am just settled in the garden with a drink enjoying the sunshine. I wish.

I have been sewing like a maniac to clear client work recently, and every time I clear some space more work arrives. Still, never complain when business is good  – but it makes doing any sewing for myself unappealing so in any ‘relaxation time’ (almost always late evening whilst watching mindless TV) I have managed to finish my ‘Backbone’ sweater.

Collar and back detail

Collar and back detail

Backbone

Backbone finished!

Despite this pattern showing in my Ravelry search for what could be made with the quality and quantity of yarn I had I was a little concerned that the Rowan felted tweed DK yarn was going to be a bit fine for the project. Now it is finished I am very happy with the result which is going to be much more wearable than the original cardigan I knitted in this yarn.

As the garment is knitted from the top down I didn’t really want to have the ‘chain stitch’ finish you get from my usual knitted cast off so I used this sewn bind off. By finishing the edges this way it gives a much more ‘professional’ finish – and will confuse my mother when she trys to see how this was made! The other benefit of knitting the whole garment this way was that once the knitting was done there was very little by way of sewing together – just a little seam under each arm, and darning the yarn joins. Brilliant.

Backbone

Backbone … back

If I am being honest life hasn’t been all work – The Management and I had a couple of days in London. We met up with Jess (the Darling Daughter) for a  day at Kew Gardens and Palace. This wasn’t anything like I expected – I thought it may be a bit regimented and stuffy but it was brilliant! We had a fantastic day there, which was helped by the magnificent weather we are having in the UK at present, and I discovered even Royal Parks get yarn bombed!

Yarn bombed tree at Kew

Yarn bombed tree at Kew

Big smocked tree - and little Jess

Big smocked tree – and little Jess

Does that look smocked to you too?

Does that look smocked to you too?

 

 

Whilst walking around I also spotted this tree. It was pretty massive so Jess (who is 5 foot 1″ tall) stood in the picture to give an idea of scale. Doesn’t the bark look like it has been smocked? I had to share that with you all.

 

 

On a total other subject, I think I have to adapt my ‘Garment a Month’ challenge to ’12 Garments in a Year’ since I have failed to sew anything for myself in June or July – and if I am honest August isn’t looking too promising! Still, I have high hopes of managing 12 garments in 12 months – even if they aren’t evenly spread.

 

I hope you are all managing to be more personally productive out there in blogland!


My Handmade Christmas

Not all of it you understand, but I do like to try and make some gifts through the year for those who will appreciate the effort involved.

The perfect place to knit

The perfect place to knit

Glamknits textured shrug

Glamknits textured shrug

I started way back in July when I was unable to dive during our clubs scuba diving holiday in Penzance due to my knee problem. I can’t say I felt too happy at the idea of missing out on the fabulous diving but sitting in the sunshine with my book, knitting, and i-pod was reward enough. And I managed to make this for my mother-in-law.

This Glam knits textured shrug pattern is available on Ravelry as a free pattern. I have made it several times already and I knew that the colour of this Rowan cotton/linen blend was precisely what my MIL would love. Finished and packed up by August. Cue smugness.

Back in October when I visited the Lake District I was knitting my first pair of toe-up socks which I have already shown here, and bought yarn at the wonderful Kendal Wool Gathering to make another pair in sparkly purple yarn  (from Yarn Garden UK) ,which was for my darling daughter along with the first pair, and white for my mum which I showed here. These were wonderful to knit, and the method meant that there was no grafting needed, a technique that I always struggled with. Yet another Ravelry free pattern. It really is a wonderful resource.

Toe up sock success

Toe up sock success

I am fortunate that my daughter makes a ‘wish list’ for Christmas – and doesn’t expect any of it really. However, when one of the items is ‘pyjama bottoms’ I really couldn’t ignore that. I dug out the pattern I drafted for her ages ago and cut these from stash. I particularly enjoyed riffling through the button tin again to select suitable ‘fly’ buttons. The only thing they do is make sure you have the pants on the right way round!

Christmas PJ's

Christmas PJ’s

Both myself and J (daughter) are huge Doctor Who fans and the rest of the list included a DVD request for an old series. It starred Tom Baker who was the main Doctor Who of my childhood – so I had to make this didn’t I?

Tom Bakers Doctor Who scarf

Tom Bakers Doctor Who scarf

Along with the obligatory Jelly Babies this was probably the hit of Christmas. Worn all day and no photographs! What can I say – I’m incompetent! Some of the yarn was left form my crochet skirt and I filled in the other colours as needed. The pattern is the real BBC pattern and I found it on – yes, you guessed, Ravelry.

Latergater-1_small2

Another big hit was this lovely neck warmer (from Ravelry!) and I made three in different colours for friends. And didn’t take any photographs. Yet again my incompetence shows.

The Management didn’t get anything hand made this year – something I didn’t realise until too late to remedy it – he will have to be first in line for next year!

I was given the Drape Drape 2 book by my wonderful sister amongst my lovely gifts and will be looking forward to digesting all that it has to offer when things settle a little.

I do hope that Santa was good to you all, and that you had the wonderful Christmas of your choosing.

I will be back soon to reveal my first choice for Garment a month.

 


I’m A Great Aunt!

In truth I thought I always was, though my nephew & nieces may beg to differ, but now it is official. With the arrival of my nephews firstborn I am officially a GREAT Aunt. Both the new mother and I are fans of Converse sneakers so when I found this FREE pattern on Ravelry it was obvious I had to make it up!

Converse, great and small!

Converse, great and small!

My boots are only a size 6/EU 39 so you get an idea of scale. These little boots are just beyond cute! Crochet isn’t something I do lots of, and I struggle a bit with patterns but I managed to make something that looked pretty much like the original picture in not too much time. The yarn was a negligible amount, and all available from stash. It wasn’t as if I had nothing else that should have demanded my attention – but I downed all other tools and enjoyed a few hours immersed in a craft I rarely use. Nice music on the radio, a cup of tea to hand, what more could a girl want? (Chocolate springs to mind!)

I love these, and really enjoyed making them, so I hope that the new parents do too. Now, who else can I make some for….


Toe-up socks finished!

Before I say anything else can I just say how much I loved knitting these socks? Really loved it. So much so that I have already made a start on another pair for my mother!

Lacery socks are fab!

Fab Lacery socks!

Because this was my first experience knitting socks from the toe up on a single circular needle rather than the multiple dpns – and there seemed to be a lot of new techniques to learn – I decided to make them plain rather than following the lace chart provided with the pattern (which is free on Ravelry – did I mention that before?). 

Fear not. These socks proved to be very easy, a really portable project (I took them with me to Windermere), and very relaxing to knit. The ‘magic’ cast on is genius and after watching the you-tube video a couple of times I managed without too much difficulty. I even managed the second sock without referring back to it so it couldn’t be too hard! The heel turn is described as a ‘classic’ heel, with a slip stitch heel flap. I tried to make things more complicated than they were when I got to the heel turn but if you just follow the pattern it is very well explained. And it gives a nice thicker section on the heel where your shoe would be touching/rubbing your foot.

I was a little concerned that they may be a bit ‘baggy’ on the leg without the lace/lacy rib combination on the pattern so I just used a knit 3 purl 1 rib to create a little bit of elasticity. There is an inch of K1 P1 rib at the very top, and the cast off is a ‘stretchy picot’ bind off which looks really cute.

The best bit of making these? After I cast off all that was left to do was darn in the cast on and cast off tails. Wonderful. And the toes? You (well, I) would never manage to graft the toe as smoothly as this is.

Addicted, moi?

Possibly.


Express Topeka?

How did that happen? The knitting I started, from yarn that had matured nicely in my stash, to take to my mums house has been my main ‘relaxation’ over the past couple of weeks. I did manage to knit up to the armhole division, and one sleeve, while I was at mums, and I have knitted while I have been watching telly/feeling sorry for myself since then.  Yesterday I actually finished the jumper. Before the stitched jacket I started ahead of this. How is it possible to knit a top quicker than you sew one. A puzzle for sure.

I know that this pattern has been very popular on Ravelry, and is a really easy knit as it is all stocking stitch (mainly) knitted in the round which means it is all knit and little purl. Even the sleeves are knitted in the round before being incorporated into the yoke at the underarm. I did have some issues with the pattern when it came to the decreasing/neckline shaping. If anyone else has made the 43.5 without problem please let me know. Mentally knitting a smaller size seemed to work out fine, but my size didn’t seem quite right. Maybe it was me. Making up is so easy – just a tiny bit of grafting under the arm and then darn in any ends. Then sew on buttons.

The buttons turned out to be the biggest headache. The yarn is a lovely jade green, and almost impossible to match. So I didn’t even try. You know all those odd buttons in your tin that you really don’t know what to do with?

Use all the odd buttons!

Use all the odd buttons!

Yep. I used odd buttons all the way down the front. All eight. You would not believe how long I wasted playing with all the button tins, making different permutations of the possible buttons. The Management eventually put a stop to it and told me ‘just sew them on’. Spoilsport.

The dodgy selfie

The dodgy selfie

There wasn’t anyone with me today to take a full photograph so I’m afraid you will have to make do with the ‘dodgy selfie’. I really must get a tripod! The jumper is still quite short, despite adding 1.5″ to the body length at the hem. I think I would probably add another inch if when I knit this again. I really like it! The weather here in Bewdley has started to feel really autumnal so I imagine this will get a good amount of wear. 

While I was sorting the yarn stash I found the remains of the yarn I used to make the crochet skirt I copied from Carolyns blog. I love this skirt and can’t wait t wear it again this winter – and I love the colours . I am contemplating making another Topeka using the remains to make a mainly black top with random stripes in the colours I have left. What do you think?

More Innocent hats

More Innocent hats

I have also been making more little hats for Innocent Smoothie company. The Managements office are trying to exceed last years high 200’s hat donation so I have managed to do 20 so far as a contribution. For every drink with a hat on the Innocent company give a donation to Age UK. Want to join in? The details are here.

The Islander jacket is next. Promise.

 


Islander Jacket Express – 3

I have spent some time today trying to get on with this jacket. There seems to be reasonable progress, but at nothing like the previous rate.

I have reached the point where I could start on the decorative top-stitching. Brilliant! (I thought). What a bear! I have struggled to make my Pfaff behave with the upholstery thread I bought (nothing else seemed to go so well with the ORANGE twill as this bronzy brown), and I have ended up turning the air blue wrestling with the Janome I keep as my spare machine. Whilst it does a good stitch (usually) it isn’t anything like as controlable as the Pfaff.  If I had been thinking better I would like to bet that the old hand crank Singer would have made a better job, but I would then have been short of a hand to direct the fabric.

When I eventually managed to get a stitch I was happy to use I spent a while working, and pulling out the less satisfactory seams, until I remembered about the alien helmet. Boy, does that make a difference. The light can be directed exactly where it is needed, and the extra magnification really helps to see when you have fouled up. Except that when I got the gizmo I improved an amazing amount. Lesson learned. And again I thank Janet Pray for even suggesting that it might be useful. I will have to make sure I don’t leave the house wearing this thing now, I like it so much!

Topstitching, and the start of pockets

Topstitching, and the start of pockets

I struggled a bit to perform the ‘crimping’ needed to turn the seam allowance on the top pockets so that they could be top-stitched in place but managed to get a reasonable result after two attempts. I am fairly happy with how they look. I didn’t mention that there was an instruction booklet rather than a flat sheet with the pattern – much more information, and very helpful even without the Craftsy video lessons. The explanation given on how to ensure you end up with properly squared corners on your welt pockets is excellent. I have got as far as checking my stitching before cutting the pocket hole, and then I ran out of time.

This is as far as I will be able to get for a week as I am going to Northumberland again. My mum has had a minor operation on her hand and needs a little assistance until it is better. I will be taking my new knitting with me so I wont be idle. I have made a start on the Topeka sweater that I saw on ‘nothing but knits’ blog. The pattern is available in Ravelry as a download so I was able to get it and start in some yarn I had stashed. Hopefully by the time I get home it will look closer to the picture on the left than the right. Back in a week. Bye folks!

Started, lots left to do!

Started, lots left to do!