Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Finding the Centre

I was given a tip recently for finding the centre end of a ball of wool. Hold the ball so that the label writing is the right way up. The end should be near the bottom of the ball. I don't know how infallible it is, but it's worth a try to avoid disembowelling the ball in an attempt to find the end!

The Front

I've almost finished knitting the yarn I unravelled from the failed cardigan. That will be a milestone.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Making Up For Lost Time

I've been knitting away, needles flashing, and finished the back of Jack's pullover. I tend to start new projects in a rush. Eventually the real world intervenes and the project slows down. So, chances are the front won't be finished as quickly as the back. But so far, so good.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Jack's Gain

I've given up on the cardigan. Enough already! I'm using the yarn to knit a pullover for my husband instead. I liked this pattern as soon as I saw it. The friend who gave me the 'Knitted Favourites' magazine has knitted it twice, so that gives me confidence that I'm not dealing with another dodgy pattern. It's pretty straightforward, with just enough pattern to keep it interesting.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Pattern is Wrong

I undid my cardigan front to just above the cable shaping. The pattern says I should have 51 stitches at this stage. I have 46. That's because the pattern writer has taken into account the decreases between the cables, but has forgotten the side shaping! I found another mistake in the pattern too. It says to increase the garter stitch for the collar 17 times, when it should be 'until there are 17 stitches', or 11 times - the garter stitches already on the needle haven't been taken into account. The thing is, the pattern is very complicated, so if there are mistakes in it, the whole thing becomes impossible. Sure, it was a free pattern, but I feel I've wasted a lot of time on it.

Double Knitting

As a distraction from my cardigan front that needs re-doing, I decided to try out double knitting. Issue 17 of Knit Now magazine has clear, step-by-step instructions. The hearts in these pictures are back to back and created simultaneously. I cast on again and did a few rows so you can see how it looks during working:
On this row the green stitches were knitted and the orange stitches purled, taking both yarns back and forth between each stitch. Then on the next row, the orange stitches will be knitted and the green purled, to create two layers of stocking stitch, back to back. My tension is not great, but I see the principle and think it's rather clever.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

It's Complicated!

I reknitted the triangle, decreasing every 6th row instead of every 4th, and it worked fine, hooray. But now I find I have the wrong number of stitches. The sides are shaped, the armhole is shaped, the collar is shaped and I've done one of them wrong. Oh dear. Perhaps this isn't the best project for evenings after all.

One Flower

I've finished the first flower on my embroidery piece. Hooray. I want to show it to Corlie at our craft group meeting on Wednesday before I go on to the next one. I haven't blocked it. I think it would be better to block at the end of the project, but I'll check with Corlie. I changed the shading a little from my sample, working the small petals at the back in medium instead of dark. I think it works better.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Led Astray

I didn't do much embroidery or knitting over the weekend. Why not? A friend gave me a pile of back issues of knitting magazines and I spent my time leafing through them. I read about things like illusion knitting that I'd never heard of. I like reading interviews with designers - how they started, what inspires them etc. I put markers in pages that I plan to come back to, so that I don't have to go through the whole pile again to find them. There's a pair of socks that I simply must knit!

Friday, June 19, 2015

No no

My triangle has come to a point too quickly. The pattern gives the space between decreases in centimetres, which I translated into rows, but clearly got it wrong. I will just have to unravel this and begin the front of my cardigan again. At least knitting is easy to undo!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

First Stitches

I've made a start to my embroidery. I cut a window in the covering muslin to expose one flower. I'm not convinced my chain stitch is absolutely smooth, but I don't want to keep starting again. If I get to the end of the project and decide I can do better after a lot of practise, I'll redo it then.

After I'd worked my sample, I read Mary Corbet's post Hand Embroidery Tips for Beginners and Beyond. I followed a link there to read about joining in new threads and realised I hadn't used the best method in my sample. I used the Away Waste Knot method, basically leaving a strand of thread that I sewed into the back of the work afterwards. It's a bit fiddly, especially with a small frame like mine, and wasteful of thread. So now I'm following Mary's instructions for anchor stitches on a line. I make a few small stitches of back stitch that will be covered by the subsequent chain stitch.

The stitches should be closer together, but even so I can see the method is effective and uses up less thread. So, I've learnt something, thanks Mary.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

At The Same Time....

I started knitting the right front of my cardigan. It's rather complicated. The sides must be shaped every 6 rows, the middle panel every 4 rows. The cables must be twisted every six rows. The buttonhole band is included, so the buttonholes must be made at specified intervals too. I've made myself a little rough sketch to show all these manoeuvres and help me keep my wits about me.

The pattern doesn't specify an individual designer, just 'Drops Design Studio', but whoever wrote the pattern must've given a lot of thought to how to explain all this in a succinct way. I think they did a pretty good job. Basically, the processes are given separately and the knitter must put them all together.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Preparing The Fabric

Enough procrastination, time to prepare my fabric for embroidery. First of all I shrunk the fabric by wetting it thoroughly. I cut a generous piece, quite a bit bigger than the design, and pressed it with a steam iron. Next, I used my sewing machine to neaten the edges:

Then I used a running stitch to mark the half way lines of the fabric:
Luckily I have a glass table, and with the sun shining today I don't even need a lamp underneath it. I taped the paper pattern to the glass table, then taped the fabric on top, matching the centre lines. Then I took a deep breath and started tracing the pattern onto the fabric, using a ball point pen:
The pen goes along more smoothly than the pencil I used for my sample and I was surprised how easily the job went.
The embroidery project is going to take me a long time and I don't want it to get dirty. So I've covered it with a light muslin, which I tacked down. I'll cut 'windows' into the muslin to expose the area I want to work on. So now I'm all set to begin:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Cardigan Progress

The first thing I did was to knit a tension square. This was especially important because I'm using a yarn different to that specified in the pattern.  It measures just what it should, so that's fine, I can carry on with the pattern without changing needles or making adjustments.
I've knitted the back up to the armholes. I marked the rows where I decreased and increased to shape the back. That helped me count the rows between manoeuvres and will help me match the pieces properly when I sew the garment together:

Saturday, June 13, 2015


Hmmm. I see the principle of muskaan's earring pattern but I found it quite difficult to get the earrings square and neat.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Muskaan's Earrings

I don't think I've really done justice to muskaan's pattern. On this page of her blog muskaan writes about earrings and has a link to a pdf copy of the pattern. They're quite tricky, with curled rings and two layers, but it's a small project, so I think I'll redo it and see if I can get a neater result.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

For Evenings

I've been very busy for the last couple of days, with things unrelated to craft, and haven't had a chance to start my embroidery project. When I do, I don't plan to work on it in the evenings. I don't have good enough light and I probably won't have enough concentration left at the end of the day. So I plan to start knitting a cardigan, also for a competition. The brief is a woman's cardigan with a collar and set in sleeves, in yarn no thicker than double knit. It was surprisingly difficult to find a pattern that fulfilled all those criteria, but I found this one on Ravelry. Here's a closer view of the picture:

And here's the yarn, so I'm all ready to begin:

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Flower Lessons

My practice flower.

 I cut a piece of fabric 20 cm square, steamed it and measured it again. It was still 20 cm in one direction but only 19 cm in the other. So the fabric must be  shrunk before use.

 I traced a flower from the corner of my pattern, using a pencil. The pencil lines faded rather rapidly. I'm glad I discovered that before I traced out the whole pattern! I think a black ballpoint pen might work better than a pencil.

 I used three related shades, but I rather think that the dark and medium are too close to each other. A lesson for when I choose colours for the real thing. This flower makes me think of waterlilies, so I'm thinking of choosing waterlily colours.

 When I started working the chain stitch, I had to change my thinking from lazy daisy type chain to chain stitch as a filling stitch. In lazy daisy, you want a space to show in the middle of the stitch, but when filling, you're trying to cover the fabric completely. Corlie, leader of the craft group I belong to, showed me how to tug the thread and then if necessary use a thumb nail to squidge the stitch together. I concentrated on that and on getting the lines of stitches close enough together to cover the fabric.

No doubt I have a lot more to learn, but I think I learnt quite a bit from this flower.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


I sorted my motley collection of embroidery threads into groups of related colours. What palette to choose? Pink direction or orange direction? There is a lot of pink, but not much purple and blue that would complement it. Hmmm. I could do my sample and still change my mind, so there is plenty of time for contemplation.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Mary Corbet's Pattern

I think that next time the cleaning bug bites, I'll lie down and wait for the affliction to pass! Anyway, time to begin a new project.

 I practised a bit of chain stitch and then looked for a pattern that would work for an evening bag. This one will take an awfully long time, but I think it might work. I like the symmetry of the design and the possibility for shading.

 I found it on Mary Corbet's Needle 'n' Thread blog. There's a link to the blog on the left hand side of this page. In spite of the fact that I do very little embroidery, I'm a great fan of Mary's blog and read it regularly. She does amazing work herself, and is generous with information about techniques and patterns. This is not Mary's own design, but follow the links and you can find the pattern and the story about the Hungarian graphic artist called Lilly who designed it. Mary named it Circus Pods! (Her exclamation mark.) I bought some calico today. I plan to trace a small corner of this design onto a bit of the fabric and have a go at filling it in with chain stitch.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Sheep on the lawn

I've been bitten by the cleaning bug - high time too. It's very uninteresting. So I thought I'd show you this picture of sheep on the lawn that I took from my veranda this morning. The sheep are Dorpers. It's a meat breed, the little wool they grow is not used. Can you see the lambs at the back? We've had several pairs of twins this season. The white 'fence' around the flower garden is to protect the flowers and herbs in there from the sheep. The sheep have a wide area of veld to graze on, but they rather like the lawn and the flower beds.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


I've been watching The Great British Sewing Bee, a television series about a competition for amateur sewists. I'm not about to sew a pair of velvet trousers, but it did give me the yen to get my sewing machine out. This muslin wrap is for my cousin's new grandson and will wing its way to New York.