Duckie power!

Happy Friday, sports fans! (I don’t know if you actually are sports fans, but you could be, so I’m sticking with it).

I finally have something crafty that I can show you – huzzah! In just a few weeks there will be a slew of FO posts and hopefully happy recipients but until then, I have the little yellow ducks…

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(I like to think they are having a chat on my windowsill…”Quack quack?” “Quack, quack, quack quack.” “Quaaaack”. Photo by me)

Why little duckies? I hear you ask. Well, that’s a good question.

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(Going for a little sill-swim. Photo by me.)

A few months back we featured this duck pattern in Simply Knitting. The duck is obviously cute, but it’s also for a good cause.

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(They wanted to use my typewriter but, of course, that’s ridiculous (they have no fingers). So that’s why the picture is shocking. Adorable, but shocking. Photo by me.)

The Little Yellow Duck Project aims to raise awareness for blood, organ and bone marrow donation. This is such an important part of medicine and effects thousands of people every year. The point of these knitted (or crocheted or sewn, patterns available for all three) ducks is for them to be left in public places with a little tag that displays their name, the TYLDP website and tells the finder to take them home. It’s an exercise in mystery and intrigue that will hopefully result in getting more people registered as donors.

So…

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Here’s one of my ducks looking very coy nestled in the rosemary plants outside Ask in Bath….

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And here’s the other on a sculpture by the Abbey. This one even got a little shower before heading off to her new home! Her perch was a bit precarious, so I popped her somewhere safer before I left.

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I positioned these guys on my way to work yesterday morning, so I can wait to see if they have vanished today. Finger’s crossed!

The knitting pattern was designed by Alan Dart (love him) and so it was a joy to work from, easy to understand, and I don’t think mine is too far off his original. (I saw it in the flesh, it is cuter than mine, but it was made by Alan’s fair hand, so it was going to be.) Get your hands on all of the patterns at www.thelittleyellowduckproject.org/patterns and why not make some of your own ducks for unsuspecting strangers to take home?

I’m off to make a few more myself…

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Just passing through…

…to say Hi before work. Hi!

Well, here in Bath the sun has buggered off. Thanks, sun. Just in time for the bank holiday weekend…

But to brighten up your Friday morning a bit, I’ve got some progress to show you on my Purl Bee Silken Straw Summer Sweater. It’s blocking!

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Yup, that’s a shoddy, low light, 10-at-night photo of my greeny-blue top on a blue towel. Sorry guys, I realised it’s hard to see, but the light wasn’t much better this morning and the towel was still blue, so this will have to do! Besides, it’s only a teaser, to whet your appetite for proper photos, or as proper as mine get. (There’s even debris in the back ground – one high-heeled shoe, a blow dryer cable and the heels of some steel-toe capped boots. Plus my big toe. Hi big toe! Shoddy photography, must do better.)

It’s still damp at the moment, which means that it should be dry sometime over the weekend and I can get on with wearing it! It looks massive on the towel, but sometimes I forget there’s a lot of me to cover, so it might actually be alright. If it’s too big it will be the first thing I’ve ever knitted in more than 10 years that is. So I, for one, doubt it.

Anyway, more details and the full lowdown of my adaptations, with better pictures (I promise) soon!

Enjoy the long weekend, even if the weather is a bit grim.

Welcome to the world!

Morning campers! Happy Belated Easter, the chocolatey-est, and therefore one of my favourite celebratory weekends. Also, 4 day weekend! Bliss. I hope you all had suitably lazy and sugary weekends. I for one will never grow out of an Easter egg hunt, and thankfully it seems neither will my mum!

Of course Easter isn’t just about chocolate. It’s also about teeny tiny lambs popping up everywhere and chicks peep-peeping into the world and one of my friends contributed to that part of Easter with a fresh little baby; her second son Hayden.

I’ve never knitted for a baby before. I was a bad neglectful friend when Lucie had her first baby, and I didn’t knit little Eythan anything, for which I still feel bad. So it was all different for Hayden. I chose a nice zesty spearmint in a practical machine-washable acrylic and made this.

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A teeny tiny trio of warmth. (Photo by me.)

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I can’t decide if the hat is my favourite… (Photo by me.)

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…or the bootees. (Photo by me.)

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I think the mittens look like little fishies. (Photo by me.)

I chose classic roll-top bootees from a book, The Knitter’s Bible (which really is my bible) and went for a matching rolly hat that I found on Ravelry. I did adapt the hat a little, because I wasn’t in the mood to knit in the round. It translated to flat well enough and I think it’s rather dashing – it even looks a bit like a mini top hat in that photo! The mittens are the least matchy, because without a bit of ribbing those suckers would never stay on.

Anyway, they whizzed off in the post to Lucie and Chris the other day and I hope everyone likes them. I’m not sure they’ll be big enough, but it’s the thought that counts right? Soft things are lovely to have around no matter what.

Welcome to the world, Hayden! And congratulations to mummy and daddy and big bro Eythan.

Extra, extra, read all about it!

As part of our honeymoon, Steven and I visited Portland, Maine. We were only there for a few days, we stayed in a beautiful B&B, and we did some of my favourite things; ate incredible cakes, mooched in a very fine stationery shop and spent hours in a wonderful bookstore.

I don’t know about you guys, but I love a proper bricks-and-mortar book shop. Back in MK I used to love Ottakars, and then it became Waterstones. There’s nothing wrong with Waterstones, of course, but it wasn’t really the same (except that it kind of was, in every way, they just changed the name over the door). Here in Bath we have plenty of book shops. Topping and Company is my favourite, with it’s uneven wooden floors, swooshy ceiling fans and booky smell – they even give you free tea and coffee!

But I digress. In Portland I bought three new books, Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan, The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake and Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons.

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(A fan of books, be still my beating heart! Photo by me.)

Maine was a piece of pure chick lit. The story of one family told by three generations of women, all totally diverse, but all the same on the most important levels (can you hear my faux-psychologist voice?) You know, schmaltzy but immersive and fun. I bought it because so much of the action takes place in towns and locations we visited on our honeymoon. For me it’s the literary version of postcards, and really what could be better than that? I’d give it a 3 out of 5 – light reading, especially good for by the pool on holiday, and wonderful for the memories it evokes for me personally.

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(Don’t you just want to be lying on a beach right now? Photo by me.)

As you may have guessed, The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake is a collection of short stories. (Before we continue, yes, the author is called Breece D’J Pancake, no, D’J is not a name – it was a misprint of D.J. (for Dexter John) in a magazine that printed one of his stories and he stuck with it, and yes, his last name really is Pancake – I’m jealous too.) I’ve read half of the stories, pretty much all based in West Virginia during the 1960s and I really enjoyed them. Pancake has been compare to Hemingway many times and I can absolutely see the resemblance. Pancake’s stories have the same brutal honesty and simplicity, the same intensity of feeling and focus on physical manly work, and in they are also very depressing. That’s why I’ve only read half of them I will go back to the rest, but I had to take a break from all the pain. It was putting a real downer on my morning reading! Perhaps one at a time is the way to go. 4 out of 5 – beautiful and thought provoking, but hard going.

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(Little foxy face! Photo by me.)

Ellen Foster is a revelation. I’d never heard of Kaye Gibbons, but I’m going to have to look out for more of her work. This, her first novel, is short, possibly more of a novella, and I read it in just a week. I like it all the more for that. I was so sucked in by the narrative, the voice of an 11-year-old girl who is trying to find a family, that I didn’t want to stop reading.

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(Fancy font for a fantastic book. Photo by me.)

There’s nothing sentimental about this story. It’s blunt in a lot of ways and it doesn’t shy away from racism, narrow-mindedness, suicide, murder and really awful relatives. But it’s all told with a refreshingly simple point of view. Yes, the things she goes through are horrible, but she’s happy as long as she gets her frozen meals and her microscope. The innocence counters the darkness beautifully, and when you reach the end, you see so much more in it all.

There are quite a lot of characters, for such a short book, and you don’t get the kind of depth into most of them that I usually like, but it works with the narrator – a young child isn’t going to give you a deep analytical response to the people around them, they’re just going to tell you what they think, simply and honestly.

I thoroughly recommend Ellen Foster, to everyone. At just 126 pages, it’s not a mammoth undertaking, and it’s worth however long you take to read it. I promise.

What are you guys reading at the moment? Check back soon for more knitting news!

A bit of silk for summer

Good morning beautiful people! I don’t know about you, but I am so relieved it’s the weekend. Thank god for lie-ins, am I right?

So now that my pink cardi is all done and in the general rotation, and my socks are chugging a long nicely in my lunch breaks (onto sock number two woo!) it’s time to show you new things around here.

Ages ago, and I mean months ago, I found the Purl Bee’s Silken Straw Summer Sweater. It was one of the first things I ever pinned, and I instantly fell in love with it. Bizarrely, I was hit by a very uncharacteristic bout of patience and consideration and have left it in the back of my mind all this time. I wasn’t about to splash out on the Silken Straw yarn ($30+ per skein, and I’d need 5 skeins!) but I did get my hands on some discontinued Debbie Bliss Pure Silk (link to it’s replacement). 8 skeins in complementary colours. How often does that happen? I’ve got about 150 meters more than I need which is perfect, because I had to do a bit of adaptation (eek!)

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(Photo from the Purl Bee. I may have to recreate this with my finished object. Shame my room isn’t pure white…)

The pattern is very simple, and that’s one of the things that drew me to it in the first place. It’s all about the yarn and the clean lines. But it only comes in two sizes and that was a bit of a sticky spot for me. All of the dimensions in the large size were perfect, except for the bust. I needed another 10cm (4in) to fit the girls in. Handily, that’s my tension measurement (thank god I did a swatch!) so I knew exactly how many more stitches I needed, but I wasn’t sure how to get them in. The great knitting guru Faye helped me with some maths and now I’m good to go when I get to that bit. Did you read that? “When I get to that bit.” I actually read ahead and planned ahead in a pattern! This is huge growth for me!

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(Photo by me. Stripy stripy…the pink bit is so curly!)

Anyway, I’ve just started the waist shaping and I’m loving it. It’s knitted in the round from the bottom up, just acres and acres of stocking stitch (perfect to go with my new TV addiction – Modern Family). I had 5 skeins of mint (yes, that’s what that swatch was!) 1 of purple, 1 of blue and 1 of pink. I decided to do a 5cm stripe of each at the bottom, then if I can work out how, I’ll mirror it on the sleeves too. Hopefully it will all tie in and look beautiful. It’s going really well so far, the mint is definitely my favourite – good thing that’s the one I have most of! I think it’s going to be a really valuable addition to my summer wardrobe, and hopefully, the timing will be perfect.

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(Photo by me. It’s growing so fast.)

I’ll keep you posted, as ever, and soon I shall be showing you sock progress too…thrilling, I know.

Finished Object (In a manner of speaking)

This is it. The post you’ve all been waiting for (in my mind). I have finished the cardigan. I have blocked it, sewn a button on it and worn it. After all the drama and stress, it’s done and I actually really like it. Take a looksee for yourselves…

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(Photo by me. Let’s all ignore the double chin, ok? And the grumpy-concentrate-y face. This is about the cardigan, remember?)

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(Photo by Steven for me. Look how the lace cascades down the back in lovely swooshy movements.)

It’s not perfect, but then, it was never going to be, because I was knitting it. Where I picked up stitches for the armholes there are some lumpy unsightly bits, but my arms covers them up. There are a couple of dodgy stitches here and there, but in the grand scheme of an adult sized garment, they are pretty insignificant. There’s the steek, of course, but I think it will felt in quite nicely. The thing that bugs me, because I can see it all the time, is that the sleeves are different lengths.

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(Photo by me. Folded up in all it’s squashy glory.)

I know, I know – that’s such a simple thing! How can I make a cardigan with different length sleeves? Well you see, by sleeve number 2, I got cocky. Hubris, damn you. I thought I knew the lace pattern so I didn’t check the chart. I was wrong. I was 3 rows short on every repeat. There are 9 repeats. That’s 27 rows. The right sleeve just about reaches my thumb knuckle (I like a long sleeve); the left one hangs out way short of my wrist. But I’m not going to undo the entire sleeve and start again. I don’t care that much. Besides, Jenny assures me that it just looks like one sleeve is rucked up. All the time. Defying gravity.

In all honesty, it’s a tiny detail and one I need to stop pointing out to everyone.

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(Photo by me. Teeny tiny button. It’s that small because there’s no buttonhole in the pattern. Just shove it through your knitting. Classy.)

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(Photo by me. Mr Hamster got jealous of the attention Cardigan was getting. Hello Mr Hamster!)

The pattern is great – I thoroughly recommend the Vine Bolero to everyone. It’s great for getting to grips with top-down contiguous cardigans, and if I’d knitted to their measurements it would have been done in a flash! One day I might just need a cropped version with sleeves the same length. The yarn is yummy too. Artesano produce seriously good yarn, and this alpaca DK (I think in a discontinued colour) does not let them down. It has a lovely halo that softens the lace and makes the whole cardi very cuddly.

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(Photo by me. Lace detail. Swoosh! Yum.)

One last thing. Remember that swatch? So far I’ve only had 1 guesser (Hi Louise!) and she so nearly got it. Here’s a shot of my progress…

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Paste it daddy!

Oh hey! Somehow it’s been over a month since I last posted. Again! How has that happened? Life has a strange way of getting on top of you doesn’t it? A whole heck of a lot of birthdays, commissioned knitting and other stuff that wasn’t so fun has got the better of me in the last few weeks. But I am here to say no more! I’ve got some pretty knitty things to show you…

Before I get stuck in, I hope it is apparent that my title is a quote from It’s A Wonderful Life, otherwise it sounds a bit odd. And I chose this title because, drumroll please, I have finished my Zuzu’s Petals! In my mind there’s a fanfare going right now. I know, it’s overkill, but it makes me happy.

Since the weather has picked up I’ve even been able to take some half-decent photog. So, the grand reveal, here it is!

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(Photo by me, isn’t she pretty? Look at all the colours!)

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(Photo by me. Ignore the wonky spine – I forgot to yarn over one row…had to fix it…bodged it, of course.)

I’m really pleased with how this has turned out. I think I mentioned that I’d needed to add a few stitches to the cast on, because I was making it with such fine yarn. Well when I got to the lace section, I needed to add another 6 (oops) but you can’t even see that I had a little fumble on that row, and I did it on the bit that’s always at the back, so no harm, no foul!

The lace section threw me a bit, because there are no close-up shots of it in the pattern. The way the shawl hangs it kind of masks it, and you can only see the very edge, which is different! I had faith though, and I’d glad I did because it’s so pretty. Look!

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(Photo by me. I love the way it really does look like fallen petals, so clever, so aptly named.)

I even have a huge chunk of yarn left over – it might actually be half the skein (before you ask, I haven’t weighed It yet, that would be far too sensible). So I could make another one exactly the same…or not. What do you think? My shawl obsession doesn’t seem to be going anywhere…but does a girl need two shawls in the same yarn? Ah the big existential questions that I tackle on this blog.

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(Photo by me. Dodgy selfie, no make-up, cos that’s how I roll.)

The length is perfect in terms of coverage and tucking into coats and things, plus I think the drape at the neck is really pretty.

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(Photo by me. Let’s just ignore the hint of double chin there. And yes, those are typewriters on my dress, be jealous.)

And because it’s the law, here’s a shawl on a wall shot. Some of you may recognise this wall. It has played host to my mum’s shawl too. I do really like this wall. It’s pretty and in a quiet part of Bath where the number of judgemental eyes is kept to a minimum. Apologies for the litter, didn’t see that until I uploaded the photo (such shoddy photography skills!)

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(Photo by me. This shows the shape and construction of the shawl a bit better. Hint – the long side on the left is the front.)

Before I go, I have a little teaser for you. I don’t mess around you see. I’ve got another finished object to show you (yes, you know the one) and I’ve already made a start on the next project. Here is a swatch…anyone who can guess what it is and what it’s going to become gets a prize!

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Until next time lovely peeps!