Tuesday 26 December 2017

...festive moments

The days leading up to Christmas have been mild, so we've been making the most of the mornings by getting to the park early, while the sun is still low in the sky. I love the way the sunlight catches on the leaves, bringing the last glowing embers of autumn back to life.

There's been a last ditch flurry of present-making: 
  • Some Partridge and Pear ornaments I made using Larissa Holland's beautiful patterns. I originally planned to make at least five pairs, but in the end only managed two before the Big Day - although I do have a third pair cut out and ready to be stitched for a family member we won't be seeing until 29th December, so all is not lost. With the recommended materials (printable soluble stabiliser is the magic key) these are very simple to make, but still take a fair bit of time and concentration to assemble. Sitting hunched over embroidery for hours has not done my aching hips and shoulders any favours, but I think the effort was worthwhile.
  • Winter snowflake painted pebbles, given a little extra sparkle with irridescent acrylic medium and a gloss varnish to finish. I liked them so much I found it hard to give them away!
  • I finished the Mini Mania Scarf the day before Christmas Eve. I love how it turned out, but it's certainly not the best candidate for a quick gift. The more time I spent on it the more it seemed to shrink before my very eyes!

But in the end it turned out just right, and I enjoyed the time spent reminiscing to myself about the little boy whose grey school jumpers provided the left-over yarn for the scarf he now wears as a nearly 30 year old man!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday 16 December 2017

...a little bit of everything

It has been more than a few weeks since I've had time to sit down and write anything. I've been doing and making rather than pausing to take stock, but I have tried to capture moments along the way on my trusty cameraphone.
  • First up is a jolly stocking cap I made for a friend at work. I realised when I was sifting through photos that the yarn rather beautifully matched the colours of my mystery shrub* in the front garden, so I collaged them together. (*'Mystery shrub' because I rescued it from a neighbour who was making-over his garden and had dug it up to throw away. I haven't the faintest idea what it is, and most of the time I don't even like it very much - except that in autumn it produces these rather lovely magenta flower heads on disproportionately long stems (completely out of keeping with its otherwise nondescript shrubby appearance) and thereby earns itself another reprieve.)
  • A colleague and I had to do a presentation at Sheffield University one afternoon, and this statue caught my eye as we were hurrying through a park to get there. On the way back to the car, as the light was beginning to fade, I paused for a second to take a picture. It wasn't until I got home and had a chance to look at it properly that I noticed the beautiful stained glass effect of the sunset reflected in the windows of the building in the background.
  • I've been ever so slightly obsessed with this hydrangea, which I pass every day when I'm walking the XXSCat dog. The flowers were a warm magenta colour at their peak, but as they started to die back they turned a lovely, soft, charcoal grey before fading to a pale beige. The photos don't really do justice to the colours - I felt a bit odd about taking photos over someone else's garden fence so I didn't catch it at its dramatic best. 

  • A weekend walk in the park, light catching on the vivid yellow leaves.

  • I set the Service User group at work the task of making/decorating a festive robin for the annual Christmas card we send out. They each started with a pre-cut basic robin shape in either plain or glittery brown card and were given feathers, tissue paper, card, "googly eyes", foil, decorative tape and other crafty collage materials, and told to let their imaginations run wild. I came back at the end of the session to find this fabulous array of quirky little birds. I drew a simple tree on some flip-chart paper, arranged the robins along the brances, stuck them down, added their little legs, and took a photo. Hey presto! A fun, original design!

  • Another weekend walk on an overcast day. Dramatic black branches against blue/grey skies.

  • A super-cute felt mouse I made for a Secret Santa gift. Ann Wood makes the dearest, quirkiest, little creatures and dolls, and I used her "very nice mice" pattern as the basis for this wee one. I changed the design of the arms and feet (wrapped and stitched felt around pieces of a plastic coated wire twist-tie to create poseable arms and a more stable base) but the dear little face, body and ears are Ann's design. I added a woolly scarf with tiny tassels just to consolidate the cuteness.

Adapted from Ann Wood's FREE 'very nice mice' pattern

  • Last weekend's walk, after a light snow had fallen - the contrast between the warm russets and silver greys in the landscape was just gorgeous. 

  • These are some of the things that have kept my fingers too busy for typing: four more Wolkig cowls (pattern by Martina Behm) to give as Christmas gifts for family members - gorgeous Debbie Bliss Rialto sock yarn made these an absolute joy to knit. The colour combinations are fabulous!

  • Current project - another Christmas present - a Mini Mania Scarf (pattern by Sarah Core) for my son, from stash remnants and assorted leftover balls of grey wool (used to make his school jumpers when he was a little boy). I love the tweedy effect but linen stitch is very very VERY slow-growing, especially when there are 350 stitches per row and I'm up against a deadline. I'm using DK yarn and it's still progressing at a snail's pace - the 4ply yarn the pattern actually calls for would make this a real labour of Hercules. On the other hand, the wonderful thing about this design is the "no finishing required" aspect - just pick a colour, knit a RS row, slide the stitches back for another colour and another RS row, and then simply knot all those pesky loose ends into tassels!
  • Finally, this morning's sunrise brings me back up to date. Getting to enjoy sunrises and sunsets is the best thing about the short, dark days of winter. Now there are only five more days until we reach the Solstice and the days will start getting longer again - hooray!