Wednesday 25 March 2020

...WOYWW - The One With The Felting Explosion

I'm scurrying in late (again) to the tail-end of Julia's weekly workdesk tour, even though the photo below was taken with the best intentions first thing this morning! 

Taking centre stage today is the stripey blanket I've been working on for my friend, who is due to have her first baby in a couple of months. I'm looking forward to getting into the upcoming green and yellow/orange sections of the skeins, as I seem to have been stuck in a rather dull blue/purple zone for a while now! This has been a great project to work on in the evening while watching telly as it's just plain stocking stitch with a little 5 stitch moss stitch border at either side, so requires minimal concentration.

Also on show (RHS) is a multicoloured bag of wool roving and (LHS) a couple of felting mats - a sponge block and a newly acquired brush-style mat. Having never done any kind of felting up until 3 weeks ago (other than shrinking every pure wool garment I have ever possessed, no matter how carefully I try to hand wash them) I have to admit that needle-felting  has snowballed rather rapidly into a full-blown obsession. 
Last Saturday found me beavering away all day on a couple of needle-felted brooch  designs - one loosely based on Van Gogh's Starry Night, the other a simple floral image, embellished with basic embroidery (french knots and running stitch). I stitched the brooch pins onto circular fabric scraps stiffened with interfacing, and then appliqued them carefully to the back of the felt discs, turning the raw edges in as I went. These were then bestowed upon my mother-in-law and my Mum the following day - in wipe-clean plastic bags through their respective letterboxes!
After wishing them both a "Happy Mother's Day!" from the regulation two metres distance, I went home and immediately started work on another project, which turned out to be a little old lady mouse with a wet-felted cape and a neatly coiled tail. I don't know where she sprang from - probably a Beatrix-Potter-based childhood memory - I just made her up as I went along. This is such an addictive craft - it's just like painting/sculpting with wool. You can simply go where your imagination takes you, and forget all about the (currently rather scary) outside world for a while.
Although I'm sticking very closely to the lockdown "rules", I am trying to make sure I spend a bit of time every day outside, away from my laptop and phone, either in the back garden or on brief excursions to the park with my daughter and the XXSCat Dog (who is absolutely loving the fact that her humans are home all day with her). So here are a couple of the photos I took this week whilst feeling thankful for the beautiful blue sky above my head and the carpet of glowing yellow celandines at my feet. Enjoy!

Wednesday 18 March 2020

...WOYWW - The One With The Peg Doll

Yesterday at work my whole team got sent home with our laptops, and instructions to cancel all our upcoming meetings and home visits (we work with children and families). As our service is classed as 'non-essential', it's possible that we will be called upon to to provide support for other statutory/essential services at some point, but currently we're all adjusting to this strange new world of social distancing and isolation and (like the majority of the population) feeling a bit shocked and dismayed at the speed with which it's all happened. 

So I've popped in to Julia's virtual workdesk tour (no hand-sanitiser required!) to share some of the stuff that will be keeping me occupied this week and find out what other people are getting up to too.
For me, it's basically rather a lot of knitting! I've made a start on my Frattali shawl - on the left in the picture. For any knitters who might be reading this and don't already know about it, do check out Judy's Magic Cast-on - it's an amazing technique which allows you to cast on completely invisibly when working in the round e.g. for seamless sock toes - or a Frattali shawl. On the right is a "making it up as I go along" stripey baby blanket I'm knitting for a friend who is expecting her first baby soon. I think the jolly rainbow colours will definitely help to keep me entertained. 

Sitting demurely at the back of the work desk is my finished DIY Sophie Tilley peg doll. I can't decide yet if she is a Louisa or a Lucinda (she looks like she should have an old-fashioned name)...but I'm very happy with how she has turned out, given that I just made things up as I went along with her too!

Finally, a photo of a gorgeous Peacock butterfly that fluttered through my garden yesterday, pausing briefly to sun itself on the fence. I raced to grab my phone and had time to get just one picture before it disappeared next door. Cheered me up no end! 

Wednesday 11 March 2020

...WOYWW - The One With The Twice-Knitted Hat

Just a flying visit to Julia's weekly workdesk show and tell today - it's my fortnightly Wednesday day off, the sun is shining and the desk is calling. The peg doll is now sporting an experimental needle-felted wig, temporarily held in place with a jaunty blue bow, and I'm hoping to make some real progress with her today. Shoes, cardigan, shawl, petticoat, trimmings...she has plenty of titivating in store for her.

The only other activity on the creative front over the past week or so is this tweedy purple twice-knitted hat.
I was trying to use up some of my enormous yarn stash, and decided to take a gamble on a random remnant of pale purple DK yarn, combined with some variegated sock yarn, to make a second Quinn hat. Unfortunately I lost at the game of Yarn Chicken - getting to just seven rows from the cast-off before running out of the pale purple yarn. I tried finishing the hat with a slightly darker shade of purple, but really wasn't happy with the result -  a small, slightly darker purple, circular patch at the crown. 

As luck would have it, I'd added an extra five rows to the ribbing at the start, to make the hat slightly longer over my ears, so the perfectionist voice in my head whispered to me that if I unravelled it back and took out the five extra rows, I would almost certainly have enough yarn to complete the hat. Perfectionism is an irrational taskmaster - after all, who would notice a small, slightly darker purple, circular patch at the crown of the hat (on the top/back of my head)? Not even me when I was wearing it! The hat would function perfectly well as a head-warming garment, and unravelling it would mean basically starting again from scratch...

Yet unravel it I did, and re-knit it I did...and still managed to come up one and a half rows short from the cast off! So if you look very closely at the crown of the hat (being modelled by my long-suffering husband, below) you can just make out a teeny-tiny patch of slightly darker purple, which will serve as a visual reminder to me, every time I wear it, that perfectionism is a losing game!

Thursday 5 March 2020

...first steps in felting

My sister-in-law gave me a needle-felting kit for Christmas, containing all the necessary ingredients to make a needle-felted hare - some wool roving, a felting needle, a foam pad and some fairly rudimentary instructions. The kit sat in a 'projects to try' pile on my desk for a couple of months, until I happened upon some pictures of "felted pebbles" on Pinterest and then searched for some instructional videos on YouTube. 

Turns out that if you wrap a small pebble in some wool roving (perhaps stolen from a needle-felted hare kit you happen to have lying around) and add warm soapy water and some gentle friction, you end up with a completely impractical but wonderfully tactile "pebble in a shrunken woolly jumper" object that feels lovely sitting in the palm of your hand.
Once it is dry you can embellish it with embroidery, beading, whatever takes your fancy - it's basically a 3D felty blank canvas for needle-doodling on. Very easy, and So. Much. Fun. 
You just have to be prepared for your long-suffering nearest and dearest to look at you with an expression of utter confusion when you show them what you've been doing all afternoon. When they say "It's very nice - but why?", simply smile inscrutably and quote the immortal words of George Herbert Leigh Mallory - "Because it's there". 
Then disappear back into your work space, and emerge (like a magician) 24 hours later holding a needle-felted hare! Needle-felting is just as much fun as wet-felting - surprisingly quick and easy* to do.
*As long as you're prepared for the inevitable "ouchy" moments when your inexperience and over-enthusiatic felting technique leads you to stab yourself repeatedly in the finger with a very, very sharp needle...