Monday 14 March 2022

...Bulb Watch and other activities

Over the past couple of years I've been investing in bulbs - building my own personal hedge fund, you could say! When we first moved into this house we inherited a few clumps of snowdrops, a little patch of bluebells, and an ocean of montbretia. For a long time I simply sat back and enjoyed the modest annual returns, the slow but incremental growth. My portfolio began to expand when I started planting occasional Christmas present hyacinth bulbs into outdoor pots after they'd finished flowering indoors, and realised that (in spite of being totally neglected and ravaged by slugs throughout the year) they were making regular returns. Eventually this emboldened me to diversify further, investing cautiously - just one or two little pots per year - in daffodils, crocuses and muscari. Last week I conducted an informal performance review, and discovered that these modest investments have really started to pay dividends:
All these beautiful flowers had emerged from the soil as if by magic - with zero input/effort from Yours Truly! Bulbs really are the gift that keeps on giving.

The most recent additions (cheap and cheerful from Aldi in February) are some perfect butter-cream yellow crocuses...

...and some slowly unfurling magenta tulips, planted in an improvised raised bed made from the top half of a ceramic pot which had cracked completely in two this winter but was too pretty to throw away. The soil in this bit of the garden is quite poor (lots of tree/ivy roots) so this provides them with a little more growing depth, and a visual reminder of where I've planted them!
I think all these Spring flowers have been subliminally influencing my colour choices in the granny squares I've been making for #the100dayproject. 
I'm now nearly a third of the way through the project, and I've adapted it slightly this week. I originally planned to make 100 different squares over the 100 days, but by Day 25 I was starting to run out of patterns I liked the look of or wanted to try. I'd consolidated my knowledge of the basic stitches, learned some new tricks (bobbles, clusters and popcorns), tried my hand at some fancy 3D effects, and generally improved my technique, so I decided to focus on colour work instead, and stick to variations on the same pattern for the next 25 days. The Spring vibe is even more pronounced in these squares:
I'm currently thinking of combining them to make a scarf or cowl - after all, my self-imposed ban on handmade neckwear specifically refers to knitted items  - no-one said anything about crochet!

In other news, I've expanded my Wiksten top collection with this little number...
.. made from upcycled second-hand curtains from my favourite charity shop! 100% cotton, a hard-wearing but lightweight canvas-like fabric, and  an absolute bargain at £5 for a tunic-length top with at least a metre or more left over as well. Matching tunic and cushion covers anyone?! If I ever get to the point in my sewing career where I feel the urge to make a test garment/toile, I could even use the poly-cotton lining fabric up too! This top makes me so happy. I love the bold, colourful fabric, and the comfortable, practical garment it's been turned into, but it also pleases me to have put a discarded item to good use and donated to charity too. It's a win-win situation all round.

Something that made me less happy (at least until it was finally finished) was this little knitted baby rabbit - a birthday gift for my mother-in-law: 
The pattern designer, Claire Garland, is amazingly talented. Her patterns are available here - and they are so cleverly constructed and lifelike, they blow my mind. I just wish I'd gone for the Baby Bunny pattern rather than the Teeny Tiny Bunny pattern, because she wasn't kidding about the teeny tiny part. To get an idea of the level of teeny-tinyness, those are forget-me-not flowers in the picture above, and we all know how teeny tiny they are! Less than perfect eyesight, slightly arthritic fingers and working with mohair and laceweight yarn held together on small-gauge needles - I felt like I was losing the will to live by the time I'd got to the ears, with their two teeny tiny ear lining sections per ear! At one particularly fiddly stage (possibly picking up six stitches along one side of a teeny-tiny leg hole) I must confess I let out an actual roar of frustration...but just look at the clever shaping of those baby rabbit haunches...
...and that baby rabbit head! It is adorable. Look how snugly it curls up in a tissue-paper-covered houmous pot bed! Surely it was worth the hours of painstaking fumbling? 
Nope. I'd encourage anyone to buy any of Claire's designs - you're guaranteed to get a brilliant pattern, with clear, well-illustrated, step-by-step instructions, and the finished result may well be delightful - but I will never make a teeny tiny bunny ever again!