Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Speed knitter, amateur blocker..

..professional sit-under-shawl-and-eat-biscuits-and-drink-tea-er!

Pattern: Hay Meadow - Julie Ferguson (Girl's size)
Yarn: Artsesano British Wool - Chunky (astonishingly the yarn the pattern is written for - so rare!!)
Needles: 8mm, 100cm circ
Started: 9 June 2013
Finished: 15 June 2013

I knit this shawl in a blink of an eye for me. I was slowed slightly by the cast off which required three attempts to get the right balance of some edging and enough yarn for the greedy picot bind off but then we reached 'time for blocking'. I have blocking wires, this is not heirloom lace I should be able to do a reasonable job. I managed a 'it'll do for now I want to wear it' job but with a little more patience I will tame that picot edge next time around!!

Anyway I love this shawl! Just a small one, the pattern book suggests wearing it bandana style but I think it sits nicely on the shoulders. The fronts just  drape round with the weight of the yarn holding it in place quite comfortably. It brings that lovely extra touch of warmth and comfort that is so welcome late on a summer's eve - or you know all day long in an English summer. Back to huddling under it with tea and biscuits I go!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pretty and practical

Weekend craft activity has focussed around the impractical and pretty: embroidery literally just to play with ideas from the new book. And the decidedly more functional: a Nexus tablet cover. The embroidery soothed, the cover challenged. At least that made for a healthy balance! 

My poor beloved has often bemoaned the lack of knitting of items for him and sewing hasn't proved any more generous. There was a moment a couple of weeks ago when he'd lost the old padded envelope he was using to keep his Nexus safe inside his bag when I thought of cobbler's children and decided I'd better get my act together (and prove the direct benefits to him of the tools and equipment he so generously shares his living space with!). As he's not crying out to have his clothes embellished by sweet lines of daisies or loopy sheep I made myself put down my book and sew him a cover in his choice from the fabric stash.

I wanted to work out the pattern myself as I thought it was a nice easy thing to work around and I'd feel more proud at the end, at the end I am proud but slightly wondering why I didn't just find a tutorial! I made myself cut a template from paper, resisting the urge to just mark the required rectangle on the fabric. Three paper templates later it proved a wise decision. I have some blind spot when it comes to measurements [queue pause where I look fruitlessly for a blog post about the sewing machine cover  I made. I don't seem to have written about it. It's special. I'll save the tale for the day I get around to making a more suitable one!] 

After making my brain squeak trying to work out right sides together with a wadding sandwich in the mix and where to sew so that I could flip the whole thing inside out to hide all the seams I wanted to be done. I'd envisaged there would be enough room for the tablet and a gap to fit in a press-stud at the top to keep it closed. Not so much. The bulk of the layers ate up the ease I'd allowed and it was a super struggle to wriggle the little fella in there. Big sigh, short pause. Queue trimming of seams and replacing the bulky top stitched inside bottom seam with a little whip stitched line. Beautiful! It fits snuggly but as if that was what was always intended as you can slide it in easily enough but it won't just slip out. It's bulky enough to offer a little protection but not so bulky as to be cumbersome. A very practical piece (and I love that fabric enough that it  meets my everyday pretty standards too!).

Friday, June 21, 2013

Embroidery excitement

Having seen a couple of blog reviews of the new book from Caroline Zoob I had to have a copy, and it arrived this afternoon. One brief peek inside so far and I am sooo excited to do some more embroidery suddenly. Look at that one little snippet I had the patience to photograph for you, just so enticing to me!

This chrysanthemum is not a project from the book, it is something that had been lingering unfinished after a fit of enthusiasm earlier in the year.  There was a wonderful exhibition of Japanese embroideries at the Ashmolean back in January which induced me to buy a simple Anchor kit in the gift shop. I had to finish it last night so I could have the hoop for whatever this book inspired me to start on next! I'm going to go and make a gin and tonic and settle in for a Friday night of embroidery, may your weekends be equally full of such daring pursuits!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


This time last week Mama and I were preparing for our third crafty workshop of the year. After patchworking and machine embroidery we thought it was time to make a bag. On our trip down to the depths of Cornwall to visit Poppy Treffry we found a wonderful fabric shop with its own classroom, Coast and Country Crafts which is taking very good care of south Cornwall's quilters and a few more besides. 

Heavier weight quilting cottons and linens make ideal bag materials and we went the day before the workshop to pick out fabrics from the huge range they have. Such fun, I could do that forever, just play around with different combinations and this project is designed beautifully to make the most of contrasting fabrics.

No photos from the workshop as I was head down and hands busy! It was quite a lot of sewing to get done in the few hours we were there with lots of different pieces, wadding, lining, darts, magnetic clasps and pockets to deal with. We didn't get close to done by the time the class ended but with pattern and instructions in hand we set up our own mini workshop on my parents' dining room table as soon as we got home. With each other to talk it all through with and trusty stitch unpicker to hand we just got them finished on Wednesday morning before I headed back up to Oxford. 

Our teacher was great (and I learnt a tip about finger pressing rather than getting up to press with the iron that will speed my sewing up no end!) but the loveliest part of the whole project for me was sitting at that table with our sewing machines back to back engaged on the same piece. We're planning our own mini workshop again soon!

These workshops have been creative islands for me this year, spaces I could immerse myself in, let go of day to day stresses and feed that need for learning and creating that lives inside me. Alongside some gentle knitting they have kept me afloat in what has not been a creative sea. Well I'm swimming in the waters I want to be in again now and getting to the stage I can just bob along and enjoy it without having to consciously work at it. I have some lovely knitting to show off if I can tear myself away long enough from the next project to block it!

Friday, June 07, 2013

Yarny joys

I'm having a few days holiday from work and one of my planned treats was to go and spend some quality time at the new yarn shop here in Oxford - Oxford Yarn Store. It opened at the end of last year and I briefly visited earlier this year but not with enough time to really enjoy the experience. It's our only dedicated yarn shop here in Oxford and it's a goodie! Today I spent most of an hour there in this wee Aladdin's cave having a lovely chat with the owner who even made me a cup of tea. What service! I went in for a few blues and yellows to join in with some leftovers for a sea and sun full Bolt - I was spoilt for choice with some Cascade fingering weight running the final choices close - Artesano Alpaca and Manos Silk Blend. Perfect, and impossible not to start straight away.

During my happy yarn perusal I scooped up a stormy blue mix of the new Rowan sock yarn - after Clara Parkes' review I've been intrigued enough to swing back towards a love phase of my love/hate relationship with Rowan. I thought that was plenty until I was snared by the temptingly positioned chunky lace shawl sample at the till. It was really fun to try the sample on and of course I fell in love with it and had to buy the pattern (Hay Meadow) and yarn, a lovely British wool line from Artesano, I love this yarn company. Hopefully my brain on holiday will be up to just a teeny bit more of a challenge than stripey garter stitch, chunky lace should go quickly at least!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013


Yesterday, after work, my little patch of play.

I put this out on Instagram which is a place I'm having fun in at the moment. I decided I needed to venture out from the bounds of this blog and Ravelry with all these other playgrounds out there to explore. I've been pinning a little while but sort of tentatively, sporadically not sure how to best enjoy it, worrying I'd get overwhelmed by it of course, now I'm just embracing that one a bit more and trying out Twitter too.

This is not to say that I am thinking of stopping blogging, in fact the opposite I'm feeling the need to really throw myself in headfirst to this creative sea I can best access online, I'm hoping immersion will turn to bobbing and floating merrily along and I can get back here more often. I've been feeling a lack of blogging and crafting generally in my life on and off for the last couple of years or so and what I hoped was just a lull or a rest has become more clear that the crafts were getting bumped down the priority list by less fun things! It's time to change that. I'd thought for a while that too much online stuff would just take time away from the actually doing and of course I need to get the balance right but when I think back to when I first started knitting it was the inspiration from blogs that really fed a tentative little shoot of creativity and I so want to have that buzz again.

So anyway, I'm feeling like the new kid on the edge of these new playgrounds, looking around for friendly faces, I've spotted a few and thank you kindly to you dear peoples who have already followed me back. If I haven't managed to find you yet and you too play on any of the following then I'd love it you'd reach out a hand, or invite me in to your skipping game, also if we're not friends on the old favourite Ravelry then I'd love to change that too. Thanks lovelies :)

Ravelry: Thumbelina

Instagram: sarahallfingersandthumbs

Pinterest: Sarah All Fingers and Thumbs

Twitter: @allfingerthumbs

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