Tuesday, 28 April 2015

A bit of sewing for a change

One of the things I love about being retired is having the time to do things I really want to do.  Being a teacher these days is all-consuming, with the need to be ready for Ofsted at a moment's notice and the need to document everything; an inspector once told me,"If it isn't on paper, it didn't happen" when I tried to explain how I gave informal one-to-one support to mentors but didn't have written records of precisely when and what had been discussed.  It made me realise that if I had sat in my office and written up fictitious meetings, instead of actually giving support where it was needed, Ofsted would have been well pleased!

Anyway, given I now have so much time, on Mondays I volunteer at our local Children's Scrapstore.  In case you're not aware of them, scrapstores are wonderful places where members can access a fascinating range of waste materials from businesses and industry, so that they can be re-used for children's play.

This is our local scrapstore, which is an offshoot of the larger Bristol Children's Scrapstore.  We have card, paper, fabric, leather, felt, netting, fur, foam, shells, paint.... and all sorts of interesting things.  Can you guess where the spotty bunting in the picture comes from?  It's the fabric left over when ironing board covers are cut out.  Isn't it fantastic?

Although we are a membership organisation, we are having an Open Day on Saturday 16 May when anyone can come and collect some scrap in return for a donation.  Recently we received some fabric bags as scrap, and so I have been decorating them with more scrap so people can see what can be done.  On Sunday I got my sewing machine out and made some kites with ripstop material (we have a hot-air balloon manufacturer who donates their offcuts) and some coloured elastic which was left over from making bra straps.  I rather like them!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Bees and butterflies

To help me recover from the aran cardigan of doom, I've been making log cabin squares which will become a lap blanket when I have made enough (I will probably need 12).  But I have also been making insects and bugs for a local yarn-bombing initiative.  And that has been such fun!

I started with crochet butterflies.  I have made these before, but I used a different pattern this time from the Charmed yarn blog. I used memory thread for the antennae, which worked really well.  The yarn I used was some with a lurex thread that I bought well over a year ago in Aldi.

Then I made an amigurumi bee using a pattern from the Yellow Pink and Sparkly blog.  I'm not a fan of amigurumi, but this was a really simple one, and I just loved the wings that sit on top of the bee.  I had some yarn a bit like a fine tinsel in my stash (a charity shop find, so I have no idea what it really is) which I added to some white yarn to make said wings.

Finally, I wanted to make some caterpillars.  I had some green chunky yarn which was perfect, and I made the pattern up as I went along (not exactly difficult when you are essentially knitting a tube!)  I doubled a pipe cleaner and put it into the tube so that the bug's body would bend a little, and the ends of the pipe cleaner make very satisfying antennae.  Now I'm not sure whether caterpillars have antennae, but these looked as though they should.

So here are the bugs attacking my african violet:

Last night I tried a prototype snail, made in a mix of knitting (the body) and crochet (the shell).  Here's Sammy:

I'm not quite so happy with Sammy to be honest, and I think I would modify him were I to make him again.  I wanted his head to be raised up so I tried a rudimentary heel turn to give him a bit of a neck. But it didn't work in the way I hoped.  Never mind, I'll stick to the bugs I can do!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The pink aran cardigan of doom!

It looks so innocent, doesn't it?

A pretty little aran cardigan, not a terribly complex design, not even very large.  But oh my, it has been a nightmare to knit.  Why?  Because I used 2 strands of 4 ply rather than aran weight yarn; I am stash busting and I have rather a lot of sock yarn in my stash.  It's a very pretty colour, but not soft enough to make 4 ply baby clothes or blankets, so my brainwave was to double it up and make child sized cardigans.  But somehow having 2 strands per stitch made me throw a wobbly when it came to cabling.  And each knit row involved the use of a cable needle at least once, often 3 times per row.  So it was knit a few rows, frog a few rows, knit a few more rows, frog them again.....are you getting the picture?  To cap it all, I still have 5 balls of this yarn left.  I see a succession of simple aran hats coming off the production line when I can face it again.

My next project is going to be a log cabin blanket - surely even I can manage knit stitch without making too many errors?

Monday, 13 April 2015

70th anniversary of Dad's PoW release

On 13 April 1945 my dad was released by US troops, having been a Prisoner of War in Germany for 4 years.  As a sailor in the Royal Navy he was captured when the island of Crete fell to the Germans in May 1941.  He was in various PoW camps in Germany, often having to do heavy manual labour in order to receive a mid-day meal.  Often bordering on starving, he and his fellow PoWs were kept going by Red Cross food parcels.  In December 1944, all in his camp were marched out heading West to avoid the encroaching Russian troops.  They spent 4 awful winter months with no shelter and little food, on the road, often bedding down in house doorways.  Dad had 2 good friends in the camp, and one died on that march; Dad himself was starving and as he put it, "at the end of my piece of string", when he spotted a turnip on top of a shed, and, being tall, was able to reach it down.  It gave him enough sustenance to keep going.

I am immensely proud of my dad (I have chosen his picture for my profile pic), and although he died in 1997, I still remember 13 April as he always did, as his personal freedom day.  I hope you don't mind me marking it on my blog.

Dad (on the left) with his friend Bob Andrews in the camp

Friday, 3 April 2015

Weigh-in completed

OK, so I didn't quite get my stash under the 10 kilo barrier, but it's now down to 10.135 kilos.  I'm happy enough with that.  I have been able to move a couple of bags of yarn out of my wardrobe and into the yarn cupboard, which is quite an achievement.  Stashers find all sorts of hidey-holes for their yarn.  I have 2 more bags in the wardrobe and yet more in the shed (well wrapped in polythene).  There *may* also be some in my fabric box, but I'm not admitting to that just yet.  We had a bit of a discussion this week on what constitutes stash, and my view is that it's any yarn bought without an immediate purpose in mind.  For charity knitters like me that includes charity shop and eBay purchases of course.

I also made a little knitted dress last month using some Stylecraft Merrygoround DK that I bought on eBay a while back (true stash in my book).  I used another of Marianna's patterns, but added some sleeves so that it could be worn on chillier days. My unskilled photography makes it look like the sleeves are different widths, but in reality they are the same.

So now it's back to the aran cardigan I showed in my previous post.