In which I persevere when I should have just given up.

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you…. drumroll please…

The embarrassment of Twilleys!

The exemplification of hubris!

The proof that beginners are not always lucky!

The wonky horror!

The felted monstrocity!

The one, the only, the original…

FAILHAT!

I wear a bad hat and a dubious expression

Not looking good

Close up of bad hat.

Nope, not looking any better close up

Described as “That extraordinary thing you were wearing on your head that looked like something belonging to a cardinal”, FAILHAT began life as the cardigan project of Doom. A classic example of beginner makes three scarves and thinks that an ‘experienced’ level cardie pattern is well within their grasp. Oh woe is me…

I started out by buying not quite enough yarn in a colour that was being discontinued, always a good way to begin a project. So I spent some time halfway through running around London trying to find more. Eventually the internet came to my aid.

Of course I didn’t gauge swatch. I just charged right on in and happily hooked away until I had all the pieces ready to assemble. Of course it was mostly far too big with kind of skinnier sleaves and a loose flappy body. This on a cardigan that’s supposed to be a neat little fitted thing.

So what did I do? Did I frog? Nope, this yarn is fuzzy and sticky and virtually unfroggable. And anyway I’d assembled, I’d trimmed. I wasn’t going to unstitch and frog. So what did I do?

Well, you already know it’s felted so I think you can guess the next bit…

I put it in hot water and left it to shrink. Which It didn’t noticeably do. In fact the water wasn’t very hot and the sleaves even stretched a bit making them even longer and ganglier than before.

So I put my newbie crocheters thinking cap on and I decided that if I stuck it in the drier just for a few minutes I could shrink it down in a controlled way. So in it went.

Then the phone rang. A work call. I had to answer.

By the time it came out the drier 40minutes later it might have fit a six year old. Providing the six yr old had very skinny arms and never cared about moving them once inside their thick ugly grey felted jacket.

Oh… dear…

I put the cardigan away and went about my daily life. Older, sadder, wiser.

Then one day I saw the wretched garment and it seemed to call to me: “You could make a hat! You could cut out a box shape and make a little retro pillbox hat!”

So I did. And I even put a couple of little fan shapes on the front in an attempt to make it pretty. Then I determinedly wore it out to meet a friend and her family for a coffee.I had to get something back for all that time money and effort.

It was my friend’s dad whose immortal description above has prompted me to enter FAILHAT into this post for your enjoyment. I hope it has amused you as it clearly amused him. I am trying to decide whether the hipsters in this area are daft enough that it’s worth putting the blessed thing in the charity bag or whether I should do the world a favour and bin it.

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We all fall down part 2.

When it comes to unfinished projects I have several that eye me from their bags and fill me sometimes with joy and sometimes with dread.

Pretty cardigan is too small for me.

Oops! Too small!

There is the top down cardigan that was too small when I first made it and had to be frogged back to above the waist. It’s almost done only the ribbing and buttons to go. It’s a very cute little garment made of hand dyed DK weight in shades of lilac, mauve, pink and grey. It’s also nowhere near going to fit me now. I’ve had to stop running due to an ankle injury and I’ve been working long hours and keeping my energy up with cake, chocolate and takeaways with inevitable results. I don’t mind getting fatter… much… but I do mind finishing a project after all this time only to find it won’t wrap around me. There’s little incentive to do the last bits of fiddly dull finishing work.

Then there’s the much more promising slouchy teal sweater. This is a simple two piece short sleaved layering piece with a boat neck and probably some decorative buttons on the shoulder which I have yet to find. I am in love with this project which I just know will be stylish and wearable and exactly what I need for the spring. But it’s all in plain slip stitch stockinette equivalent. There’s enough counting that I can’t really do it at knit night (and I’ve been too busy for knit night anyway recently) but it’s also too dull really to want to do at home. I need to just pick it up and do a row or two a day and then it’ll jog along nicely. Soon, soon.

There’s the Neverending Shrug of Doom which started out as a way to show off some gorgeous hand dyed silk yarn and has morphed into something rare and terrible with a life of its own. Nothing about this project has gone right. I have started off and frogged the silk itself several times. Then I got the silk right by deciding to use it as a collar for the shrug and bought some plain black wool for the body. Now the body is being a nuisance! I gave it an initial shot and got half way through before trying to pin it all togerther an see how it looked. Disastrous! The wool pulled on the silk and the collar looked mishapen and the torso hung away from my body in weird directions. This was not the glamourous vintage-inspired Hollywood diva-esque garment I had envisaged. This was a mess.

Madeline Tosh shawlette

So pretty but I'm halfway through the first skein already...

I found a fix for now. I am using measurements from a shrug I own that fits to make the pieces up in slip stitch. Except that at some point my tension changed and I made the second half of the front 1.5 times the size of the first half with the same yarn and hook. I may be the only person in the world who crochets even looser when she is stressed! Rip it, rip it and I’m trying again. I will succeed!

I have  the Sirdar Big Softie cushion covers to do. Just big spirals to sew together and fill. These will be lots of fun but I need to buy an extra ball of each colour first and as I bought the original balls in a shop on the other side of London I will have to phone up and order them to be sent over. I have started one of these.

I started a shawlette with the Madeline Tosh that Greentrianglegirl of A Playful Day gave me for my birthday then realised I needed another two skeins. Do they sell merino light in London? I should be so lucky! I will probably end up trading on Ravelry with someone in the States.

Crochet shawl motif pattern

Crochet shawl motif pattern

I have two lace shawls in process. One is a 1920s style shawl based on this square motif pattern that I have extended outwards and outwards.  The other is the final product that I am making with the recycled yarn I talked about in this post. I decided in the end to throw most of it out because winding it all without a swift and ballwinder would have been hellish. What I’ve got left will make a nice semicircular shawl and I’m using a doily pattern with a leaves and flowers theme to do that.

I’m making a cowl type neckwarmer for my sister in beeeeaaaaauuuutiful soft alpaca. This is a copy of the one I made for my mum for Christmas and should actually be done really soon. I can do this one on the train so it’s getting along nicely. I hope to post a joint celebration of both versions soon.

Finally there’s the fab handbag that I am storming through and need to find handles for. In my mind I’m thinking dark bamboo or semicircular wood. The yarn, not my usual taste, is a gift from lovely, lovely Rachel. (Cf the photos of my glazed carrot dish.) It’s Rowan Colourscape in the eye-popping Candy Pink colourway. Between the brightness and the chunkiness though it’s turning into a rocking handbag and the combination of self-striping yarn with tweed stitch is a winner.

I think that’s all my current UFOs. Of course I have two unstarted projects, a cardy for my sister and a lace scarf for a friend. The yarn is there, the will is there, but I feel that would be a new quantum leap in start-itis. I have decided that until at least one of the big projects is gone I won’t get going on another. Wish me luck though. I feel I have many miles before dawn…


Busy busy

Adrienne's Noro Windowpane Scarf

Adrienne's Noro Windowpane Scarf

Hallo

Long time no see! Sorry I’ve been out of touch for a while but my work life has picked up substantially so I’m out and about a lot and haven’t had a chance to catch up with you all. I do apologise!

So… what’s been happening? Well, I finished a cute scarf for the lovely Elly of The Vintage Cookbook Trials. Of course being a complete dope I forgot to take a photo before I gave it to her. But the pattern was the Noro Windowpane Scarf by Adrienne Lash and I made it in Yarn to Knit 100% Bluefaced Leicester laceweight in the colourway Red.

It’s a simple churn through sort of a pattern. What A Playful Day calls a ‘potato chippy pattern’. The kind of thing that you can do on the train, which I have been as I now have about an hour and a quarter’s commute each way three days a week.

What’s been amazing is that I bought one skein of this yarn and have now finished two projects from it. Yet the yarn still hasn’t run out. I’m now making a third lace scarf with this single skein! Briliant stuff!

Violet Points Scarf

Violet Points Scarf

My new project which I am halfway through is a Violet Points Scarf by Annette Petavy. I love the simplicity of the design and am mulling ways to modify the stitch pattern slightly and create something of my own based on it.

I also finished a slip stitch crochet cardigan that I have been working on. So where are the pics? I hear you cry. Well, I blocked it. Tried it on and realised that I shouldn’t have decreased under the bust as I had made it too small for my tummy.

Siiiiiiiiiiigh!

Also I kind of made a mess of the sleeves too. So I have frogged it back to just under the bust and removed the sleeves  and I’m giving it another go.

At least I know the yarn looks lovely in the pattern though, so eventually I will be happy with it. I am determined!

Wish me luck!


Possibly the world’s easiest and most satisfying pattern

Ewes Full Acres Blue Passion Yarn

Ewes Full Acres Blue Passion Yarn

The gorgeous and generous Ms Playful gave me a skein of Ewes FullAcres handspun and handdyed blue passion wool yarn. I’d been eyeballing this stuff thinking it’s rather bright for my normal wear and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Ms Playful suggested slippers but I wasn’t convinced. I normally have hot feet rather than cold ones and the idea of wearing slippers seems foolish to me.

Then I saw this lovely pattern on Ravelry and knew that I should give it a try. After all when  I visit my parents’ house the stone farmhouse floors are flipping chilly and a pair of cosy footmitts seem like an excellent idea.

I’m so glad I did. There was something incredibly satisfying about this pattern. It genuinely is super easy to adapt so you make the slippers exactly the right size for your feet. Look though aren’t they cute!

Hooray slippers!

Hooray slippers!

I took a couple of tries to get the width right. The key is to make the initial circle really quite small compared to your actual toes. Squish it in half to see the actual diameter across your feet. Be aware that the first  couple of rows without increasing will still add width to the slippers.

I would suggest that you want to err on the small side and let the slippers cling and stretch over your feet rather than make them loose. Particularly if like me you make the opening on the top fairly big and low. The yarn will relax with time anyway and they will get bigger.

Anyway, I have wide feet and find buying shoes a bit of a trauma so making something for my feet that fit just right was a very cheering experience. They worked up super quickly taking just one evening of watching old episodes of Hill Street Blues on Channel4.com. I can imagine that I would make these again for gifts and I think they would look lovely with various forms of decoration for those that like that sort of thing. Me, I’m happy to keep these simple. I think the variegation from the yarn is decoration enough.

Anyone else made anything so simple and satisfying lately?


So, yeah… a blog and stuff…

I’ve been meaning to start this blog up for ages and then I joined Ravelry and it asked for my blog details and I didn’t have one. So I thought ‘well damnit I need to just DO this’.

I cook on a near daily basis, yes even when I’m really tired. I find it relaxing in a flow activity kind of way and at the end of a tiresome day doing something vaguely creative makes me feel much better about myself. I like making up and adapting recipes and I wanted to record some of my successes as well as the hilarious failures.

I don’t have photos but here are some things I’ve made that I hope to make again and post about:

  • grapefruit and herb salad
  • apple and kohlrabi slaw
  • sponge cake with fleur d’orange icing
  • lamb shank in red wine and spices
  • bitter chocolate and orange sponge in its own sauce
  • puy lentils in coconut cream
  • pink pomegranate cake
  • garlic baked avocados

If any of these catches your fancy please let me know in the comments and I will try to make it sooner rather than later.

I also wanted a place to waffle about my crochet. I only started crocheting quite recently and I’m finding it fascinating learning about the mechanics of the whole thing. Crochet is an interesting world because on the one hand it has loads of potential as a craft, you can make beautiful items quite simply with the right choice of yarn etc. On the other hand lots of the patterns out there seem to be rather trite, clumsy and/or ugly. Definitely a bit folksy or kawaii. I want to make crochet items that are original but don’t scream ‘homemade’.

One of my successes (for which I actually have a photo) is this stole which I made for a friend of mine:

Feather Stole in Hand Dyed 100% Blue Leicester Laceweight Yarn

Feather Stole

The yarn is from the lovely http://www.yarntoknit.co.uk hand dyed laceweight range. It was labelled red but was actually a kind of salmon/raspberry colour. I still have about 50g of that so am looking forward to using the rest.