8 Years ago

8years ago I sat at my mum’s bedside hoping and praying that I could share just a few more days with her.
She took her last breath before I saw her again.
I wish I had been with her, to hold her hand, to comfort us both.
I wish she could have met the baby girl that was growing inside me, I know she would have been incredibly proud of my beautiful girl now almost 8yrs old and proud of me for that.
There have been many times between now and then when I would have done anything for a few wise words from my mum.
I hope am as a good a mum as she was and that my daughter gets longer with her mum than I did with mine.
That is all.

Cats have faces too quilt

Let me start at the beginning, I offered to make a bed quilt for my daughter… at least 2years ago.
She was about 5 years old at the time with a huge love of cats and all things red and knew what she wanted. So we did a little google image search for cat quilts and looked through some patterns and made a short list. From the short list the only one I could get a pattern for was one from Copy Cat Quilts.

I ordered the pattern, rescaled it to the size we thought we wanted. Got the red and white fabrics and set to work. After piecing about 5 of the 12×12″ blocks, with about 13different sized/shaped pieces per block, I had had enough and it went in the bag for months…
After a long time I finally pulled it back out and finished all the piecing and I had a quilt top! After I found some fabric for the border and got that sewn on I realised the quilt covered a double bed!
That’s a big quilt for a little primary school kid! But Em did want a quilt for life.

We took a trip to the fabric store to look for a backing fabric. I hunted online for a red fabric with either black or white paw prints all over, but never found one, so decided to give Em free choice at the store. She picked a red, black, grey and white swirl pattern. There was no swaying her and for a long time I really wasn’t sure about it, but it has grown on me over time.

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I needed to visit a friend with a huge table to layer the quilt and get it all pinned ready for quilting, so that delayed the project further.

With all the pins in place it was time to start! I had machine quilted a block to use as a matching pillow and to sample how to quilt it. The result was too dense for a bed quilt in my opinion. I asked around for suggestions and a friend on twitter said I should hand quilt it, something I had never done. She assured me it wouldn’t take much longer the machine quilting and would be worth it.
So I took the plunge, my first hand quilting.

Over a year later, okay I’ve only worked on it for a few days at a time then put it away for weeks on end, but it feels like a long old time. I’ve completed the outline quilting around each cat, and quilted tiny paw prints in the empty space down one side of the quilt.
I’d also designed and appliquéd 4 little mice into the big empty spaces, and machine quilted 26 circles with an extra layer of batting to look like balls of yarn. Then carefully trimmed back the batting so that they could be edge tuck appliquéd onto the quilt.

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So this week I decided I needed to crack on and hand quilt the remaining tiny paw prints, appliqué on the balls, add some hand quilting to the border, trim back the border and hand bind the quilt! It needed to be done!
Em hates a duvet, at 7years old she still can’t get used to sleeping under even a really light weight one. So every night she sleeps under a blanket I had for her, acrylic fleece on one side, cotton print on the other. But now she is just too big for the blanket and this quilt was supposed to replace these small blankets long ago!

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I’ve tried quite a few thimbles to save my poor fingers from the repeated abuse of driving a tiny sharp needle through several layers of fabric and batting. I’m happy with a metal quilting thimble, but it makes my finger sweat like mad and soon I have a soggy wrinkly finger!
My kind friend Donna has been enjoying some hand piecing lately and made herself a simple leather thimble, so she made me one too. It’s soft leather and works well, its my new favourite.
In the photo above you can see the fairly small and irregular stitches for the paw prints. This is about as good as my hand quilting gets on a quilt this thick.
But I don’t mind that it’s far from perfect, I’m sure the stitches will hold it together. (The bright blue paw print marks are made with washable fabric marker, I started off when a pencil which drove me nuts, but this pen works well on light fabric and washes out easily.)

So this is where I’m at. (The edge isn’t bound, just the backing folded over the edge to keep everything neat and stop the batting getting messy at the edge.)

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The white space on the right has already been filled with paw prints.

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The other side is partially marked up and I’ve just started the paw prints, so I have quite a bit if work to do still!

I added one of the trapunto/trapplique yarn balls to the quilt today, for a chance of stitching and to see how they look.

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I realised when I pulled this out, over a year after I made the balls, that I am 1 ball short. Which made me think it would be a good opportunity to hand stitch 1 as a label, with the quilt details on. So I will leave that 1 ball til last.
I like how they stand up slightly off the quilt surface.

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I remember when I was sitting embroidering faces on each block in the early days of this quilt, how I thought that would be the longest part of the process and cats need faces too, so they couldn’t be left off! How wrong I was, the quilting has gone on for ages, especially the paw prints. But I think it will be perfect, I couldn’t have done the law prints like this by machine and I think they add the lovely bit of whimsy to this quilt.

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More stitching to do… But for now, it is time for sleep.
Tomorrow, less blogging procrastinating, more quilting!

Silk with Priscilla Lowry

Our local WSD guild was lucky enough to have Priscilla Lowry to visit this weekend, all the way from New Zealand.
She came to do a few workshops and give a talk on silk history.
Sadly I had to miss the silk history talk, but other guild members said it was fascinating.
We had a morning workshop on spinning lofty silk yarns for knitting, all about trapping air between the silk fibres.
On Sunday we had a full day workshop on spinning all different silk fibres, from A1 Mulberry Silk brick right through, tussah brick, short silk fibres, muwatas (hankies and caps), degummed silk cocoons, cocoon strippings, throwsters, to tussah noil a.k.a. floor sweepings.

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A friend spinning mulberry silk cut with scissors into 1-2″ long pieces then spun from the fold with plenty of twist.
The resulting single has tufts of silk ends all along it’s length, well secured by the twist. Like a beautiful eyelash yarn, spun from silk.

Close photos of yarns to follow.

To almost everyone’s surprise these lesser silk products were pretty fun to spin! The variety of yarns we could produce was phenomenal.
Accompanying all these wonderful yarns and techniques were Priscilla’s stories of how the beauty of fibres from silk cocoons was discovered, how the secrets of processing silk were hidden, how silk is produced and farmed today and the differences in the fibres and how they are all processed.

Like with all these things we can believe we know a reasonable amount about subject, then we meet an expert and realise our knowledge is a drop in the ocean.
So there was lots to be learnt and I think we all had a fantastic weekend spinning wormspit a.k.a. Silk!

Equality Stripe Cardigan and Hat

New pattern release Equality Stripe Cardigan

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Equality Stripe Cardigan is knit top down from neck to cuff in one piece including button bands without seaming or picking up stitches for a button band!

Full photo tutorial for switching colours for the button band is included.

Sizes: Newborn, 3-6m, 6-12m, 12-18m, 18m-24m, 2-4yrs, 4-6yrs, 6-8yrs.
Yarn: Heavy fingering (4ply) or sport (5ply) weight yarn. Samples knitted in 6 colours of Katia Merino Baby.
£3.00

Matching Equality Stripe Hat
Sizes: Newborn, baby, toddler, child, adult and large adult.
£1.50

Or both patterns together as an ebook for £4.00

I am now part of the LYS In-Store Sales program. So participating yarn shops can sell my patterns directly to their customers in store. All the patterns that I have available for purchase through Ravelry are in the program.

These cute little unisex cardigans were inspired by a close friend of mine who was pregnant with non identical twins. She asked for ‘rainbow coloured knits’ rather than the traditional white or pastel baby colours often gifted to those who don’t know the gender of their baby before it arrives.
So I ordered some lovely soft yarn (Katia Merino Baby) in 6 rainbow colours and grey. The idea of the pattern took hold in my mind before the yarn even arrived.
After the first was off the needles it seemed only logical to make the cardigans ‘fraternal’ for these *fraternal twins. So I reversed the rainbow colour ordered and the second cardigan was soon complete.
*fraternal twins; meaning twin developed from two separately fertilized ova; dizygotic. (Developed from two eggs, each fertilized by separate sperm.)

With plenty of yarn to spare, these special babies deserved matching fraternal hats too!
So out of 6x 50g ball of yarn came 2 cardigans and 2 hats with significant yarn left over.

I released the hat pattern during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, to show support for LGBT difficulties in Russia. Donations were made to Stonewall during the Olympics in lieu of pattern fees.
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Now they are both patterns available to buy trough Ravelry or you can use the links above.

Of course you don’t have to knit them in rainbow colours, 6 random colours or just 2 or 3 colours will be just as fun.

The joy of releasing a pattern hasn’t got old for me yet and in between pattern releases I forget just how great it feels. So this time, like all the times before it, I was surprised by the smile on my face and the joy of knitters seeing and liking my work.
Seeing my pattern rise up through the Ravelry hot right now list is always a little thrill. Often one I am too busy to spot, but someone points out to me.

While you all enjoy this I am working on getting my next design tech edited and test knitted.
Happy knitting!

Banana and Left Over Easter Muffins

Everyone ends up with left over Easter egg chocolate right? Okay, maybe not everyone, but we always seem to end up with more Easter eggs than we want to eat, especially the cheaper chocolate that doesn’t always appeal so much.

Well combine that with our habit of having over ripe bananas at the end of the week and you get banana and chocolate chip muffins!

Banana and Chocolate Easter MuffinsMuffins are the easiest sweet treat to make, I really don’t enjoy mixing up cake mix, so often use the mixer, but that means more washing up. The great thing about muffins is the ingredients only need barely combining, so it’s a 30second easy job with a spoon.

Equipment:

  • Scale
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Small bowl or jug
  • Large jug
  • Table spoon
  • Fork
  • A cupcake/yorkshire pudding tin with 12 spaces
  • 12 muffin cases (big cases, not the small cup cake cases of our youth, muffins rise – a lot!)

Ingredients (makes 12):

  • 280g/10 oz of plain white flour
  • 1 tbsp of baking power
  • 115g/4 oz caster sugar
  • 2 medium-large bananas
  • 100mls of milk
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 6 tbsp oil or 85g /3 oz of butter melted and cooled (I use sunflower or vegetable oil)
  • 100g/ 3.5 oz (or about 1 kids size Easter egg) of chocolate broken into small pieces
  • pinch of salt if desired (I never bother)

If you don’t have a sweet tooth and fancy these as breakfast muffins you can cut the sugar to 3oz.

Method:

  1. Pre heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6, or 180C for a fan assisted oven.
  2. Put 12 paper muffin cases in the tray or grease a muffin tray and put the mixture straight in if you prefer.
  3. Using a large bowl add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, stir together. (I place the bowl on the scales, tare the scales, and add the ingredients directly to save washing up.)
  4. Add the chocolate chunks to the bowl and stir in.
  5. Mash the bananas in a bowl, measure and add the milk to make a puree, some lumps add a nice texture.
  6. Beat the eggs in the jug and measure the oil. Add the banana puree to the jug, mix together.
  7. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour in the liquid ingredients.
  8. Stir until just combine, do not over mix it! Small floury lumps are fine.
  9. Immediately spoon the mixture into the muffin tin. Do not leave the mixture standing around, it must be baked straight away or they will flop!
  10. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 15-20mins, until well risen and golden. A knife will come out slightly sticky.
  11. Serve warm after 5mins or leave to cool.

Yumm!

 

Sewing a Recycled Denim Jeans Bag

Our local knitting group is hosting an Autumn swap, so it’s time to make some gifts. It’s our third swap and the last two were very popular, so we are all looking forward to opening our gift bags on the day.  Each swapper has to buy a different item for six different people, 1 yarn, 1 pattern, 1 accessory, 1 hand made, 1 edible and 1 bag.  So everyone in the swap  gets 6 gifts all from different people, lovely!

For the bag some people choose to buy a nice shopping bag, others will knit a bag and some of us decide to sew a bag.  So I spent too much time surfing through bags on pinterest, when I found this bag tutorial for using an old pair of jeans.  I’ve been collecting my torn/worn/too big/too small jeans for a while to make some aprons and project bags. So it was a no brainer.

Demin Bag

I made some minor changes to the pattern;

  • Where it mentions cutting off the pointy corners, I cut the corners to make a bag bottom instead. (tutorial here)
  • Added a regular sewn on pocket instead of a zip locket.
  • Instead of leaving a gap at the top of the bag for turning, I left a gap in the bottom of the liner, machined the liner to the top of bag, turned through then stitched the gap in the liner closed.
  • It’s worth noting that I didn’t use a pair of flared jeans, because the bag panels are made from 3″ wide pieces you should have enough fabric in a pair of regular jeans.
  • For the lining you need 2 pieces of fabric approx’ 13″x13″ plus extra if you want a pocket.

Denim Bag

The finished bag is approx’ 12″ x 12″ x 2″ with a 26″ strap, a nice size for a small handbag or project bag.  I hope my swap partner likes it!

Denim Bag

 

 

Teyla Shawl

The unusual construction forms a semi circular shawl which hangs comfortably over your shoulders, with a textured stitch pattern and 5lace panels. Knitted from the nape of the neck outwards in one piece with easy resizing options included. Charted instructions.

Knitted and photographed by Irokezka ©.

Requires 4ply/fingering weight yarn – 625metres for the Shawlette size or 1000m for the Shawl size. It will look lovely in any weight yarn.

Teyla Shawl is the second shawl pattern I have self published.
It’s construction was a little different from the hundreds of triangular shawls and I think the textured stitch makes a lovely change from stocking stitch for the body.
The design came from paging through Barbara Walker Treasury’s, then modifying 2 lace patterns to meet my needs for the shawl. I wanted something that only had lace on the right side rows, with the wrong side rows being just purl.
Teyla Shawl came to fruit quickly and with the help of some lovely pattern testers and a tech editor it is now available for Ravelry Download.

Spinning for Fair Isle & A Poorly Cat

I’ve been quietly concerned about my old cat for a while now. Cuddles has just turned 19years old, which is a fantastic age. We’ve been lucky with him day one, with exception of being hit by a car when he was a kitten, he’s never had much need for a vet.
Sadly for the last 2years he’s had random bouts of diarrhoea and loosing weight, then he goes off his food. Each time the vet can find nothing wrong and further tests would require an anaesthetic, but he’s always got better and gained the weight back when his appetite returns. After several episodes like this the vet assumed it was some form of irritable bowel disease.

We had learnt to live with this occasional problem and it didn’t seem to be getting worse.
But over the last 6months he’s got more doddery on his back legs, unable to jump as well, and unable to sit down properly. He’s old and didn’t seem to be in pain with it (though it’s often hard to tell with cats) so we assumed it was old age causing stiffness and maybe arthritis. But in the last 2months those diarrhoea accidents have turned into solid poop accidents. Which from a super clean cat who washes obsessively was very odd. I noticed he was a bit smelly, and put it down to the pooping and washing less. He shows many signs of dementia so we gave him plenty of leeway and again didn’t worry as he seemed happy.
In the last 2 weeks I noticed slightly wet patches in his bed and on the floor (thankfully he’s been shut out of carpeted rooms for a while), saw him do solid poos while walking about and seeming totally surprised. Then when sleeping on my lap he wet himself (or should I say he wet me!!) I knew something was really wrong and off to the vets we went.
The vet didn’t seem sure and ran some full blood tests, wondering about thyroid, kidney disease, urinary infection (and dementia while doesn’t show in blood tests!).

So the last 2days I’ve nervously waited for the results, wondering if his time had come to an end.
I stayed up very late spinning both evenings plying some BFL/silk in yellows and oranges and spinning and plying some Romney fleece I’d dyed purple.

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The plan for these contrasting mini skeins is a fair isle bag from the latest spin off magazine.

More cat news to follow as the results come in.

Stripes

After 2 courses of antibiotics and a week in bed in agony. Did I mention just how bad this toothache was? We are now wondering if it is also neuralgia, this would explain why it’s been so much worse than regular toothache. Yesterday the antibiotics finally started to feel like they are working and the episodes of severe pain stopped. So I recommenced some knitting, which saved my sanity I’m sure. I think I was right on the edge of break down, not being able to knit makes life so hard!
I stayed up late working on my stripes, having slept during the day when I was released from the pain. Going to bed didn’t seem like a priority now I could knit again. I worked 4inches of one front for my cardigan before forcing myself to go to bed and listen to ‘The Hunger Games’ as I fell asleep. I am really enjoying it so far and it’s well read, I’m hoping it’ll be a good use of 3 Audible credits.

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I’m really pleased with the 1 row button holes, they are the method Ysolda describes in ‘Little Red In The City’, they have a good firm edge and don’t feel like they will stretch out over time.

I’ll post more about the simple clean looking Cardigan when I’ve started the back and can post some photos of that.

I didn’t want to speak too soon, but 2 weeks ago a friend welcomed the first ever lambs into her Polworth flock. The ewe had been very sick and we were all very worried about her, even the vet. She eventually squeezed out 3 beautiful pure Polworth lambs. Unfortunately 1 lamb didn’t make it, but the 2 ewe lambs are being bottle fed and getting stronger every day. I was asked to help out with the lambs when my friend has other pressing things to deal with, so I had the pleasure of bottle feeding 2 beautifully 3day old lambs. Polworth’s have wonderfully fine fleece, the breed was originally established by crossing Merino’s with 1/4 Lincoln. This gives them the fineness of Merino with some of the length and lustre of Lincoln. The addition of the Lincoln also makes them slightly more suited to the English climate than purebred Merino sheep.
I’ll dig out a photo of some yarn I spun from English Polworth fleece last year for my next post.

Flicking Shetland

I’ve had a 3week long battle with a dental abscess and the dentist. I won’t bore you with all the details, but today we got to;
Dentist “I didn’t know you were in pain last time I saw you.”
Me “I told you I was. And the receptionist.”
Dentist “you didn’t tell me or I would have prescribed some antibiotics.”
Me “The receptionist told me there was no way for me to get an appointment any earlier (than 2weeks), that I’d have to wait, even though I told her I was in pain.”
Dentist “You could have come back sooner.”
Me “As I said before the receptionist said the earliest I could be seen was …”
Me “The only reason I called today was because my GP said you HAD to see me today. So I thought I’d try.”

So the result so far? Another course of antibiotics, stronger ones for anaerobic bacteria this time, hopefully they will work and we can get on with treatment.
The toothache is bad enough but I’ve been getting waves of the most horrific pain all up that side of my face, jaw and neck. These waves of pain leave me unable to do anything but lay there shaking and sobbing until they pass, usually about half an hour later. There doesn’t seem to be a trigger and the painkillers make no difference. I just hope the antibiotics work quick!

So as you can imagine I haven’t done much knitting in the last 2weeks and especially not the last few days.
Between waves of pain I’ve managed to knit most of the raglan for a jumper for my daughter.

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The wool is beautiful Superfine Australian 8ply, maximum of 18microns. It doest say it’s merino, but it must be at that kind of fineness. It’s superwash and bright red of course so perfect for my daughter. It was a very kind gift from an Australian Ravelry friend.

Last night I thought maybe I could work through the pain by flicking some beautiful Shetland locks. I got some done before the pain overwhelmed me again.
The fleece is a White Shetland Ewe fleece I bought at Wonderwool last year. It’s beautiful; fine wool with a good crimp, no break.
Hand washed by me.

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A box of flicked locks.

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This is probably the simplest, easiest and cheapest method of processing fleece except for spinning directly from the unwashed fleece.
All you need a small flicker, you can buy one from your spinning supplier, but you don’t need to. A dog slicker from your local pet shop or discount store will work just as well. I paid about £2.50 for mine from Wilkinsons.
I’ll try and post a photo later so you know what you are looking for.
You’ll also want a piece of leather or thick plastic to lay over your lap to flick on, otherwise you’ll soon have a whole in your trousers.

As a final thought, I’ll show you the pretty card my daughter made for me. Wow her feet have got big since she was that tiny baby I bought home.

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Finish-itus & Unravel

Finishitus* like Startitus* is highly contagious I’m sure, so I feel it’s only fair I warn you that I seem to have caught this wonderful bug. I’ve longed for a case of finishitus for years, as I have recurrent startitus.

So I finished my Mitred Socks (which I cast on in 2010!) Mitred Socks
and finished the first of my Toe Up River Socks

I also finished a pair of leg warmers, but having been a wip for over a year, my gauge had changed so the second is too small. So They are now back on the needles.

Feeling very motivated to finish some projects and I’m managing to resist the urge to cast on new things. I desperately want to finish these socks –Arch Shaped Socks
I literally have 10rounds to go on the second sock, but I can’t find it, which is super frustrating!

I went to Unravel and Farnham Maltings last weekend, it’s a great fibre festival but a little cramped. It was pretty busy and that means tiring for me, but well worth it. I had promised myself no fibre, fleece or yarn, so I happily walked past all that. Until WidowTwanky started looking at sock yarns, then I was doomed! So I came home with a ball of Lang Sock yarn and 2 balls of another sock yarn (I can’t remember the name right now).
This also led the purchase of a ball of solid purple Regia sock yarn from my local yarn shop to use with the variegated yarn I bought.

After a recent #bargainbals splurge (Regia 6-fadig College – 150gram balls of sport weight SW wool/nylon Sock yarn, £3.99 from Kempswoolshop) I really can’t go buying any more yarn for a long time.

I also bought some more Knitpro tips and KnitPro padded crochet hooks from Knitting4Fun, they had the cheapest priced KnitPro’s from the vendors at the show.

I also got 2 new books ‘200 Fair Isle Motifs’ and ‘Blocks, Blankets and Throws’. The first I’ve been meaning to buy for a while and the second is much better than the cover would lead you to believe, it contains lots of techniques and ideas on joining panels/blocks in both knitting and crochet.

Hopefully I will manage to finish a few more projects in the next week or 2, before my finishitus fades.

*Finishitus – a compulsion to finish all works in progress. It is thought to be contagious, but very rare.
*Startitus – the much more common and high infection compulsion to cast on new projects, despite having many projects already.

Leather Spinning Journal

A new year, a new journal. A hand bound leather spinning journal.
Each leaf has a detail section for spinning project, holes for attaching samples and a notes section on the reverse.

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Hand sewn using a technique that allows the book to lay flat when opened.

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With a firm real leather cover that will protect and really last.

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I made a mini spinning journal last year but am really loving this A6 size for all the technical details.

I’m in the process of making some more journals in a variety of leathers with different ribbon ties. I’m also making some wrap around style journals which are beautiful too.

If you are interested in buying one please leave a note in the comments, email me or send me a message on twitter @ninjabex
Prices will vary depending on the size, style and number of pages, From £15.

Happy New Year Spinners!

Added some more photos for you. Will post good pics when the light allows…

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