Snow Days

We’ve had some rare weather for this part of the world this week, snow.  Which I just realised I have no photo’s of whatsoever cos I spent most of the time indoors, reading and occasionally cooking soup.  Whoops.

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Luckily school was open Thursday morning so an appearance by both Hester Shaw

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and Tiffany Aching could be made for world book day.  After that we mainly sat around reading and eating with the occasional trip outside (me less than the others as a certain young man requisitioned my wellies cos he’d left his at school. Oh the hardships one endures as a parent, in this case, staying inside warm and dry.) We were some of the lucky ones without power cuts, boiler failure or stuck in a car in a snowdrift. The worst hardship I had to endure was a day without tea due to a lack of milk available locally.

Today, however, I have come out of hibernation enough to use some scraps to make myself three new pairs of knickers, all matching and yet not matching, almost like a shop bought set.  There’s also a couple of more of the ubiquitous headbands/circular scarves/earwarmers.


And now that the snow is pretty much all gone, it is being commemorated in biscuit form.  What more fitting a tribute?


Halfblood Headbands

So, I got given a brief for a birthday present for The Boy to give to his friend.  Something along the lines of* “A hairband, like you make me, because I saw his hair flopping in his eyes, black with a red or orange flame on it like the one on his t shirt”.

Quick background info here to get you up to speed if you don’t already know. There is an author, called Rick Riorden, who writes, amongst other things, retellings of Greek myths set in current day USA, featuring teenage demi-gods. Said teenagers hang out together at Camp Halfblood, which is basically an American summer camp for demi-gods, where the cabin they sleep in is determined by their godly parent. Some clever person(s), who clearly realised just how popular the books and films are, sells all manner of Camp Halfblood related t shirts, including t shirts for Cabin 9, where the children of Hephaestus (the god of blacksmiths and fire) sleep. Some of these have a flame design on. That was there “flame” part of my brief came from.

Whilst searching for said flame, I noticed that a lot of the Cabin 9 stuff had cogs on, which I thought surely easier to reproduce than flames, albeit not in the brief. Presumably the cogs are something to do with the fact that Leonidas “Leo” Valdez (favourite of the birthday boy) resides there, he is, as I’m sure you know, quite good at making things.

So, next up, how to get a design onto a headband. I discounted fabric paint (painting on to black, tricky), hand embroidery (not my forte), or using a zig zag stitch to embroider the fabric (looks a bit scruffy imho), and thinking about the fact that headbands work best when lined, I settled upon reverse applique to create my design.


First up, a test headband. The idea was to use scraps I had lying around and a simple design, so I ended up with a green trident on a blue background (for children of Poseidon, such as my sons favourite Percy, resident of cabin 3 obviously).  It was deemed acceptable, although it was pointed out to me that the fact the green fabric was lighter weight than the blue was not ideal.

For the real deal, I bought a metre each of some ponte-esque thickish knit in red and back, which is a bit nasty and synthetic TBH, but I didn’t have a lot to choose from.

Wanna make your own camp halfblood headband?  First cut two rectangles of 2 contrasting colours of knit fabric (preferably of similar weight) – exact size depends on your head size and how stretchy the fabric is, hopefully you have a helpful headband to copy, but if in doubt, try 90% of your head circumference + seam allowance.

Sew right sides together, along long edges, turn and press. Then trace out your design, it needs to be “fat”, as you’ll be cutting away to reveal the colour underneath. In my example the lines of the design are sewn as parallel lines (well, parallelish, cut me some slack, it’s all wiggly wavy!). Then, cut away on the right side to reveal your design beneath.

Then pin the right sides of one of the short edges together, being careful to match up the seams top and bottom. I pinned the red short sides together. Start sewing a little way before, so on the black for me, and end a little way after. So, I have the red side sewn together and the top and bottom of the black side. Then finish the remaining hole by hand.


And voila, a camp half blood headband.

Of course, if you’re a glutton for punishment, you can make the headband reversible by repeating the process on the other side before sewing the short ends up. (I centred each of my designs 1/4 way in from the edge, so whichever on is at the front, the other is at the back, as the seam lines show through to the other side.)  Turns out that cogs are at least as tricky as flames to sew (and trying to do both is just a silly idea).

Then repeat, so your son can keep one and give one away. (There are two honest, the second one even has a slightly more elaborate cog, I just forgot to take a photo of them side by side.)

Clearly, the headbands didn’t take 1m of fabric each. So, watch this space for what I did with the rest….


*it was a few weeks ago now, I may not be quoting accurately.

Lumps and Bumps

So, I have been continuing to practice my Tunisian crochet.


When my ball of yarn was nearly finished, I finally figured out that I’d been doing it a bit wrong. Tunisian crochet is worked with a forward pass (right to left, if you’re right handed like me, this is where you pick up stitches) and a return pass (left to right, where you basically cast of the stitches you picked up). I had been following the return pass instructions “chain one, chain through 2, repeat to end” and had interpreted them as “[chain one, chain through 2] repeat to end” whereas in actual fact they are “chain one, [chain through 2] repeat to end”. So I had basically been doing an extra chain between each stitch, which explains why there were these excess bits poking through. The right hand side of the pic shows the proper way of doing it.


Anyways,  I finished the ball of yarn. I had originally intended to make a couple of squares and sew them together to be a pot holder, but Long Suffering Husband was rather taken with this yarn and said it was too nice for that. However, as a bargin bin end of shop stock yarn shop purchase, I only had one ball of it. So LSH petitioned for a circular scarf.

I did warn him that it was rather lumpy and bumpy, but he replied that he was rather lumpy and bumpy too, so he didn’t mind. Here he is demonstrating the versatility of said scarf.


Birthday scarf

I bought two skeins of hand dyed mulberry silk yarn on the Isle of Skye last year, with some birthday money, and I’ve just finished knitting a scarf with it a few weeks before my next birthday. I’ve really enjoyed knitting with it as it feels so soft and silky and has a lovely lustre. The colours remind me of a flower meadow.


I was unsure how many stitches to cast on, so it seemed only right to choose 42. I knit mainly in moss stitch (the mistakes just give it charm) until I ran out of yarn and was random with my colour striping of the mainly green and mainly yellow yarn.  The resulting scarf was a bit short, so I made it into a mobius strip.


My mum has commented more than once that she liked the random effect in this scarf (but it’s not her colours), so I’ve started anew with new yarn and colours, this time casting on 35 stitches (as I thought she’d want a slightly narrower scarf and have learned since last time that it’s easiest to have an odd number for moss stitch, so you can always start with the same stitch – we’ll see if this results in less mistakes). Hopefully this one will be finished in time for Christmas.


Mid Jan

So, after nearly managing an impromtu and frankly not really thought through attempt to blog every day for the 12 days of Christmas, things have been a little quiet around here.

Partly that’s due to the running, which I have been managing 5 mornings a week. Well, I say running, I’m still walking for a large part of my route and yesterday I was overtaken on the running bit by someone who was definitely walking! Good job I’m not remotely competitive. Mainly I’m just impressed that I’m actually getting up at silly o clock to go out (as would anyone who has shared a house with me and knows my love of hiding under the duvet until the last possible minute) –  anything else is a bonus. Anyway, amongst other benefits, my pre breakfast walk/jog/run has led to an earlier and frankly more sensible bed time for me. Which combined with a resurgence in trouble settling the boy to sleep at night (though thankfully we’re no where near as bad as this has been in the past) has rather squeezed out my evening sewing time.

Then there’s my sewing to do list. Vying for top place are Sort Out The Hot Mess That My Latest Jeans Have Become (some seriously unflattering creases have appeared just as I was about to do buttonholes and beltloops – currently they’re waiting to be tried on again to see if washing them has magically fixed this issue, I’m not holding my breath) and Make Something Warm and Longsleeved For Me To Wear – which I have seem to have built into an overcomplicated Thing in my mind, possibly due to the expense of the fabric involved. And yet I have promised myself that I’m going to finish at least one jumper in January. So faced with the seemingly impossible task in the time I have I haven’t been sewing at all.


I have however been knitting. I’m trying to blast through sock number four of the two pairs that I was making my brother for Christmas (yup that’ll be Yuletide 2015) so that I can send them off. Heel turned now, hurrah. Just 72 rounds to do before decreasing for the toe of which 5 are done. Gosh sock yarn is fine isn’t it. I’m beginning to think there might be as many stitches in a sock as a jumper knit in thicker yarn.


Aside from that I started an introduction to printmaking course, which is 10 half day sessions (one a week). It’s not specifically for fabric printing, but one of the other people there was teaching the screenprinting course I went on last year (she’s doing it as personal development funded by her work) and we were wondering about bringing some fabric paints in to experiment with. In the first week we were mono-printing, but all my work was left at the studio to dry so I can’t show you yet. So instead, here is a picture of my hallway wall, which I’m in the middle of giving a fake tan too, also known as painting it gold. (A kind of spur of the moment decision that resulted from giving the hallway a spring clean and realising just how mucky the walls are. I was a bit unsure at first but it’s growing on me and at least there is now a wall in our house that isn’t magnolia).  Coat one is on, trying to find the time to do coat 2 in daylight with enough drying time before the kids reappear from school is proving tricky!


Finally, tonight I have done some sewing! The boy actually fell asleep while I was settling his sister (this is unheard of) and as my husband is out, so I can be as antisocial as I like. I celebrated with a little easy sewing. Three short circular scarves / headbands / earwarmers /whatever made with left over scraps. Which weren’t on my to do list but my daughter was upset that I wanted to put the one that I made her for Christmas in the washing machine (just cos it had a large chocolate stain on it, Mum’s are so fussy) so I thought I’d run another one up in the scraps from her Christmas dress. I paired it with the last of the stripey knit from my mystery bundle, which is lovely and soft and subtle enough not to shout at the other print.  Whilst I was at it I used some more leftovers, teal and flower fabric to make another one too, which has come out a little tight for me so that will be for the girl as well. So then I decided I better make the boy one so he didn’t get jealous, especially as there was a little more stripey knit left. So now I’ve made three and the flowers and stripes are all gone from my scrap knit tub.

Hopefully that’s broken my sewing duck (is that even a phrase?) and I will soon be showing the jeans whose boss and turning out jumpers like there’s no tomorrow. After all, we are actually getting winter temperatures now.  Oh and finishing sorting and counting my stash.

What’s your half hour sewing fix?







Selfish knitting with bonus maths homework ;)

Recently I saw a lovely green Cowl Scarf on the Dressing the Role blog and wanted one for myself. Since I’d been furtling through my yarn stash recently I remembered that I had 2 balls of a mainly burgandyish yarn with subtle gold/purple highlights variegated through it (technical details: Attimo trends, colour 088, shade 001, 47% wool, 29% acrylic, 17% mohair, 7% alpaca, by Adriafil, the band suggests that 13 stitches and 18 rows on 6.5mm needles should make a square, I’m presuming that is supposed to be a 10cm/4″ square the bar code was printed over that information rendering it illegible) in my stash, which I’d originally bought thinking of making myself some kind of giant cowl scarf. I don’t think I had a pattern in mind, so decided this must be it.

Close up - loving the moss stitch texture, not so keen on the uneven edges that changing colour in moss stitch leaves

Close up showing the lovely colours in the yarn. I’ve fallen in love with the moss stitch texture (and have been daydreaming about knitting a jumper in moss stitch, like I have the patience to finish something that large, ha), but I’m not so keen on the uneven edges that changing colour in moss stitch leaves

I also used Jen Geigley’s GAP-tastic cowl pattern (free download from ravelry) which is basically just a large circular scarf knitted in moss stitch. I only referred to it at the beginning to know how many stitches to cast on. I did a short piece of swatching before casting on to check my tension. Unfortunately this was finished in the pub (hubby and I have an hour in the pub each week while the kids are at a club together) and I didn’t have the foresight to take a tape measure with me, so the swatch was evaluated by comparing stitches to our thumb widths and guesstimating (plus trying to remember the pattern instructions from memory as I’d not printed it out), so I’m not really sure you could say I followed the pattern, more was inspired by it.

another close up

another close up

In the end I had 134 stitches on 6.5 mm needles and I think I knitted 42 rows (if in doubt, stick to the Answer to Life the Universe and Everything, but really I was just trying to eek the most out of my 2 balls of yarn without leaving myself short). The pattern is for 131 stitches but that bugged me because whilst an odd number means that you can keep knitting alternating plain/purl stitches as you go round it also means that you end up with two stitches the same at the beginning/end of each row, so you’d have a stripe of matching stitches up going up the scarf marking the row ends. An even number of stitches makes the end product look right (if you’re bothered about these things, I suspect no one would ever notice if I’d used an odd number of stitches, but it really bothered me) but an even number of stitches means you have to pay attention and knit or purl two of the same stitches together each time you start a new row. It took me a couple of rows to figure out what was going on (I was out and about at the time), hence my row increased from 131 as in the pattern to 134. I used both balls of the Attimo for the cowl plus a leftover bit of some grey/blue yarn (band and details lost in the mists of time, I think it’s some wool/acrylic blend), which is less hairy and seemed the same chunkiness. I liked how the grey/blue looked with the other yarn, so I put a 4 row stripe of it 5 rows in from each side. As the Attimo yarn balls had been reduced to £2.40 each (from £3 something. the original price was obscured) this means this cost me under £5 to make, which I think is a bargain (if you discount all the knitting time, ha). Oh and the finished dimensions: a mere 7″ wide (not 15″ as the pattern suggests) and 53″ around, which I think is slightly longer than the pattern, so maybe I could’ve got a bit more width out of my yarn with more careful swatch measuring.

It got finished in about 10 days, which is quicker than I thought, due to me spending a day and a half in bed being ill and not feeling up to going downstairs to the sewing project I have on the go (sure sign of illness) but this is a good portable project that doesn’t require much brain power (knit, purl, knit, purl, knit, ….). (Except that The Boy cannot get his head around how you start a new row in circular knitting and got quite cross with me for it not making sense, it just aint lego).

Successful scarf for under coat on cold and windy day (I'm beginning to think the myseterious yellow glow is something to do with taking photo's near my front door)

Successful scarf for under coat on cold and windy day (I’m beginning to think the myseterious yellow glow is something to do with taking photo’s near my front door)

There is an obvious mistake variation I made. I started of on some cheap and cheerful circular needles from Lidl. They broke after a few rows, the plastic bit just pulled off the end of the needle it was attached to and obviously wasn’t going to stay back on. So I bought some new circular needles, Pony ones with interchangeable bamboo ends, that the woman in the shop said she uses all the time (even over her more expensive ones and for straight knitting as well as circular). I really like them and shall be buying more needles for them. Anyway, I decided I’d have to start the knitting again, so I pulled all the stitches off the broken needles and tried it on to check that the cowl was long enough (it didn’t seem so when bunched up on the needles). Then I realised I could pick them up on the new needles, so I did. At the time I was allegedly watching a fencing lesson and was fielding off comments from other non-knitting parents. I was concentrating on picking up my stitches, getting the purls and knits the right way around, knitting up dropped stitches and in all that excitement I didn’t notice until a couple of rows later that I’d picked them up twisted. So I then realised I was knitting a twisted loop, which I thought was a Moebius strip. Now, if this was a jumper knitted in the round that would be pretty catastrophic, but for a scarf that is meant to be worn looped twice around the neck, I decided I couldn’t be bothered ripping it all out and starting again that it would be fine. Plus I’m a maths geek, I like the idea of having a Moebius scarf, like a character in The Crow Road, one of my favourite books.

never mind the quality, check  out the length

never mind the quality, check out the length

Of course, once I finished, I realised it had a full twist in, not a half twist, so it isn’t a Moebius strip (and it isn’t a non-orientable surface, any fellow maths geeks may understand my disappointment). This is not really surprising as if I’d thought about it, as my stitches were hanging down from my needle, I had to have a multiple of a full number of twists. Making a proper Moebius scarf require a bit more thinking, hmm, maybe one for another day. (OMG, this page is from the home of mathematical knitting, I daren’t look, one for the Christmas holidays!) Also, the full twist is a bit bulky, it probably would’ve been best without it, but I’m not unpicking it now!


    Bonus fun maths idea’s (no really) to play around with at home:

Take a strip paper, put a twist in, glue/tape the ends back together. You now have your own moebious strip.

Things to try with your moebius strip:

Colour in one side of it.

Make another one by twisting the paper the other way. Are they the same?

What will happen if you cut it in half down the middle (ie think of it as a road and cut along the centre line)? Go ahead and try.

Now cut the result in half again.

Make a new moebius strip and cut it one third of the way across instead of in the middle.

Make a strip with 2 twists instead of 1, repeat all of the the above.

Now try with 3 twists.

Want more Moebius fun, check out this link for more ideas (or search for MoebiusMobius (the o should have an umlaut over it really) band/strip, but some hits will have quite a lot of techy maths stuff in, no, I don’t understand most of it either (not without sitting down with a pen and paper and some reference books), but the pictures are pretty).

Bonus photo of ridiculous fask mask option - for those of you who read through the maths ;)

Bonus photo of ridiculous face mask option – for those of you who read through the maths 😉

In the buff

So, as well as making the door stop yesterday I recovered a chair cushion in the same fabric. Pretty speedy (I just drew round the existing cushion, made by my mum) so I managed to get it done before the boy worked out what was going on and had any design input. Not really worth blogging about, but when I was tidying the large pile of rubbish of the chair today (see, finally doing some housework) in order to rehome it I found something I finished last week, can you tell what it is?

cushion and "buff"

cushion and “buff” – at a jaunty angle that I have neither the time nor patience to sort out

I started it 3-4 years ago when I was in a knitting phase. I was knitting lots of hats in chunky yarn
at the time and decided I wanted to make a buff/circular scarf thing. Someone told me to use sock yarn, the thinner ply makes a more buff like fabric. I bought a skein of Juno sock yarn, I think it’s hand dyed, it’s a subtly variagated purple/heather thing. It was quite expensive but I was reassured it would go a long way. It did. Eventually.

In Action

In Action

I knitted it in the round on 4 needles, a 2 in 2 rib, I presume I did a tension swatch. Easy knitting but it took sooooo looooong. At one point I was made to make the boy something similar, in double knit (much quicker), which has recently been replaced. Then it got put down for a couple of years. Then started again on a train journey, where I discovered lots of dropped stitches and had to pick them up. So the end result is not amazing quality. The tension varies a bit in places and those picked up stitches on a train don’t look so pretty. But I finished it!

Working scarf, could be drapier

Working scarf, could be drapier

In fact the main issue I had was deciding when to cast it off. It’s 7″ long in the end, not as long as a “proper” buff but also no where near as thin so I thought that was enough. Then I had to rediscover how to do the stretchy cast off – but in this thin yarn it looks a bit loopy and messy, probably my knitting. Then it was done, no seams, yay for knitting in the round.

It’s a bit baggy in the end, wish I’d done my initial calculations better back in the day. And it’s not very drapey when worn as a scarf. But tis done, finally, and I’m not ripping it and starting again now!

Doubled over as a headband

Doubled over as a headband

Knit Knat Knoo

Well, knitting myself some fingerless gloves prompted two different reactions from my kids. First my daughter found me knitting. She demanded to know what I was doing and upon finding I was knitting something for myself looked cross and indignant, then lost interest and wandered off. Her older brother had a different approach. He didn’t object to my knitting but politely insisted that I had to knit something for him next. He decided it needed to be a replacement Scarfy.

At this point I better explain what a scarfy is. It all started when I was trying to knit myself a circular scarf thingy, inspired by my buff. I bought some hand dyed indigo sock yarn and tried to knit it in the round. I never got far, partly due to impatience at knitting with such fine yarn. And partly due to a small boy (age 4 at the time), demanding I knit him a tubular scarf, with yellow and red stripes going up and down it and a green stripe around the top and bottom. He was very insistant and scarfy was duly knitted. It turned out kind of like a wide headband that could be worn around the neck but he mainly wore it over his ears (someone told him that he looked like a cool ski dude like this. He had no idea what it meant but was pleased.) He wore it a lot his first year at school, often in the classroom. Little sister had a purply version made with sequins. Hers is still around somewhere, his has gone astray at some point.

Well, I agreed to make a new scarfy after I’d finished my mitts and together went through my inherited yarn stash, mainly acrillic double knit, and to my surprise he chose a rather tasteful green, red and gold variagaited yarn that is very autumnal. On reflection I think he didn’t want to miss out on variagated yarn, as my mitts were also in a variagated yarn. I insisted on chosing a matching dark slightly bluey green to border it, to capatilise on the tastefulness.

Knitting the Scarfy was straightforward, the main piece is just garter stitch and there’s not many stitches to a row, so it’s plain sailing. Initially I cast on 20 stitches, but after a few rows I decided that would be too wide with a border as well, so I ripped it and started again with 16. My main problem was that I couldn’t find any straight needles vaguely the right size so I ended up using circular ones (but knitting back and forth with them rather than in the round) and the loop kept getting in the way. Anyway, you just knit to the desired length, remembering that it needs to be stretched when on (I forgot this and his ended up a bit baggy, I had complaints and had to shorten it).

When the main band was finished, I picked up stitches along each edge in turn, one stitch for every 2 rows (easy with garter stitch) and did 3 rows of 1 in 1 rib before casting off with Jenny’s surprisingly stretchy bind off. Then there’s one short seam to sew up and voila, a new Scarfy to keep out the autumn chills (and make sure you’re not missing out).

Today, after a couple of weeks of wearing and a week missing in action it finally turned up and I got some photo’s to show you before it’s lost again.



A slightly calmer shot

A slightly calmer shot

Side view

Side view

Of course, this then prompted a fit of jealousy from little sister. So for reasons to complicated to go into I said I’d make her a headband with flowers on. I chose some blue from the stash (a thin ply that I knit double) that reminded me of a t shirt that really suits her which is also covered in felt flowers. This time the rows were even shorter (12 stitches) and quicker to knit up, plus I didn’t border it, so no picking up stitches and I soon had a headband.

I searched the wonderful web for flower patterns and found this free Gerbera pattern from ODD Knit (this site is fantastic and has lots of small quick projects to use odds and ends of yarn up). A gerbera seemed a good choice as the flower needs to be flat to fit on a headband, and the simple daisy style shape will be accepted as suitably flowerey by a 5 year old.

For the pattern, you knit the petals one at a time, but the last stitch of each one is used to make the first stitch of the cast on for the next petal, so they end up linked together in a chain. The petals are knit sideways, you cast on, knit 4 short rows (to shape the petal), then cast off and start again. I found the cast on the longest part. As the cast on and cast of edges curl inwards and are clearly visible, a method of casting on using a crochet hook called the Bind Off Cast On is used, so that both sides of the petal look the same. I hadn’t come accross this before but found this description, also by ODD Knit, easy to follow. I also came accross a U tube link, but I juch prefer written instructions with clear illustrations that I can take at my own pace to video’s. The only thing I’m not sure about is that the instructions seem to say that you need to take your crochet hook out of the yarn loop and reinsert it the other way each time. After a while I got bored and stopped doing this. I didn’t notice a change in appearance and it sped up the cast on.

A chain of petals

A chain of petals

I only knit 10 petals rather than 32 as in the pattern, as I wanted them to lie flat and not be in two layers like the gerbera in the pattern, plus I was impatient. Ten just felt about right. I knit two flowers, one in a yellow yarn and one in the variagated yarn to match her brothers scarfy (they appreciate that kind of detail). The flowers are quite big in relation to the headband so two was plenty. On reflection I should maybe have played around a bit and adapted the petals to be shorter and fatter. I didn’t knit the inner part of the flowers or the stalks, just the petals. Instead I used buttons for the centres. She had great fun rearranging my button collection (i.e. spreading it all over the table, taking sets ouf packets and mixing them up etc.) and chose two buttons. They weren’t my first choice, but she hadn’t had any say in the yarn colours so this was the compromise.

First flower sewn on, centreless

First flower sewn on, centreless

I sewed the base of each petal onto the headband to secure each flower and added a button centre.

The finished headband

The finished headband

I think the petals would be improved by being shorter and fatter, but I’m happy enough with it and she seems pleased too. Well, she does when I’m not trying to take her photo.
I'm doing this under duress

I’m doing this under duress

But I can't stay cross for long, I'm going to a birthday party tomorrow

But I can’t stay cross for long, I’m going to a birthday party tomorrow

I can be scary too!

I can be scary too!