Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Pratghan square for Mort

So it's only 25 days late but I finally finished the afghan square that I am doing for the Terry Pratchett book 'Mort'. Here's the passage from the book that inspired the piece:

"Light on the Discworld moves slowly because of the vast magical field. Light on the Discworld isn't like light elsewhere. It's grown up a bit, it's been around, it doesn't feel the need to rush everywhere. It knows that however fast it goes darkness always gets there first, so it takes it easy.
Midnight glided across the landscape like a velvet bat. And faster than midnight, a tiny spark against the dark world of the Disc, Binky pounded after it...They moved in silence. Ysabell took one arm from around Mort's waist and watched sparks glitter around her fingers in all eight colours of the rainbow"

And here is the finished square (excuse the squiffy edges but it was bit crumpled after being in my work bag). I have to admit that Mort isn't one of my favourite books. Shocking I know. It seems to be one that loads of people love but it just doesn't do it for me. That's not to say that I dislike it in any way, it's just that I find it easier to get more excited about other books in the series. Even after re-reading the book there wasn't anything that really stood out for me so I sat down and had a look at the list of books and the list of characters that I want to make sure I include and it suddenly came to me that really this square HAD to have Binky on it (Deaths horse). Once I'd worked out that much the rest was kind of easy as the scene that immediately sprung into my mind was the one where they try to outride the dawn. So I sat down and tried to intarsia a horse.
It was an exceedingly steep learning curve it has to be said. Not much else to recommend on that front.
After creating the most hideous lumpy looking not-a-horse-at-all thing I gave up and decided to cheat a bit and cut Binky out of some sparkly felt that I had. This then presented the next problem which was finding a picture of a horse I could copy. Luckily my illustrated copy of 'The Hobbit' was on hand so I stared at that for a bit and freestyled it from there. Binky came out a little bit lumpy but at least he was recognisable as a horse so I rolled with that.
I then knitted the dress and arm for Ysabell from some nice squooshy alpaca and Mort's cape from some black wool. The rest of the detail was added on by hand and stitched in. I added in the scythe and life-timer as an afterthought as I had some free room in the bottom corner.
All in all I'm pretty pleased with the way this square turned out considering I am impartial to the book. Next one to tackle is 'Sorcery'. And I only have three days in which to do it... (eek).

Monday, 23 February 2009

In other news

I had to work this weekend so I haven't been terribly productive craft wise but there are a few things that are now progressing along nicely that I thought I'd just mention here so as to tantalise those that are in the know.
Firstly I got my first batch of crocheted afghan squares off into the post. These are going to one of my TSG buddies as a big 'Well done' for working out and getting fit. In fact she gets one each time she checks in to say she's been pumping iron or doing star jumps. Each square is only 2.25 x 2.25" across but they are really sweet once they've been blocked. I'm making them out of some squooshy purple alpaca that I had in my stash which is lovely to work with so I'm getting a lot of enjoyment out of making them. I'm making them in batches of 15 which makes a piece of blanket that is approximately 1' by 6" (okay so its 11.25 x 6.75" for all you that want precision on this). According to Wikianswers a double or full sized bed in the states is 54 x 75" so that makes...24 by 33 squares which gives a total of 792 squares.
Hmmm, not sure I'll be making quite that many but I think a half size spread to go across the bottom of the bed or around someones shoulders would be achievable. That' s only about 396, so say a round 400 to make and 15 squares took me no time at all really. Will have to keep a count somewhere on my blog maybe just to encourage me along though...just in case.
I have also finished off another small gift for my TSG swap buddy. The final parcel is starting to shape up nicely now. I am just waiting for some stuff to arrive in the post and I have something else that I want to knit but other than that I think that I have everything covered. I'm no sure how I will do the big reveal though- do I just put in a card? Or a picture maybe? Or how about a riddle? I guess that would depend on whether my buddy is into riddles or whether they'd prefer an easy answer. Extra stalking to be done there me thinks.
I'll miss the swap once it's all over but I have to say there is one thing that I am looking forward to and that is being able to put up pictures off all the projects that I have been working on. I use my blog and Ravelry as on-line diaries or journals so I have a record of all the things I've made. Not being able to put things up kinda makes my OCD itch a bit but I also forget every now and again that I have worked on things so when I go back and look at my projects I end up thinking that I haven't been making very much whereas I've actually been crafting pretty much constantly for the last three months or more.
The other thing that I have been racing along with is my Pratghan squares. I finally cast on for my Mort square and am oh so near to completion with that one. I had to knit some bits to be stitched on and am currently waiting for them to dry as they had to be blocked to stop the edges rolling. Once they are dry I just have some hand stitching to finish it all off- all the actual knitting is now done. I have also worked out what I am going to do for the Sorcery square but I have been prevented from casting on for that as I have no orange yarn in my stash. No idea why this should be the case- I have little bits of all the other colours I could possibly need but no orange. I had a major stash rummage and there's not a strand to be had in the house. I figured though that there was no point in buying a whole skein of something so I'm going to go through my knitting groups box to see what we have there. Hopefully there will be a little ball of something usable tucked away in a corner. With luck I might even be able to get this square finished off this month as well which would bring me neatly back onto track with my Pratghan squares project. Now that would be sweet.
I'm also trying to finish off the second half of my secret TSG project that I am working on but given that I have pulled it out 16 times so far and re-started it twice I'm not so sure that I will be getting it done. I have made some progress today though so I'll stick at it for a bit longer before deciding whether or not to give up on it.

Playing catch-up

So I'm behind with posting and now I need to overwhelm you with the other things that I finished off just over a week ago. Yet more scarves you'll be pleased to hear.
First up is Scarf #8 from my traveling scarf group.
Here's a shot of the entire scarf:

A very manly man scarf I think and I hope the wearer will like it. The combinations of greys work well together and the stitches make it interesting despite the subdued palette. I was a little surprised with just how nice this scarf looks- I didn't think that the grey/black scarves would look as nice as they do. Here's a close-up of my section:

I used a mock cable twist stitch. I really am falling in love with these. It does pull in a lot more than I wanted it to but the material is very flexible so I don't think that there will be a problem with blocking it out at all.

For my second triumph I completed the second-to-last section that I will ever knit on one of the traveling scarves that I am doing for the Red Sox group. I'm a bit perturbed about only having one left to do- it will be very sad when these are over though I'm kind excited about mine making the trip home soon (squee). It's been a good experience all round in fact, from moderating to knitting. I have to say that I am particularly proud of this scarf if only because I picked one of the more unusual stitch patterns from the Vogue Stitchonery and not only managed to work out how to do the stitch but also got it looking nice.
So here it is folks:Hopefully you can make it out from the picture. It's the Peacock pattern and has a combination of twist stitches and some funky extra long ones that you pull through a hole from about 4 rows below. I used Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino which is sooooooo nice to knit with. I used just over 1 skeins worth as I had to hold the yarn double in order to get the right tension which means that I have most of a ball left to make something for myself with.
And just to finish off with here's a little peek at this scarf so far:

Friday, 20 February 2009

Outgoing Igor thwap parcel

Phew, I've been so exhausted after last weeks marathon knit-and-posting session that despite having much to talk about this week I haven't managed to find the strength to type up a full blog post. Yesterday though I managed to get to to bed early AND do an hours meditation beforehand. Well, more like 45 minutes I think because at some point towards the end I was so relaxed that I fell asleep. Anyway, I am now feeling a bit more refreshed and able to deal with the strains of daily life so back to fun blog posts.
So the very first thing that I must show because I am still so proud if it that when I think about it it makes me little feet lift off of the floor is the Thcrapth toy that I knitted for my Igor thwap buddy. My parcel was a little bit less imaginative than the one I got. Most of the space was taken up by the balls of yarn that I dug out of my stash but I also put in a rubber spiders web, a spare plastic toe (I was all out of thumbs at the time of posting), a tin of safety pins, a little back of roving for needle felting and some kilt buckles (I just had to get them once I saw them in the shop) but my pièce de résistance just has to be Thcrapth. Thcrapth makes his appearance in the Discworld book 'Carpe Jugulum' and is described as 'appearing to be made mostly of slobber', hence the enourmous tongue.

Here he is folks. Thcrapth is made up of lots of different bits of dog- he's a sort of Frankenstein monster type pet but with a tendency to drool and get overexcited when he meets new people. He's the epitome of a Heinz 57 variety dog what with their quite literally being many different bits from different breeds in his make up.
The body is knitted as one piece in different colours and weight yarns with the stitches being added on afterwards along with the face and tongue. The ears, legs and tails (Thcrapth is supposed to have two tails btw it's not me going mad) were made separately and are attached with poppers to the body. I wrote up the pattern for him as well which includes three different kinds of ear and two different kinds of tail. The legs are all the same only you change the yarn to make them bigger and smaller and the stitch to make them smooth or nubbly. He's about 8" long in all so a fairly large sized toy but not so huge that he seems out sized. My favourite bit though was making some parts of him have long hair whilst others have short. I finally got to use my mini slicker brush that the best friend gave me ages ago to use on another toy (that is still languishing in my knitting basket half completed). Turns out that bamboo yarns produce a very short soft fur whilst acrylics give longer more tangled fur. That was a good experiment.

Friday, 13 February 2009

AMKG Igor Thpare partth thwap

My parcel for the Ravelry group 'Ankh-Morpork Knitter Guild' (we're talking Terry Pratchetts discworld series in case you are wondering) Igor Spare Parts swap arrived this week. Though really that should be 'thpare partth' as Igor talks with a lisp and one of the conditions of the swap was that we use Igor-speak in all our swap related communications.
For the swap we were partnered up with a buddy to whom we would send a parcel and receive one back in return. The premise was that we would send 'spare parts' so it was a stash swapping exercise though you could trade or add in other things if wanted. It was left to the pairs to communicate between each other as to what would be good things to send. My buddy and I have both been fairly relaxed about what we got. I think that we have both been having too much fun exploring the character of Igor and giggling over all the devious little gifts that we have been dreaming up to worry to much about what was going to be incoming. At least that's how I felt about it. I had just as much fun putting the parcel that I sent together as I did receiving one from my buddy.
So this is what I got through the post the other day, what with my buddy being just a bit more organised than I am.

The photo on the left is a picture of the parcel as it looked upon arrival and the one on the right is it after it has been stripped of its brown paper. Both the brown paper and box had stamps, stickers and Igor related messages all over them. The post-person must have thought it hilarious. The stamps are especially nice though as they are reproductions of Prachett stamps. Not only are they beautifully done but they are so geeky that it made my little heart sing.

Once I'd lifted the lid off of the groaning box (it was stuffed so full the lid had to be held on with rubber bands!) the top layer of goodies was exposed. First thing out the box was the squooshy rat with the wonderful little tag attached that says:
'Thorry about the thtowaway, he wanted to thee the big thity. Hith name ith Tharthons Malt'.

So this is what was in the first layer of the box- Tharthonth Malt (the rat), two skeins of Sirdar Illusion, some glow in the dark yarn (!), some little balls of odd colours for toy making (and Pratghan!), some instructions on how to crochet left handed (so thoughtful), a storage box full of even more treats (see next photo) and The Cunning Artificers Discworld Stamp Catalogue (guess where I'm headed next...).
Inside the storage box are 8 further smaller boxes. Starting top left to bottom left they contain: 'Bobth'- eyeball dpn protector in blue, 'Knitting Keeperth'- eyeball dpn protector in green, 'Needle holderth'- in a variety of sizes, 'Thitch markerth'.
From top right to bottom right: 'Bitth'- spare green eyes, 'Bobth'- small skeins of yarn for more toy making, 'Oddth'- chocolate eyeball, Black Bat plant seeds and tooth charm, and in the final box, my very owner click counter for counting up lightening strikes!

In the bottom layer was a plain canvas cloth bag (that I intend to personalise Ankh-Morpork style at some point), a lovely red striped wrap, a bag of wine gum type sweets labelled 'Thpare nutth and boltth', edible paper labelled 'Prethcription pad', strawberry laces labeled 'Thutcherth' and two syringe pens!
Oh my gosh, I nearly had palpitations after unpacking all of this I was so excited. It got even more exciting after I got a message from my buddy to say that the tooth had come from the pile used in the recent Sky1 adaptation of the Hogfather that came out in 2006. Squeeee!
What a great swap. I had so much fun. My parcel went to my buddy yesterday so I am now standing by nervously to see whether they like it as much as I liked mine.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

More output

Oh, and another thing...
I did something else at the weekend that I feel I should share with you. I was going to post about it yesterday but I thought I'd better just check that it was all okay before rubbing my little hands gleefully together and chuckling madly. So after a quick peek at it last night to make sure that I hadn't just felted into one giant mass I am now pleased to present the results of my first attempt at dying yarn.The set was sent to me by my wondrous TSG swap buddy for Christmas and I've been meaning to have a play for ages and ages and ages.

Included in the set was a skein of Zitron Trekking un-dyed sock yarn, 3 packs of Kool Aid- orange, green and purple, some gloves and a full set of instructions detailing no less than four different methods. I chose to use the good old microwave method which proved to be exceptionally easy. All I did was tie my skein in two places so that there were long sections at either end and a short bit in the middle.
I dyed the short bit first with the purple dye and then either end with the other ones. It only took about an hour including the half hour soaking that I gave the yarn first.
The only bit that I didn't do so well was that I didn't dilute the dye well enough to begin with. I ended up with really concentrate juice mixes that the yarn just slurped up as I was pouring it on which led to the top getting lots of colour but the underside only getting a little. This meant that the end results came out a bit patchy. You can see the difference in the colour if you look at the long green segments (ignore the big white bits either side of the purple as that's where I tied the skein off). So next time I'll know to use more water to dilute with if I want a solid colour all through the section.
In this instance though I do think that this will actually work in my favour. The patchiness of the colour will help to tone it down so that the resultant socks aren't eye-wateringly bold. They'll be bright, but a bit more subtle than they might otherwise have been. I can't wait to see what the yarn looks like once its been knitted. What I was hoping for was that I'd get wide green and orange stripes separated by narrow purple ones (so wide green, narrow purple, wide orange, narrow purple and so on). I'm going to have to resist the urge to cast on with this yarn though until I have all the other stuff out of the way. But the curiosity is building and it smells so yummy and sweet after the dying. Must. resist. must...

Monday, 9 February 2009

A most productive weekend

I managed to get a whole pile of things done this weekend including 2 of my 4 traveling scarves which made me very happy. These have now gone off in the post- so that's about half the weight that is on my mind gone. I also completed one swap gift so that leaves me with 2 traveling scarves and one and a bit swap gifts left to do. Except I need to get them done by the end of the week. And I have someone coming to stay for a couple of nights this week.
But, lets not think of things like that. Let us instead concentrate on all the things I did get done. First things first, I got my next Traveling scarf done-

My section is the one on the top left. I just did another easy stitch pattern for this section- it's called 'little scales' or some such. It basically involves a bar pick up that you then pass over the next two stitches after you have knitted them. The finished pattern is very subtle and I think fits in quite well with what has gone before.
The next thing that I got completed was another traveling scarf but this time for my Red Sox group.
My section again on the top left. Apologies for the terrible lighting in these pictures by the way. I was trying to be a bit more exciting with my photography and I think I have failed terribly. Anyway, I love the stitch that I used for this scarf. It has some of those right twist stitches that I love doing so much where you knit into the second stitch from the end, then the first and then drop both off together. They give a lovely smooth twist effect in a mock cable style.
I also made stitch markers:
These are for some of my TSG ladies to go on their scarves. I sent off the purple ones today and the pink ones go with the next scarf.
My swap gift that I finished off I can't show you as it's a secret one which is a shame as I am particularly pleased with it and the way I finished it off. I did manage to get a large chunk of another swap gift finished off. I really want to gloat about that too but there are still plenty of bits for it to be done and I want to give it before posting any pictures.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Snow daze

More snow today- this was the view from my office window first thing this morning:
First the to the left
And then to the rightIt was snowing heavily at the time the pictures where taken hence they look so grey and miserable instead of twinkly and wondrous like snow normally does. The snow has since settled down into light flurries and the sun has come out but students have decimated the front lawn of the building and much of the snow on the pavements and roads has turned into grey and brown slush.
Just for a moment this morning though I had one of those blissful little seconds when it feels as though the whole world has emptied of people, all the noise and rubbish gets eliminated and you can just be. Be in a little space, a little bubble of time that is just perfect in every way. I stood outside the building and stared up at the snow falling, watching the fat flakes swirl down from the sky and then whip along the edges of the building as the wind caught them up and tumbled them away. It was wonderful. My whole brain just focused on watching the snow; all I could see was snowflakes, all I could hear was my own breathing, all I could taste was the air and all I could smell was the sharp tang of ice. If it wasn't for the fact that all I could feel was cold I'd probably have managed to held onto that feeling for more than a second but snowflakes falling down the back of your neck have a way of dispelling any little magical moments one might be having.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

We finally got some snow too

I love snow. I love playing snow, jumping in snow, throwing snow. I love the squeaky noise it makes as I crush it with the soles of my wellies. I love the way it dampens sound and makes the air feel still. I love the way it sparkles in the sunlight. I love the way it coats everything like icing and most of all, I love the way it drifts down from the sky in great big swirls, like honey running off the end of a spoon.
So you can imagine just how excited I was this morning when the husband peeped out the window and exclaimed 'it's snowed!'. Yay! Happy dance from me. Except it was more like a happy snuggle as I was still under the duvet at that point and enjoying the fact that the husband wasn't as we had spent all night fighting over the blankets. I had lost on nine out of ten occasions so having a whole king sized duvet was just bliss.
Ten minutes later I was just starting to stretch and climb out of my warm little pit. I had plans to build a snow-insect out on the front lawn of work but the husband arrived back in the bedroom with even more good news. Work had called to tell him he didn't have to go in. Even though I still had to go to work (there's no way I'll ever get a snow day unless 8 foot of snow falls all at once) it now meant that we were no longer in a rush to get in. Which meant snowball fights, building of snow ladies and drawing of big happy faces.
The first thing we did though was get the cats fed and let them out into the garden. Hoshi was so funny- we had to stand and watch her for a few minutes. Neither cat had seen proper snow before. The smattering we had the other day just doesn't count. Fenway was deeply suspicious and tried to avoid touching it as much as possible. Hoshi on the other hand pranced round the garden, chased snowflakes, hunted the snow despite the fact it was just lying there all passive and cold and dug holes and tunnels through it. What exactly caught her eye I don't know but it was more fun than watching her chase butterflies (which is a good laugh as well) as the snow stayed put rather than escaping by cunningly flying higher than 4 foot above the ground. Within ten minutes the back garden was covered in little paw prints and looked like an entire family of snow moles had been at work.
After that we made big mugs of steaming hot coffee and kitted ourselves up with hats, gloves, boots and big thick coats. We got out on to the cul-de-sac in front of our house at about 7:15 am. We were the first ones out- only one car had driven through the snow so it was almost perfect. We promptly started a snowball fight between the two of us and ran up and down the road giggling. At least two mums assumed that we were kids out playing and opened their doors to find out which schools had already been shut. Luckily everyone on our road is used to us doing things like this so we got nice smiles and a quiet chuckle or two in response.
I had to leave at eight in order to get to work in time but we managed to clear all the snow off the car for using in snowballs and I made a little lumpy snowman to sit on our bin lid before rushing back indoors to get changed. A brilliant start to the day in my mind and one that I hope to get to repeat tomorrow!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

February swap gift

It's mmmmmmmmalabrigo. And gosh is it nice.
This is the first skein of this kind of yarn that I have ever had the pleasure of owning and now all I can think is 'why haven't I ever bought any of this before?'. I mean- the colour, the softness, the colour, the wonder of it all, and the colour! Did I mention the colour yet? Its going to be socks for me. It has been decided. Squooshy purple socks :)

Gosh, it's been like, a week already

I can't think what I have just done with myself for a week- it feels as though all that time has been sucked into one great big black hole. Maybe it's because I have had a lot of work work to do. I was in work all day Saturday and I stayed until about 9pm on Monday. This is on top of being in at 7:30 every morning. Which may also go some way to explaining the slightly fuzzy feeling I have in my head right now (though that could be explained equally as well by the lack of coffee this morning).
So let me think, what else has happened? Hmm, Sunday was a lazy day. I spent most of my time asleep or trying to get some knitting done. Actually that's been a big frustration recently- my knitting. For some reason I'm struggling to get things done. I do have a major stack of back logged knitting (especially traveling scarves which all seem to have turned up at once) to try and get through this week but every time I start something I just end up throwing it down again in disgust. I've been attempting to get this one particular scarf done for about six days now and I must have frogged it back about 18 times. I have managed a couple of positive steps but they have only been tiny ones. I did complete a gift for one of my swap buddies and I made a start on the other one that I wanted to do but that's it. It has mostly been frogging for me.
What else, well, the gardens far to cold to go out in and I can't get to shed anyway because I haven't gotten around to putting in a path yet and if I walk on the grass it will kill it. My orchids are doing just fine thank-you-very-much without any interference from me (I like to think that they are rather snooty plants). It's not yet time to get the seed trays out and I can't plan my vegetable patch until the fence has been fixed. So no green fingered things going on.
What does that leave? Reading and playing computer games. I have done some of that but it's been rereading of Terry Pratchett books for my afghan project and a little bit of Wii-ing.
Seems I did more sleeping and working than I though then!