Friday, 23 October 2009

Baby Birthdays - part 1; or Items from the Archive

Quite amazingly it transpires that my niece, Clarissa, is 1.  I'm really not entirely sure what happened to the last year, particularly as I haven't yet got round to blogging about the sampler that I made for her as a birth gift.  So, in honour of her 1st birthday, here is the sampler, a year late.

This was my first cross stitch project in a long time and my first ever sampler (there's an unfinished Beatrix Potter squirrel cross stitch lurking somewhere at my parents' house, disgarded about 15 years ago.  I'd happily finish it, if it ever surfaced).  This pattern came from Moira Blackburn who has a really lovely collection of classic sampler patterns.  The historical goon in me appreciates the fact that old samplers often missed the letter 'I' because 'I' and 'J' were interchangeable.  The sampler that I did for Clarissa follows that rule - I wonder if she will ever notice!

I enjoyed working on the project.  It did take months and months to do, though.  And, in the process, it became very well travelled, visiting Hawaii and New York with me during the spring and summer of 08.  I got lots done while staying in NYC as I tried to keep out of my host's way in the evening so worked on the sampler in my room whilst watching endless 'Law and Order: SVU' (very addictive and a good contrast to days spent in the library).  I'd love to try a larger sampler at some point but it has become increasingly clear to me that the reason my grandmother was such an embroidery/tapestry goddess was that she didn't work and had all the time in the world!  I hope she'd be a little bit proud of my efforts, though.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Summer fruits

Some recent fruits of the garden...

'Black Beauty' aubergine

Brandywine tomato with assorted (smaller) others behind
A cat 'growing' in an empty bit of vegetable bed (can't you just see the vitamin D production underway?)

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Soggy Early August

Despite the best efforts of the British summer, the garden has done some growing. The view above is the one that greets us as we come down our back stairs and open the garden door. The weather was very overcast when I took these this morning but the flowers still manage to shine. And the wet weather goes some way to explain the untrimmed grass!

The flowerbed at the back is looking very bright. I'm looking forward to the clematis which I've grown around the tree stump coming into flower, although that may not happen until next year. Amongst the flowers are 3 small 'Tophat' blueberry plants. These have not exactly yielded a bumper crop. The five solitary blueberries still look lovely, though! I'm going to re-pot them over the winter and move them to the other end of the garden as I suspect they need more sun.The veg bed is doing well. From this view you can see runner beans with butternut squash and a small courgette plant in front of it. Some cabbages, giant purple sprouting broccoli, then beyond that tomatoes. There are also chard and leeks which you can't see, plus lots of salad and french beans in pots near the house.
The runner beans are 'Liberty' and I think the red against the green looks wonderful, even in such flat light. Hope they taste as good!
The new neighbours have been nice, and very impressed by the work we did in the garden. One of the women lived here a few years ago, so knows what it looked like before! She has grown some tomatoes on her side (you can see some of them in the far left of the picture at the top of this post). Apparently, they have amazing beans in Bulgaria and she has promised to bring me some for next year (although, given the quick turnover of people in the downstairs flat, who knows how long she'll stick around, but I hope she does - it's great to have someone take an interest).

Friday, 8 May 2009

Come in to the garden

For a joyous 4 months at the beginning of this year we were blessed with an empty ground floor flat. This meant that, apart from not being disturbed by noisy neighbours, we also had the garden to ourselves.

To recap, this is what we found when we bought the house in 2007:

After some cutting and clearing last year, the addition of a new fence and the introduction of a raised bed, things began to look much better.

However, I had been unsure how much work to do on the garden since it is technically shared by the downstairs flat as well. Our last neighbours took no interest in it at all. Thus, whilst we had it to ourselves I decided to try and improve it to the point that we could take pride in it and, when we come to sell, it might not actually put people off! Plus, I thought if we made a show of caring for the garden the new neighbours might too.

So in January Miles and I with stoic help from my Dad pulled down all the overhanging creeping vine and chopped down as much as we could of the dead tree. Which left us with this:

We then spent a couple of weeks burning that giant pile in our new incinerator bin - very exciting!

Then this spring I've been adding in more flowers and introduced a container garden on the raised shelf at the back (it is filled with soggy gravel from its previous life as a pond/bog so I thought it was probably easier to put things on top rather than to try and clear it out. Miles lugged 3 enormous paving slabs up and down the stairs then across the garden which are what the middle pots are now sitting on). This is how it's looking this morning in the sunshine that followed the rain.

There is now much-needed colour in the garden which makes a huge difference. I'm planning to add more pots and plants throughout the year. The azalea and pansies are the stars at the moment:

Like every other gardener out there, I'm keen to get going with the major vegetable planting. Salads etc are doing well but I'm waiting to let my collection of triffids (or should that be tomato plants?) outside. Currently they are on our dining table wondering if the humans will make a good dinner...

Friday, 6 February 2009

Cardie conundrum

I am really excited about my Buttony cardie. The yarn is lovely, the fit is good and it's going to be great for the kind of proper wintery weather we've been having lately. All was going well until, half-way down the second arm I ran out of yarn. I am really baffled by this as I KNOW I had enough yarn. I originally bought 7 skeins (700g) of this yarn and the sweater only just weighs 500g so problem one - where are the other skeins??

I turned my yarn storage boxes upside down at New Year and couldn't see hide nor hair of them. So, I did what any sensible person would do, I ordered 2 more skeins. The yarn is from so has to come all the way from Uruguay. This took a few weeks, then, on Tuesday morning the package finally arrived, so I wound myself a ball and started up knitting again.

Now, the moral of the story so far is two-fold: 1) don't lose your yarn in the first place and 2) don't assume hand-dyed yarn from September 2007 will match the same colour-way dyed in late 2008, plus, don't knit half a sleeve, sitting on the sofa in bad light watching telly as it may well be days before you notice this little problem!

So I find myself here:
with a half a sleeve (on the right) darker and less varigated. This flash-bleached picture gives you an idea of how much the two different dye-lots contrast.
The problem is too pronounced to just let it go, so my question is, what do I do?

Do I have yet another look for the original skeins? (Did that this morning. Result: no skeins, but I did find the docking wire for my Zen and my mobile phone holder!)
Or, do I shorten both sleeves and make them 3/4 length? (I'm sure this would look fine but it makes the jumper much less practical)
Or, do I rip back both sleeves (boo hoo) and knit them again, doing one round with the original yarn and one round with the new yarn and trust that they'll blend together (and not look too odd next to the colour of the body)?
Or, do I email the suppliers and see if they'll dye some more for me (and thus give up on wearing the jumper this year since I'll have to wait ages for the delivery)?

Any advice greatly appreciated!

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Puff Daddy in da House

For my friend Noel's birthday present I made a lovely, quick gift - the Puff Daddy. It is a little scarf which fastens by passing a large pompom through a keyhole opening.
I made it with two strands held together, one of Colinette Graffiti in Velvet Plum and one a very boring purple 100% wool aran weight yarn that I had lurking in the stash. The scarf is very warm as, thanks to the giant i-cord construction, it comes out double thickness. Noel seems very pleased with it and has even modeled it for her office! Thanks Noel for the pictures.

I can't wait to do another one: I think I can improve upon it by using some Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran for the second strand, which would make the scarf softer overall. I also saw an excellent mega version on Ravelry, where the size had been increased to make a large neck warmer rather than a scarflet.

Picture by Yarnzillaonline.

This is a great project for this time of year - you can make it in one sitting so it will keep you warm as near to instantaneously as knitting will allow!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy New Year!

The New Year, full of promises... Like finishing this Buttony jumper, and posting 4 months of backlogged projects...

I blame having to go to an office everyday for the chronic disruption to blogging service.

Anyway, a Happy New Year to all from me and my sleepy cat.