Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lessons learnt by knitting

Stripes seem to be the new "in" look for shawls and other knits at the moment. I jumped on the bandwagon with the (free) Sencillo Shawlette.

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It was not the most enjoyable knit with 3 balls going at once - tangles, tangles, tangles. I tried all sorts of things to make the knitting easier but nothing seemed to help. It should have been a mindless garter stitch easy knit but ended up being just plain frustrating.

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I wanted to make myself a hot pink/black shawlette. But the yarn store didn't have what I wanted - the hot pink was only in a very expensive merino but no matching black. So I settled for John Q 4ply, a cheap alternative in a much more subtle colourway of lilac.

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The colour is pretty enough, but despite being purple, not really me. The yarn was scratchy and knit at a loose gauge looks "holey" in places rather than "fabulous drape". It improved a little with blocking but I will never buy this yarn again. I'm probably being overly harsh after being spoiled by so many lovely yarns from France, it's definitely an OK shawl, but just not what I wanted.

What should have been a nice relaxing knit was anything but. And now after all that yarn (about 400m) and time, I don't think I would ever wear it. The only consolation is that I think DH's Granny would like it so at least I have one thing off my Xmas knitting list.

Lesson 1: Don't settle for the cheap stuff. You deserve better.
Lesson 2: Read the pattern before you buy/cast on.
Lesson 3: Knitting with 3 balls at once sucks.

Now, I am not the only knitter in my house. Little Miss 9 is doing a great job with her little garter stitch projects (which I must blog). Moving on from little things her Nan found her a pattern for a simple child's scarf - garter stitch with a contrast edge, where the ends are folded up to make pockets. This seemed like the ideal "next step" project - still just knit stitch that she knows but an actual item, and something requiring a bit more effort and time.

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She started this in January. It languished for a long time until the knitting fairies visited last month and finished off the 2nd ball of yarn.

At this point DD wisely decided "it would do" - we had another ball yet to go (some 14ply unlabelled 100% wool we found at the last knitworld sale) but the thought of all that knitting (extra length required for pockets) was just too much. So a shorter pocket-less scarf it is.

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This scarf has lots of personality and design enhancements, as first projects often do.

Lesson 4: Scarves are not ideal projects for beginners. They take ages. Even bulky 14ply ones. Next time we'll be looking for something with instant gratification points. If you have any suggestions leave a link in the comments :)

So there you have it. Sometimes the knitting is about the project and sometimes it's about the process. There's always something to take away from every project.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

FO: Slouch Hat

We've just spent a few days away in the lovely Bay of Islands.

Bay of Islands

It's so beautiful. We lived up there four years ago when M4 was born. We caught up with some old friends, and enjoyed seeing what has changed, and what hasn't in the years since we last visited. We stayed at a luxury holiday home in Russell for some true pampering - spa on the deck and it's own tranquil garden filled with native birds. Bliss!


This beach at Paihia used to feature in my old blog's header. It was too cold and windy for much of a paddle so we did most of our sightseeing from inside the car. Elsewhere in the country got the worst snow in 15 years so I shouldn't really complain ;)


On the way home we took a detour via the Tutukaka Coast which was equally as stunning. The road from Hikurangi to Sandy Bay is really windy and has the same rating on the vomit-o-meter as the Takaka Hill so be warned!


Some fresh air, a picnic on the beach and some shell collecting soon soothes the sore tummy though. Absolutely gorgeous scenery, we will have to go back in summer and take advantage of the lovely beach and rock pools.


I wore my newest knit - Slouch hat by Celia Ng. This was a test knit for a fellow down under designer which was a quick and fun knit. The cabled band is really cute and there is just enough slouch at the back.

Slouch hat

I made it in Misti Alpaca Tonos Worsted which was stunning to knit and sooooo soft. It's Merino/Alpaca with just the slightest of halos which didnt detract from the cable, and the handpainted colours are gorgeous. This colourway is called Tealing Blue and is really like a rich sea green/blue. Dragon button from Spotlight. The pattern will go up soon once testing is finished, but if you are looking for a nice new hat for winter, I highly recommend this one!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Feeling Blessed

Leaving friends is sad and hard.

As a farewell gift the lovely Deb gave me a quilt. A QUILT! I've never had a quilt before and will treasure it forever. It's been on our bed since we arrived here. Deb wrote a lovely blog post about it here - she describes how special all the fabrics are, and it makes me love it even more knowing she used all her bestest fabrics for it. Thank you honey. We will miss you and your lovely children.

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While we travelled up the country to get to the new house we stayed a night with the awesomely talented Christine. I got to admire her impressive craft ROOM, catch up with some online friends, spend an evening chatting and knitting and hanging out with C. Our kids and her kids had a ball and I hope we can catch up again sometime soon. Christine gave me some scrumptious black bunny fibre "apollo" (gold sparkle base) fingering yarn. It is so me - purple, purple, purple. I can't wait to find the perfect pattern to show it off. She also gave me a jar of handmade woolwash which I am looking forward to trying.

DH got his fair share of goodbye gifts and cards from friends and colleagues (and something from every class in the school!) plus one of these t-shirts which I might have to steal for myself!

And then (yes there's more)....

Last month I entered a competition on the Joy of Yarn group on Ravelry. It was a "feeling good" competition where you had to say what made your happy - my post was about moving and making a fresh start. And I was lucky enough to be one of the winners!!! James so kindly let me choose 2 skeins - one of the merino mania sock yarn which I love and have used here and here, and one of the brand new awesome alpaca. Here are the skeins I chose:

Purple = Heliotrope on the alpaca. Super soft and a lovely soft blend of purples and grays. Orange/red is Heart Light on the merino and I am imagining it as something summery and light.

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So despite the sadness of leaving, there is joy in new beginnings and having special things to remember friends by. I feel blessed.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New Home

We made it to the new house, an epic 12ookm journey from quake ridden Christchurch in the South Island to the "winterless north" near the top of the north island. For those with some NZ geography knowledge we are living in the Kaipara district.

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It's very rural - view from the back of the house. The neighbours are grazing their goat in our back yard - the kids think this is just great. There is also a grapefruit tree out the back.

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Rural views from the front of the house too! I think this city girl will take a bit to get used to this all. The weather is pretty warm compared to what we're used to, the spring flowers are out in full force.

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The house itself is a basic little weatherboard. Our 13y old Puddy has taken yet another move in his stride, and has been out exploring the outside already.

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We were a little more worried about our diva cat who we found abandoned at our old house, but she too, seems to be unfazed - home is where your peoples are apparently.

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The house has lots of space, 3 good sized bedrooms, lots of storage and bench space. The interior decorating leaves a bit to be desired in some places like this truly delightful wallpaper in the kitchen but as the house is several hundred dollars a week cheaper in rent than what we were paying in Christchurch we find we can live with it ;) House ownership suddenly seems a whole lot closer.

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It feels like home once you get the important stuff unpacked and you make yourself a little knitting corner. (Current knitting project some socks in Slytherin self striping, various languishing WiPs in basket).

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The fourth bedroom is quite small and doesn't have carpet so DH and I are fighting over it at present. He is threatening to move in his gym gear but I beat him to it and bought some bookcases and started to turn it into a craft room, or at least, a craft corner.

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It's lovely to have some yarn on display. I'm in a purple phase at the moment - the shelf features some new yarns acquired on the trip up (a little stop at The Wool Company in Taihape for some Utiku DK in Prussian Purple - bottom right corner), and some other bits and pieces I have had stashed for several years (including the Green Mountain Spinnery - Mountain Mohair that Peaceful Knitter sent me many moons ago). There is also a skein of Dream in Color Everlasting Sock (top right) I recently treated myself to and some 12ply I handdyed myself (bottom left corner).

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There is space for yarn and books and magazines. Plus an empty shelf for future treasures.

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I also bought some purple fabric boxes for storing other bits and bobs including paper craft supplies and beads etc. It's not everything *cough* but it makes me happy to see some of it nicely stored and on display.

Thank you to everyone who sent their well wishes for our big move and for those CHCH friends who gave us several weeks of lovely (though sad) goodbye playdates and parties. I look forward to catching up with some north island friends once I catch my breath.