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Sunday, 17 February 2019

Our garden in February

I'm starting a serious of photos "Our garden in...." with one post a month, documenting our garden  over the seasons. I need a photography project to get me back into taking photos, a hobby that I used to love. 

In February, as our garden comes back to life, I hope that my passion for photography does too. 

In February, we are starting to see the appearance of daffodils....

In February we are excited to see that our Hydrangea is showing signs of new life....

 In February our raspberry bush that we thought was no more has these tiny new shoots.....

In February the Primrose is in full flower again...

In February the 'Red Robin' is sporting these rather lovely looking buds....

In February, our sweet pea that I planted far too late last summer has grown some new leaves and curly tendrils, maybe it will even flower this year?

Professional Finishing Techniques- Black Sheep Wools

We've all been there.....spent hours (and hours) (and hours and hours) knitting something and when we get to finishing it off, sewing it up, jigsawing all the pieces together it looks a bit, well bleugh, and not at all reflective of the knitting time and effort you put in. 

When I first started knitting I mostly knitted toys. Lots of tiny individual components knitted flat which the needed sewing up. My seaming was so bad I always thought that it completely ruined the finished project. I never even thought of trying to knit a garment for this exact reason.

Fastforward five or so years and I am now slowly starting to build myself a handmade wardrobe. I have knit a Flax by Tin Can Knits (more on this in a future post) and a Carbeth Cardigan by Kate Davies. Flax is a seamless, top down design, knitted completely in the round (ie no seams) but the Carbeth Cardigan, whilst essentially knitted in one piece required picking up stitches for the button band, and around the top of the button band for the neck. It took me almost as long to add the finishing touches as it did to knit the whole thing. 

So far I have avoided garments requiring seams, garments requiring a provisional cast on, garments requiring proper button holes, as I thought my dodgy finishing techniques would not do the end product justice. 

Black Sheep Wools in Warrington run a course that covers all of the above and more. Perfect! Run by a knitting expert from Rowan, Nicole, we were guided through mattress stitch (mind-blowing) both for stitching side seams, and attaching sleeves, picking up around the neckline, button holes without any dodgy looking loopy bits, and shoulder shaping using short rows. We were taught how to make sure our decreased lean the right way, how to make an invisible increase (no more m1) and which cast on method is most suited to different types of project. I'm so glad to have mastered the provisional cast on for 1 x 1 rib. 

What Nicole really emphasised was that you really need to take your time. A cardigan that takes you two months to knit should not be sewn up on a Saturday evening in front of the TV with only your evening mood lighting to see by. To do a good job of it set aside a weekend, or an afternoon. Make sure your pieces are blocked and dry first. This aint a rush job. 

This course has not only given me the knowledge, but also the confidence to adapt techniques in patterns, change the cast on style, add some short rows for fit, change the shoulder shaping. I would definitely recommend to any frustrated knitters, like myself, where the end project never quite matches up to your expectations. There is another course soon- click here to have a look. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Finished Object- The Carbeth Cardigan by Kate Davies

This weekend I got to wear my finished Carbeth Cardigan by Kate Davies on a whistle stop tour to Amsterdam. Kate released the Carbeth jumper pattern in January, followed swiftly by the cardigan in February.  

I started this in Sept, finishing by the end of October. For someone with limited knitting time, 2 months on a garment means that this is one speedy knit. The main body took me a couple of weeks and each sleeve took me a weekend. What did take me the time was the finishing. The picking up for the button bands took me multiple attempts and I'm so glad I took my time on it as I'm really pleased with the fit and the finish. 

I used Kate's own yarn for this project, Buachaille,  which is a 2-ply, worsted spun 100% Scottish yarn, the Squall (natural dark grey). I  bought a Carbeth kit when Kate was running a newsletter subscriber discount offer. You can find the kit here. Two strands are held together when knitting. I had to go down a needle size to a 6mm for the main body in order to obtain gauge, and 5mm needles for the ribbing. 

Modifications: I made 3 modifications to this pattern. The first was very simple; I added a couple of inches onto the body as I whilst it is a cropped cardigan I have quite a long body and I didn't want it to be too short. My second modification was the ncckline. The pattern does not have any neck shaping, and when I tried it on it was a bit gappy at the back of the neck so I adecided to add some shortrows at the back.  Being my first cardigan, and only second garment and I've never done this before I thought I was pretty brave (or stupid) to attempt this. My knitting confidence has grown recently so I watched 30 seconds of a YouTube video on short rows and ploughed on.....till I realised that what I was doing was never going to work! Cue a  confidence knockback and an almost-tantrum...... Knitting can be the best and the most frustrating thing ever! We've all been there.... I took a few deep breaths, did a little more research and got out a pen and paper. An hour, and lots of diagrams on the back of an envelope later, I'd only bloody done it! So pleased I didn't give up as it fits so well on the back now, who'd have thought 6 shortrows could have made such a difference!

The third and final modification was another altogether less stressful one. I cut out 10 rows out of the neck ribbing. The Buachaille yarn is gloriously rustic and I was a bit concerned about it rubbing round the neck. Had I not down this I probably would have run out of yarn. I also slightly changed the position of the button holes, choosing to put the top button just below the collarband. 

The buttons are my absolute favourite. I bought these with the Carbeth in mind when I was at Lucy Locket Land in Sunderland in April.

All in all I'm very glad to have joined the Carbeth Clan!

Oh yes, and whats a trip to Amsterdam without a trip to Stephen and Penelope....eeeek!!!

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

What I'm up to Wednesday

I always used  to post weekly under 'Work in Progress Wednesday' which followed my (mostly) crochet projects. For me personally everything falls by the wayside during the winter when I struggle to get the time to take photos in daylight. As the days lengthen I am starting to document my progress again. I thought I'd also share some of the things I've been making, any new yarn that I've acquired, my crafty plans and anything I've been listening to and reading that has resonated, or that I think that will be interesting to you. 

Saturday, 24 February 2018

NEW PATTERN!! Ballyvaughan Cowl

I'm excited to introduce you to the Ballyvaughan Cowl. 

Ballyvaughan is a small harbour village in County Clare, Ireland. Inspired by the gorgeous landscapes surrounding the village I designed this quick, easy cowl pattern. A mix of double and treble stitches creates texture, and gently  blends the colours, mimicking those that I saw in the surrounding countryside. This cowl is perfect for those 'in-between' seasons where you don't necessarily want a full scarf, but need something to protect you from those northerly winds. 

Like all my crochet patterns this is a really easy, fast, satisfying project. 

Now for the details:

One size: 18 cm wide, 60cm long before joining into a round. Measurements made after blocking
This garment will benefit from wet blocking to relax the stitches.

100g Siabod Slate (05)- A, 50g Gwyngregin Damson (06)- B and 25g Idwal Lichen (09)- C  in Ada from Find Me Knitting.
6.0 mm hook.

Gauge is not strictly important for this project.

This cowl is constructed in rows. The short ends are sewn together using mattress stitch to join into a circle

This pattern is available for free on my Ravelry Store until the end of March. I would love to hear if you make this project, you can let me know by commenting here, or via Instagram (@sal_strawbs).

Here are some snaps of the stunning scenery that inspired this pattern. 

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Hitting 30

Two weeks ago I hit the big 30. My 30th was spent drinking coffee and people watching in first Copenhagen, then Malmo, followed by a massive curry in Manchester in the evening. Just ever so slightly different from my 21st!

Have I grown up? slightly, or maybe my body just can't take it anymore!

Where I have felt real, unexpected changes is in my crafting. I have frequently discussed my dislike of long projects. Blankets- nah, waaaay too dull and repetative. Garments- an even stronger nah......so much stocking stitch........

I had always favoured small, fast projects offering instant gratification. These projects were mostly crochet (because its faster than knitting obviously), with my favourite things to make including bunting and coasters. I even enjoyed amigurumi, crocheting a few of Kerry Lord's fabulous creations from Edwards Menagerie.

I'm not sure when things changed, and maybe it was gradual, but last year I crocheted 3 blankets. (there's another in the WIP pile but lets not dwell on that) Yes, at times I found them pretty slow going and tedious, and at times I really had to force myself to push on and keep crocheting, the majority of the time I enjoyed the process. I even published one as a free pattern.

At the beginning of 2017 I knitted 2 cabled bobble hats as gifts, and last April I knitted my partner a pair of socks using the magic loop technique (a revelation I tell you!) and slowly I began to fall back in love with knitting. I was a very basic knitter before I learned to crochet, which soon dominated my life and the poor old pairs of sticks got left by the wayside. However, after joining the Everyday Knitter group on Facebook I realised that I still had so much more to learn in knitting. With my crochet I got stuck in a rut, but with knitting I have been learning something new with every project.

Because of neglecting this blog over the winter months, and because most of my recent projects have been gifts I don't have a whole host of photos of finished items, but will show you what I can.

A finished pair of socks for my boyfriend. Unfortunately I now have no idea which pattern I used, but they used a Slip Stitch (reinforced) Heel, and the yarn was by Opal. I knitted a lot of these whilst on holiday in Iceland last year. We hired a car, exploring the south coast. Knitting to scenery like this was just magical.

(I wanna go back now!)

I also knitted a pair of socks for myself using the pattern by Sox Therapist for the Fish Lips Kiss Heel in some gorgeous yarn in Madame Rosmerta by Norah George Yarns.

As often happens I then got somewhat addicted to sock knitting and knit a pair of Spellbound Socks by Naomi Buchanan. I knit these for my sister for Christmas, and the moment I posted a progress shot on Instagram she only went and joined herself! These were definitely my best socks yet, not least due to the yarn.  I totally love this yarn, Vintage Christmas by Vikki Brown, and am hoping to get another sock out of the leftover skein.

Some BIG news happened in August last year. I became an Auntie to a gorgeous squidgy ball of fun. When I saw this pattern in Cutest Ever Baby Knits I just couldn't resist! I have lots of plans to knit and crochet him jumpers and cardigans as soon as he slows down with his growing!

As you can see I have really embraced the knitting!

So I turned 30 in Copenhagen, which happens to have a great independent yarn store, Sommerfuglen (butterfly in Danish). I wanted to get myself  a keepsake from the trip, and yarn seemed the obvious choice! I've got to the point in my life (maybe its a sign of getting older!) that I don't want to be consuming for the sake of it. If I buy a skein or yarn it needs to be lined up for a pattern (maybe there is another blog post in this somewhere). I wanted to get something Danish, something that I hadn't seen elsewhere. Hidden in the corner was a plastic box of random skeins of sock yarn, perhaps yarn that they were no longer stocking. In this box I found this beauty, which is destined to be another Sockhead Hat (click the link and scroll to the bottom for pictures), though less baggy and minus the bobble.

Have you seen the new pattern, George Street by Maddie Harvey? It's absolutely gorgeous and I so wanted to make it. This pattern is a 2 skein shawl in fingering weight wool. One colour is a solid, the other variegated.  As soon as I saw the bright pink/orange yarn by Madeline ToshI knew that it had be be part of the shawl. I chose to pair it with a solid blue/grey. I think you would have to be a very experienced photographer to do this yarn justice, but I've tried! This yarn really is something special and I can't wait to get knitting!

I've been lost in writing this post, time has passed and I've barely realised. I've also realised that so much has happened in my life, and not just with my crafting, since I was last blogging consistently. As I was writing I found myself saying to myself, "well how about the time when....?", "what about.....". I'll save this for another post, as I feel it will be a long one.  Just one photo of beautiful Copenhagen to finish, Nyhavn at night. Here's to the next decade of creative living. I wonder where it will lead?

Monday, 25 September 2017


Following my massive hiatus I feel that a few snaps from my trip to Yarndale this weekend would be the perfect way to get back into this weird and wonderful world of blogging.