Thursday, 31 January 2013

Knit and Stitch Magazine issue 1 review

I'd already noticed the Knit and Stitch TV ads because I watch TV whilst knitting, so I was very pleased to be asked to review the first two issues and eagerly awaited my parcel. In the interests of transparency I should point out I was given the issues free.

Knit and stitch is a weekly magazine which aims to teach knitting, crochet, crewel work, tapestry and felting. Each issue includes Bergere de France yarn, and each week there are instructions for a new square to add to your patchwork throw and cushion. There are also other patterns for accessories, clothing and toys and useful hints and tips. The first tapestry square is simple garter stitch but the picture on the cover shows other more complex designs as you week by week become more competent and confident.

I decided to focus on crochet as I am self-taught and have never yet followed a pattern: I'm a "pick up the hook and go" crocheter.

Issue 1 has a DVD which has taught me how to decrease more effectively (thank you!) though I would have liked the producer to leave off the background music. (Side note: for those of us used to youtube tutorials it's quite disconcerting in that the demonstrator is silent. The voice track is dubbed, presumably because it is available in other languages too.) There are also "know how" pages if you prefer to learn stitches and techniques from the printed page rather than a screen.

Also in issue 1: knitting patterns for a shawl and a child's sweater and a crewel work cushion.

Anyway - to work! I decided to crochet the teddy from the pattern in issue 1. Because I'm self-taught, and because I'd been crocheting quite some time before discovering that American and English crochet terms do not mean the same (!) I've never had any success with following crochet patterns. In this case though I had the know-how page and the DVD to keep me on track. Nonetheless I got confused regularly, and had to undo my work several times.

And that brings me to my first piece of advice:


Obviously it would matter if you were making a garment that needed to fit, but a teddy does not have to be exactly right. I wasn't happy with how the legs turned out, I thought they were a bit chunky - so rather than unpick him again, I decided that when I sewed him up, I'd adjust the width by tucking the edges in. Who's going to know? (Well, apart from you and MrNifty)

I also used the "wrong" size hook. The pattern specifies a 4.5mm hook but I used a 4mm because I already had one. That could well be why the legs were a bit chubby - but I refer you to advice #1 :-)

After my years of doing my own thing it wasn't really that likely that I'd sit down and meekly follow every instruction, was it? 

The yarn provided wasn't quite sufficient for me, I was probably working to a different tension. Again, advice #1 came into play and I decided to use a lighter pink for the face so that I'd have plenty of the supplied pink for sewing up. I adapted the pattern to make a smaller head in light pink, then crocheted around the light pink face in dark pink for the sides of his head. As I reached the top of the head I discovered he wanted to be a rabbit after all, so added ears to the top of the head at the same time, meaning I didn't have to sew them on later (yay!)

I'm a big fan of avoiding sewing on, it's a potential area of weakness especially if you are making for a small person. For this reason, I suggest embroidering the features on the face BEFORE sewing the front and back together, this way you can tie off/sew in the ends much more securely. Similarly, when my rabbit demanded a fluffy tail, I crocheted it directly to his bottom rather than sew it on later.

I hope this is helping you to see how you can take a published pattern as your starting point and make it your own?

I think he's rather lovely, and will be giving him away to one lucky reader - stop back tomorrow to hear about issue 2, see the bunny's face and find out how to enter!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Valentine's Day at Niftyknits

I think it's about time I blew my own trumpet, so here's a round up of Nifty offerings for the season of lurve! My favourite card celebrating Klingon Meerkat love, above, can be found in the card section at folksy or etsy, there are some others that might tickle your fancy too...including one with naked knitted breasts (oo er matron!)

I also have some love hearts with tiny meerkats:

Meerkats with bouquets:

nd even meerkats with tiny gift boxes, just right for popping in a ring (or a chocolate!) on that special day

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Book Review: Fabulous Fair Isle Knitting

As with my earlier book reviews,  I was given the books in return for writing reviews.These are my real opinions.

Fabulous Fair Isle Knitting by Patty Knox

Fabulous Fair Isle Knitting is packed with colourful modern garment designs for men, women and children, using the traditional  Fair Isle knitting technique. Although at first glance the multi-coloured designs look terrifyingly difficult, there are never more than 2 colours in use at any one time, and they are all knitted in simple stocking stitch.

Not restricted to the simple geometric patterns I remember from childhood, there are charts for apples, fish, mushrooms, bees and more. Each pattern is well illustrated and easy to follow, and Patty encourages us to go further by designing our own patterns with coloured pencils and squared paper. Great fun!

Patty addresses the problem I used to have when attempting fair isle some 20 years or more ago. Shame this book wasn't available at the time! She explains (with diagrams) how to weave in the "spare yarn whilst knitting, so that the work does't get pulled too tight." I remember a sweater I knitted that ended up almost "ruched" and far too small! Poor Mr Nifty did try to wear it out of politeness though.

All the garments are basic shapes, the only thing you have to think about is the patterning. Each pattern is well illustrated, so that you can see the whole garment, the chart and a swatch to identify what each part of the chart means.  I'd love to knit this little sweater with its rows of jellyfish and octopus, isn't it cute? I shall hang on to this book for when I become a gran!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Not everybody rises

New artwork at Rye Harbour, by Julian Hanshaw: Not Everybody Rises click the pic to enlarge, click the links to learn more. The piece is installed on an old bunker, you can still see the concrete ledges inside where the WW2 guns were fixed and the sea is right there. Thank you Julian.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Yarn bowl!

Look what I got for Christmas!
I usually keep the yarn I'm working from in a bag, but it's been known to jump out and wander around with a mind of its own. Not any more though!

I like the "wool" cutouts, the idea is that if you're using several balls at once, maybe for a fairisle pattern, they'll stay untangled. Cute isn't it? Handmade by Sue at Caractacus Pots on Etsy and Folksy

Friday, 25 January 2013

View from our new house

and this is the view from the garden fence!

We're very excited - can you tell? Not moving till March now, so need to get back to my knitting. 
Good thing I haven't packed it all yet, we had originally planned to move next week, to a different house. 
I'm SO GLAD we waited and this one popped up.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Walking to the paper shop in the snow

Fetching a Sunday paper takes us just over an hour across the fields.

it hadn't been snowing long

through the next field then into the woods. I love how the branches are "highlighted" by snow.

The next field usually holds a horse or two

but they were snugly tucked up in the stable.

more sheep

and up the hill to the clifftops where the sun is trying to break through

The sea could hardly be seen, the landscape (seascape?) has faded into grey.

That sea looks COLD!

Not our house - but doesn't the thatch look pretty with the snow highlights?

It's snowed continuously since we've been back with the paper - brrrr! 
Hope you're keeping warm where you are.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Moving again

It seems like we've only just unpacked, but we're in the throes of packing again. We've been to the dump 4 times, lots of boxes have gone to charity shops and a fair bit on ebay too!

We'll definitely miss our local beach. We'll be even nearer the sea, but not in such a scenic area.

The new house is better in several ways though: it's more modern and has a better kitchen and bathrooms, but most importantly it will NOT flood and has mains drainage. If you've never lived on a flood plain with a cesspit, believe me - don't go there.

I will be shutting my shops again towards the end of the month for the move, hope to reopen early February - so grab your Valentines Kats quick!

Niftyknits on Etsy
Niftyknits on Folksy

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

time to start building an Ark

Some of you may have wondered why I've been so absent...

The house we live in has water courses on three sides. The water is usually pretty low and nothing to worry about. I took this photo just now, you can see the bridge across to our neighbour from the road and his pebble-covered decking.

Saturday before Christmas though it had rained all day, and we'd been anxiously watching the water level creep up. We weren't worried too much because we know the Environment Agency actively monitor and maintain all the water courses.

The water reached the beam below the bridge, crept up the bank, reached the base plank of the decking and then crept towards the white line on the decking...

I saw the Environment Agency chap in the lane and chased after him for an update, it was 3 pm by then. He said that by high tide at 6.30pm there was a "strong probability" that our house would be flooded.

I took a final photo before it got dark...

You'll notice I'm further back! The position I took the other photo from was underwater...

The rain continued to fall. We went out regularly with a torch, the water crept relentlessly forward and we started carrying as much as we could manage upstairs. Our 70s vinyls, the photo albums, bedding, Christmas presents from under the tree, the contents of the Christmas cocktail cabinet (priorities!!) and the computer. We phoned the family, told them they might not be able to come for Christmas after all.

I met an elderly neighbour whilst tracking down the environment agency chap. She's been flooded twice before and lost everything. An additional problem with the area is that there is no mains drainage because we're too low-lying. Consequently, floodwater includes the contents of everyone's cesspits which means houses are contaminated, not just wet.

Happily the rain stopped, the various pumps set up by the Environment Agency started to take effect and we did NOT flood. Our cesspit filled with rainwater (yes, landlady dear, it DOES leak) and needed an emergency empty on Sunday...and AGAIN on Thursday. It should take around 6 weeks to fill, not four days! Christmas was saved - but each time it rains now, we worry. Well, wouldn't you?

I know we got off lightly, many others in the UK really did get flooded and I feel their pain, it's not something I want to go through again.

Today the letting agencies are once more open after the holidays and we are house-hunting with a vengeance. I've just looked at the clock - 5 minutes till they open and we start phoning!