Friday, 31 January 2014

January's craft challenge is over.

As you know this month I have been trying out knitting.  Well January has been and gone so time to discuss how it went.

I began with 8 inch squares in garter stitch so that I could practise.  I have now done 10 of them using up all sorts of scrap wool that I have.  Some squares are better than others!  Some look more or less perfect whilst others have mistakes including holes where I have lost stitches.  If I ever get around to knitting enough for a blanket, I am sure Loulou will not mind!

I started out knitting fingerless mittens as my first real garment.  That was the pattern that I tested for my friend..  They turned out really well.

After that I found a free pattern online for a fifties style keyhole scarf.  I was so pleased with myself when that worked out OK.  It was fiddly doing that keyhole bit as the stitches get put on a holder and that was a new thing for me.  I think it could have been a bit tighter in that area but also I think I used  wool that was too thin. Neverless it is wearable and looks quite cute.

Once that was finished I purchased a pattern from another Etsy friend for a cowl, a scarf, mittens and a headband. It is knitted with chunky wool on big needles.  Both new things for me to try out.  The pattern is worked over 6 rows and includes a new technique for me of wrapping the wool twice to form a loopy pattern.  It is really beautiful.

I found the cowl, scarf and headband relatively straight forward but the mittens were more of a challenge.  I was OK until I had to shape the thumb and that took  bit of pondering!  I think I did it right as it looks OK.

I am really, really pleased with how they all turned out.

So, in 31 days staring from the very beginning I have managed to knit 10 garter stitch squares, 2 pairs of fingerless mittens, 1 keyhole scarf, 1 cowl and 1 long scarf.  I think that is pretty good going.  Did I enjoy it?  Yes!  Will I continue?  Yes I shall.   I don't think I am ever going to be fantastic at this, not sure that I would have the patience to do anything beyond the basics or even that I want to.

I do intend to carry on with the squares as they are very easy and  it is relaxing and I can do it and sort of half watch the TV.  I have also ordered some chunky wool in plain black to knit a cowl and fingerless mitts for Simon to wear when he works in the garage. I am still on the look out for a very basic hoodie jacket that I can knit for Saskia's baby too.

I will of course continue to update you on my progress over the coming months.  Look out for photos of me wearing my new woolies very soon.

So with January over it is time to choose my new craft for February............Hmmm.................. I know............

Crafty Creatives - Christmas Box.

Following on from my recent posts on Crafty Creatives subscription boxes, I want to show you all what was in their Christmas special box.  The special boxes which they release from time to time, have much more inside, usually 3 mini kits  and loads of bits and bobs.  This one was no exception.  They are of course more expensive at £20 plus P&P.

It looked different from normal, the box although the same size, was in a red wrapper rather than the normal bright pink and it was heavy!

Lets take a look inside and see what I found.
Kit 1. Beaded Xmas bauble with purple beads.
Kit 2. Felt tree decoration with full reel of ribbon.
Kit 3. Lip scrub gifts with all ingredients to make 5 little pots which were also included.
3 wooden snow flakes.
3 Cardboard cones.
Tiny little jingle bells.
10 Xmas tree beads in bright colours.
1m of Xmas ribbon.
2 small plastic rings for making wreaths.
2 mini Xmas boxes.
2 small craft papers.
Silver snowflake charms.
5 x card blanks.
Xmas tree stickers.
Festive cabochon.
Gift wrap seals.
Xmas sequins.  (These had run out so my box contained a Santa bead instead.)

That is a whole lot of stuff.  Not sure how they managed to cram it all in!  Do I think it was good value?  Yes I do. To buy all those bits individually would have cost way more.  Will I make good use of it?  Well some.....

I shall make the lip scrubs and the decorations.  Will probably use the plastic rings to make a couple of tiny wreaths too.

The things I weren't sure about were the cardboard cones, the Xmas tree stickers and the gift wrap seals.  Those last 2 seem to have no place in a craft box.  .

All in all I think it is an excellent box, worth the money and ideal for passing a few hours on a cold afternoon.  Rather a pity I didn't open it up before Christmas but hey ho, there is always next Christmas.  I believe these Christmas boxes are still available on the Crafty Creatives website if you want to get a head start on this years decorations!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Knitting progress.

Morning!  Thought I would drop in to show you my knitting progress. I am now working with the chunky wool on the pattern that I got from MadMum aka Liz. 

I began with the headband.  The pattern is easy enough once you get used to it but does involve wrapping the wool twice around the needle to form the loops and I had never done that before. You can see the loops in the bottom photo.   I have yet to sew the headband together as I do not have a sewing needle with a big enough eye!  A friend gave me a darning needle but as the wool is chunky it still wouldn't fit.  I have ordered some special needles now.   They are plastic.

Next I started on a mitten. These are much fancier mittens than the ones that I did a few weeks ago. They have a thumb!  I managed quite well with the pattern up until the point where you need to shape the thumb.  I think I have it right!  It does look odd though as I have stitches on both needles and this bit in the middle.  Once again, I can't progress as I need to sew the thumb together first.  Not too sure where I go after that as it involves picking up stitches.  Liz said she will skype me so she can show me but I have my friend Denise coming tomorrow and as she is a brilliant knitter I am sure she will be able to show me.


So at a standstill once again, I decided to begin on the cowl.  This should be easy as it is just the 6 rows of the pattern repeated until it is 20 inches long.  The challenge however is that this is on jumbo needles.  Well they seem jumbo to me!  7.5mm, that is big right?  I found the casting on awkward but once I got going it was fine.  It is about halfway I think.  I am a bit unsure about the loose edge on one side but the pattern makes big loops.  I think it will be lovely when it is completed.  The colour in this photo is much truer to life than the ones above where it looks lilac.  It is pink. 

Hopefully it won't take too long and then I can do the scarf and I will be all set for the winter weather.   I will do a post of me wearing them soon.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Crafty Creatives Boxes 18 & 19

I have finally got around this week to opening 3, yes 3, Crafty Creatives boxes!  I have just been so busy so I have saved them up until I had time to inspect them in detail.

The first one I opened was the last of the themed boxes.  Crafty Creatives have changed the format.  From this month each new box will contain just one large kit rather than several small ones and bits and pieces.

So, Box 18 - The Handmade Box.   What was  inside?

A pin cushion kit, including wadding and 2 squares of fabric.
Tiny button charms.
Glass tiles and bails to make pendants.
Scissors charms.
Wooden bobbins a3.
"Handmade with love" ribbon.
Metal altoids tin.
Small pack of neutral buttons.
"Handmade" wooden tags x2
Sticky pencil for picking up tiny jewels etc.
Khadi paper x 3 small pieces. (Made in India from recycled rags).


So what might I use?  I will use the fabric but probably not for a pin cushion. I will make some pendants with the glass tiles. Buttons are always handy.  The charms will probably be used eventually.

The wooden bobbin, the tin and the paper seem like cheap add ons.  I can't see me being able to make anything with these.   It is a very basic box, I think.  Nothing of real worth.  I didn't feel this was very good value.

Box 19 - Marbling Kit
Next up is box 19 the first of the new format.  I opened it up, not sure what to expect as it was quite heavy.  It contains a marbling kit.  Consisting of a large bottle of some kind of water thickener, 7 small bottles of ink, half a dozen small cards, 2 small pieces of scrap, cotton fabric and a porcelain heart.  Basic instruction sheet.


Obviously, I have yet to try this out as I have only just unwrapped it.  I have never tried marbling before so I am quite looking forward to giving it a go. However my thoughts are that it is not something that I would have ordinarily purchased and it does seem quite pricey for what is actually in the box which has now gone up to £15 plus P&P at £2.75.

I am debating at this point in time about cancelling this subscription. I did like the old format boxes but probably wouldn't have continued any longer with them.  I think what was needed there was a lot more ideas of what to do with the contents on the Crafty Creatives blog.  Sadly, their blog hardly ever seems to be updated.   As for the new format of 1 big kit, my concern is that sooner or later it will be a kit for a craft I already do. As I said in an earlier post you can always return them but that incurs costs.

That said, and this is totally unrelated, I found out in a forum on Etsy yesterday that legally a seller is obliged to cover return postage costs no matter what the reason for return.  It is stated in the distance selling regulations.

I think Crafty Creatives do allow you to just make one of purchases of individual boxes once they have been released to subscribers so I think I may do that instead of subscribing.  That way I will know what I am getting and can decide if I want to order it.

Crafty Creatives are a good Company.  They offer a very professional service and if you like what is in the box and can make use of it then they generally offer fair value. My problem is that I now have lots of bits that will never get used.

All opinions here are my own.

I said at the beginning of this post that I opened 3 boxes..... the 3rd one was the Christmas special and I will do a separate blog for that.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Needles and Yarn.

I think most of you know by now that I am challenging myself in January to learn how to knit.  Wow, it is one big learning curve isn't it.   Before you even begin to knit you have to get your head round the needles and all the different kinds of wool.

Thought the needle bit would be easy. I had some old needles, don't know where I acquired them from.   I have 5 needles that say 7 on them, 3 needles with an 8 and 1 each of size 2 and 3. OK.  I kind of thought something was going on here.  Good job I checked.  It seems the needles that I have are numbered on some old, antiquated British system.  Seems that we are now in metric. So, my number 7 needles were fine as they are 4.5mm and just what I needed.   The needle situation is complicated further because the Merikans across  the pond use a different numbering system.

Knitting Reference – Needle Sizes

Knitting needles in the UK are now sold in metric measurements. However, if you’ve inherited your great-grandmother’s knitting bag you may have needles with the old UK ratings so these have been included for your information. Where there is a gap in the table this is where there is no direct equivalent size.
US    Metric Old UK 
So with my needles sorted it was time to turn my attention to yarn.  I will call it yarn as wool is a misnomer because half the time it isn't actually wool.  My limited knowledge was such that I thought pretty much everything was knitted in double knitting wool which I actually know is 8 ply and yes thank you, I do know what ply means. I was aware (vaguely) that there was something called 3ply which was for things like shawls and something called chunky which I wouldn't have a clue what to do with.

Seems that there is way more to yarn than I ever could have guessed. First comes the weight, which means the number of ply. I think there are about 7 to choose from and they would be used for different things. Of course it is complicated again by those Merikans who have totally different names to us.  

Once you know what your pattern requires and so far I have been using DK, then you need to actually choose the yarn.  Cheapest seems to be acrylic, then there is pure wool or how about cotton or any number of mixes in between,  The mixes can use alpaca, silk, mohair, merino (isn't that wool?) angora and I am sure there are others. 

Angora?  That opens a whole can of ethical wormies.  I personally wouldn't touch anything with angora in it. Do you know how that is obtained?  Want to see a bunny skinned alive?  Google it.  Sick, sick, sick. If you have any shred of decency then I urge you to boycott anything that contains angora. Sorry, off my soap box now. **

Yarn Conversion Chart

USAUKAustralia - NZ
Lace2 ply2 ply
Sock or Fingering3 ply3 ply
Fingering4 ply4 ply
SportSome double knitting yarns5 ply
Light WorstedDouble knitting8 ply
ChunkyBulky16 ply
BulkyChunky20 ply

To think all of these considerations for needles and wool have to be made before you can cast on the first stitch.  It's a minefield. 

Having completed a pair of mitts and a little keyhole scarf, I am now going on to the next stage.  A whole complete set of scarf, cowl, mitts and headband.  I have purchased this pattern from fellow Etsy teamie MADMUM.  

Isn't it lovely?  It does have some new techniques in there for me. It also requires that I branch out into chunky wool  and I need some new needles as I do not have the required 5mm ones.  Now I thought I had needles sussed out, but when I went to purchase some I found there was a whole new conundrum....... do I get plastic, bamboo or metal???  

Long story short I have opted for bamboo.  My old needles are metal so I thought I would try something different to see if it actually does make any difference. I suspect not but I am sure that there are peeps out there who swear by one or the other.  I think I might just be swearing about the whole thing!  In the course of my research for my purchase it has come to my attention that there are also needles that are pointed at both ends and short needles joined together by plastic tubing.  The mind boggles, well my mind does!  Who wants needles with points at both ends?  The stitches would all fall off. 

My chosen wool after many hours of deliberation is this one.

James C Brett Marble Chunky in pink mix. 

So, I have my chunky wool on order and my bamboo needles.  Hopefully they will arrive in the next few days and I will make a start.  I will keep you updated on the process.

** Actually, I am not sorry at all it is the most horrific process and should be banned.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

January Knitting Challenge Progress.

Well, I am very pleased to say that I am keeping at it!  Never thought I would get this far actually.  I was so pleased with the fingerless mittens that I knew I had to find something else.

While I was searching easy patterns I knitted a 3rd square using up the mitten yarn and some mint green.  It is actually square even though the photo makes it look wonky!  Not sure if I said before but OH reckons if I knit about 50 of these I would have enough for a  doggie blanket!  Hmm, that is going to take a while!

While I was looking for patterns I came across one for a keyhole scarf very similar to the gorgeous one that I purchased recently from my teamie Jarg0n.  You can see it below with it's matching mitts and headband.

The pattern looked manageable as it is mainly garter stitch and rib like I did on the mittens.  It did mean that I had to learn how to increase and decrease and I can tell you that was a learning curve!!  I Googled it and watched some videos which made it look simple enough....... yeah right!  I found it incredibly difficult to get the needle in the back of the stitch.  I am still not convinced that I was doing it totally right but it has come out OK so who cares!

Work in progress.  I have no idea why the wool looks pink here.  These were taken with my iPad.

The finished article.  This is the actual colour of the wool.  A pale lilac.

My ribby bit for the key hole is a bit loose. Not sure why that is.  Not sure that the wool was totally correct either but I am still working with scrap balls that were given to me.

Anyway, I am secretly dead chuffed with myself.  Never imagined I could make something like this.

I am now looking for my next challenge.  I would like to knit the mitts again for OH but they need to be much bigger and I don't know how to make them bigger.  Well, I know I would need more stitches and to knit more rows, I'm not totally thick!  I just need someone to tell me exactly how many stitches and rows!!

I do want a new project though and am looking online for easy, free patterns.  I am thinking of a cowl or maybe a baby jacket for Saskia's baby.  Thank you to everyone who has sent me links to good pattern sites and wool shops.

Until I decide what to do next I shall knit some more squares.  Only another 47 needed for a doggie blanket!!!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Crafty Creatives - box 17

This was my second subscription box from the lovely peeps at Crafty Creatives. I have yet to make anything much from it but I thought you might like to see what was in it.  It is box number 17 which I think was the November box.  It is a themed box -Medieval.   OK, not sure again if it is really for me but it does have some rather nice bits and pieces.

This is what it contains:   Box 17 : Medieval

Art card by Luisa Kelle
CC kit : bead woven pearl bracelet
20 gold fleur-de-lis charms
5 silver shield pendants
2 bronze crown charms
1 fat quarter of floral printed fabric
Metamica paint in silver by Stewart Gill
Angelina fibres in metallic colours
2 sheets of printed papers
String of red glass crystal beads
Roll of washi tape
2 bronze filigree stampings

My thoughts so far..... The bead woven pearl bracelet does look good.  I have never done any kind of jewellery making so I am rather looking forward to getting started on this.  It looks fiddly but i have read the instructions and I think it is do able.  Looks like something I would wear too. 

The FQ of fabric is quite lovely but I haven't yet decide what to make with it.  I may make a cushion. 

Other items that may be useful are the washi tape, metamica paint, and the red beads.

I have already used one of the bronze filigree stampings in a felt brooch.

That leaves, the art card, the charms and pendants, Angelina fibres and printed papers.  Not sure when or how I can possibly use those.  To be honest I don't know what the art card is all about really. 

So is it value for money?  In my opinion, for my use, this box probably has given me good value.  The bracelet kit would probably cost around £5 if purchased in a hobby store.  A FQ of Fabric around £2, Not sure of the price of Washi tape but am guessing at maybe £1.50? The paint I would think would be around £3 and the beads maybe a pound so that gives a total of = £12.50.  OK, I probably would not have purchased the paint but it may be interesting to try it out. 

I need to mention here that if you do subscribe to Crafty Creatives you are able to return any box to them for a full refund should you decide that it isn't for you. 

They are also on Facebook and Twitter and you can find useful advice and hints for projects.

Twitter - @Crafty Creatives
FB -

I am hoping to begin on the bracelet this week so will let you know how it goes. 

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Spinning Streak.

As you all know I recently tested a knitting pattern for fingerless mittens for Sue of  Spinning Streak.  Sue is a fellow team member on the Etsy Craft Britannia team.   This is a little bit about her from her shop page.

"I belong to the Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers and have been spinning away for over 15 years. I live partly in England in a city by the sea and partly in rural France, so plenty of inspiration for colours! I love the surprise element of dyeing - I tend to use professional quality acid dyes in England and a wide range of natural plant material in France."

 Not only does she spin and dye her own wool but she makes lots of gorgeous woolly things.  You can check out Spinning Streak by clicking on the link.

To give you a little taster of the gorgeousness, here are a few of my favourite items from the shop.

The wool.

Beautiful hand knitted garments for everyone. 

Please do go and check it all out for yourself and remember that very soon there will be kits so that you can make your own mittens from the pattern that I tested.  If I can make them anyone can!