Sunday, April 29, 2012

Crafting Balance - KCBWDay7

Here I am at the last post for the Knitting and Crochet Blog Week! I can't believe I've actually managed to post every day for a whole week! I've loved every minute of it and will miss the 'buzz' of having a daily deadline!!!! Hope you like it .....

Balancing my crafts is not easy. Between being a wife, a mother, a teacher, a housewife and a bookshop owner there are often not enough hours in the day for any serious crafting. However, my evenings are my own and for those treasured couple of hours I'm extremely grateful. Because my time is limited I have to be sure that when I sit down I'm absolutely certain of what I'm going to do. I don't have time to mess around and try this and that. Those kind of luxuries I save for the school holidays when I can stay up until midnight if I want to, scratching around in my yarn basket and ripping back as and when necessary..... (That's my idea of a great evening, never mind going out!)

I always have at least one project on the go but often it's more like three or four. One is usually crochet of some description and it's more than likely a little pile of squares that will eventually grow up to be a blanket for cold winter evenings! I normally have a knitting project on the go as well and this can be anything from squares (for yet another blanket) or a jersey for me, DH or kids! I occasionally have two jerseys on the needles but this is generally when one of them is a complicated pattern and the other a simple stocking stitch or garter stitch pattern which I can take to school and do when I'm on playground duty.

I've recently been eyeing a few shawl patterns which are stunning but it's difficut to get lace wool here so those may have to wait until some dear friend goes overseas and foolishly asks me 'Is there anything I can bring back for you?' - I wonder if they'll mind when I say 'Yes, a suitcase full of wool!' .....

Til soon.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Improving My Skills - KCBWDay6

I've sooooooo enjoyed writing these posts for the Knitting and Crochet Blog Week! Here we are at the penultimate post and it's all gone so quickly!!! Anway, here we go..........

The quest was this:

How far down the road to learning your craft do you believe yourself to be?
Are you comfortable with what you know or are you always striving to learn new skills and add to your knowledge base?
Take a look at a few knitting or crochet books and have a look at some of the skills mentioned in the patterns.
Can you start your amigurumi pieces with a magic circle, have you ever tried double knitting, how's your intarsia?
If you are feeling brave, make a list of some of the skills which you have not yet tried but would like to have a go at, and perhaps even set yourself a deadline of when you'd like to have tried them by.

When I first read this I thought, no there's nothing really that I want to learn, I'm happy with what I know.... But then, I started googling (there goes that old black magic again!!!) and I've now decided that there are SO many things that I could and do want to learn.

I can't remember when I first picked up a pair of knitting needles but I think I was about 6 or 7. Both my Mom and my Nan (see earlier post) are and were fantastic knitters and my Nan's craft cupboard (the cupboard under the stairs) was full - and I mean FULL - of wool, needles, fabric and all things habby!!! It didn't have a door but a curtain and I used to love pulling that curtain aside and taking a peek. Even though I didn't know what half of the things were, it all looked so tactile and touchy feely that I wanted to climb inside and snuggle up with all the lovely things!

One of my Nan's many jobs was to make tutus for the local ballet company and these she made by the hundreds! She sewed each and every sequin on by hand and they looked amazing! I can remember seeing piles of pink and white skirt netting in the cupboard and after much nagging my Nan made me a tutu - I was short and quite fat at the time but I thought I looked just like Margot Fonteyn!!!!

My Nan had the patience of a saint so I'm sure it was she that taught me to knit! I think I've inherited her craft ability because I can read very complicated patterns and can usually make up a pattern just from seeing a jersey that someone has worn! I once saw a woman on the tube in London wearing a stunning cardigan (if there is such a thing!) and subsequently went home, drew a picture, wrote up the pattern, bought the wool and had it made up by the end of the week!!! Might sound impressive but don't ask me to boil an egg cos I'll burn it!!!

Saying all that, I now realise that my ability as a knitter is actually very limited. I can do most stitches but haven't ever accomplished much in the way of fairisle and intarsia was a word I'd never heard of until recently!!!

Fabulous fairisle....

Interesting intarsia ....

Entrelac is another method that I would LOVE to do and even sock knitting with four needles is something I've never managed to get to grips with (literally)!!!

Entrelac knitting.....

Stumbling around on the internet recently I came across the term Magic Hoop and naturally I had to find out more so one of my next projects is to knit a pair of socks using this method. There is a fantastic video tutorial here and for the first time I can see what everyone is so excited about!!!

I've made several cable jerseys and a couple of them have been pretty complicated but I'd love to make something like this just for the sheer pleasure of doing it .....

On the crochet side, I've only started crocheting fairly recently so I know there's still much to learn. However, I've been thrilled with what I've done so far and although there's nothing in particular that I want to learn, I do envisage a few more blankets finding their way off my hook......

So, for someone who thought she was pretty content with her place in the
knitting and crochet world, it would seem there are more learning projects on my list than I thought!!!

What does your list look like?

Til soon.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

An All-Season Crafter - 3KCBWDay4

Are you a knitter or crocheter for all seasons? - that was the brief. Well, I thought, this will be an easy post cos the answer is naturally YES I AM!!! How could I possibly allow a day to go by without knitting or crochet? How could a simple thing like the weather affect my addiction to yarn, needles and all things creative??? What sort of a question is that anyway?

I don't know about you but I cannot conceive my life without yarn and needles or a hook. It's how I relax and it's not necessarily about what I'm making but that I'm making, being creative, producing something out of nothing. For me, my crafts are not additions to my life but an essential part of my life and without them I feel as though something has been amputated or lost. On the rare occasions (and they are very rare) when DH and I go out in the evening, I feel almost deprived because I know I won't be sitting down in the evening to do whatever WIP I have going on at the time. I would never not go out but I do experience a slight feeling of resentment towards other people that they are creeping in on my craft time. Is that too selfish do you think? Do I need to get a life? I think not.

Some people tell me they can't knit or crochet in the Summer because 'ít's too hot' but in my humble opinion they're just not as craft obsessed as I am. I can craft in temps of 30°+ without a problem and have spent many a happy hour watching my kids swim while I knit away poolside at the height of Summer! Equally I can use any type of yarn at any time of year. I'm definitely not a lacy for Summer and chunky for Winter crafting gal, and if the urge hits me to knit a massive Winter chunky knit in the middle of Summer, then so be it! I may well literally lose kilos as I melt under the weight of my creation, but is that not the burden we crafters carry? And we carry it with a smile .....

So if like me you're a free crafting spirit and aren't dictated to by the seasons, then stand up and be proud! If nothing else, we keep the wool industry alive and well all year round!!!!
Til soon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Hero - 3KCBWDay3

So here we are on Day 3 of the Knitting and Crochet Blog Week! Today's post is all about the person in the fibre craftworld who inspires me the most. His name? Who else but Kaffe Fassett.

I first discovered Kaffe in the 1980s when his name seemed to be in every magazine and on every craft person's lips. I would open a craft magazine and see things like this

Who wouldn't be inspired? His use of colour was something I'd never seen before and it seemed he had no rules. Of course I later learnt that there were rules, they just weren't the same rules that everyone else worked to!

I bought endless Rowan knitting magazines and lusted after his designs and patterns. It was because of him that I delved into fairisle and whilst even now I'm not very proficient at this style of knitting, my heart still leaps when I see colourwork knitting like his.

I followed his career avidly through his needlepoint designs, his patchwork, his fabric and later his mosaics and all of them blew me away!

To me, Kaffe Fassett is nothing short of a genius. He is someone we can all aspire to with his creative freedom and unique attitude of 'anything goes'. As he himself said,

"Like so many other crafts, knitting has the potential to create magic in our lives."

and Kaffe is the best magician of them all.

Til soon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Perfect Craft Day - 3KCBWDAY2

This is my second post for the Knitting and Crochet Blog Week challenge and I've chosen to the use the wildcard topic instead of the photography one as my photographic skills are really not up to much and my camera keeps doing strange things......

For this post I have to create my perfect craft day. At first I found this idea quite challenging as I don't really mind where I am as long as I have knitting or crochet with me but once I started thinking about it, the choice was easy.

I learnt to knit at a very young age and my inspiration was my Nan. She was an incredible needlewoman and her skill at knitting (particularly fairisle) was amazing.

This is the kind of thing that Nan loved to make.

Nan died in 1985 and there have been so many occasions when I wish she could have been here. Not least to meet her great-grandchildren but also to see all the different things I've made over the years thanks to her inspiration.

My Nan

My perfect craft day would be in her house in Lower Mortlake Road, Richmond with a cup of tea and a few delicious cakey things - Nan loved cakes!!! We would spend the morning together with my mum chatting about knitting, patterns, yarn and all things handmade and then in the afternoon we'd travel into London to some of the wool shops where we'd poke, prod and pontificate over colours and plys.

I know she'd love it - I miss you Nan.

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Life in Colour!!!! 3KCBWDAY1


This is my first post as part of the Knitting and Crochet Blog Week hence the unique tag code in the title! The subject was Colour Lovers so here goes..... 

Colour for me has always been about mood. I ‘see’ moods in colours so when I choose a palette for a project it will definitely reflect how I’m feeling at that time. A few years ago I went to a colour consultant who spent time with me going through various colours and shades and then worked out which of them suited me and which I should steer clear of. It was an amazing experience and if you can, I would strongly recommend you have it done. It confirmed to me that I’m Autumnal and this is my palette of choice.

However, I also lean towards the Summer palette which looks like this.

I think I like it because it's got those lovely sludgy colours and gorgeous berry reds! Apparently you are more likely to be drawn to the palettes either side of your own than one at the opposite end of the spectrum.

The Winter pallet is very similar to the Summer one but there's more white and no purples or lilacs. There are also stronger shades of blue!

And finally the Spring palette which reminds me of my mum. These are all her colours and on her they look simply fab!

I have to say that in recent years I've been wearing lots of lime green which isn't in the Autumn palette but somehow it suits me. Perhaps because now I live in South Africa I have more of a tan so it's become a colour I can wear but I guess there are exceptions to every rule.

When I think back to all the jerseys I've knitted and all the crochet I've recently done, the autumnal tones definitely stand out. My winter wardrobe is mainly chocolate brown, berry red and deep green. I can't imagine wearing really bright colours in the winter although I admire people that can - they cheer up even the gloomiest day!

So, that’s me. Autumn Annie. I love all those burnt oranges, deep sludgy browns, greys and reds. But then autumn and winter are my favourite seasons so it’s not surprising that I like their colours.  As an interesting aside, apparently people who are autumn or winter have a tendency to be crafters and enjoy working with wool. I wonder if that’s true? What pallete are you? I'd love to know.

Til soon.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week


Whilst trawling the internet this week looking for a knitting pattern (more about that in another post), I stumbled across this

Do any of you know about it? Have any of you participated in the previous two??? I think it's a fab idea and I'm going to try and take part.

It starts tomorrow (Monday) and you have to publish a post a day for a week each of which is on a predetermined subject. There is also a unique tag for each post so that someone can just google the tag and get ALL the posts for that day of people who have signed up for the Blog Week. Clever hey?

If you want more information about the post subjects, the tags or anything else please go to this link Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2012

I'm off now to start writing my post for tomorrow!!!! Wish me luck!
Til soon.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Out In The Garden....

Hello!!! Thanks for stopping by. For those of you only interested in crochet, please be advised that this is a gardening post. I'll be posting on my current crochet projects later in the week.......

To be honest, it's been a while since I did anything in my garden. I did salvage a few last veg from my little veg boxes but nothing spectacular. My box of strawberry plants amounted to absolutely nothing and I'm not sure what I did wrong. I'll try again next Summer but they have one more season to prove themselves before I ditch trying forever!

This Summer has been unseasonably hot - I know that here in South Africa we should be used to hot Summers but where I live in the Natal Midlands, we generally have a far more English climate with plenty of Summer rain and very cold Winters. However, this year the whole country has had lower than average rainfalls and my garden has suffered as a result. True, I could water religiously every day like other people do but there's nearly an acre of garden to look after and our main flower bed is the size of a small country so watering would take me hours!!! Not to mention the cost! That being said, what did manage to flower did so very well and I really can't complain too much.

After a bit of tidying up there were a couple of empty spots in the bed so I decided to plant one of these -

Isn't it beautiful? For those of you that don't know this plant it's called Dierama but it's common name is Harebell. It has the form of a grass with these stunning pinky purple flower bells that sway and bob about in the breeze! If the one I've planted does well then I intend to plant many more on some woodland terracing that goes up the side of our drive. I think huge clusters under the trees will look really pretty. What do you think? Here's a close up of the flower itself - like tiny ballerina skirts.....

Another newbie to my garden are my beloved Cannas. We do have a few of these in the garden already but they're the orange and yellow ones. These new plants are the bright red Cannas and by far and away my favourites -

This is how they look after a few years at which time they can be dug up and divided (quite brutally with a spade if you're that way inclined!!!).

And finally, my mom bought me four plants of something I have long wanted in our garden because of it's structure and form. Zebra grass!!!! If you've never seen it, here's a look -

Planted en masse it really does look effective. Unfortunately I couldn't find a pic that shows this but the one below sort of does the job -

Again I'm thinking of planting lots of these on the woodland terracing as they really do brighten up a dark area and the movement when it's windy is quite enchanting to watch. There is another version which is a much darker green (almost black) with cream stripes but it's very hard to get here and that variety doesn't grow very big.

I hope you've enjoyed my latest gardening ramblings. Maybe this time next year I'll be able to show you the actual plants in situ!

Til soon.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Other Things I've Done...

Although my current passion is for crochet, during my 20s and 30s I did mostly knitting and cross stitch. I lived in Brighton in England during this time and there was a fabulous craft shop in The Lanes which I used to visit almost every lunch hour. It was a small shop but absolutely crammed with all things crafty. A veritable crafter's paradise. The lady who owned this shop was crazy about cross stitch and it was through her that I started on My Cross Stitch Years. The photo feast below are some of the canvases that I did although many others went to friends as gifts. You'll see a heavy African influence and I think this was because I was away from African soil at the time and I missed it very much. There is also a native American Indian influence and this is because that particular culture have always fascinated me. I hope you like what I've done and if you've never tried cross stitch, give it a go. It really is like painting with cotton.

Here we go then. The first three are of an Iris flower. I did this originally as a 50th birthday present for a lady that I worked with whose name was Iris.  I liked it so much that I did this one for myself!

A couple of close ups......

The next four are all wildlife patterns. The tiger is technically not African but the colours were so beautiful, I just couldn't resist!

This next one is based on patterns from William Morris (one of my favourite designers). Both of these hang above our bed.

I have a love for sunflowers as you can see......

And the colours in these nasturtiums cheer me up every single day.....

And now for the native Americans....first the Squaw....

and then her father .... the Chief....

I love his face so much. Such inner wisdom.
Til soon.