Wednesday, 1 June 2016

FO: Apollonie Shawl

There are projects that just make you happy all round and you constantly look forward to knitting a few more rows on. Apollonie by K.M. Bedigan was one of those for me.

I used Ginger Twist Studio's Splendor 4ply in the Dove colourway. It's a Merino/Silk mix that is a dream to knit with and, as you would expect with the 50% silk, drapes beautifully.The colour itself is gorgeous, with very subtle changes in the pale silvery grey that seem to make it almost luminous. It'll go with just about anything.

The pattern itself is a dream to knit as well: clearly written and well laid out with the best description of wrap and turn I've come across yet. The lace sections are very intuitive and easy to read in the knitting, and I managed to watch TV while knitting it which is not something I can say very often with lace work.

All in all, I'm in love with it. Drapey, lacey and so, so soft.

On a side note, I used my new blocking wires for the first time when I blocked this, and it made life so much easier!

Project Specifics
Ravelry pattern page: Apollonie
Ravelry project page: My Apollonie
Yarn Used: 74g/296m Ginger's Hand Dyed Splendor 4ply in the Dove colourway
Finished dimensions: 126cm wide by 46cm deep (not quite as wide as stated but I think that's simply a gauge issue on my part).

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Reading Amnesty post - the Romance edition

I actually started this post back in February but things (okay, my mental health) kind of went all over the place. Unemployment does not seem to be agreeing with me too well, and a lot of things are falling by the wayside because of it. With blogging, it's certainly not helped by the reading slumps and splurges meaning that I've either nothing to talk about or too much to talk about. Turns out neither is good for me.

I'm trying to get things back on an even keel so instead of feeling overwhelmed by the fact it's been so long since I posted, I'm saying screw it and declaring amnesty posts with what I've finished reading since the beginning of the year. There will be another post after this (hopefully next week) with the fantasy books. In the meantime, the romance or romance-ish books I've finished are:

Brotherhood in death by J D Robb.
This series is something of a comfort read for me, and I'll admit I'm more interested in the relationships than the cases at this point. For me this was one of the better books (although I really, really wish sexual violence, especially towards women, wasn't such a focus) with a couple of Eve and Peabody moments that I loved. By far the best though were the Eve and Mr Mira scenes, which I thought were all completely adorable and loved. I even outright grinned at a few of them which is rare for me these days.

A Duchess in Name by Amanda Weaver.
I raced through this book, liked it a lot, and loved both the main characters. (I will admit thought that the tropes (marriage of convenience, letter writing, discovering each other after marriage, competent women) were a bit like catnip that had my name all over them so that may have influenced things.) The only thing that held back my full love for the book was that there felt like there was too much of a time gap between some of the scenes, and I felt like I didn't really see the a lot of the changes in the characters. I definitely felt that lack, but overall, I can see why it was so well reviewed everywhere and I think it might go on my to reread pile at some point. 

I've Got My Duke to Keep Me Warm, A Good Rogue is Hard to Find, and You're the Earl That I Want by Kelly Bowen.
I devoured these in one weekend and I loved every moment I was reading them (the sort of love where I hated every time I was pulled away from them). I don't think any of the characters stood out as my favourite, but that was more because I loved them all rather than anything else. I think my absolute favourite part of the trilogy is the long running joke about chickens, and I laughed out loud at more than a few bits involving them. It's definitely a series that I'll be rereading and I will be reading more by Bowen. My only complaint is that I want Eleanor to have her own book (or novella, I would be happy with that) and a happy ending.

One Tempting Proposal by Christy Carlyle.
I was a bit meh about this one. Whilst I liked the book enough to finish it, I never really engaged with any of the characters and none of what I read stuck with me. It hasn't put me off Carlyle as an author but at the same time I won't be actively seeking her out again.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

What I'm reading

It's been a long time since I've done one of these so I'm having a fresh start from the beginning of 2016. I'm also trying out links and cover images for the books so please let me know if the images are too small or you would prefer different links.

What I've read

I've not finished anything since the start of the year as I've been in a bit of a slump for the last few months. I'm coming out of what turned out to be a general life slump though so I'm hoping to finish something soon.

What I'm reading

Cover of The Waterborne Blade by Susan MurrayI am in the middle of Susan Murray's The Waterborne Blade. Admittedly this did fall victim to the slump but it wasn't the book's fault at all as I had been enjoying the book immensely. I'm looking forward to getting back into it.

Cover of Aralorn by Patricia Briggs

I've also started a reread of Aralorn by Patricia Briggs. I adored both books in the omnibus the first time I read them, and after I received my own copy for Christmas I couldn't resist a reread.

What I'm reading next

I've got quite a few books in my pile but The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley is due back at the library soon so I'll see how I get on with it. 

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Yearly update

2015 seemed to fly by and I think I'm a little in denial that it's the 6th of January all ready.

Never the less, it's that time of year where I reflect and think about what I want to achieve in the coming year.

My goals for 2015 were:

1. Get back into sewing - I didn't get a needle roll made as I had planned but I did make a few envelope pouches and Christmas baubles, and I'm happy with how my back stitch, whip stitch and blanket stitch turned out.

2. Carry on improving my photography skills - I'm definitely happier with a lot of my photos which was my aim, and I feel like I understand the technical aspects a lot better.

3. Knit a pair of toe-up socks - done! (Owl Socks) I'm definitely a convert.

4. Graduate - With Distinction! (More on that later)

5. Practise spinning - I did a little but not as much as I would have liked.

6. Work with beads - again I did a little but not the full projects worth I had planned. I'm aiming to get that project finished this year.

7. Comment and interact more - Whoops? It's been a quiet year all round for a variety of reasons but I plan on this year being better.

8. Manage my time better - I'm happier with my levels of faffing about being lower which is what I was aiming for.

9. End the year lighter and fitter - I'm definitely fitter but not lighter. I'm happy with my progress for the most part though so I'm not going to beat myself up about it.

10. Finish the original fiction piece - not by a long shot but I did add more words to it as well as add an additional thread that improves it.

Some of my goals for 2016 are similar:

1. Finish the novel - the first draft at least.

2. Spin more - if I finish the year with one complete skein I'll be happy

3. Sew a garment - ideally, I've got my eye on a pair of pyjama bottoms but anything will make me happy.

4. Practise embroidery - I've been bitten by the stitching bug and I'd like to at least be able to do french knots and satin stitch to expand my ability to decorate fabric.

5. Knit more patterns in queue and stash - I have a lot of yarns paired with patterns ready to be knitted up, I just need to actually knit them now. If I can cross four patterns off my list I'll be happy.

6. Blog more - I really missed blogging and all the interaction of social media last year so I'm very eager to get back to it.

7. Reach target weight - I've made a promise to myself that this year I am finally going to reach this. In part it will involve getting fitter but by and large it's mostly down to me eating better and making better choices.

A lot of people have being picking one word intentions for the year, and I've settled on 'Believe' for mine. Believe in myself, my abilities and that I am actually capable of reaching for and getting what I want.

Which brings me onto possibly the hardest goals for 2016, the ones the really require me to believe.

8. Apply for PhD funding - I'm really excited about the topic and a lot of people around me have been very encouraging, I just need to take a deep breath and believe that I can actually do it rather than let my fear take over.

9. Submit paper - My supervisor from my dissertation wants to get it published so I need to work on editing it down to article size before sending out it to a journal. Again, I've realised that part of what is holding me back is my self-esteem and the worry that it's not good enough.

10. Write a shawl pattern - I've got a shawl or two that's been in my head for a couple of years that I would like to finally translate to paper and yarn even if it's just for myself.

Here's to a good 2016!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Mum's curling stone

This is my Mum's pattern for a crocheted curling stone (originally published in March 2013).

Curling stone uses a bulky weight wool (about 1-3g of main colour and 1-3 g of colour for handle) and a 4 mm hook.

Uses UK crochet terms.

Base of curling stone:
Using main colour, start with magic loop.
First round - 3 chain (ch) then 12 trebles (tr), join together with slip stitch (sl).
Next 3 rounds - 3 ch then 1 tr in every previous tr, increasing 1 every 3rd st to make piece lie flat, join with sl.
Next round - 3 ch then 1 tr in every previous tr, join with sl.
Next 2 rounds - 3 ch then 1 tr in every previous tr, decreasing (tr2tog) every 3rd st to make piece curve in at top. Join with sl.
Fasten off, pull magic loop closed and tie off, you should have a flat bottomed bowl.

Top of curling stone:
Using second colour, start with magic loop.
First round - 12 tr, join with sl.
Next 2 rounds - 1 tr in every previous tr, increasing every 3rd st to make piece lie flatish. Join with sl.
Fasten off, pull magic loop closed and tie off.

Using second colour, do 16 chain.
First row - 1 double (db) in 2nd chain from hook then 1 db in every chain.
Next 3 rows - db in every previous db.
Fasten off.

To make up:
Stitch the two long edges of the handle together to form a tube. Sew one end closed then sew the other end of it to one side of the lid (spreading it open slightly as you sew it on).
About a third of the way along the handle put a gathering stitch in underneath it to pull it into shape.

Measure and cut out a piece of cardboard about 2-2.5cm by about 30cm (may vary depending on size of stone). Join the narrow ends together with tape and slip the circle inside the base (this slightly stretches and shapes the base).

Sew lid on about two-thirds of the way around and stuff with toy stuffing. Finish sewing the lid in place then shape the finished curling stone to the desired shape. Spray with starch if you want.

You can find the ravelry page here or download a PDF of the pattern here.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Knitting to stay sane...

Semester two has hit hard, not helped by the prolonged bout of illness that spread through the whole class, and despite just having my Easter break (also known as working from home), I'm exhausted. At this point it's at least another six weeks until I can take a couple of days off and then work from home for the remainder of the course.

Joy O Joy.

So the blog has to go on the back burner (officially now), and more than likely it will stay that way until the beginning of September when I hand in my dissertation. I'm trying not to be too annoyed with myself, but pushing myself further is a Bad Idea, and I'm reassuring myself with the thought I am actually doing quite well with my studies.

In the meantime, I've been trying to keep at least my Ravelry pages up to date - you can see most of my stash from the Edinburgh Yarn Festival (which was blooming fantastic by the way), and I'm also trying to keep my projects updated, even though it's only small progress that I'm making on them at the moment.

If I'm reading at all for pleasure, it's being recorded on my Goodreads page so feel free to follow me there if you want. I'm on a Twitter break at the moment, but I am tending to browse my Instagram feed of an evening, probably because pictures are easier for my brain to parse.

So in short, I'm still alive, just extremely busy and knackered. And speaking of busy, it's time to get back to the assignments for me. Roll on September!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

This way, that way, forwards and backwards

Happy New Year!

I can't believe it's the sixth of January already, and that my last post was in September. I'm loving my course, but it's a huge effort for me and everything else has sort of fallen by the wayside.

This is pretty much how I've spent my time when I haven't been in classes:

Chocolate labrador wrapped up in a plain duvet

I'd like to say that is going to change this semester but it's probably not.

However, I managed to take a couple of weeks off from uni, and I've emerged from my knitting nest long enough to reflect and think about the coming year (well, that and I couldn't resist the Singing Kettle reference) before I start studying again in earnest.

At the beginning of 2014 I had seven specific goals:
1. Knit a pair of socks - done!
2. Knit something with fair isle - also done! Well, all bar the photos but that can wait a day or two.
3. Knit one of the jumpers I have everything for - I'm mostly done on the simple jumper so I'm counting that as a win.
4. Move beyond chain stitch in crochet - facecloths, blanket motifs, snowflakes and mini stockings all achieved to I'm definitely calling this one done!
5. Improve my photography skills - I've been reading a lot of photography posts and books, and I definitely feel like I understand a lot of the concepts more. I'm not entirely sure it has transferred across in physical skill yet, but then it was kind of a vague goal to start with.
6. Learn to Spin yarn - I took a workshop and read up a little so it doesn't seem so overwhelming a topic, but I would have liked to have practised more on my own.
7. Write more - I definitely wrote a lot more original fiction in 2014, and though I'm not ready to share it, I'm happy with the progress that I made.

Overall, between reaching most of my goals and finally making the decision to go back to uni, it's been a better year than the previous couple and I'm hoping the trend continues.

Looking forward, by the end of 2015 I would like to:
1. Get back into sewing - I did a little when I was younger and it's definitely a skill I want to improve on. I think my first project is going to be a needle roll for my DPN's.
2. Carry on improving my photography skills - I'm going to give this a more concrete goal of being happy with the majority of my photos by the end of the year.
3. Knit a pair of toe-up socks - I think I've been bitten by the sock bug, and I've love to try this technique.
4. Graduate - I think this one is fairly self explanatory!
5. Practise spinning - I have some lovely fibre calling to me from my stash that I would love to use.
6. Work with beads - ideally I would to work with them in both knitting and with wire, but I will settle for one of them.
7. Comment and interact more - I definitely have a tendency to lurk given half the chance and I would like to change that.
8. Manage my time better - ie less time spent faffing about. Again it's a bit vague, but if I can look back at the end of the year and be happy with my balance of time spent productively, than I'll consider it a win.
9. End the year lighter and fitter - I've been attending Scottish Slimmers for a while now, and getting down to my target weight is certainly doable by the end of the year.
10. Finish the original fiction piece - it's sort of fallen by the wayside with all the coursework, but I'm still excited by it, and even if I never show it to anyone, I would like to get at least the first draft finished this year.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

WIP Crack Away KAL

Way back in March, I put up a picture of my nearly finished front half of the hooded tunic. I said at the time I was probably jinxing myself and lo and behold I did as the front now looks like this:

I cast off the shoulders not long after that post and then laid out the pieces to to start seaming the shoulders. It was at that point I discovered the front was 20cm longer than the back, and to make matters worse, Mum pointed out that the shoulders were different heights as well. There was some wailing and gnashing of teeth then as I realised there really as no option but to rip back.

After that, it sat in the naughty corner.

Then there was Zuzu's Petals, which after ripping out the first version I made some progress on the new version in the Debbie Bliss yarn but quickly stalled. It's looked like this for the last couple of months:

All in all, it's perfect timing for the WIP Crack Away KAL to come along. It's co-hosted by Yarns From the Plain and Knit British and runs until the 15th of November, with the only rule being that you must have cast on your projects before the 1st of September. If you want to join in, you'll find the first week chat thread on the Yarns from the Plain ravelry board.

It's my first KAL, and it really couldn't come at a better time for me. I've got some time off before classes start, and once finished, both of these would be ideal for keeping warm on my commute. I'm also looking forward to chatting and getting to know some new knitters in the process.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

FO: Hurricane Hat

This wee hat has been finished for some time (and had a happy reaction from it's new owner) so I really should get the photos up.

I used Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo in DK with 3.25 mm needles to create a baby version of the Hurricane Hat pattern by Andrea Guldin. The pattern is easy to memorise and knits up quickly, and the baby bamboo is gorgeous to knit with and creates a soft and warm fabric. Neither of the photos really do justice to the colour of the green, but it's a lovely sage colour.

This was my first project completely done on DPN's and apart from losing track a little on the last few rounds, I'm (pleasantly) surprised at how well it turned out - especially the lack of laddering where the needles met. It did take me a while to get comfortable holding the needles and get over my terror that the stitches were going to just going to slide off whilst I was knitting, but I think that is a fairly normal reaction. I quickly bought a set of Knit Pro Symphonies which helped with both of those as they gripped the yarn more than the metal ones I had borrowed from the family stash and were comfier to hold.

It's certainly given me the confidence to start a pair of socks, and I can see why the pattern is so popular. Definitely one I will consider knitting again!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

What I'm Reading

What I've read
Fire Study by Maria V Snyder. I finished my reread of this, and I enjoyed it just as much as the previous two. This time around I could see the set up for the Opal trilogy (which never really stuck on me for a variety of reasons), but that didn't diminish my enjoyment of this book at all as I still like Opal as a character.

Now I've finished rereading all three books, I can definitely say it’s been lovely to revisit them all and see the changes as the series progresses. I’ll definitely be rereading these again at some point in the future, and I've just discovered that there is going to be a fourth book out next year, which perked me up considerably when I found out.

Blood Games by Chloe Neill. I didn't quite like this so much as the previous books, mainly for the reason it read like two books badly whittled down to one. It felt like one story line too many which diminished all of them which was a shame as the all had a lot more potential. Saying that, I did enjoy curling up reading it as I suspected, but overall I ended up feeling frustrated that it could have been more. I will carry on reading this series because the characters and the world-building are still great but this definitely wasn't the best of the series.

Shattered by Kevin Hearne. This series has lost a lot of its initial appeal for me now, but I'm invested enough in some characters and interested in the endgame enough to carry on reading. That said, I did like this book a little more than the last one, (politics and investigations will do that to me) but it did feel rather disjointed as the POV's felt out of sync time wise. Overall, I thought it was an all right read, but not one that will stick with me or that I’ll reread.

Earth Flight by Janet Edwards. Some books you can anticipate so much that the actual book never lives up to your expectations. Earth Flight was not one of those books. I loved it every bit as much as the first two, and as well as being a great book on its own, it felt like a fantastic end to the trilogy. There was a lot packed into this book, and it wasn't as involved with the dig site course as the previous two, but neither felt like a drawback to me. In fact it felt necessary to wrap up the trilogy nicely, and I really liked the way certain things had been foreshadowed in the first two books. Basically I loved everything about this book, not limited to the character, world and political development.

I still want to read more about everyone and the worlds, but I read the last page and felt completely satisfied. That, and the fact I that have already reread it, sums up both the book and the whole trilogy for me really.

What I'm reading
A reread of Earth Flight is really the only thing I'm actively reading at the moment, partly because it’s been that sort of week, but mainly just because I loved it that much.

What I'm reading next
I would like to carry on with The Queen of the Tearling again as I'm still intrigued and feeling in the mood for high fantasy again, and Jaye Well’s Cursed Moon should be ready to pick up from the library in the next couple of days. Other than that I would like to make a dent in my TBR pile before term starts so possibly either Child of a Hidden Sea by AM Dellamonica or The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler.