Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Once upon a time..

...in a land far, far, not-very-far away there lived a brother and sister named Patch and Honeysuckle. Patch and Honeysuckle had been born in the land of Sewing Room in the town of desk-by-the-window.

One bright sunny day they discovered that the border with the land on Landing had been opened and they crept cautiously across the border, hoping that they would not be attacked by any malingering hockey-sock monsters (and, dear reader, they are scary).

All was well and they came safely to the start of the perilous cliff face of Staircase. Patch and Honeysuckle were a little scared and though about retreating to the safety of Sewing Room. But no, they were made of sterner stuffing than that and they pressed on, down, down and down again.

And at last they came to another border, guarded by mysterious green fronds and they could hear chirruping and smell sweet scents drifting in on the breeze.

Carefully Honeysuckle nosed her way through the fronds with Patch tiptoeing along behind her (Honeysuckle is the oldest so she always goes first). July 127

And when they came through the fronds they found that they were standing in the fabled land of Garden:
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"Wow!" said Honeysuckle, "I've heard of this place but I never really thought it existed - let's explore!"

But Patch was already off; "look at this - it's stripy and feels sticky but it smells nice, may I lick it?"
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"No silly, it's a flll... a flllrr....flaw... a fla-wer, you don't eat it, you look at it."

"I like it" said Patch, "I'm going to keep it as a pet".

Honeysuckle was about to tell him that flowers probably don't make the best pets what with the wilting and all but then she saw a big blue mountain.

"Come on Patch, I'm going up there", and off they went. Truth be told, Honeysuckle was a smidgin afraid of heights and she had the odd wobbly moment on the way up, but there was no way that she could let Patch know that, and at last they reached the top.
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And what a view it was.

After they climbed down again Honeysuckle found another "fla-wer"
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"Atishoo! Atishoo! Atishoo! Fla-wers make me sneeze" snuffled Honeysuckle.

"Come and look at this one" cried Patch, "it opens and closed with the sun"

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Patch and Honeysuckle played in the land of Garden all day long but it was over far too soon.

"Come on Patch" said Honeysuckle, "it's time for another adventure - we're going to Brighton and the beach" and she struck out in a southerly direction.

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"Beach? what means by Beach? Beach! ... wait for me!" said Patch hoppitying along behind.

I would tell of the seaside adventures of Honeysuckle and Patch but all that is for another girl and boy to share.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Stars shining bright

It's been a while longer than I thought - blame the sunny weather and a hectic schedule! Picking up where we left off, I believe I promised pictures of my newly planted garden and after a number of false starts and smudgy photos taken too early in the morning, here we are:
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There has also been knitting - I finished the knitting part of the Firebirds on Friday
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And now I'm onto the embroidery part (which is taking a lot longer than you would think). I've found it best to put the sock on the blocker to get a bit of stretch on the fabric but as my feet are slightly larger than the blocker it's an inexact science. What I can say is that despite all the effort it makes a huge difference, but I'll save the pictures until I have a finished pair!

When not melting in the wonderful warmth this weekend I have been picking up on my Star quilt-along. Amanda-Jean published the last star this week and I realised that I'd run out of steam at star 6. So on Saturday as H headed off for a boys golf game I set up my sewing room.

I have decided that when I'm grown up I'm going to have a house with a wide veranda with power sockets so I can sew on the veranda and also I'm going to have a cutting table at the right height - my desk is officially too low (creak).

Several hours of sewing later (and very early this morning) all the stars were finished and it now looks like this:
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As you can see I have another 6 setting squares to sew plus sashing and then the whole quilting issue. I know you'll say 'famous last words' if I claim that I am aiming to sew one quilt at a time but it's true - I've got until Christmas to finish this one at which point we're going on a long distance fabric shopping trip for the next one (and yes I have chosen it already - it's here but that's not a very good picture. I also admit that if we go to the NEC festival of quilts in August I may slip up!)

Anyway, having finished the stars it seems only proper to allow them to parade. So, in week order we have:
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Week1 - I don't know what this star's called but it's pretty
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Week 2 - again no name
(well there should be a picture here but it seems I forgot to take one. Imagine one for me please :))
Week 3 - the Ohio Star - I'm guessing that's a big clue as to where that block originated!
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Week 4 - Sarah's Choice - who was Sarah and what did she choose?
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Week 5 - Another no-name but I'm going to call it nightmare - this is the one that had a do-over because the first effort was so atrocious.
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Week 6 - Aunt Addie's - another mysterious name, I'm going to have to get a book on quilt history to find out where the names come from.
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Week 7 - Star of Hope a variation on the Ohio Star and the first of yesterday's marathon effort
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Week 8 - the Maple Star
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Week 9 - Optical Sawtooth
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Week 10 - Martha Washington Star - named for the first First Lady of the USA, although wikipedia fails to mention whether she invented it herself. I love the pinwheel in the middle and this is probably one of my favourites.
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Week 11 - the Amish Star
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Week 12 - the Indian Star

and finally
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Week 13 - appropriately named Right Hand of Friendship

I've really enjoyed this quilt-along and I think my technique has been steadily improving. The blocks aren't all the same size but I'll play with the sashing until it's all right and we'll take it from there!

Twinkle twinkle and goodnight

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lawyer by day, Gardener by Night

I've been missing in action again! Somehow when things get busy or that particular form of stress where you just need to curl up in a corner and hide I curl up in a corner with the knitting and ignore the outside work. Anyway the little hitch that was causing my grief has all been sorted so normal transmission can resume.

I actually don't have any pictures of knitting (or anything else for that matter) because this evening we have been planting up the garden. We went to visit H's parents at the weekend and they live near a fuchsia specialist who is closing down as rising domestic oil prices have eroded his profit margin. He told us he's going into growing 1/2 pound strawberries (you heard it here first).

Anyway I have a weakness for English Country Garden flowers, which is handy as I have an English country garden and now I have 8 fuchsias, three hardy and the rest in pots to come into the conservatory when it gets cold. We also went to the nursery that supplies bedding plants to town councils in South Yorkshire and they were selling off the leftovers at bargain prices - the plants might have been a little battered when we picked them up but they're coming on a treat and they are all (6 trays worth) now in the ground, even if planting did happen in the dark - it'll be a surprise to see what we wake up with!

And now there is mud all down my legs, under my fingernails and a smudge on my nose and forehead so I'm going to have a bath. More pictures of both the garden and one and a half firebird socks to come shortly.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Puppy Power

In a few weeks time the baby girl of the family, Peggy to you and me, turns two. I'm a big fan of handmade gifts, and not just because I like making them so much, mainly it's because that way Peggy will have something that none of her friends have, something that can be copied but not replicated, and something that, in a really quite small extended family, says that we cherish her as the start of the next generation.

So I made her a puppy:

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This is the wonderful pattern from McCalls Scrap Quilts - a magazine I picked up on a whim and discovered I loved every quilt in it! The squares are 2 1/2 inch precut charms packs bought from Cotton Patch (two yellow and one brights for this chap).
Now the pink scottie was called Radley because he was supposed to be the dog off the Radley bags and went to a girl with a bit of a thing for everything Radley. This one I'm having a bit of trouble naming so please let me know what you'd call him/her. I'm contemplating Sunshine, Smudge or Spice.

Having said that the whole point of handmade gifts was that they were unique, I do have a slight confession:
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Currently laid out on the lounge floor. This is for Peggy's cousin, for his first birthday, in October. His real name is very unusual and doesn't give itself easily to a blog alias so I'm falling back on a bit of heritage, and to you and me he shall be Carey - it means 'the loved one' in most of the Celtic languages. Carey's puppy is going to be an action puppy - hence all the green - perfect for hiding in sparkly multicoloured grass

As with Peggy's puppy I'll embroider the eyes , rather than add a button - it looks just as good, is really tactile and there's no chance of Peggy or Carey chewing it off. Hopefully the personality of this completed puppy will suggest some names to me but if anything strikes you let me know.

Ooh - I could call the puppies Peggy and Carey to go with the real Peggy and Carey - what do you think?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

To a firebird

Hale to thee, blithe spirit

Bird thou never wert

That from Heaven or near it

Pourest thy full heart

in profuse strains of unpremeditated art

(Percy Shelley)

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The bird is taking flight. In this picture we have almost all of the tail feathers and at the moment I've just started the body (after an surprisingly hard time trying to decide which precise part of my ankle bone I should be measuring from to get the length right). There has been much debate from those who have gone before trying to decide whether to use the moss stitch or diagonal basketweave stitch - at the moment I've gone for the basketweave because it's new and different. I'm doing the large size and my gauge is a smidgen on the loose side so I'm hoping it will all pan out - plus a lifetime of giving commercial socks a good yank over the ankle means I'm not broken hearted if I can't pull it on with a little finger! Whether I can manage the intricacies of basketweave if of course an entirely separate question.
For the moment than I shall knit on, amidst the soothing scent of beautiful sweet peas

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Monday, July 14, 2008

One plus one makes two

It is perhaps a common trait of knitters that they share the same mildly obsessive personality. What else could explain ripping out so much knitting for one tiny mistake that you will always know is there, playing with different gauges to make sure the fabric is perfect, of relentlessly knitting up the contents of a sock drawer when we haven't needed socks in over two months.

I clearly have this mildly obsessive personality in spades. On Tuesday I started the Fiori di Zucca socks, I knit a bit of the pattern and oooooed and aaaaaaad over the pretty pistachio yarn and the flowery lace.

I didn't touch any of my other projects (of which there are several) until Sunday evening.

On Friday night I finished sock 1 and on Saturday it looked like this: July 060
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And on Sunday:
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Beautiful, beautiful socks and a good wodge of pistachio yarn left over for something pretty further down the line!
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The thing is, I think the sock bug is fairly well rooted - today I started the Firebird!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A little internet is a very dangerous thing

In my blog-hopping yesterday I found a site with power, and might - the power to envelop me in its vanilla scented clutches and add mightily to my waistline. With whispers of exotic lands and at the heart of it all, the true life source of Carie - cake.

For lo, I have discovered:

The CupCake Bake Shop

Formerly a blog, but now an index of wonderful cake recipes. I spent yesterday lunchtime drooling over them and then detoured home for some ingredients.

First up - the ones I thought H would like best - chocolate cupcakes stuffed with strawberry chocolate ganache and frosted with chocolate glaze and buttercream - they are goooooooood and (used to) look a little bit like this:
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I would love to show you pictures of the inside but mysteriously they keep disappearing before I have a chance to find a camera - clearly the work of cake elves.

And then my choice (somewhat dictated by the ingredients available at Tescos in Brum) - Honeydew Cupcakes topped with White Chocolate-Cardamom Butter Cream :
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These are delicate, soft fluffy cupcakes with melon chunks and puree in the batter, then a reduced melon filling and white chocolate frosting.

I have managed to acquire photos of the insides:

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See how I prostrate myself for my art - indubitably I would not have eaten the cakes were it not for the need for photos - oh look, here's another one:
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Mmmmm cakes = yummy

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Disclaimer: Mrs CarieMay and Mr H warn you that clicking on the link marked "Cup Cake Bake" may result in altered sense of time passing, several days missing from your life, a prevalence of crumbs and several inches on your waistline. They do however assure you that it is totally worth it.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Lavender's blue dilly dilly, Lavender's green....

Cleo's socks finished dilly dilly,
The next ones are green!

Yes indeedy, the rule of thumb which says that if the first sock has taken for-ev-er the second one will feel like it took 10 minutes, has come strongly to the fore.

On Saturday I felt that I could consider and possibly even touch the purple yarn without my tummy turning over, so I cast on to have something to knit and watch telly with and got a good way into the toe - it really does help when you only have to knit it once to get it right!

Then on Sunday - well, Federer v Nadal had me gripping the needles and either forgetting to knit, or knitting in time with the tennis - I finished the evening with a film and found that I was half way through the heel short rows.

When I got home on Monday I'd done a good chunk of the leg and I was at that precarious stage of knowing that even if I didn't knit any more on it on Monday, I would probably finish before Tuesday knit night which would mean carting round something else on Tuesday etc etc.

So I sat down to finish while H went to play hockey, and one episode of Lewis (my favourite), Part of the documentary on the July 7 bombings, several episodes of Police Bang Crash Ouch and snippets of a few other things later, they were done:

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I should note the following:

1. It was 1am (I thought it was about half ten and got rather a shock)

2. The pattern notes carefully explained that the pattern was written with one less repeat than the picture to encompass the large size.

3. I knit the large size after reading everyone else's feedback on sizing.

4. I got to the leg, looked at the picture and thought "I'm going to do another pattern repeat - there's seems to be lots of yarn".

5. As a safety measure I weighed the sock on the needles vs the remaining sock yarn and a spare set of needles at regular intervals as I went up the leg of the first sock, to make sure I didn't shoot myself in the foot as it were (yes you can thwack me for that one)

6. In line with above safety measures I cast off the first sock when the front slash met up at the back and left off an extra inch or so of ribbing.

7. (hands up if you saw this one coming) - Despite all efforts (as outlined above) my second sock is about 4 rounds shorter than the other one - efforts including splicing in my emergency sock yarn keyring.

8. I love them anyway and you really can't tell unless I tell everyone (might be a slight flaw in this blog thing then!)

It must have been kismet to finish on Monday, because at Knit Night my lovely friend Noelle gave me a lavender sachet that she had made for my birthday:

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In green! It's a very cunning design because if you loop it over a coathanger it fits inside the frame and everything will smell lovely. It is a real treat as I love scented flowers but the lavender in our garden isn't big enough for a serious harvest just yet.

In the midst of sock finishing we are in sock starting:
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Now I'm going to have to concentrate to say this: Fiori di Zucca - it means Courgette Flower (I think) and is kit 4 from the Socktopus Sock Club. Now I know I say this every time but this really is my favourite yet, which seems appropriate seeing as it is designed by our gallant enabler, Alice herself.

The yarn is Dream in Colour Smooshy in a specially dyed colour Gelato al Pistachio (see how we're all about the Italian) il mio calzino è molto bello.

All I shall say is that the picture above is 1 1/3 repeats into the main pattern (taken first thing this morning) and it's now two and 2/3rd. I'm also eyeing up the blue smooshy in the stash and wondering whether courgettes could have something of the night about them - any thoughts?

Monday, July 07, 2008

In my garden

Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing: -"Oh, how beautiful!" and sitting in the shade.
~Rudyard Kipling, "The Glory of the Garden"

I can't say that I've been giving the garden much attention this year but we did have a weed-and-plant session a few weeks ago and it seems to be bearing bloom - the lavender that matches so nicely with my new socks being a case in point.

Our roses are in bloom
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And I've been playing with the camera settings as you see!

But perhaps the best comes from the wild - a cascade of wild scented honeysuckle in the tall hedge - reminds me of home
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And what else should I knit in a flower garden, but a shawl named for a flower garden - this is the Hidcote Shawl:

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Or at least, chart 1 of many (10 I think) by Miriam Felton (who also designed Icarus) in Basil coloured Zephyr which H gave me for Christmas. It is beautiful yarn for the pattern but I didn't quite think through the photo issues - maybe I'll wrap it round a teddy next time - it's about that big!