Sunday, 29 January 2017

Year Of The Rooster

Kung Hei Fat Choi! A very merry Chinese Happy New Year! It is of course, year of the Rooster this time around, although I'm not sure I know any Roosters to be able to specifically congratulate them. Our celebrations weren't as grand as last year although we did put up our lanterns and other decorations. I went out for a works leaving do at a Nepalese restaurant (which seems to be a cross between Chinese and Indian cuisine, very nice it was too) and The Parents had a quiet evening in with The Sister and some Chinese food. I received my envelope of lucky chocolate money and other little gifts this morning which is a good way to start the day.

I thought I would show you a sneaky peek of the Moorland CAL, Attic 24 blanket. Only a sneaky one mind, the rest of the crocheting journey will be revealed in the next Winter Project Link Up Party post. I took the blanket to work on yesterday whilst The Parent's and I drove to Eastbourne for a spot of shopping, and discovered that I can complete one whole row in the time it takes to get there. The weather turned on us rather whilst we were popping in and out of the shops, it was brilliant sunshine when we entered the large shopping centre and pouring with rain when we came out the other side! We manfully carried on for a little longer before giving up and racing to the car to find somewhere to have some lunch.

Dad has a favourite picnicking spot in Eastbourne, a little car park right on the seafront a little way away from the town centre so you can look back across the bay and see the pier and parades of seafront shops. Amazingly we outran the rain and was then in a fantastic spot to watch a weather front creep over the cliffs towards us whilst we eked out the last of the sunshine whilst munching on our sandwiches.

We came to this spot for a picnic in April last year too. Funnily enough the weather was pretty much the same then; blustery and cold with spots of rain and sunshine. It's perhaps nicer that way as there aren't many people there to spoil the view and you are guaranteed a parking space!

I really like these breakwater posts, I wonder if I could do another seaside themed stitchscape and have some of these marching in from the side?

I also found some beach treasure to bring home as a momento! Something else to add to my collection of beach finds which I think we all gather in some way, filling our homes with interesting stones, shells, glass and driftwoods. All part of our fascination of the sea.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Frozen Bubbles

Aren't these images fabulous?! They are like one of those photographs you see in the National Geographic magazines; perhaps a double page spread on the wonders of the deep... except this natural wonder was found at the weekend in a large stone bird bath in the garden. The bubbles from the little plants Dad popped in during the summer (Water Hyacinths and so on) had all frozen in their bid to escape to the top and left these amazing trails.

I almost want to try and stitch it but I daren't. It's like a french knot frenzy! You couldn't even begin to count how many little dots and spots would be needed to create a frozen bubble pond stitchscape (pondscape?).

I love how the sunlight is filtered through the bubbles and into the 'deeps' of the bath. You can image all sorts of creatures living in the deep recesses. Or...maybe these aren't bubbles! It could be a giant herd/gathering/swathe of jellyfish migrating somewhere warm, or a new species of algae bobbing around trying to find a rock to latch onto. Hehe, you could quite literally take the stories anywhere and let your imagination go wild.

I was thoroughly enjoying being out in the sunshine at the weekend, and thought I would take the opportunity to show you how I was getting along with my Moorland Stitchscape. I admit progress is slow on this one as I am so distracted by my crochet at the moment- they are much warmer projects to be working on! This week though I will be taking the stitchscape into work for some serious lunchtime stitching which should speed things up nicely.
How do you like the stitched moorland next to the crocheted one? The colours complement each other beautifully don't you think? I will reveal more images of the Moorland CAL blanket on the next WPLUP post which will be in the first weekend of February.

I am really playing with this stitchscape. Having already added padded rocks, I have been couching down some beautiful fancy yarn/ribbon things, and working some enormous french knots in tapestry yarn or some unravelled Sirdar Supersoft yarn I had in my basket.

This Kaffe Fassett fabric (which is a delight to work with, so many patterns and colours in the design!) has been covered with french knots, back stitches around the colour blocks and long stitches in the flower petals, layering it all up.

And I spent quite a long time working minute seed stitches into this patterned green fabric (below). It's not quite a spot fabric, but it lent itself so well to having each dot covered with a tiny stitch and has created a fantastic texture. Hopefully with the extra half hours at lunch time, I shall finish this one soon as I have some more ideas for future stitchscapes boiling and bubbling in my little head.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Little Squares

What a beautiful Saturday! Crisp and clear with gorgeous sunshine. I am up bright and early today as I have a community Guiding thing to go to later but I wanted to photograph all of my current projects to share with you whilst there is a lovely light to photograph in. I am very much missing waking up in the light and sitting in the sunshine although am starting to notice that it seems to be lighter later on in the evening, roll on Spring I say!

I have been spending my bus travel time keeping my mind off the dark and crocheting my little three-round granny squares. Last year I photographed my squares on the round table outside so that you could see the colours interacting together (see that post here) and I thought I would try it again as it is such fun to play with the squares and the colours, putting them in different orders and stacking them neatly.

There are still lots more colours to be added to this little pile. I discovered a discarded blanket in the attic that was partly made whilst I was at university. The hook I was using was the wrong size so the stitches were coming out incredibly tight and the blanket rippling along super slowly so I put it to one side and started it again with a larger hook to create the finished blanket (The Sister's Sunset Ripple). The first attempt just got packed away but as it is never going to be used for anything I have decided to frog the lot and make them into little squares which should bring some zing to this blanket! There are also several more baskets of bits of wool I have found in the attic (a veritable treasure trove!) so I'll see if any of those are Stylecraft and pop those in.

In true blanket making tradition, the cat is never far away and was watching the stacking, re-stacking, layering and photographing very carefully. He will be called upon at a later date to do his duty and thoroughly test the completed blanket for cat-ability and comfortable-ness, as every cat of the household must.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Textured Clock Rocks

I've had good fun today starting off a new stitchscape. It is in part inspired by the Moorland CAL blanket I am making along with Attic24, and also partly inspired by an image I saw in a gardening magazine last week. The image in the magazine was actually of fields of Cherry Blossom trees in China, but they were so clustered together that it reminded me a lot of swathes of moorland heather coating the landscape.

I had a good rummage through my 'bits' bag which contains all of the little tiny scraps of fabric not really good for anything in particular, selecting the greens and purples to make my moorland. I wanted the background to be more broken up than my 'scapes have been recently, with lots more colour and smaller scraps of fabric. Hopefully the image still flows quite organically though.

I also had one of those flashes of very late night inspiration over the weekend. You know the ones where you are trying to get to sleep but you know you won't be able to until you've written down the thought that suddenly occurred in that half-wakefulness? The thought was to make the forefront of the stitchscapes even more textured with the addition of padded sections, using batting, felt or wadding to pad out a fabric shape and needle-turning the main fabric underneath, catching the very edges with near invisible stitches.

This idea was tried out with some rocks popped into the forefront of my Moorland Stitchscape. I found some scraps of a beautiful clock printed cotton which is just perfect. These were cut to a sort of rockish shape and size, and then a layer of batting cut to just smaller than the fabric.

As you work around the shape, the fabric is carefully turned underneath and the stitches placed so they just catch the edge of the turned fabric. You follow all the way around in that fashion, turning corners and adding extra stitches where needed. My first attempt on the taller rock didn't go that well at the bottom as the fabric shifted and I turned more at the top, leaving not quite enough at the bottom. (It's probably a handy tip to get one of those curved quilting pins to hold everything in place and avoid slippage. Normal pins don't work as they create more of a dip and pull the fabric into the centre.) It didn't really matter though as the rocks needed to be grounded with some stitches that I knew would hide the scrappy edge.

The best part is that any stitches placed through the layers give a quilted appearance which adds even more texture and definition. You could play on this and have some areas more padded than others, or stitch halfway round and top up the centre section with wadding stuffed in. I think this is a technique used in Stumpwork embroidery, but please don't quote me on that.
I've since added to the rocks with lots of intense, grouped french knots, using both tapestry wool and DMC embroidery thread, and am thrilled with how they are looking!

Saturday, 14 January 2017


The snow has all gone. Goodbye snow! It's such a pity, I really love proper snow days when it's freshly fallen and you are the first one to make footprints in the smooth layer of white, hearing it crunch underfoot. There wasn't enough on the ground this time round for that to happen, and actually, I don't recall it being that deep for a number of years down here in the South East. I know lots of people don't like snow, especially those who have to travel in it, but I hope we get some more this year.

It did leave things clear and bright though, we could see all the way over the valley to the top of the next hill  which is usually shrouded somewhat in a mist or haze. The sun was also a rather welcome sight and was actually quite warm as long as you were in a sheltered spot out of the way of that harsh breeze.

We have a shrub in the front garden which isn't much to look at with tiny white flowers hiding behind leaves, and large black berries, but if you walk past it on a still day or in the early evening, the smell is incredible! You find yourself walking round it and sniffing to try and find the strongest point. It's a sort of sweet smell, delicate and pretty, which catches you when you least expect it.

I have enjoyed my week off, although as ever, it has flown by far too fast and I'm having visions of the mountains of paperwork I know will have built up on my desk at work. It has been a very relaxing week, with lots of stitching interspersed with crochet to help my hands, some reading, blog writing (and reading), shopping, a trip to the seaside, hanging out with The Parents and playing with the cat. (Who was also thrilled at the sunshine's return, even if it was only for a little while.)

Little green shoots are beginning to appear all over the garden, bringing hope and excitement for Spring. I can't wait to start photographing the sweet little flowers that will appear, adding colour back into the otherwise relatively bland garden.

I have been feeling a little like Rumpelstiltskin these past couple of days as I decided to turn my bag of leftover Stylecraft Special DK acrylic yarn into little squares. I did this last year as a way to use up the odds and ends of various blankets- it's amazing how much you hang on to 'just in case'- and I managed to put together a full size granny square blanket, as well as a smaller baby granny square blanket.
Do any of you know the story of Rumpelstiltskin? It is a fairytale about a girl whose father (a miller) boasted to the King that his daughter could spin straw into gold. The King was greedy and locked the girl in a tower full of straw and a spinning wheel. He demanded that she turn all of the straw into gold by morning else he would order that her head be chopped off. The girl of course was very upset as she could not actually turn straw into gold, and just as she was giving up all hope, an imp/pixie/gnome creature popped into the room and offered to spin the straw to gold for her in return for her necklace. She agrees to this and the King is delighted to see all of the gold waiting for him in the room upon his return in the morning. As he is very greedy, he takes the girl into an even bigger room with even more straw and demands the same. Again the imp/pixie/gnome creature appears and spins the straw to gold for her in return for her ring. On the third night, the girl is asked the same task, with even more straw to spin, and the King announces that if she can spin it all to gold by morning he will marry her (with the natural assumption that if she doesn't, her head still gets chopped off). When the imp/pixie/gnome creature comes to the room that night, the girl says she has nothing else to give him in return for his spinning services. The creature makes her promise to give him her first born child as payment for the straw to gold, and the King is so delighted to see the room gleaming with spun gold the following morning, that he marries the miller's daughter and makes her his Queen. Of course, eventually they have a child and the imp/pixie/gnome creature returns to take his payment. The Queen begs him to not take the child away and offers him all of the riches in the kingdom instead. The creature is not interested, although eventually agrees that if the Queen can guess his name within three days, she can keep her child. All of her guesses fail until finally, on the last night, she wanders the woods in search of the creature and happens (very luckily) upon his remote cottage in the woods. He is dancing gleefully around his fire, and singing; 'tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, I'll go to the King's house, nobody knows my name, I'm called Rumpelstiltskin.'
When the creature comes to the house on the third and final day, the Queen pretends to have several guesses before telling him his name. Rumpelstiltskin flies into a rage but he has lost his bargain and takes himself away in a temper, leaving the Queen to keep all of her spun gold and her firstborn child.

Every blanket I make makes me feel slightly like a crocheting Rumpelstiltskin. I still find it quite astounding that someone discovered or invented crochet. The act of turning a ball of yarn, a single strand that is not good for much on its own, into a shape or a fabric, to be worn or used is amazing- magic almost.

As before, these are only little granny squares- one of the easiest and quickest things to make. There are three rounds in each square and to join them together I will probably use a single colour to work another round and the join-as-you-go method to create a blanket. There is no hurry for this one though as I am bound to have lots of yarn left over from the Moorland CAL blanket and my simple stripe one. I shall just keep filling up my bag of squares until I am ready to put them all together.