The Easter Dragon

Today was the Easter hat parade at Mr. H's school and this year the parents were asked to help make the children's hats at home.

I'd asked Mr. H a few times what sort of hat he wanted to make and kept getting the same answer: a dragon. Apparently he'd been inspired by a dragon toy at a friend's house and this was what he really wanted to create.

A drawing of the fierce dragon for inspiration and papier-mache materials ready to go!

A drawing of the fierce dragon for inspiration and papier-mache materials ready to go!

I asked Mr. H to draw a picture of the dragon and went to look up papier-mache recipes online (turns out flour and water is all you need!). We started this last Wednesday afternoon during his free afternoon with mummy.

Base layer of the dragon's body complete.

Base layer of the dragon's body complete.

We found a baseball hat to use as the base and mummy blew up a balloon inside the hat (plus a little bit extra so it could fit over top later) to represent the head during our construction. Then we drew a line around the balloon with a Sharpie so we knew where the bottom of the hat was. Note: putting the balloon in a small mixing bowl on the table helped to keep things steady and easy to manage!

Adding the neck and head. The neck was glued using regular white school glue and allowed to dry completely.

Adding the neck and head. The neck was glued using regular white school glue and allowed to dry completely.

Next we rolled up our sleeves and glooped up strips of newspaper with the flour and water paste to make the base of the hat which was the dragon's body. It took a few days to dry, then on the weekend we cut down a toilet roll for the neck and glued it to the body. Loosely balled up newspaper was stuffed in the top for the head and then the whole head and neck were covered in papier-mache, taking care to reinforce the neck where it joins the body. 

The wings (with claws and more spikes) were cut out of cardboard from the recycling bin. Mr. H drew a picture of the wings he wanted.

The wings (with claws and more spikes) were cut out of cardboard from the recycling bin. Mr. H drew a picture of the wings he wanted.

Mr. H really wanted this dragon to be fierce and have spikes coming out of his head so while the head was still wet we inserted three toothpicks into the head of the dragon and then carefully papier-mached around them to create the spikes.

Mr. H decided on a red and "gold" colour scheme.

Mr. H decided on a red and "gold" colour scheme.

Luckily there was no Beavers this week due to half-term so last night so as soon as we got home from school we started the painting so that it could dry while we worked on homework and dinner. Mr. H painted and mummy cut up some felt to cover the brim of the baseball hat and also make the tail. Again with more spikes. Once everything was dry, Mr. H embellished the dragon using different coloured Sharpies to draw a chick, a horse, an Easter egg, lightning bolt, and various other designs. 

The finished Easter dragon hat in all it's glory ready for the parade at school!

The finished Easter dragon hat in all it's glory ready for the parade at school!

The wings and feet were glued to the dragon's body and then everything dried overnight before being bulldog clipped to the baseball hat base this morning. Phew!

Stash enhancement - Japanese style

Hello! Hello! I know it seems like I fell off the end of the earth with regards to this blog but I'm back and I can't wait to show you all of the busy things that I've been up to!

We were a little jet-lagged upon finally arriving at our hotel (after landing in Tokyo at 5am!) but were pleasantly surprised to have this view of Mt. Fuji from our window!

We were a little jet-lagged upon finally arriving at our hotel (after landing in Tokyo at 5am!) but were pleasantly surprised to have this view of Mt. Fuji from our window!

The biggest thing was an actual holiday trip with Jordan to Japan! Granted, it was more of a holiday for me than for him as he was there for work, but I tagged along and spent my days hopping on trains and criss-crossing Tokyo to see a few sights and a lot of yarn and craft shops!

The final soup stage of a delicious shabyu shabyu dinner being served up.

The final soup stage of a delicious shabyu shabyu dinner being served up.

The Giant Buddha at Kamakura.

The Giant Buddha at Kamakura.

We had three very full, very lovely days at the end of the trip where we were able to do all kinds of touristy things and it was wonderful to relax together - especially knowing that Mr. H was well taken care of by Grandma and Grandpa back in London.

I know it looks like mostly yarn, but the books were heavily in favour as stash enhancement on this trip, they're just buried underneath!

I know it looks like mostly yarn, but the books were heavily in favour as stash enhancement on this trip, they're just buried underneath!

I'm planning another blog post on all of the various shops that I visited, but let's just say there were quite a few! And of course I tried to find something different from all of them. 

The latest issue of Keitodama.

The latest issue of Keitodama.

Knitting designers Arne and Carlos even have a regular column in Keitodama - that's how popular colourwork is!

Knitting designers Arne and Carlos even have a regular column in Keitodama - that's how popular colourwork is!

Apparently two years ago there was a large contingent of Japanese knitters and yarn store owners who traveled to the UK for Woolfest in Cumbria. It seems to have made an impression as the latest issue of Japanese knitting magazine Keitodama was all about Fair Isle and various stranded colourwork.

One of the shops I visited had put together a beautiful book on their trip to the UK which includes some beautiful patterns and gorgeous photographs. I can't read it, but I thought the photos and patterns were too wonderful to leave behind. It was also the only way to get a photo for the shawl kit that I bought! (You also couldn't get the pattern for the shawl without buying the kit, which is why four balls of Isager, that I can easily get in the UK, came home with me from Tokyo!).

Knitting socks Japanese style! There's one in here for a garter stitch sock knit flat and seamed on the side that I'm looking forward to deciphering.

Knitting socks Japanese style! There's one in here for a garter stitch sock knit flat and seamed on the side that I'm looking forward to deciphering.

Two-at-a-time sock tutorial.

Two-at-a-time sock tutorial.

You'll remember that I'm not really a sock knitter but in another of the shops I found the cutest book with a wide variety of sock patterns. I really liked this one as there are photo tutorials (many Japanese craft books and magazines I looked at followed this format) for some clever techniques, including two-at-a-time socks! Won't it be funny if this book pushes me over the edge into sock knitting?!

The rest of the books were on weaving, Japanese cloth folding (called Furoshiki - kind of like origami, but with fabric), and some stitch pattern books - which I was surprised took me until my last day to find a selection to choose from that I was happy with. I also picked up a couple of pattern books of a Japanese designer after seeing someone in a knitting circle knitting one of her shawls. The designs are really lovely with wonderful textures.

Funnily enough, of the yarn I bought, it is the Lotus brand, which I can't remember if I'd heard of or not before being there. It's a Chinese brand, as opposed to Japanese but it was so soft and wonderful (the red yarn is 100% mink, the other three skeins are 100% yak) that I decided it had to come home with me. As luck would have it, I've now figured out it is available in the UK! Oh well, so much for trying to find something different!

Almost finished ball 5 of 10 of the Noro Silk Garden I'm using to knit the Lady Eleanor Entrelac Stole.

Almost finished ball 5 of 10 of the Noro Silk Garden I'm using to knit the Lady Eleanor Entrelac Stole.

But since I was so busy touring in Tokyo, my own knitting languished (not that I minded!). I'm off to pay it some attention as I'm on a bit of a deadline knitting a thank you present for my mom for looking after Mr. H. Appropriately, I'm knitting it in Noro...

Unravel recovery and recap

This is my second attempt at this post so I can't promise that it will be as good as what I'd written before. Chalk it up to working on an iPad while on holiday and getting used to a new blogging app. Sigh - sorry folks. 

 Rachel - aka the lovely Porpoise - helped me man the booth all weekend. And see, the blanket did get finished in the end!

 Rachel - aka the lovely Porpoise - helped me man the booth all weekend. And see, the blanket did get finished in the end!

But ah yes, Unravel. Two-plus weeks is a long time to recover from a show although in my defense that first week Mr. H was still on half-term break so we spent time hanging out with friends and working on a crafty school project (more on that another day). Then I was busy getting ready for the super fun open day at Purlescence (DEFINITELY more to talk about on another day), prepping for my parent's visit (hello five pages typed cheat sheets with Harrison's schedule and extra-curricular activities), and packing for my trip to Japan (my travel project is all Noro, of course).

 My only non-booth photo - this gorgeous Icelandic lopi sweater where the colourwork motif reminded me of little Canadian flags all the way across.

 My only non-booth photo - this gorgeous Icelandic lopi sweater where the colourwork motif reminded me of little Canadian flags all the way across.

Unravel was a crazy and wonderful as I was expecting my first show to be. In fact, it was so insane, I barely got a chance to make a loop on the Sunday to check out other vendors' wares, and the only photos I managed to snap were of happy SweetGeorgia customers excitedly clutching their new yarns!

 Gilly was excited to find some SweetGeorgia in her favourite shade of tourquoise...

 Gilly was excited to find some SweetGeorgia in her favourite shade of tourquoise...

Lucky for me, there were plenty of folks who blogged or video-ed about the event, or reported on it via podcast, so I'm able to share a few of my favourites: 

 It was a busy weekend for Rachel, who also managed to finish her Georgia cardigan knit in the SweetGeorgia Merino Silk Fine. Isn't Mist a glorious colourway?

 It was a busy weekend for Rachel, who also managed to finish her Georgia cardigan knit in the SweetGeorgia Merino Silk Fine. Isn't Mist a glorious colourway?

Proving she's super-human once again - Rachel had a blog recap of the event up and ready to go almost immediately following Unravel. Even though we spent practically the whole weekend together, it was neat to see the show from Rachel's perspective as my co-conspirator in the SweetGeorgia booth.

Gilly of the awesome electric blue hair above returned to her blogging ways with a photo essay recap of Unravel which showed off many of the wonderful stalls on offer. Note to self: avoid wearing trousers in a colour that clash horribly with the SweetGeorgia banner in our booth.

 Plutonimum Muffins' Corrie Berry visited Unravel with pal from Loop's knit night and her post captures some of my favourite vendors that I've seen at various yarn shows in the UK so I feel like I was almost along for the ride! She's got great photos too.

A short, yet sweet (okay in her words, cheesy) video of her trip to Unravel was captured by Kerry Wallis. There a couple of shots of the Great Hall that show just how packed the event was, and the crocheted colours squares blanket even made the final cut!

Finally new friend, blogger, podcaster and general all-round social media guru Kate had so much fun podcasting about this year's event that she did it twice! You can find Part 1 and Part 2 (which mentions SweetGeorgia) on her website, A Playful Day.

I hope you enjoy these bloggers' recaps as much as I did. Won't you let them know by leaving a comment for them? Thanks!

Two more sleeps

Hard to believe that in another day and a half I'll be moving in to Farnham Maltings and setting up the SweetGeorgia booth for Unravel!

It's nervewracking to be sure but luckily I'm so busy with last-minute stuff that I don't have much time to be nervous! Yesterday I did a quick run to IKEA for some extra things for the booth and today I'm waiting for a few things to come back from the printers. In the meantime I've been making packing lists and pulling everything into one place. And I've also been seaming!

My blanket layout options. I've tweaked the colours here so they show up a little better in the image.

My blanket layout options. I've tweaked the colours here so they show up a little better in the image.

The squares have been finished and borders done for a few days now. I didn't have a lot of time to play around with the layout, but I came up with two options that I really liked.

I was originally planning on only tying the corners of the squares together from the back of the blanket (a la Beekeeper's Quilt with the crazy hexipuffs). That way, as Felicia adds new colours to her range or discontinues others, I could easily pull apart the blanket to rearrange things at will.

Lara, my uber crochet expert, and I were chatting on the weekend and she taught me her favourite simple seaming technique. No kidding - we were on FaceTime so she was able to demonstrate it for me, and I was able to practice at my end then show her right back. Loving using technology for an in-the-moment how-to lesson!

The nicest thing about the seam is that it's very quick to pull out if necessary later on, and it's almost invisible. The blanket is almost complete and I'll be sure to get some pics this weekend in the booth for a full reveal to you all!

Water-logged WIP Wednesday

Mr. H and I were soaked (despite wearing raincoats and wellies) on the way home from school so we decided to forego our outing for today in the hopes that we'll have better weather next week during half term. I'm not sure how thrilled he was with the idea of seeing Kensington Palace anyway, although the promise of a trip to the pirate-ship playground next door in Kensington Gardens seemed to be working.

I'm thinking half-term might be a good time for Mr. H and I to visit the Thames Flood Barrier and learn how it works.

I'm thinking half-term might be a good time for Mr. H and I to visit the Thames Flood Barrier and learn how it works.

In any event, the torrential downpour this afternoon is the perfect excuse to catch you up on what I've been working on.

10 squares down, 43 more to go!

10 squares down, 43 more to go!

Of course you all know about the crochet squares in SweetGeorgia's gorgeous semi-solid colourways that I've been making into Bear's Rainbow Blanket in preparation for Unravel. It's knit night tonight so I'm hoping to chug through this pile some more.

I have exactly 49.5g left of a 100g skein to knit the other mitten. It's going to be close...

I have exactly 49.5g left of a 100g skein to knit the other mitten. It's going to be close...

More "work knitting" includes the commission I have for a pair of simple, fingerless mittens. A fellow in Jordan's office admired his and asked if I'd be willing to make a pair for him. We've happily agreed to barter. He's getting mittens and as he's a graphic designer, I'm getting a professionally-designed flyer for this year's Great London Yarn Crawl. Hooray! The pattern is Ysolda's Garter Stitch Mitts, knit in Spud & Chloe Sweater.

No lace charts. Just 9 pages of line-by-line instructions. Just the way I like it!

No lace charts. Just 9 pages of line-by-line instructions. Just the way I like it!

And then of course there's my "Olympic Knitting". This year I've joined Team Canada to try and stay motivated with the knitting and the various groups and activities going on on Ravelry. I've generally tended to do this sort of event-based knitting on my own but I think that this time around, being away from Canada, it's important to me to feel more connected. I don't agree with the politics of this winter games' host country or how scary it must be for some athletes to not be able to be themselves at these games. Rather than boycott though, I'm knitting to show as much support for our Canadian athletes as I can. In their honour, I'm knitting the Maple Leaf Knit Shawl in some Canadian Fiddlesticks Knitting lace-weight yarn from deep in my stash, held double to get closer to gauge.

What have you been working on lately?

Interruption

I'm interrupting the marathon of rainbow crochet squares and squeaking in this post to bring you a little update of my day trip to Paris last Thursday.

And now, it's on to the borders!

And now, it's on to the borders!

(Even after living in London for a year and a half I'm still tickled to be able to say that I went to Paris "for the day". If I'm honest, I'm not sure the novelty will wear off!).

Catherine, Alli and Karen ready to catch that 7:01am train!

Catherine, Alli and Karen ready to catch that 7:01am train!

The girls and I were at St. Pancras bright and early to catch the Eurostar to Paris. Catherine and I had planned this for a while but Karen ended up visiting due to work and happily decided to crash our party!

We were traveling down for L'Aiguille en Fete and decided to mix things up a bit this year by not heading directly to the show first thing.

We still haven't figured out how Karen didn't buy anything on this trip. At. All.

We still haven't figured out how Karen didn't buy anything on this trip. At. All.

Instead we decided to introduce Karen to the wonders of La Droguerie. None of us bought anything, choosing instead to save ourselves for the stitching show. I did price out some lovely merino/silk singles to make a wonderful cowl though. Since I'm going back to Paris in April I'm letting that simmer on the back burner for now...

Having a glass of wine while we wait before lunch at Le Boudoir. Have the tasting menu - it's divine.

Having a glass of wine while we wait before lunch at Le Boudoir. Have the tasting menu - it's divine.

After La Droguerie we headed to the trendy Champs Elysee and Franklin Roosevelt area for an extremely leisurely (3 hours!!) lunch. And then we were on to the Porte de Versailles for the show!

Aimee holds down the fort at the popular L'Oisive The et Tricot booth where knitters were two and three deep to check out the lovely yarns.

Aimee holds down the fort at the popular L'Oisive The et Tricot booth where knitters were two and three deep to check out the lovely yarns.

Since it was opening day we knew that the show was going to be a little crazy, but thank goodness it was less so than last year! Our hope that the crowds would have thinned by the mid afternoon seemed to have come true. The show also seemed slightly smaller than last year and one of the vendors said that the aisles had been widened so that likely factored in making a difference too.

I love the subtlety of colour in this French hand-dyed yarn.

I love the subtlety of colour in this French hand-dyed yarn.

Catherine and I were both tempted by some lovely pretties. I got a skein of French hand-dyed yarn and a vest's-worth of Icelandic lopi yarn (the same that I opted not to get last year - I figured if I'd been thinking about it for a year, I should probably get it!) and while I was tempted by plenty else, I stuck to what I had been on the look out for on my mental shopping list.

We even managed to see the Eiffel Tower - sort of...

We even managed to see the Eiffel Tower - sort of...

As the show wrapped up it's first day we headed back to the Gare du Nord with plenty of time to clear customs and purchase a bottle of champagne to enjoy on the train back as we knitted merrily away.

I wonder who will join us next year?

I wonder who will join us next year?

The first epic project of 2014

Back in January I proclaimed that this was going to be The Year of Epic Projects and that a lot of selfish knitting would be involved.

My first project (or rather, first project to finish, since it's been a WIP since last year) is kind of for me, but more in a work capacity since it's something I've been working on in anticipation of the SweetGeorgia booth for Unravel.

While I'm not a huge crocheter, 2013 saw me pick up a hook on multiple occasions - enough to cause me to purchase a set of hooks at the Great London Yarn Crawl. And I've been loving it. Most of the time I still feel like I'm not sure exactly what I'm doing, but luckily for me there are some great tutorials online, like this one for Bear's Rainbow Blanket from the Purl Bee blog.

I've been going a little crazy with SweetGeorgia scraps and a crochet hook...

I've been going a little crazy with SweetGeorgia scraps and a crochet hook...

The blanket is beautiful, and crocheted with another fabulous Canadian yarn - Koigu. But the kits to make it are intimidatingly expensive - if you want to do the original as shown, you have to buy a skein of each of the colours, even though a very small portion is used. But since it's such a small portion of yarn, it makes it a perfect blanket for working through scraps of sock yarn, which I just happened to have leftover from the mini skeins of SweetGeorgia that RachelCatherine and I knit into mini socks to be able to show the colours more fully to yarn shops interested in carrying the yarn. 

These are some of the mini socks that Catherine knit. Aren't they adorable? Such a perfect way to see the richness of the hand-dyed yarn. Photo courtesy of Catherine Hopkins.

These are some of the mini socks that Catherine knit. Aren't they adorable? Such a perfect way to see the richness of the hand-dyed yarn. Photo courtesy of Catherine Hopkins.

I've been working on crocheting these little squares since last year, in between and around projects and always trying to keep an extra scrap ball with me when on the go. Of course, once the new year arrived, I had to kick it up a notch and it's been what I've been working on almost constantly (I'm slow, what can I say?!).

Of course, all those ends are going to have to be woven in first...

Of course, all those ends are going to have to be woven in first...

There are about eight squares left to go and then I can get them all washed and Soak-ed before adding the white borders. With any luck, this blanket will make a fab backdrop for photos of fans of SweetGeorgia with their newly acquired yarns at Unravel. Their only problem will be choosing their favourite colour!

Unravel-ing

One of the things that I don't do on the blog very much, if at all, is talk about my work in the knitting and fibre world.

What I do isn't hidden - it's right there in my bio - but unless you know me in real life or if we know each other professionally, you might not know that my "day job" is working as a sales rep in the craft industry. I am lucky to represent three terrific brands - SweetGeorgia Yarns, Soak Wash, and ChiaoGoo needles. They're high quality, premium brands and I use them myself. I don't think I could represent a brand that I wouldn't use - how would I get excited enough about the brand to be able to sell it?

Over the last year and a bit, going to these various yarn shows and meeting knitters and becoming involved with the yarn community here in the UK - that is my research. And every minute of it is amazing. It's exciting to be able to meet to knitters and introduce them to SweetGeorgia. I love seeing how giddy knitters get to pet a new yarn, and hearing their appreciative gasps as they see how wonderfully saturated the colour is in the yarns. As good as it may be to read about a yarn being fabulous on the internet, or seeing the vibrancy of our colours, nothing compares to finally seeing the real thing in person!

My job isn't only about finding shops to get the yarn into though - it's also about supporting the stockists that we have here in the UK and helping to get the word out to knitters so that they know that SweetGeorgia yarns are available here. To do that, you have to go where the yarn-lovers are: yarn shows.

Unravel 2014.jpg

Lucky for me the first big yarn show of the calendar year happens in February in Farnham, just outside of London. Even luckier, my application for a booth for SweetGeorgia was accepted and I'll be there (assisted by the lovely Rachel) with lots of yummy samples for you to try on and kits for purchase. There's also a super secret surprise that I'll be announcing soon on the SweetGeorgia blog that has been keeping me pretty busy!

Putting together a booth for a show is no small task but it's also been a lot of fun. I've been learning a ton and enjoying having to use a whole different set of creative skills other than fibre-based ones (how novel!). It will definitely be an experience to see a festival from the other side!

But back to Unravel - they're having a contest! And appropriately, it's about colour work:

Unravel 2014 colourwork contest.jpg

I have a lot on the go leading up to the show, but any thoughts? If I thought I could whip something up quickly, I would. If you're going to Unravel, maybe you can bring your own colourful creation to enter?

Last of the Christmas Knitting

You guys were really on the ball yesterday recognising that a baker I am not. 

Thanks for the comments here and on Facebook. I went back and checked the recipe and lo, it does indeed call for baking soda, which is what we used. I'm still not sure why the muffins weren't as dense as they usually are but warm banana bread goodness that was also light and fluffy? Who am I to argue?

(As an aside, Mr. H really liked them too. Last night I wasn't feeling well and Mr. H wanted a snack before dinner so I said he could have one out of the bag on the kitchen table. When I rallied myself to make his dinner I found him sitting at the kitchen table with a little stack of muffin wrappers in front of him. The little goober had managed to eat six - SIX! - before I got in there to make his dinner. After chastising him to leave room for his dinner he said, "But mummy, they're SO good!". Ahhh, sweetness! And he still managed to eat all his dinner too. I think we might be in the midst of a growth spurt.)

But anyway, want to see the last of the Christmas knitting that I couldn't show you? Here it is:

Pattern: Phildar Issue No. 60 (all mens's patterns) Yarn: Debbie Bliss Paloma in Charcoal and Ruby Yardage: Approximately 253 yards (I had to start a third skein of charcoal right near the end) Click the photo to go to my Ravelry project notes.

Pattern: Phildar Issue No. 60 (all mens's patterns)
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Paloma in Charcoal and Ruby
Yardage: Approximately 253 yards (I had to start a third skein of charcoal right near the end)
Click the photo to go to my Ravelry project notes.

This is the cowl/neckwarmer/scarf-thingy that I decided to knit for Jordan for Christmas when I realised that he was the only one not on the receiving end of any knitting this year. Couldn't have that! Since we weren't together at Christmas on the day, it gave me some extra time to get it knit up and I finished it on Boxing Day. We finally got to celebrate Christmas together as a family last weekend and I think Jordan must really like it as he hasn't been seen without it since. Always the best compliment!

This morning as I was snapping his picture Jordan asked, "You'd kill me if I ever lost this, right?" Best not to find out!

Best-Ever Banana Bread

Mr. H and I decided that our adventure on Wednesday this week was going to be a baking one. We've had some overly ripe bananas here for a while that no one wanted to eat. Funny, when they get turned into banana bread or muffins, they sure disappear fast enough!

Recipe: Best-Ever Banana Bread from The Best of Bridge Series. If you grew up in Canada, chances are someone in your family has one, if not all, of these cookbooks. They're delicious!

Recipe: Best-Ever Banana Bread from The Best of Bridge Series. If you grew up in Canada, chances are someone in your family has one, if not all, of these cookbooks. They're delicious!

Interestingly enough, this is one of my favourite recipes that I still hadn't manage to try out here. See the notes written on the recipe? They were for our old house in Toronto that didn't have the greatest (or hottest) oven. Luckily, I thought to turn down the heat a bit on the oven here (it has a convection fan that circulates the heat really well), and also put the two muffin tins in for even less time. Which was a good thing as they were done when the time went off! I think next time I'll even shave another 2-5 minutes off.

We chose to make muffins this time, but there's something to be said for having a nice, thick slice of banana bread with a warm cup of tea, non? I'm thinking a single tin of muffins and a loaf next time.

Update: I had wondered about the difference in country, altitude, oven etc and if the recipe might turn out differently and these did - SUPER light and fluffy! Still rich in flavour but not as dense as I remember the recipe being. When I was cleaning up the kitchen I noticed that I'd inadvertently bought (and subsequently used) bicarbonate of soda instead of baking soda. They are not the same! Joy the Baker has a good blog post about this. Always good to have an excuse to use up more bananas!

Social Sunday with the London Modern Quilt Guild

Just heading out the door to the shop this morning but thought I'd do a write up for you on a non-knitting crafty thing I got up to this weekend. Enjoy!

Late last year I had the pleasure of taking the Lizzie House Meadow Quilt workshop at The Village Haberdashery and I loved the experience of getting back to sewing.

Inadvertently through reading someone else's blog (no idea whose, I was down the rabbit hole of the internet that day!) I stumbled across the London Modern Quilt Guild.

I'll be honest and say that I didn't (and still don't) know much about the idea of modern quilting. The Modern Quilt Guild has a good definition/history of modern quilting but the LMQG breaks it down even further on their website. Seeing that list made me reflect on the kinds of quilts that I'd started to be attracted to over the last few years and I was pretty sure that it was the same aesthetic and approach of quilts that I'd seen that were making me want to get back into sewing. In particular, the use of negative space, and also stuff being more minimal in terms of design, with clean lines. Less fussy.

The thought occurred to me that part of the reason I think I've had success learning to knit was because of finding and becoming part of a community - both in real life and online. 

There's something to be said for having your creativity inspired by like-minded individuals, and it never hurts to be able to ask questions of more experienced crafters - especially when starting out! So I thought I might find getting into sewing, and specifically quilting, less intimidating if I had a group of folks to tap into their knowledge, and I emailed them to find out more.

Turns out I had just missed their last meeting for the year, but was kindly invited to the start of the year, which was today! Although I was horribly late. There were about two dozen people there, and a good show and tell was underway. I didn't remember to snap a lot of pics, but did manage to get a few:

I love the simplicity of these triangles - and the colours! I'm sorry I can't remember who made this one.

I love the simplicity of these triangles - and the colours! I'm sorry I can't remember who made this one.

There was also this great one that a woman had done for her 6-year-old son. Somehow I think the Cat In The Hat fabric quilt that I've been working on for Mr. H isn't going to cut it any more if he sees this:

Apparently all of the faces are hand-pieced, and she made up two of them when unable to find a pattern. OMG! The backing ingeniously made use of a Lego Star Wars fleece blanket purchased from Legoland.

Apparently all of the faces are hand-pieced, and she made up two of them when unable to find a pattern. OMG! The backing ingeniously made use of a Lego Star Wars fleece blanket purchased from Legoland.

After the formal part of the meeting was over most folks stayed on to have lunch in the pub and it was nice to chat and get to know a few folks. I'll definitely be joining and am already looking forward to February's meeting. It will definitely be good motivation to get cracking on the two quilts that I have on the go!

Wednesdays with Mr. H

There's a tradition in the French Lycée system to not have classes (or homework) on Wednesday afternoons. That time is dedicated to les ateliers - sports or other activities and school clubs.

It was a definitely something that took a while for me to remember (except that first week when I didn't know that I had to pick him up after lunch and showed up at the regular time to learn that they'd just popped him into an atelier anyway!). As a result, for the last year and a bit Mr. H has always participated in the school-offered ateliers so that pick up times are the same for me most days - it just makes scheduling easier.

The entrance to the Natural History Museum, aka "the dinosaur museum"

The entrance to the Natural History Museum, aka "the dinosaur museum"

After doing sports last year and trying out patisserie last term, we decided to try shaking things up a bit so this term Wednesday afternoons are dedicated Mr. H and Mommy time. I originally thought we'd do our own version of patisserie at home and expand the cooking repertoire that we've been doing together but yesterday Mr. H had other ideas and wanted to "go to the dinosaur museum". Who was I to argue?

A ferocious sabretooth cat - look at those fangs!

A ferocious sabretooth cat - look at those fangs!

Having only ever been to the Natural History Museum on a weekend, or as a parent accompanying a field trip, it was unusual to be there mid-afternoon and mid-week. No queues! No crush of strollers and tourists! That's not to say that weren't any, but there wasn't the same volume, which was refreshing.

Getting ready to see the T-Rex!

Getting ready to see the T-Rex!

The dinosaurs exhibit is well set-up, winding you through the dinosaur hall and the different dinosaur periods while alternating between displays of full skeletons and fossil samples (or recreations that you can touch). There's a catwalk too that takes you over the exhibit initially as well, so that you can more fully appreciate the full scale of some of the bones. And the animatronic T-Rex is his dark enclave is always a treat.

This animatronic T-Rex is a highlight of the exhibit, except for maybe the smallest children

This animatronic T-Rex is a highlight of the exhibit, except for maybe the smallest children

It was also really neat (for me at least) to see how much Mr. H remembered from the unit on dinosaurs they did with his class last year. We talked about herbivores, carnivores and omnivores and he told me his theory on how the dinosaurs became extinct (it involved meteors hitting the earth and subsequent explosions which caused an ice age that killed the plants. Then when the plant-eaters didn't have anything to eat, they died and that meant there was nothing for the meat-eaters to eat so they died too).

Lots of big mammals on display!

Lots of big mammals on display!

Following on from the dinosaur exhibit we checked out the large mammals room. There's always so much to see that you really have to plan your visit in advance as it's really easy to get distracted while wandering around. Next time I want to check out the Room of Hidden Treasures as a one of the mums at school calls it. Apparently there is a room that is good for about a 90min to two hour visit - great for kids! - and it features a rotating selection of some of the weird and wonderful exhibits that the museum holds but doesn't have on a permanent display anywhere. Anything from pages from an early book to shrunken heads, you never know what you're going to find there.

Besides the wonderful exhibits, the architecture inside is also breathtaking!

Besides the wonderful exhibits, the architecture inside is also breathtaking!

Afterwards we were pretty hungry so we popped into a family-friendly Italian place for dinner. Mr. H must have been starving because not only did he order a babyccino for himself and eat all of his spaghetti and meatballs, but he at most of the calamari that he insisted we get too, and then still had room for ice cream for dessert! For such a skinny kid, I'm not sure where he put it all.

Twirling spaghetti requires serious concentration

Twirling spaghetti requires serious concentration

Spaghetti success - mostly!

Spaghetti success - mostly!

With all the stuff there is to see and do in London, I'm not sure how much cooking or baking will actually get done on Wednesday afternoons but I'm looking forward to more adventures with Mr. H.

2014: The Year of Epic Projects

It's been a full week and a bit here chez C&Q. Lots of organising and cataloguing, identifying stuff to de-stash, thinking about the year ahead and not without a little bit of tough love and reflection on 2013.

Depending on how often you read my blog, or if you know me in real life, you might know that I love big ideas. No. I LOVE big ideas. In fact, the bigger the better. But I think in the last year where I really fell down was in the execution of the ideas. I came up with the ideas without the rest of the plan. 'm good at managing projects for work, but when it comes to the personal I need to remind myself that it's not enough to know the destination, I need a map to get there.

This year, I want to be smarter about my goals and not get caught up in a list of things that when I look back on 2014 I'm not thinking ZOMG! I didn't get x, y or z done but rather - yeah, that was a solid, satisfying amount of crafting and work that was accomplished. 

I may be putting a fair amount of pressure on myself, especially as I have a significant birthday ending in a nought later this year, but I'm also wanting to selfishly focus that pressure on me. I'm proclaiming that this will be the year of epic projects, and that the vast majority of them will be for ME!

That's not to say that I won't sometimes end up knitting for others, but I've got some big crafty plans for this year and I want to wring the enjoyment out of every last stitch. I'm also not going to write down my list of projects here either this time. Instead I'm going to focus on pushing myself further with big challenges (two dresses! lace! colourwork! cables!), new techniques, some designwork and if there's time, maybe a little bit of sewing too.

First up this year - some pre-planning for #GLYC2014 and getting ready for Unravel. I'm already knitting. What are you working on?

FO Friday: First Finish of 2014

When I was putting together the collage of all my finishes in 2013 I realised I'd never posted about the awesome Take Heart toque I knit from Issue 7 of Pom Pom Quarterly. Perhaps another time? I'm too excited with the fact that I already have a project hot off the needles in 2014, what I'm calling a Boyish Toque:

Pattern: Phildar Issue No. 60 (all men's patterns - French magazine purchased on my last visit to Paris) Yarn: Debbie Bliss Paloma in charcoal and ruby Yardage: Approximately 75 yards Click the photo to go to my Ravelry project notes.

Pattern: Phildar Issue No. 60 (all men's patterns - French magazine purchased on my last visit to Paris)
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Paloma in charcoal and ruby
Yardage: Approximately 75 yards
Click the photo to go to my Ravelry project notes.

The toque was originally meant for my DH for Christmas, but as you can see, there's no way it's going to fit an adult! In fact, a little blocking will be in order to see if I can't get this stretched out a little bigger for Mr. H. And in retrospect, I'm not sure what Jordan would have thought of the little elfin point to the top of the hat anyway!

Boyish toque - rear view.jpg

The Debbie Bliss Paloma yarn is a 60% alpaca, 40% merino mix and spun and processed to a light, airy, super bulky chainette. It was lovely to work with, but even with 6mm and 7mm needles, I'm surprised it came out so tiny - especially as the pattern called for bulky, not super bulky yarn.

I love the way Mr. H's ears stick out from under this hat - such an imp!

I love the way Mr. H's ears stick out from under this hat - such an imp!

The only modification I made to the pattern was to cut out two stitches and knit it in the round. Yes, weirdly the pattern was written for the hat to be knit flat and then seamed. Is this a French colourwork thing? Maybe someone can let me know in the comments.

Ready to take on 2014!

Ready to take on 2014!

I enjoyed the colourwork though - it's been a while! But it's now making me think I need to make a colourwork hat for myself. I happen to have something in the stash that would be perfect. Uh-oh. New Year and start-itis already seems to have me in it's grip...

A mish-mash of days

Hello you wonderful readers! I'm sorry for the prolonged absence here - things have been interesting, to say the least. 

I had written a blog post a while ago chatting briefly about some things that have been going on here, but then the blog ate it and it was lost and frankly, I was too tired at that point to try and write it again. Sometimes something just has to give around the holidays and this year it was the blog - sorry about that.

First of all - we're all good. Unfortunately one of our family members isn't but is improving, which is great. My hubby happened to be in Canada for a visit while all this was happening and extended his stay to help out - a relief and comfort on all sides I think, to be able to do something and be there instead of in London and so far away. 

As a result Christmas has been decidedly lower-key this year. Mr. H and I were fortunate enough to travel up to Cambridge to celebrate with our former next-door neighbours from Toronto (they moved to the UK a few months before we did). I'm sure we would have been fine on our own, but it was nice to be thought of, and have company, and spend time with folks who are pretty awesome and damn fine people. 

Of course, in the blurring of days into one an another I thought that today was Friday and so was all set to post some recent holiday FOs but no, it's Saturday. Sigh. But lucky for you all, I've decided that who cares if it isn't FO Friday - I'm going to show you all the recent Christmas present finishes anyway.

First up is the Minion Hat in crochet for Mr. H - who seems delighted to be a Minion!

A Minion hat for Mr. H

A Minion hat for Mr. H

Then there were the bulky slipper socks:

Knit in Malabrigo Rasta in Archangel for Mom

Knit in Malabrigo Rasta in Archangel for Mom

More Malabrigo Rasta - this time in Zaramora for my SIL Jen

More Malabrigo Rasta - this time in Zaramora for my SIL Jen

Customised for Dad in Debbie Bliss Como and with patches found on Etsy!

Customised for Dad in Debbie Bliss Como and with patches found on Etsy!

Unfortunately I don't have a picture of my the finished handspun, handknit hat for my brother but he loved it, which is all I really care about! I'll see if I can get my photographer SIL to snap some pics of him that I can share.

Also sadly, I never did manage to spin that sweater's worth of yarn that I was hoping to so I'll have to find a way to get to that next year. And since 2014 is already looking like it will be "The Year of Epic Projects", it should fit right in! More on that next time.

Monkey see monkey do

What is it that attracts us to a particular knitting project? That makes a project trend in the top 20 on Ravelry, or has thousands of favourites and just as many folks who have not only added it to their queue but actually knit the project?

I'm not talking just about adding a project to our favourites because we like it, or think it's cute, or it might be flattering on us. But that feeling that grabs us until it is overwhelming and there's nothing we can do but cast on and work our way through to completion.

Or is that just me? Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying I feel like that with every single project I knit. But there are some projects that definitely push the envelope, challenge me, and mean more to me as a result. 

Like my latest finish. I know you're only here for the photos so let's just get to it, shall we?

Pattern: Sleepy Monkey Blanket by Mary Ann Stephens Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Yardage (for the Pre-Process Stashdown 2013): approximately 1,445 yards Click the photo to go to my Ravelry project notes

Pattern: Sleepy Monkey Blanket by Mary Ann Stephens
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash
Yardage (for the Pre-Process Stashdown 2013): approximately 1,445 yards

Click the photo to go to my Ravelry project notes

Most of these photos were taken around Carnaby Street earlier this week. I love the cobblestones and brightly painted buildings and the quiet expectation in the air as the street was slowly coming to life before the shops were due to open.

See what I mean about the colours of Carnaby Street?

See what I mean about the colours of Carnaby Street?

I first saw the Sleepy Monkey Blanket at a book reading by the Yarn Harlot and was captivated by the monkeys and the colourwork - something I hadn't really done a lot of up until then although I'd learned the basics with a Fiddleheads Mittens class (really must finish those!).

After obsessing over finding the pattern,  stalking projects on Ravelry until I was pretty sure I'd found the knitter of the blanket and her colour combo, and then reading the pattern instructions, I recognised that this was going to be an opportunity to learn a few new skills: stranded colourwork, and steeks. (Which were no big deal, btw. Glenna C does an excellent class at The Purple Purl.).

It's kind of funny, but I've come to realise that the projects where I learn something new, that are crazy and challenging and push me as a knitter are the ones that I enjoy the most. There's so much to learn as a knitter and I constantly feel like I'm just scratching the surface.

Thoughtful details make for a perfect finish.

Thoughtful details make for a perfect finish.

The details on this project are fantastic. Designer Mary Ann Stephens is clearly a genius (with patience bordering on masochism) for the amount of planning and thought that has gone into the construction of this blanket. The front and back panels are worked separately and then joined for the border. Not only is this practical for keeping little fingers and toes from getting tangled in the colourwork floats, but it adds more cushiness and warmth to the blanket. Ditto for the border, although with each side picked up and knit separately before joining both sides again and finishing with the garter ridge outer border, it did become a bit of a marathon knitting at the end.

Couldn't resist using this festive red door as a backdrop for the blankie!

Couldn't resist using this festive red door as a backdrop for the blankie!

Now it's time to pack it up, get it in the mail, and hope it makes it across the pond in time for the baby shower. While I'm doing that I'll be thinking about what new challenges I can take on next. More colourwork? Cables? I'm open to suggestions!

All over the place

I know. I know. I owe you guys pics and project notes of the Sleepy Monkey Blanket that I tweeted about being finished. Patience my pretties!

With work and finishing up some knitting, visits and keeping on top of my little guy's activities, I'm not quite sure where this term has gone.

What I have noticed though, is that as often happens when I'm overwhelmed, my organisation skills fall victim to an untidyness that can only be seen to be believed. Witness my shame:

The horror. The horror! Meet my disorganisation nightmare.

The horror. The horror! Meet my disorganisation nightmare.

That my friends is my workbench, which not only holds my stash but *should* also be able to hold and keep organised various projects as I work on them at the same time, or in a queue, and thus help keep *me* focused. Sadly, my system has failed and has happens periodically, needs to be reset.

In all the busyness, my workbench has become a dumping ground (and let's not even talk about the area in front of the bench, or the floor of the office off-camera!). I was reading about New Year's cleaning traditions and it being bad luck to have the old year's dirt stay with you into the new year instead of being swept out with the old year. Knowing that I have some big plans for 2014 in terms of work and projects, it seemed like just as good a time as any to start getting that solid footing sorted out.

So I've been clearing out the piles and binning random bits and filing others, which is also helping in terms of my planning for 2014. Some my 2013 goals fell by the wayside quite early on and I suspect that having goals without necessarily having a plan for those goals was where things fell down. 

It's a start. hopefully it will make things easier when I do a stash tidy-up to see what hasn't been put in right storage container, what hasn't been logged on Ravelry, and of course the stash toss to keep a vigilant eye out for critters...!

More to come!

Wovember Wrap-up

I originally meant to post this as a WIP Wednesday, seeing as how it's really just a bunch of photos of what I've been working on lately. However, since it's also been Wovember this month, I've also made a conscious effort to knit exclusively using wool.

Wovember?? I hear you ask. Well, if you've not heard of Wovember, it's a new-ish movement (established in 2011 by designer Kate Davies and friends Felicity Ford and Tom van Deijnen), cleverly twisting the name of that other well-known November cause - Movember - and exists as a celebration of all things woolly. It's a great idea to have a whole month dedicated to the celebration and the grassroots nature of the campaign lends an authenticity to the discussion by encouraging craftspeople to share their own stories and experiences with wool:

Wovember is about showing our collective appreciation of wool by wearing as much of this fabulous fibre as possible, and by celebrating its unique qualities in stories and pictures throughout the month of November. Through our enthusiasm and creativity we can raise awareness of what makes wool different, and jointly create a force for wool appreciation strong enough to effect changes in how garments and textiles are described and marketed. - Wovember web site.

It was a long queue for the Eiffel Tower so I kept busy with my knitting!

It was a long queue for the Eiffel Tower so I kept busy with my knitting!

Wovember for me began while I was in Paris with my DH. Even though I'd chosen a French pattern to celebrate being there, my yarn choice was a yummy British Falklands fingering weight yarn.

Not much progress, I'm afraid. But I'm loving all the shades of grey in this hand-painted yarn!

Not much progress, I'm afraid. But I'm loving all the shades of grey in this hand-painted yarn!

Sadly, the train on the way there and in queues for various attractions was the only time my knitting saw any progress as when we got back I moved back into wrapping up a few Christmas presents and other things.

Possibly the most awkward knitted thing to photograph while on the needles, ever!

Possibly the most awkward knitted thing to photograph while on the needles, ever!

Speaking of other things, this WIP baby blanket has been the other project mostly keeping me occupied this month. A hardy Cascade 220 Superwash is what has been used. I'll post more details as soon as it's done and I can get some proper pics taken. It's just too unwieldy while still on the needles!

A bag full of yarn, fresh with possibilities!

A bag full of yarn, fresh with possibilities!

And to wrap up the celebration of all things woolly this month - my package from The Shepherd and The Shearer arrived this week! Funny how this blog post has now come full circle - Kate Davies is actually one of the designers on this project. She has a great archive of blog posts about the project, if you're interested. The wool smells wonderful and sheep-y, but sadly this project will have to wait until the new year for me to get started on it.

What woolly things did you knit on this month?