Sunday, 31 May 2015

Filling Up My Knitting Project Bags by Coopknits

If you knit a lot, it is a good idea to have a few project bags in which to keep your ongoing WIPs safe. They're great for storing everything in one place: your wool, needles, stitch markers, row counters and anything else you might need for a project. There are lots of different types of bags out there in a variety of sizes, shapes, colours, open ones, zippered ones, drawstring ones, etc. My perfect project bags are zippered so there is absolutely no risk of anything falling out - I worry especially about my stitch markers - and nothing unsavoury can get in either.

Drawstring bags are my second favourite kind, particularly medium sized ones that have enough space for a pair of socks and yarn. I use those a lot because I knit a whole lot of socks. Also, they are fairly cheap most of the time so they don't break the bank. When I saw that Rachel Coopey of Coopknits had two new cotton project bags in store, I just had to have them and I quickly added them to my birthday wish list.

I love the prints! As you can see, both bags are already in use. Socks Yeah! contains two pairs of socks and two balls of yarn, so there is plenty of space. I'm working on a new sock design there so no peeking! The neverending quest for warm feet is actually holding arm warmers in my also neverending quest for warm wrists. I'm using local undyed Gotland DK for these that I bought in Cornwall. The first arm warmer nearly reaches my elbow now so I may cast on the second one soon.

I know us knitters love a good project bag. Do you have a favourite? Is there one you have your eye on? I'd love to see them.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

A Yarn Story Re-opens

Regular readers will know that there is a new yarn shop in Bath. Having only opened in November of last year, it has quickly outgrown the space and has now re-opened closer to the city centre. Much better for shoppers all round: easy access, more stock, and a wonderful space to browse and squish all the woolly goodness.

Of course there had to be a party and I am so glad I made it. There was bubbly, food, beautiful things to buy and I met several people I knew from Twitter, but had never met in person. It was great to be able to put faces to names. Members of the local knit group also came, so it was bound to be a great afternoon and I ended up staying far longer than planned.

Of course there was far too much pretty yarn to choose from, so some piled up heaps of hanks and consulted other visitors, designers and even a sales rep of the industry as to the best choice for certain projects. Me, I was very lucky to find two stunning hanks of yarn right away. This never happens! More on that in another post later. A Yarn Story also stocks my stitch markers and row counter bracelets and I demonstrated their use to a few people, which definitely helped sales. Yay me!

In one corner at the front of the store, there was a consistent whirring sound coming from some very busy ball winding. Are there ball winding competitions? There should be. The speed demonstrated here at times was phenomenal!

The shop not only has yarn, but also spinning fibre. I even spotted some Malabrigo Nube in baskets on the floor, so it is well worth a look if you want to keep your spindles and spinning wheels busy. Carmen even has a little spinning wheel in store, though it is not a functioning one. It is a nice little touch, I think.

My favourite corner is the one seen below: that is where some stunning yarn is hiding. Carmen stocks mostly indie dyers' products and the best treasures are right there along with sets of knitting needles and other little things. I also like the arrangement of the knitted shawls and cardigan. It all just looks really cosy.

The eagle-eyed will even spot the Kir Royale shawl I knitted.

There is a lot of attention to detail in the store's decor, ranging from the display of yarn to knitting to notions and knitting-themed jewellery. The yarn display below is something I could well imagine having at home. It is easy to make and looks great. Yet another craft room idea - if I ever have such a room.

I am particularly glad that I now have easy access to wool wash and indie yarns that were hard to find before. This is a special little shop and I thoroughly recommend it. If you're ever in town, go have a look! I am sure you won't regret it.

At the end of the day, even Peaches the dog was tired.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

How to Use a Clover Pompom Maker: Step-By-Step Photo Guide

I now have enough pompom makers to last me a lifetime! Between the Multipom and my new Clover pompom makers, I can now make a factory load of pompoms within hours. These will all be handy when I take part in the Big Knit again or if I make more garlands or beanies. They'd make good gift wrapping decorations as well.

My favourite pompom makers are the ones from Clover. There are far more inexpensive ways to make them, of course, such as by using a fork, but for some reason I enjoy winding my yarn around a Clover instead. The pompoms seem to come out nicely rounded as well so that no trimming is needed. I know lots of you love pompoms, so here's a photo guide explaining how to use a Clover pompom maker. I hope it is useful!

Feel free to share this guide and link back to it, pin it and so on. How do you like to make your pompoms? What's the best method for you?

Monday, 25 May 2015

Planter Cozy: A Great Use For Leftover Yarn

This is a great use for leftover yarn! Recently, I bought some cacti and succulents, but I didn't have a nice pot to put them in. So while I keep searching for the perfect planter, I am using an old ice cream tub. Of course it looks terrible, so I got some of my leftover cotton yarn and quickly crocheted a simple striped cover. Made in a long rectangle, I sewed the ends together and slipped it over the tub's side. Easy! I love it.

How have you used leftover yarn?

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Outlaw Artisan Craft Show in Bristol - Part 2

After telling you all about my favourite designer/makers at Outlaw in my last post, it's now time to show you what I got up to when I wasn't admiring everyone's work and sampling the baked goods in the catering area.

At one end of the hall, Outlaw had arranged am area for their Demo Theatre which I was keen to visit. As you can see, there were lots of interesting demos about all manner of things and I am still a bit sad I missed out on the gift wrapping demo because I got to Bristol just after it finished. I enjoy gift wrapping and it would have been great to learn some new tricks.

Nonetheless, I was also looking forward to the terrarium demo. People who know me know that I love plants. I think every home should have lots of them, but personally I have trouble keeping my (currently) only plant alive. So I have been thinking about getting succulents and cacti which would be much hardier plants, easier to place around our tiny flat, and less likely to wilt and die if I water them infrequently. (I rarely remember to water myself, so imagine my poor plant.) But before I get any, I wanted to make sure I do it right, so the demo was very helpful.

I know I am bad with plant names, but I didn't even know Billy Buttons existed!

Sarah Hill is a florist based at the edge of Exmore and her potted plants and flower arrangements at Outlaw were lovely, natural and wild. I really enjoyed her demo, too, and now feel confident I can give a terrarium a go. I am itching to get started!

Other than spending time at the Demo Theatre, I also had a go at making pompoms and a vintage paper brooch at the Make & Take Theatre. Given that you only have about 15 minutes to make something, you won't learn anything terribly difficult, of course, but I had lots of time and a bit of crafting is always fun. 

So I grabbed a seat, a fork, and some yarn for the pompom garland class. It was fun and quick and I did have to help my neighbour who was struggling with her neon pink yarn. I swear that yarn was evil - I later made a pompom from it, too, and it fell apart as soon as I got home even though it was perfectly fine before. The garland is now hanging on my bookshelf.

The next class I went to was a rather spontaneous choice because I am neither a fan of vintage nor of brooches. And yet I ended up in the long queue for the vintage paper brooch class. Mind you, it wasn't at all what I had expected, but I got to play with stuff and do a bit of decoupage. We had a selection of vintage papers, stamps, glitter glue, beads and sequins to glue onto cardboard shapes. What I had expected was to learn to fold vintage paper into floral shapes or something similar, so this was quite a surprise.

I chose a New Zealand stamp as the main feature of my brooch, which will come as no surprise to people who know of my connection to New Zealand. I used two matching papers for the square and round cardboard pieces as well as lines cut from newspaper to frame everything. I couldn't quite finish the brooch with a pin because there wasn't enough material for everyone, which is a real shame. While it's not a bad result, I am not entirely happy with my brooch and have no idea what to do with it now. It isn't a brooch I would wear, but I enjoyed making something new on the day, and finding that particular stamp made me especially happy.

And that's the end of the Outlaw mini-series on Abso-knitting-lutely! There was lots to see and do and I am so glad I was able to go. I had a great time and look forward to the next event.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Outlaw Artisan Craft Show in Bristol - Part 1

I made it! Despite living so close to Bristol, I have never made it to any craft events because something always gets in the way. So when I heard that Outlaw was coming to Bristol, I was a little bit wary and fully expected not to be able to go. However, I did go on 2 May and I had an excellent time.

Because I have lots to tell you about this event, I am splitting my report into two parts. In today's post I  want to introduce you to some of my favourite sellers at Outlaw and show you which items caught my attention. Come back on 22 May for part 2 in which I will talk about the Demo Theatre and Make & Take Theatre at the show. I got to do a bit of crafting, which was a lot of fun and I have photos to share.

The event took place in the Passenger Shed which is situated right next to the train station, so the location was perfect and easy to get to. The Passenger Shed it quite large and filled up nicely with all the exhibitors, demo theatre and make & take theatre. There even were live music, good food vendors, a play zone for kids, workshops (which I was too late to book, sadly), and  lots of space to sit and rest.

There was a good variety of exhibitors who sold a wide range of products ranging from embroidery to hand-bound books, plants, jewellery and much more. As soon as I walked in, the place that immediately caught my attention was Lauren Aston Designs. Why? Have a look:

Need I say more?

Lauren's designs are knitted in larger needles using roving. Yes, roving! The thing I use to spin my yarn. Because of this, her throws and cushions are incredibly soft and squishy. I also like her knitted lampshades and poufs. Lauren was lovely to chat to and I hope I see her again at other craft events. In the meantime you can visit her website for more of her products.

At the other end of the hall, I met another knitter and crocheter with interesting handmade work. Rhea Clements displayed her jewellery and accessories that all consist of bold colour combinations that you can't help but notice. I especially likes these necklaces and bracelets made of crocheted rings. 

That grey and orange bracelet would be perfect for my favourite summer dress, actually.

There is something retro about these knitted bags and purses, so they're very much on trend right now. They've been made using a knitting machine as opposed to being knitted by hand.

I was very happy to see a seller from Bath at the event. I know Gemma of The Silver Shed from Etsy and the Bath Artisan Market so it is always nice to have a chat when I see her. She makes lovely, whimsical silver jewellery based on fairy tales and folklore.

This was the first time I saw her new displays and I love how it shows off her work. Her jewellery is so delicate and worth every penny. I am still coveting her ring that reads "He kissed her & she awoke". I like how the simplicity of the display really brings out the detail in Gemma's work. For a closer look, click on the image above.

Having just returned from my Cornwall holiday, I was also keen to see many of the Cornish vendors at Outlaw (which is based in Cornwall) and products I had seen while away. As I passed one particular stall, something familiar caught my eye and I had to take a closer look. When I visited St Michael's Mount in Marazion, I was very tempted to buy these little fish in the gift shop:

These seem to be exactly the same ones and I still love them. Because I have nowhere to put them in our flat, I did not buy them, but one day I definitely will. These were made by Charlie Deighton who is based in Bristol and not in Cornwall as I had thought. I am also happy to see that she does the Bath Artisan Market round the corner from me so I will have to pop by again soon.

These four sellers are by no means the only ones worth mentioning, but I enjoyed their work the most on the day. Outlaw did a great job of attracting wonderful designer/makers and I very much hope they will come back to Bristol (or even Bath) for another show.

Have any of you been to Outlaw? Let me know what you got up to.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Crochet Spiderweb Garland

This is yet another garland I made for the #CraftBlogClub gift swap taking place this month. As you know, I made the first crochet rose garland quite early on before I even knew who would receive it. I just felt like making a rose garland for the first time and I really love it.

Luckily, my swap partner happens to be the one person I know best from our little Twitter group and I immediately had an idea for another garland that would suit her even better: spiderwebs! She is getting her PhD in film studies and loves horror films. Perfect!

I used the half spiderweb pattern from Crochet it Baby, but only crocheted the first four rows to keep the webs small. Once I had nine of these, I just tied the webs together and it's a good length for a small garland to hang on your mantelpiece, for instance. I think I might actually make one for Halloween.

The yarn has been part of my stash for years, but I never knew what to do with it. It is 100% acrylic with multicoloured lurex in it: Woolcraft Diamonds DK lurex blend yarn 2001 in black/gold. I still can't think of anything else to do with it! If you have any ideas, please let me know.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

What On Earth Is a Diz?

My handmade diz from polymer clay

That is what I wondered when I first saw one on a fellow spinner's blog. I hadn't heard of a diz before and certainly hadn't seen one. Then again, I don't know a lot of spinners, so that's no surprise. 

According to The Joy of Handspinning, this is how a diz is used:
A diz is used when you are combing the wool into a combed top. A combed top uses only the longest and strongest fibers and leaves the shorter fibers and noils in the comb. Combed top is best used for spinning worsted yarns.

Using the diz is the last step to making a combed top after the combing is complete. The wool is drawn off the comb through the diz, which is a disc or oval made of wood, plastic, or cardboard with a hole in the middle. Thread the fiber through the hole of the diz, and push the diz toward the comb as you draw the wool off the comb to form the top.

The disc usually has at least one hole, but more there may be more than one to make top in different widths. Sometimes a diz comes with a threader, too.

A custom diz, still raw and uncured.

Some time ago, I made a little diz from polymer clay and it turned out really well. I have made a few more in the meantime. Since I don't think there is much demand for one, I haven't added any to my shop so far. I may have to make some more to see what kind of designs I can come up with, but I am very happy with my first one.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Simple Crochet Rose Garland

I don't crochet. Okay, I do sometimes, but I don't like it.

Most of the time, I just can't stand the look of crochet. There are very few exception and crochet just does not seem as versatile to me as knitting does. Knitting also looks sleek and elegant, perhaps a bit more sophisticated. Of course, as in all things, it depends on what you are making - and it is not the actual process of crocheting that I have an issue with, just the final product.

But once in a while there is a time for crochet even in my life and this is such a time. I have quite a few leftover balls of cotton and acrylic in DK weight that are perfect for quick projects such as this wonderful rose garland that I am incredibly happy with. It is part of a #craftblogclub gift swap, so I do not get to keep it, sadly. In fact, I may well have to make one of my own soon.

I found a free crochet pattern for the roses here on The Party Artisan blog. The roses are quick to make: I made the whole garland in less than a full day. Once the roses were finished (I made a total of 13), I used chain stitches to crochet the the string, making 25 stitches before joining the first rose, then adding flowers after every 15 stitches. The end consists of another 25 stitches.

I really love this and can't believe how well it came out, considering I had to look up every single stitch other than the chain stitch. (That tells you exactly how often I crochet, doesn't it?) What's your crochet like? Do you do lots of it or none at all?