Yes, I know. What can I say? It’s been Christmas, and I’m a crafter and a musician, which automatically means that I’m ridiculously busy, and it takes me a week of sleeping after it’s all over to recover before I can even contemplate any kind of brain activity. I went back to work today after ten days off, and my brain is already mashed. Anyone else get that ‘how do I do my job again?’ feeling in January?
On the plus side though, new year means new stationery, and a new calendar, so hurray for that. My office calendar this year is one that was bought for me by my brother and sister in law, featuring prints from the uber-talented Robert Fuller, who is a local artist. I have several prints of his on the wall at home, all from his world wildlife range, but this calendar features his British wildlife range, which is also fab.
Anyway, on with the nonsense… I’m going to combine the FOs in with the round up, as some of them were Christmas presents, so I couldn’t post about them until now anyway. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
One last thing to apologise for – the photography. Finding time when it’s bright enough during the day (in winter in Yorkshire) to get decent photos is virtually impossible. So instead, most of these are taken indoors with a flash. Deal with it.
Settle in, grab yourself a brew or a tipple of choice and a project, and read on to hear what I’ve been up to!
What’s been going on?
What hasn’t been going on would be a quicker topic… November’s highlights included a trip to Birmingham for our friends’ housewarming/Fireworks Night party, which was a lot of fun, a week off work, catching up with some lovely friends, and far too much work. December included a couple of singing events, another week off work (can you tell I needed to use up my annual leave?!), more catching up with friends and family, late night driving and telescoping to watch a meteor shower, a Christmas event at work, a trip to York Minster for the Nine Lessons & Carols service, and of course, Christmas itself, and since then, a couple of trips out, and New Year, which we had on our own at home. No wonder I was exhausted!
Rather than spam you with more details of that lot, I think I should just move on. I’ll talk more about the singing stuff in its own section below, as per usual.
What’s coming up in January?
Well, as I said, I’m back at work, so for the time being my brain is dealing with the nasty shock of having to get up early and concentrate for long periods… Other than that, it’s fairly quiet, which is good! I have an away day with work, and will no doubt end up filling up the diary with some social things, but nothing else much just yet.
One of my main aims for this year is to get on top of the housework. Anyone who has ever visited my home will know that I’m not exactly winning any awards for keeping things tidy, but I do definitely need to get on top of some sort of routine so I don’t have to keep going into ‘panic cleaning’ mode whenever my parents want to come around!
I think this month will be mostly planning for future things – I’m going to Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March with some friends, but we haven’t booked any accommodation yet (oops! – EDIT now we have, phew), so we need to get on that.
What’s on my needles/hooks/sewing desk and other crafty things?
I actually got my sewing machine out in the run up to Christmas and made some things! For various reasons I’ve not really had the room to do it for a long time, but following some changes in our household recently I’ve regained access to my kitchen table, so I had room to do some sewing. I knocked out a bunch of notions pouches, little project bags etc for people for Christmas, and discovered the zipper foot on my sewing machine (Margaret – named after my grandma, who owned her first). Here’s a selection, some of which I’ve kept, and some have been given as gifts…
Knitting wise, I’ve finished a few things since my last post, and started a couple too (because you wouldn’t expect anything less!). My current active projects (as opposed to those ones that are hiding in their project bags having not seen the light of day for a while) are a new pair of socks using the Best Self-Striping Ribbed Socks in the World pattern by Nathan Taylor, AKA Sockmatician, in West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply (yes again!) in colourway 822 Rum Paradise which is bright and colourful and gorgeous!
As you can see, they are living in my self-made Christmas project bag, which if I’m honest is only *just* big enough, and would be better if it was an inch or so longer and wider, but whatever.
I’m knitting them on my usual KnitPro Symfonie 2.25mm needles in the largest pattern size (72 stitches). This is still the first sock of the pair, even though I started them ages ago – they’re mostly my handbag knitting, and since I’ve not been anywhere where knitting in public is acceptable, they haven’t had too much love. Now I’m back at work again they should get some decent lunchtime knitting in though, so I should whip through, all being well. The pattern is very detailed – Nathan described it as being all his favourite tips and tricks for getting perfect socks every time, and I was a little reticent as I’m pretty happy with my usual sock recipe, but thought I’d give them a go, and I have to say I am definitely learning some things, so I definitely need to eat some humble pie on that one.
Incidentally, on the subject of Nathan, you should absolutely watch his podcast on YouTube. It’s excellent, he is very articulate and funny, and his most recent episode (no 57) is very enlightening about a topic you may not expect. I don’t want to spoiler it, but it’s worth a watch.
My other main WIP at the moment is my Christmas Eve Cast On. You might have heard about the CECO initiative if you read any other knitterly blogs or podcasts. I believe it was started by Little Bobbins Handknits a few years ago, although I discovered it from Zoe of the Pins and Needles podcast (who is also awesome, and you should also watch). The idea is that on Christmas Eve, after the madness of making gifts for other people, you pick out some of your nicest yarn, and a lovely pattern, and cast on something for yourself.
I decided to make use of some of my Yarndale haul, and have cast on a Half Moon Oracle shawl by Kristin Lehrer (of Voolenvine Yarns and the Yarngasm podcast – another one you should definitely watch!) using my three colours of RiverKnits Splendiferous Sock yarns, and I am in LOVE with how this is working up. (I promise it looks better in real life than in that picture. It’s all bunched up on the needles, and the light is off. It’s fabulous, honestly.)
It isn’t the pattern I originally had in mind for these yarns, but when Kristin released this pattern I just knew that was what I had to make! It should only use half of each skein though, so I will need to figure out what I’m going to do with the rest! I’m knitting it with 4.5mm Knit Pro interchangeable needles as per the pattern. It’s living in my new project bag (about which more in the acquisitions section below!).
Speaking of leftovers, I started a scrap sock yarn blanket (like every other yarn crafter in existence)! I decided to go with crochet for this one, rather than knitting, partly because it’s easier to weave in your ends as you go, or use magic knot, which is what I’m doing, so no ends at all, which definitely appeals to my lazy side! I’m using the Spiral Granny Afghan pattern by Vicki Mikulak, and am using all my odds and ends of 4 ply yarn, which I originally collected together for my Marled Magic shawl earlier in 2017. Since then I’ve knitted almost exclusively in 4 ply, so a lot more ends have been added into the bag. My only rule with this project is that I will not work more than one round at a time in each yarn (yarns will get repeated later in the blanket, just not in successive rounds) so there shouldn’t be any blocks of colour. So far it’s a bit bigger than the size of a pillow, and I’m hoping that eventually it will be double bed sized… It has a way to go just yet though!
The other languishing WIP that has had work since my last round up (but not recently) is my laceweight jumper, which has now been joined into the round (hurray, no more purling!), and has had all it’s shoulder and armhole increases done, so I’m about to put the arms onto waste yarn to be knit later and crack on with the body. Acres of stocking stitch ahead for me… The pattern is Versio by ANKESTRiCK (yes, typed like that), and my yarns are Juniper Moon Farm Findley in colourway Garnet, and Rosie’s Moments Merino Silk laceweight in colourway Twilight.
I have, however, finished a few things since my last post!
Before I started the Half Moon Oracle, I wanted to make sure that I was confident in two colour brioche, so I went for a little quick project to practice the technique, and made an Art Deco Mug Mat from some scraps of sock yarn. The pattern has you make it from DK, but that would end up enormous, which I didn’t want, so this is my dinky one. If I’m honest I can’t remember what the yarns are, sorry! It’s not perfect, but it’s not at all bad, and I’ll take it as a first two colour brioche project.
Next up is a pair of fairly basic socks. One of the things I wanted to do was perfect my own sock recipe, and these were an exercise in trying out some different things. They’re knit from Opal sock yarn on 2.5mm KnitPro Symfonie needles as per usual. On the whole I like them. They fit pretty well, but I think I’ll go back to a normal wedge toe next time, as the star toe feels like it’s a bit snug.
So, I got this far in my writing, and caught the flu, which took me out for a good fortnight. So now I’m even further behind. Sigh. Right, onwards!
Funnily enough, November and December in Yorkshire are a bit chilly, so it seemed like an opportune moment to knit something warm for myself, to use up some stash, and to knit something in yarn that isn’t 4 ply or laceweight, so I cast on and finished these stranded mitts. The pattern is Lindgren by Karie Westerman. The yarn is, well, I don’t actually know. A few years ago I inherited a rather significant yarn stash from my grandmother, and she had a slightly annoying habit of taking the labels off her yarn. So who knows… I had to make a couple of modifications to the pattern – mainly in extending the length of both the hand and the thumb, but other than that, they knit up really nicely. They’re super warm, and I love them!
My final yarny FOs of 2017 are a pair of hats for my niece and nephew for Christmas. Apologies for the dark photo, I was photographing in a rush before wrapping them! The lilac one is Owl Beanie by OctoStag, and the stripy one is Cute and Easy Cat Hat by Janaya Chouinard, except I left the corners square rather than making them into ears. If I’m honest, I can’t remember what either yarn was, and I don’t seem to have made many notes on my project pages. Sorry!
What craft stash have I been acquiring?
First up is the biggest acquisition of all – I participated in a mini skein swap for Advent! We’ve all seen those yarn Advent calendars, which get you a full size mini every day during Advent, which is all well and good, but they cost a flipping fortune! So as part of the main thread I hang out in on Rav, we decided to do our own, exchanging minis (and chocolate and other goodies) from our stash, so all it costs is postage plus a few treats! Genius! I received the most wonderful package from my friend Linnea who lives in Norway – it was absolutely jam packed full with 25 little bags, and each one had a mini skein, and either a little bar of chocolate or some interesting tea, none of which I’ve had before, but I will be searching out most of it again! Here’s a shot of all the yarn I got, arranged into a rainbow:
As detailed above, I’ve been busy sewing, which meant I needed supplies! So I bought a few Christmassy fat quarters and a bundle of zippers, most of which have now been used up in the projects above, so no pics of those.
Black Friday is increasingly becoming a thing over here in the UK, despite us not having Thanksgiving the day before like the US do. I’m not overly impressed with it, to be honest, but that’s another subject entirely. The reason I mention it here, is that the very wonderful and lovely Joy of The Knitting Goddess decided to have a White Friday offer this year instead, which she wrote about on her own blog here. Essentially, she donated 50% of all her sales for the whole weekend to charity. Genius. And of course it would have been rude of me to not help out with a charity donation, so I treated myself to one of her project bags, which I’ve had my eye on for a while. Here it is being pressed into service as my bag for the Christmas Eve cast on. All of her bags in this range have innuendos on them, which I approve of heartily, and I think everyone should have one!
In an effort to get my mum back into yarn craft (she was a crocheter, apparently, before I was born), I bought her a crochet book, some nice yarn and a fancy hook from Fleabubs & Lala. But as I was ordering, I figured it would be rude to not also get myself some yarn and a hook! I bought one of their hooks at Yarndale, and I love it, so I decided to pick up another in the other size I’m using most at the moment, plus some delicious yarn!
It hasn’t told me what it wants to be yet, but it will…
My final acquisition is some Easyknits.co.uk self striping sock yarn. My obsession with EK yarn is well known and well documented, but I’ve never managed to get my mitts on his self striping range until now, but what I got was totally worth the wait. This is one of Jon’s special Christmas colourways, called Krampus, on the sparkle base:
This colourway has now finished, so you can’t get it anymore, but his other Gobstopper yarn can be found here, when he has some in stock. I cannot wait to use it, I think it will probably be some fairly basic socks, to show off the gloriousness of it!
What music has happened and is coming up?
November was very quiet from a music point of view – only choir rehearsal, and no performances. Which is handy, because being a musician means that December is a bit busier. Now that I only sing with one choir it isn’t as bad as it used to be, but I still had two performances with the Clerkes of All Saints, and one at work.
The Clerkes did an Advent service of Hymns and Carols at Holy Trinity Goodramgate in York, which is a beautiful old church tucked away behind a shopping street, but has no electricity or heating, which makes for an interesting time singing in December…! It was so cold it had been snowing outside, and inside we could see our own breath when we were singing. The music choices were much as you would expect in Advent, and since it’s passed now I won’t go into detail.
We then also did a traditional Nine Lessons & Carols service at All Saints North Street in York (our home church) in the last week before Christmas, which was a little warmer (just!), and again is much as you would expect for a 9L&C service – all the classic carols, with descants, plus a few choir only items in between. It was lovely, and a good blasty sing just before Christmas, which is always fun.
Earlier on the same day, we had our annual Christmas service and lunch at work. I was voluntold a few years ago to organise and rehearse a staff choir, which is a very different group to the Clerkes, to say the least! Over half the singers can’t read music, and almost none of the ‘sopranos’ can get much more than alto range, so selecting music for them is always a bit of a challenge, but this year I settled on an arrangement of While Shepherds Watched, but sung to the Yorkshire tune (also known as On Ilkley Moor). Here it is sung by my old choir (Stamford Bridge Singers) a few years ago (apologies for the less professional quality – it’s not my video, and was recorded by a member of the audience on the day), and yes that is me in the middle…!
Coming up in January (and February to be on the safe side) the Clerkes have a couple of things, but I’m not 100% certain what I’m performing in yet, as my voice is still suffering the after effects of flu.
On Saturday 27th January at 5pm, there is a Latin Vespers for Candlemas at All Saints North Street in York. This is entirely sung in Latin plainsong, and is pretty much unique to our choir and church.
On Sunday 18th February at 10.30am (I think!) there is a Morning Service at York Unitarian Chapel, where we’re singing all sorts of good stuff including Alleluya Psallat by Peter Aston, The Deers Cry by Arvo Part, and a lovely version of the Lords Prayer in Russian by Kedrov.
Right, I think that’s everything, all caught up at long last! Points to you if you made it to the end! I promise I will try to post more often – I already have an FO this month that needs to have a post written for it, so I’ll aim to get that published before I do a January round up (wish me luck!).
Till next time…