Thursday, 22 November 2012

In Which I Actually Make Something

Firstly, I will say that I am no longer going to apologise for my irregular blogging. I used to aim to post on a weekly basis, but lately life gets in the way far too much and I am still sans laptop. This is likely to be an ongoing problem for some time, so from now on I will be a more infrequent blogger but I hope you will keep visiting me when I have something to show you.

Secondly, thank you for all your kind words regarding the burglary. Unfortunately, the police haven't managed to recover any of our possessions and as predicted, the insurance company is so far refusing to cough up; they don't know yet what a determined little beast I can be when I put my mind to something so I am hopeful that we may get some good news yet.

So, all that having been said, let me show you  a little of what has been keeping me cosy of an evening.

First up is a shawl that has been incredilbly popular on Ravelry, the Color Affection. The idea is to take three different yarns (either lace weight or 4ply) and combine them in garter stitch rows to make a cosy wrap.

I had been wanting to try this for ages but hadn't found a colour combination I was happy with, so made sure to buy something specifically at Ally Pally. I cast on the day after I got back and finished last week. The last few rows are a bit hard-going as they take about 30 -40 minutes to complete.

I haven't blocked this monster yet; I need to get some advice from the girls at SnB. My problem is that as a tight knitter, my shawl has come out quite a bit shallower than it should have done and the top left edge (where the three-colour stripes start) is incredibly tight and I don't think blocking will relax it.

For the bottom edge I used a different technique to cast off which made the edge loose. This was the most fiddly and time-consuming cast off I have ever done and I had to break it down over three sessions! I wish I had tried this technique on my Changeling Shawlette though as it would have solved the stretch issue, but you live and learn.

I have worn the Color Affection, which is more of  scarf really and am happy to report that it matches my winter coat perfectly and the alpaca yarn (the green colour) makes it really swishy and snuggly. I might attempt another one day but I will have to address my tension issues first!

Before I had completed the marathon cast off, I snuck this little treasure onto the needles. It is another pattern that I have been itching to make, due to it's clever use of slow colour-changing yarn. Usually people kit it with Noro Yarns, but although I like the pictures I see of finished results with Noro, to me it looks un-appealing when I have seen it for sale and it feels really scratchy.

My alternative is the Poems yarn I used in my Changeling Shawlette. It is lovely and soft and a good deal cheaper than the Noro too. I have a different colourway this time.

For this scarf you knit little wedges of the colourful yarn in between the solid sections of the contrast. So far I am still on the purple but you can see from the yarn that I will eventually have a myriad of jewel-coloured wedges, that turn inwards in a spiral.

Miss Magpie Jr has already staked a claim on this one, which I am really pleased about as she usually turns her nose up at my latest creations. Also, I think the Poems is long enough to get two scarves out of, and as a short-row project it is much easier to make time for.

I can't reveal too much of the final project as it is under construction for a present, but I can happily report that I have re-kindled my passion for crochet, which had been rather doused during Larmer Tree. I am also using my cheap acrylic yarn again and have surprised myself by loving it as much if not more than some of the 'posh' stuff I have been knitting with.

So much so that I will be 'forced' to go and buy some more now ;). All I can give you is a little close-up,  I don't want to ruin the surprise.

We have had the sniffles around these parts. Yesterday I spent a glorious day on the sofa in front of the fire with the littlest Magpie as we were both poorly but I got lots of hooking done and it was nice to be indoors. Today we are all going about our usual routines and I'd better get some housework done!

Thanks so much for reading,

Beth x

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Criminals, Camper Vans and Cake

Hi Folks, sorry it's been a while (again). One of the reasons for this is that I am now without a laptop. A couple of charming individuals did this to our dining room door, having slid open the half-painted sash that was without a lock.

They got a really good haul of all our electrical goods and even carted off my son's little home safe which he used to store his sweets in.

Lack of intelligence prompted them to use Mr Magpie's cards in two different cashpoints which had cameras on them and a car that was registered to their address. When the house was raided four days later our goods were long gone but other people's were found. A letter written to my son from his cousin (which had been in the safe) was also found, as was the tool that made the charming marks in our woodwork. This evidence was enough to charge a man with and he is now on bail pending a court date in the new year.

We are now waiting anxiously to see whether the insurance company will settle our claim since the window was unlocked (the lock had been removed for painting) even though the inner door was double locked.

Mr Magpie had a busy weekend after the robbery securing the house once more and adding window restricters and an alarm. I took the children up t'north to see family and we had a lovely time before coming back for our camper van adventure.

We have owned our old T4 Van for about six years now and although we have added (and removed, and added) seats to it it has essentially been a builders van, very useful whilst we have been renovating the house and also handy for transporting off-road motorbikes. It is also brilliant for camping since we would never fit all we take in the car. I was however very envious of my friend and her old VW in the summer when we went camping. She pulled up, hopped into the back and put the kettle on. I pulled up, had to unload all our gear and then spend at least two hours setting up camp.
Mr Magpie had been eyeing up camper vans for a while and spent much of his time at Larmer Tree sussing out the various options. We have been thinking of upgrading our T4 to a T5 so decided to hire one in half term to try it out. We weren't disappointed.  Since we didn't want to spend hours driving we had a lovely little tour of the West Country and it was just what we needed.

Glastonbury Tor

East Somerset Railway

Wookey Hole

I'll let you guess

The van was toasty warm at night thanks to the heater and it was fab for the days out too since we could provide our own hot snacks, drinks and warm seating area. This was particularly welcome at Stonehenge where the wind was whistling across Salisbury Plain.

We hired our van from here and thought the service was excellent. Although the owner is selling one of his vans, the £34,000 price tag is slightly over our budget so we will be looking for an ordinary van and 'pimping' it ourselves. I would love to hear if any of you have any camper van tales to tell or wisdom to impart.

Finally the cake you were promised. I can't show you a true 'ta-dah' since it is still in the oven and will be for at least another three hours, but it is that time of year again. I love making my own Christmas cake and in doing so I give myself the metaphorical kick up the backside needed to kick-start our annual preparations.

They are on hold for one more week though as this weekend I will be having a stall at Karen's lovely fair, so I have got a little bit of sewing to do. I am looking forward to catching up with Karen, as well as some other blog land friends like Katherine.

If you can make it to Alderholt on Saturday I'm sure you won't be disappointed, Karen did a fantastic job last time and always has a great mix of stalls and entertainment. Make sure you come and say hello!

Thanks for stopping by,

Beth x