13 December 2010

Last second gifts.

Last night, as the boyfriend settled down on the couch to watch some telly, and recover from a party the night before, and I satisfied an over-whelming urge to bake double-chocolate cookies, he suddenly gasped "It's the 12th!"

"Yea?" I replied, unsure what important date I had forgotten this time, as I sneakily ate some chocolate chips.
"It's 2 weeks to Christmas!" he exclaimed, "I need to sort presents out!"

This revelation for a normal person will produce a large amount of stress, but for a crafter, it's positively DEFCON1. 2 WEEKS?! I'll never get presents made!

Oh, yes you will, poppet. Just look below for a few simple, fast ideas which will see you right. : )

Pot Holders:

Who doesn't need something to kitch up their kitchen a bit? This pot-holder is made from Donegal Studio's Aran Tweed, using Tunisian Simple Stitch, and Tunisian Purl Stitch. If you're determined, it takes about an hour to do, and can be impressively embellished with stars, flowers or a person's name. I have put daisies on this example, using petal stitch, french knot, and captured thread stitch. Why not make a set of three, in different colours?

Personalised wrapping paper:

Ok, so you have a gift, but it just doesn't seem to be special enough? Why not wrap it in your own hand-designed wrapping paper? I have done this for years, now. Not for MY gifts that horrible, thin paper that cheapens the look of a pretty tree. Brown paper, for me is instantly classic and romantic, and decorating it a bit by hand adds a wonderful, unique touch. Wrapped in twine, with a hand-written card and you're bound to be on to a winner.

The photo shows a potato-stamp I created with a Celtic/LaTene trinity spiral.
Last year I used christmas trees, and the year before, stars. A potato, a sharp knife or scalpel (careful!) and an ink pad are all you really need. I recommend drying the potato off with some tissue once you're done carving. The potato juice can dilute the ink a bit.

Christmas Decorations:

This cheerful little star would make the perfect gift for someone who you exchange small gifts with. It's lightly stuffed, so it's 3-D and uses only the smplest of stitches. In fact, three, in a string makes a very cheerful wall hanging, too.

Oh, yes. Toffee. I have recently discovered I can do this successfully.

All you need to be sure about is that you have a thick-bottomed pot to cook it in. Thin-bottomed pots transmit temperature variations too efficiently and will instantly ruin your toffee-plans. Try this recipe. It's my favourite. With, or without the chocolate on top, this is a winner every time.

Teddy Bear:

This bear is cute, adorable, and a day's work at most. Use thread and a tiny hook to make a mini-bear, or aran weight yarn and a larger hook, to make one suitable for a child. Remember, don't give this to a baby. Small parts may be swallowed.

More to follow over the next few days.

What plans are you making for last-minute gift? Let me know! I could use the help, too...

07 December 2010

I Luv Gloves!

And 25% off is even better!

So, it has been quite the busy time here at Yarn Towers.

Between minding a total of 5 family animals, getting the book written, the editing delays and now Christmas upon us, there just seems not to be enough time to do anything lately.

So, I am resorting to making small, cute presents for friends and family. You guessed it, everyone is getting gloves!

And, since I assume you have crocheted yourself into an equally difficult corner this year, I've decided to slash 25% off the price of all my glove patterns on Ravelry until the 14th. All you need do is use the voucher code: ILUVGLOVES at check out in my Rav Shop and you'll get my glove patterns with a whopping 25% off! That's a whole quarter! Add that to the fact that gloves are always welcome this time of year and that they are small, but impressive as a gift, you'll be sorted in no time!

No stress, more savings.

01 December 2010

My week

Or: What happens when everything is up in the air

So, the last week or so has been pretty hectic here at Yarn Towers.

I have been interviewed and then photoshooted with my FFF partner in crime, E, for an article in Image Magazine. It's the intelligent read for Ireland's smartest women, apparently. That made me feel very clever. It was a lot of fun, chatting away as normal, but with a photographer in our mugs, flashes going off and stitches being dropped left, right and centre.

I'm pretty sure we got at least one good photo, though, so I'm really looking forward to seeing the finished article, which will be out over here in Ireland on the 17th of this month.

On top of that, I have had to screech somewhat to a halt (a difficult thing to do with all the ice around here) on the book because my lovely editor has come upon a few completely unavoidable delays. This, for me, is very sad. I was so looking forward to getting the full 10 pattern ebook, with extra goodies, out before Christmas! It looks like that just won't be happening now, I have have had to take stock, and will be releasing individual patterns as they become available for publication.

So, today, I managed to finish off two patterns. Cozy Cuffs and Boleyn.

11 November 2010

OOoh, I hate the sound of my own voice.

I sound so strange when I record How-Tos!
Coming soon, a Video How-To explaining how I created the linked-treble/tunisian-simple-stitch part of my free sock pattern, Tullow.

The video is not very professional-looking, though that is as much my fault as my equipment. I mean, look what I have to work with!?

Only the best masking-tape for my readers!

09 November 2010

The Vitruvian Scarf.

"The Arts" and Crafts combine

Last Christmas, I gave the boyfriend a scarf made out of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, which exacty matched the stitch-pattern I had used to make him a hat a few months previously. He was delighted, and proudly wore it to out work... for about a week. Then, it started to curl in on itself, curl, curl, curl into a tube which owed more to a shoelace than a sharf. It was not cozy, it was not long and wide, it was not a scarf anymore, so I took it back and started on it again, with a different, but complimentary stitch pattern. Instead of using front-loop doubles, I used linked double-trebles. This preserved the line across it and it was going great! But, scarves are not easy, and having finished the first one, my brain was ill-prepared to start into a second, using the same yarn, for the same person, producing practically the same look. No, not prepared at all, and so, it languished, ignored, unloved, forgotten. Until Now.

Having taken it out of the WIP chest, dusted it off and examined my work so far, I got to thinking just how long an "average" scarf was. I mentioned this to a friend, who gave me a wonderfully elegant and succinct answer. A scarf should be as long as the wearer's armspan, or put another way, as long as they are tall.

That got me thinking a bit. Leonardo's famous sketch of The Vitruvian Man could have been an artistic comment of just this principle. Armspan = Height = scarf-length.

And, when you think on it further, who in the world could possibly do with a scarf more than that poor guy...

So, have you started into your winter scarves yet? Do you have a favourite pattern?

06 November 2010

FFFFirst Birthday Party

Well, last night was fantastic, and once again thank you to EVERYONE who came along, donated prizes and brought baked goods, tasty sweets and cake. Thanks also should go to the staff of The Tea Gardens who put up with our noise and demands for fancy tea every fortnight.

What started out as a dreary trip into town, with lashing rain, bad traffic, and a cold bus, transformed my mood as I neared the Tea Garden entrance.

In I went, one of the first to arrive, but before I knew it, the room was filling up fast with regulars and new people. The prize mound grew as lovely yarns were added. Even Lisa in This Is Knit dropped in on a flying visit to wish us a good night and to present a raffle prize. (the big, squooshy blue one in the middle)

There was a lot of tea:

A load of laughing and shouting:

And even some actual making of things between mouthfuls of delicious rice-crispie buns, brownies and cookies:

Sorry about the strange blurry quality. The lighting is enough to work comfortably by in there, but photos are hard to get...

And, we were even tweeted about by The Electric Sheep!, here.

Once Karen made her appearance, the prize giving began. I was very, very happy to discover that I was a competition winner and came away with some Malabrigo Lace, thanks to Dave Grohl and some Malabrigo Sock, thanks to a very, very nasty looking sun-suit. There were actually so many prizes on the night that almost everyone came away with something! That's a real birthday party...

So now, we're into our second year of Fibre Funning every Fortnight and I for one, can't wait to see what brilliant madness this year brings.

04 November 2010

Fibre Fun Friday Celebrates its 1st Birthday!

With cake, and fancy tea and a mountain of prizes!

So, this time last year, my friend E and I were sitting in a relatively new establishment on the Quays in Dublin. It was a Tea Garden, an idea hitherto unknown to us in Ireland but, which, apparently is a well-established concept around Eastern Europe. Basically, it's a cozy, calmly-lit space in which to drink fancy teas from around the world, relax and chat.

At one point in the evening, we agreed that it'd be an ideal place for a fibre group to meet, and so, Fibre Fun Friday was born. It's hard to believe at this stage that a whole year has past since the thought presented itself, but it is so.

Of course, it wasn't as easy as all that. It took us a while to settle on a name:

Friday Fibrey Fun and Frolics, was mentioned
Friday Tea
Friday Fun Fibre Frolicking For Freedom From ... we gave up on the mass of alliteration soon after this!

But! Whatever it be called, it's an awesome group, populated by awesome people who are loud, funny as hell, wonderfully brazen, knowledgeable and kind.

Now, if all this is news to you, I suggest you check out the two competitions currently being run in the FFF Ravelry Group (Join us, too! We love new people!), and gawp over the delicious mountain of yarn on offer in the raffle. All three bunches of prizes will be given out on the night, so if you want a chance to win something delicious to fondle with your tea, then join in fun!

I look forward to see everyone there tomorrow night, from 6.30 until we're kicked out around 12-ish.

03 November 2010

What to do?

Have yarn, will crochet

I bought these at the Knitting and Stitching Show last week, with the encouragement of fellow Irish blogger, Laura.

Aren't they gorgeous?
The colours are muted but still so rich, they compliment each other well enough that I think my self-imposed ban on most types of crochet colourwork may have to be broken, but I'm having a problem and it is this:

I don't know what to make out of them. I have been carrying these two skeins around for the last few days, moving them from room-to-room as I work, settling them down beside me on the couch in the evenings, resting them on the bedside locker at night, petting them, smelling them and generally doting over them. This may seem like odd behaviour, but it's not. This stuff is gorgeous. 50% Silk, 50% Alpaca, DK (thanks, R for pointing out it's not 4-ply as I thought!). I honestly believe the only way Blue Sky could have made their Alpaca Silk yarn nicer is if they somehow, mathematically, managed to get 60% Silk and 60% Alpaca into it.

So, what would you do?
Big items, small items, quantity isn't a huge issue; I can always get more down the line. Help me use this lovely yarn!

02 November 2010

Christmas Crackers

Out with the old, in with the new

Hallowe'en is over (sadly), so we're on to the Christmas Season, now.

It may seem early for most people to be thinking seriously about Christmas, but for us crafters, planning is all important. Starting early means that come Christmas Eve, we're not knee-deep in sock yarn, trying to remember who you're making what for and when you'll see them ("I won't see Uncle Mick until Stephen's Day, so I'll finish his gloves later, but Mary will be there first thing in the morning, so I should start her hat first...") Sound familiar?

So, to help with the Stress of Christmas, I suggest the following:
Start Now! (I may even take my own advise)

There are a few things in my pattern collection which may help. Some are free, and some are quite inexpensive, all are relatively easy to make, don't take up too much time, and if started now, should leave you with plenty of time to enjoy giving the pudding a stir, mulling the wine and bickering over whose turn it is to put the angel on top of the tree...

First in my Gift Suggestion Series is Malin, a simple coaster which looks great with company.

Tied up in a big bow, these little coasters will brighten up any coffee table and 5 of them only take 70 metres of yarn. Bargain!

I'd love to know what you think, how you're planning for Christmas, and what you are going to make, so comment below!

31 October 2010

Yarn Balm

Last night, for me, was Hallowe'en Party time, and today, as you can imagine, I'm suffering from lack of sleep, too much junk food and a wee over-indulgence in wine, so, today I am going to spend relaxing, eating toast and making more of this, cabled-project-without-a-name.

I find crochet cabling so soothing when my brain just won't co-operate. It's the perfect combination of simple rules and detail that help ease my way towards being an alert, productive person again.

I hope you all are having an awesome Hallowe'en weekend!
Still looking for a costume idea? Why not try whipping up a pair of these for a Harry Potter themed night?

29 October 2010

The Knitting & Stitching Show 2010

When I woke up this morning, it was to the sound of a repetitive, electronic, high-pitched noise. For a moment or two, I thought it was part of my dream, before I realised it was the real world intruding on my sleep. Having scrambled my way to the sitting room, and pawing frantically towards the noise, it stopped. Then, another, very similar noise started, in the bedroom.

Brrr brrrr... brrr brrr!

It was then that it dawned on me; My phone! (I don't wake up fast...)

On the other end, a very cheery mother wanting to make arrangements for meeting to go to the Knitting and Stitching Show in the RDS, Dublin. We had decided last week to make a day of it on Friday, but at half nine on a Friday morning, I was still asleep.

Really, on gazing out the window, still bleary-eyed, caffeine only just starting to wake my brain up, I marvelled how nothing in this world could enduce me to leave the apartment and step into the lashing rain EXCEPT the prospect of a huge, vast room full of yarn. And, boy was there a lot of yarn!

I found some Hedgehog Fibres:

Some Delicious Dublin Dye in lots of new colourways:

Saw some spectacular quilting:

Bumped into the lovely Laura Hogan up on the balcony:

Saw lots of Schoppelwolle:

And managed to come away with only two skeins of Blue Sky Alpaca Silk. I'm very proud of my self restraint. See how pleased I look? That's half smugness, half yarn drunkedness you see in my eyes.

At the show, I also found fellow bloggers, Playing with fi(b)re, She Knit Up That Ball, Aran Brew, Jewelan'darlin', and the lovely ladies in This Is Knit. Phew!

All in all, it was a great few hours spent flitting around like a happy little elf. If you're planning on going, the show is on until Sunday and tickets are in the region of €15. Well worth the trip.

...and yes. I did wear my winter boots.

28 October 2010

Boot Weather

The fastest project ever

This leaf was just waiting to be photographed

So, as the days draw in and the leaves fall all around, it's time, methinks to take out the winter boots. But alas and horror! I forgot that at the end of last winter, the laces on my thigh-high Docs had snapped, leaving me to fix them in an emergency with knots, making the laces virtually impossible to work up at speed. So, what's a girl to do?

It's windy

Using my awesome chaining powers and a healthy stash of Noro Kureyon, I chained and lightly felted two, 3-meter-long strands, and voila!

Yea, I'm just standin' here...

Totally bespoke laces!

These babies will hopefully see me through the winter. I love the rusty, orangey, yellowy colours in them. They feel right at home among all the fallen leaves.

Laces, blending riiight in

They're a little stretchy, so I'm hoping they won't snap too soon. But, sure, if they do, I'll let you know.

23 October 2010

Food for the ragged brain

And what better than warm, home-made comfort food?

It's six o'clock in the evening here and already it's twilight outside. Today is the first day that I have felt the coming-on of winter. It was cold today. Actually shivery cold. I put on a pair of socks hand-knit for me by a wonderful friend, I worked on some more glove pattern stuff (mostly the mathematics behind sizing) and I gazed outside at the puffy but wet-looking clouds.

Cozy Toes

We technically have another half a month of autumn in Ireland, but already the bite of those winter months is starting to show itself.

And with the cold comes the nesting instinct.
I should clean the apartment.
I should sort out my yarn stash.
I should do a big food shop (like I live in Northern Canada, and might get snowed in at ANY second!!!).
I should trim back the plants on the balcony which have been very neglected while I write this book.
I should BAKE!

And so, I baked. The smell of freshly baked bread, or scones, or buns always chases bad weather away. Baking smells make a place feel welcoming, cozy, friendly. Why is that? The simple act of mixing a few ingredients together and bunging it into a hot box for a while brings so much comfort to a room. Especially when it's winter baking. Spiced cakes, pies filled with blackberries and apple, barm bracks. So good for the soul.

I've been a fan of this blog for some time. It doesn't get posted in as much these days, but it's a great reference for those of us no longer gifted with a neighbourhood of fields, the smell of cattle, and the sounds of sheep. I go there sometimes for a breath of fresh air. For me, if I can't muck around in vegetable beds all day, it's at least nice to know that someone is.

So, when this post went up a while ago, I thought "Hey! I can do that!", and so, Berta was born.

She's very friendly

Berta is my sourdough "starter". Her yeasts are completely natural, Baldoyle yeasts that happened to float past when she was being made. I've had her for about a month, feeding her with flour, keeping her nice and luke-warm, making sure she doesn't dry out, and yesterday was the first time I tried to make bread using her. I followed the directions, added a cup of flour and a cup of warm water to Berta, stirred well, and let her floth up. This took all day.

Then, I mixed 2 cups of her (the rest went back into her jar, was fed and watered for next time) with more flour, some oil, salt and a scattering of sugar, kneaded it all up, oiled it on the outside and went to bed.

When I woke up this morning, lo-and-behold, but hadn't the bread more than doubled its size! Well done natural yeasts! I punched (my favourite bit of bread-baking), kneaded a second time, set in a pan, crossed (to let the fairies out) and set in a slightly warm oven to rise again.

Once that was done, I popped the oven on at a temperature of 170-ish C (350-ish F) and after 30-ish minutes, this is what I got!

I tried to take a shot of the full loaf...

...but by the time I'd found the camera, we'd eaten this much...

I'm very proud of Berta. She did so well!


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