Wednesday, 15 September 2010

And finally...

The last week I have spent blocking, or researching blocking, or getting together blocking materials. Never having blocked any of the knitted garments I've attempted over the years probably explains the lack of similarity between my finished products and the pictures on the pattern covers! But these lacy nothings were so important, it had to be done right. My first attempt could so nearly have been a disaster; I forgot PR's table centre was shaped, and so pinned it round on the lacemaking pillow. Thankfully it was easy to tweak gently into shape at the end, although perhaps not so well as if I'd gone for the Big Solution earlier. Thankfully DT's doily was supposed to be round, and just fit the pillow.

Then came the square one. I picked brains, looked at countless sites that recommended sticking pins into mattresses or carpets (neither of which would go down a treat with Great Chief White Hair), but finally came up with two sites that had wonderful recommendations. One gave Lego-clear instructions for creating a frame, which could be taken apart with wing-nuts for storage, and which will definitely be a possibility if I *ever* get round to attempting that gorgeous peacock shawl I spent years tracking down the pattern for. But one I mentioned to OH and he immediately gave the thumbs up as both practical and suitable for our domestic arrangements - blocks of loft insulation. This can be taped together for added width, or added to if necessary for huge projects. At £5 per block, it can also be fairly reasonably replaced when no longer able to support the tension needed. To prevent any unwanted water absorption, I lined both pillow and foam with old cotton tea towels. I'll keep an eye out for a lightweight alternative that will be big enough to avoid a join.

The pics above are of the equipment cobbled together for these early attempts. The lacemaking pillow was picked up as part of a tatting set from my local charity shop bought for almost £none, at a time a few years back when I was hunting for new challenges. Needless to say I've never even tried tatting, and intend to put the bobbins on Ebay; but the pillow more than paid for itself this week.

The pins, well I've been a bit naughty with those. I *think* the small box of glass headed pins are stainless steel, as they were bought from a craft shop; but the larger box are almost certainly not; the wheel came in a cheap sewing kit so almost certainly are not; and as for the notice board pins... the only thing I got right for sure were the almost-hat-pins. This is something I intend to rectify for next time - rust would NOT look good on knitted lace. The largest pins are sitting in a soap-dish affair I was most disappointed with - it's magnetised so the pins don't fall off, but although it looks deep (and it is) all that base is full of magnet, with only a tiny shallow indent for the pins themselves. Of course you only discover this when you take it out the blister pack...

Soluble starch was hard to find, that is, until after I'd found it online! Only then did I discover that Lakeland sell it; but I now have enough for the foreseeable future. It's too old-fashioned for supermarket shelves, and decent haberdasheries have gone to that eternal shelf-lined cupboard in the sky. But find some I did, and found it very easy to get on with. All three table centres have been soaked in a starch solution to give the crochet points a bit of solidarity, and again as a first attempt I'm pleased with the outcome.

So now I just have to find a more suitable home for the insulation blocks and the pillow. This I sincerely hope is just the start of my lace adventures - I love it. Fingers crossed that my new den (aka the box room) is ready by Christmas :o) DS will be handing out the goodies on a trip to the old school next week, apart from VH's which will be hand-delivered to her door. Of course there are others that I wished I'd created something for, one in particular I think of as a friend rather than school staff; but then hey, who needs an excuse to create something else that looks kind of beautiful?

Part trois

My third and final gift I have two photos of - I'll try to publish both! This is because although it is my clear favourite of the three, it used a shiny mercerised cotton which didn't give great stitch definition in my opinion, so I've had to do a close-up to get the detail right. Standard 4 ply on 3.25 mm needles (the others were knitted on 1.5mm needles which felt like knitting with straw at first!) This is for VH, who like DS has now left the school. Although she was originally the nursery nurse, then after the nursery class teacher, she has also kept a close eye on DS throughout his years in Junior, getting to know and understand him *possibly* better than anyone else in the school. I miss her! The practice at crocheting chains came from knitting each square individually, then crocheting them together; knitting the border and then crocheting 2 rows of chain around that. Each square took about 2 hours to complete, apart from the ones at the start of each row, because of the crocheting; but I am delighted with the result, and what I learned from the experience.

DS is now at secondary school, having earned a place at the local grammar school. He absolutely loves it, is so confident, and already recognised by his smile. We are so very very proud of him.

Part Deux

Ok so I got a photo in successfully, doesn't mean I know how to do it with 3! I had trouble with DT's (yeah haha) because I didn't know how to crochet, and it calls for a scalloped crochet edging. Nevertheless I taught myself to create almost consistent chains by the simple expedient of undoing them over and over again until they looked right. Then my beautiful sister came over for a holiday and did the rest for me! Suffice to say, all three table centres took rather longer than anticipated, allowing for nights when I was simply too shattered doing nothing all day to pick any knitting up; so the gifts are a tad on the late side. Nevertheless, here is PR's gift. PR and I were at primary school together, and worked for a while as dinner ladies when I was still fit enough to do so. Since then, she looked after DS during lunch breaks, breakfast clubs, and always had an eye open for him when he needed intervention. He really misses her. This is knitted in pastels, the same cotton and the same source as the blue one, but with spring tones. Again I have loads left over. Although I blocked this round, thank goodness the shape of it has come through. This was the first bit of blocking I'd ever done, more on that later! I left the crocheting for this one until after I'd finished the third gift, and am very pleased I did - the extra practice ironed out the tension gremlins, I gained in confidence and discovered that omitting the dcs and just using slip stitch stopped the doily from pinching at the edges. Otherwise it would have looked awful.

Don't tsk me. I've been busy!

Well and so I have. I've been studying (haha) and knitting; I've been poorly, attended OUSA Conference, been poorly, had a poorly mum, and am poorly again. Oh so what, that's life. But there are good....ish reasons for not having blogged for a while.

I've got a very respectable pass mark for my studying, which makes me very happy as studying has not been too successful in recent years. But mostly I'm pleased with my crafting results, which won't bear scrutiny from designer types, but which make me happy :o). If I can work out how to, I'll put photos in - ooo another first!

I decided in November last year that I would create individual gifts for certain teachers who have really and truly, repeatedly if not daily, put themselves out to nurture DS through some difficult times at school. I could have gone to the local, rather lovely, boutique of all things different, but instead wanted to knit something that said "thank you" in every stitch. Not having the brains or finance to buy books, I trawled the web for free sites, my favourite being Knitting Pattern Central, and found patterns for the projects. I can't do individual credits at this stage, as if I manage to put the photos on it will be a minor miracle; however these were all sourced free of charge, and all found through KPC. So I hope I'm not breaking copyright. I started off with one for a male teacher, DT. He's looked after DS through thick and thin since he joined Juniors, and ended up as his class teacher in Year 6. OK so it's a bit twee giving a bloke knitted lace, so I did it in variegated blue (cue screams of sexual stereotyping please!) cotton which I bought on Ebay from Paraguay for almost no money at all. Incredible value, 1000m balls, and I've used about half of one. I'm tempted to knit myself something with what remains, tho I'll probably have to double it up to get somewhere near a 4-ply thickness. Anyway the finished item appears at the top. It looks a bit off-circular because of the colour variations in the cotton, but these actually enhance the flounces in the lace pattern.