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Sunday, 31 May 2015

More on Solar Dyeing

You may have read my post during KCBW showing the Evolution of a Solar Dye Pot...Part 1. This was a pictorial post but I realised I have not really posted much else about it. I bought the kit that started me off on this exciting journey at Wonderwool from Spin City. It was a really great idea as Louise from Spin City was operating a "pick & mix" type kit where you could pick the dyeing ingredients and the yarn and she then would make up the kit with a jar and alum mordant (which binds the colour to the yarn). I chose hibiscus & heather. Louise told me that it would be better to put the darker hibiscus at the bottom as otherwise you risk the whole pot turning that colour. So I had hibiscus at the bottom & heather at the top, which should give a purple at the bottom, green at the top & blue where it meets in the middle. This week I took the yarn out of the pot and washed it gently with some baby shampoo. It really smelled! It was a nightmare to get all the tiny bits of heather out too - not sure that I managed it completely but I'm sure the bits will come out eventually! I left it to dry in a hanger and then twisted it up into a hank.


It's stunning. I'm really pleased with it. It's not quite as purpley-pink as I thought it would be. I left it in for 2 weeks and they weren't the sunniest so perhaps its just about being a bit more patient! It says on my instructions you can exhaust the alum dye bath with another batch of yarn, but that it might be more pastelly. Well, it would be a waste not to! So I've added some yarn to the remaining dye. Where I took out the first batch its all coloured by the hibiscus now, but that's OK because that will give me a different effect.

I have to admit, I'm quite hooked. I love the idea of solar dyeing and imagine what you could gift/create where you have even dyed the yarn! Possibilities are endless. And I love that the ingredients are natural (except perhaps the mordant) I've been thinking of other combinations I might try and have bought a larger glass Kilner jar to replace the plastic one after this use as the instructions say it degrades with time. I've been looking at websites too and apparently you can use white vinegar as the mordant. I might try it to see if it works.

Have you tried solar dyeing? What did you use as dye/mordant?

Finally, I previously mentioned that I would be making the Christening cake for my nieces' Christening and promised a pic - so here it is:

Have a great week!

Monday, 25 May 2015

CFTC Make-along Update & Portuguese Yarn Shop Trip

Last week the hubby & I went out to Portugal for a holiday and to see the Portuguese side of our family. It was a lovely week, warm but windy and managed to fit in a lot: a visit from my parents, a 2 night trip with my in-laws to Mosteirô on the Douro and catching up with other friends and family. The trip to Mosteirô gave us a couple of days of much needed relaxation and we found the house where my father-in-law's family used to live and even met some long lost relatives. I did use the week to catch-up on my CFTC Make Along Shawl.

The problem when you work full-time is that you have to squeeze in the knitting/crochet around the housework during the evenings and weekend. I've seen already that a few people have finished their shawls and some have even started a second one. I had originally planned to have mine done in time for my nieces' christening next weekend, but it's looking like it might be a bit tight and I have got an outfit backup plan, just in case! However, I have now finished the 12 large motifs and started the first small motif. After the 12 large motifs are completed the pattern (Spirographical from Joanne Scrace) suggests that before you start to join them together you should wash and block them. So this is what I have been doing today.

I've got to be honest, I've not really done any blocking before. I usually gently press items with a iron over a tea towel, or don't do anything at all. So I haven't got a blocking board or T pins or blocking wires that some sites suggest you use. I found a really useful guide on Craftsy on how to block on a towel. I washed the motifs some tepid water with baby shampoo, rinsed them and then pinned out to the measurements specified on the pattern (15cm) Now I'm just waiting for them to dry to continue! I think they do look better than they did before, but we'll see once they are dry.

I also got to visit some of the great yarn shops that Aveiro has to offer. There are 2 stores that are regulars on my visits. The value is amazing and we always come back with something. In the past we have mainly visited this one on R. José Estivão:

However, my mother-in-law introduced me at the end of last year to Tricots Brancal on R. Conselheiro L. Magalhães. 

It's an amazing store, filled floor to ceiling filled with yarn sold by the ball and in hanks by the kilo! Such a great choice. When I went in there before I bought the green, yellow and white variegated yarn that I used for my Hitchhiker scarf. It's acrylic yarn and their own brand and I really enjoyed knitting with it. so I got some more and another couple of balls from the same brand, but different range.

I didn't go too mad having been to Wonderwool earlier in the month and also we are planning on going back in August so I can always get some more on the next shopping trip! The sales assistant in the store was really helpful and I took my mum and she got six balls too. Definitely a must if you visit Aveiro - I will certainly be going back!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

6KCBWDAY7 - Sunday - Your Time, Your Place

Wow! Can you believe it's already the end of the week and the final day of the Knitting & Crochet Blog Week? It's gone really fast. I just want to take the opportunity before I start on the final topic just to say a big thank you to Mimi over at Eskimimi Makes for organizing the challenge and to all the people who have visited, whether you have commented or not. It's been  great to meet you all and I hope you'll continue reading  - I know I've found some great blogs this week that I'll be following in the future! :-)

Anyway the post for today is Your Time, Your Place and we are tasked to talk about when and where we knit.

I work full-time in the center of London. So it means that during the week, I'm up at 6am to get the train into work and I don't get home until gone 7pm. Then there's the usual dinner and housework to sort out, so I don't often get to sit down with my knitting/crochet until at least 8.30pm or later, but then I knit/crochet until bedtime (this week I've been reading a lot of blogs too!) I do sometimes snatch a quick row before I go out to work, but normally I'm in quite a rush and it doesn't happen.

Here's where I sit - my hubby and I sometimes refer to it as "knitting corner" because down the side of the sofa are all my bits and pieces and an assortment of knitting bags and yarns. I have to have a bit of a purge now and again and have a good sort out so that it doesn't take over the room!

I know what you are thinking, that I'm missing a trick and that I should be knitting on the commute. Believe me I have considered it (and still am) but it does get rather packed and the last thing I want to do is have someone's eye out with my knitting needle! Perhaps crochet is a better option...Do you knit/crochet on the train? I'd love to hear from you if you do.

The weekend is normally when I get most time to do my knitting/crochet. I go to a bi-weekly knit and natter and love meeting people there and sharing projects and ideas. In some ways it's a bit like getting involved in this KCBW - we are all together in sharing a love for the same thing and I think you get chatting to some people you might not normally speak to. I've blogged a bit about this before when I did the Love Your Blog Challenge and you can read about it here.

Apart from the knit & natter, and the time spent blogging/doing housework/seeing family & friends, I do spend a lot of the weekend knitting, or planning projects. I love the relief and relaxation that knitting brings (some days I really need it) and I wouldn't want to be without it!

I do take my knitting away on holiday with me, much to my hubby's amusement. I always take it when we go to visit his parents and as I have said in previous posts I have bonded well with my Mother-in-law over a shared love of knitting & crochet and we are often messaging each other with pictures of WIPs and FOs.

So that's it really. My knitting time is limited on some weeks, but I squeeze it in wherever possible!

Thanks again for reading, I hope you have enjoyed it and see you again soon.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

6KCBWDAY6 - Saturday - Knitting Survey

Today's challenge for KCBW6 is to do a survey. So I've got a few questions for you...

Create your own user feedback survey

Thanks for taking the time to answer! I will be bringing you the results in a blog post shortly...

Thursday, 14 May 2015

6KCBWDAY4 - Thursday - Bags of Fun

This is going to be so much fun! Today's topic is Bags of Fun - it's time to spill all the goodies you have tucked inside your knitting/crochet bag. So here is mine. OK, one of mine - the main one.

And here's what I have inside. Firstly I have a hot chocolate tin from some Spanish hot chocolate that I bought back from Barcelona. The hot chocolate is long gone but the tin is useful for buttons, stitch markers, stitch holders etc. Then I also have another small tin that I got at a knitting show that's good for pins and needles and my scissors.

Of course, I have the usual assortment of needles, circular needles and hooks. I have a set of metal Aero needles that belonged to my maternal grandmother as well as some that I have bought myself or received as gift, both in bamboo and metal/plastic. The hooks were just a cheap set that I got on amazon because I wanted to learn crochet but they are quite cheerful! 

Then of course I have my knitting & crochet. The crochet is in a separate bag that's easily transportable. Actually the yarn came in it when I bought it from Finally, I have all the odd bits and pieces that seem to accumulate at the bottom of the bag - does yours have that? There are several tape measures and various freebies that I got as gifts on the front of knitting magazines. Ooh! I'd forgotten about some of those bits! I love that giant button - I must find a use for that! 

Can't wait to check out all of your knitting bags. Hope you enjoyed a peek into mine.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

6KCBWDAY3 - Wednesday - Experimental Photography & Image Handling

Photos are an important part of blogging. I'm fairly new to blogging and while getting set up and looking at various sites to get inspired I have discovered that photos are key. They are what pulls people in from social media to read your blog. A really great photo can pull people to your site in their hundreds, apparently.

I've been taking time to set up my photos. I've been looking at how other craft bloggers do it and trying to set up a nice composition. I've been using natural light and trying to use a reflector, or taking the pictures outside where the light is good. I must admit, at the moment, I take the majority of my photos with the camera on my phone - they are so good nowadays!

But the theme of today's blogging topic is Experimental Photography. In some ways I feel like I've already been trying to do that, so that left me with the second option: Image Handling. I did a bit of research and found a lot of sites pointing me towards the Autodesk Pixlr app. I decided to give it a go, so I downloaded it to my phone and started to experiment. Usually it's my hubby that fiddles about with the photos on the laptop, so he was surprised when I showed him what I was doing. There's so much you can do. Obviously you can do the usual adjustments in terms of brightness, colour saturation, sharpening and cropping. You can give the photo an effect, such as a frame or blurring:

You can doodle:

Or add cartoon images:

Or even create a collage:

And the best thing is that you can add text. I especially like this one. I noticed on a lot of blogs I've been reading about increasing your blog traffic that adding your blog address before sharing on social media is a way of increasing awareness of your blog. You can also add fun comments or instructions.

It makes it really easy to share on social media too and I'm glad the knitting & Crochet Blog Week helped me to search & find it. I think it's going to make a big difference to my photos! It's really simple to use - if I can do it anyone can! Have you tried it?  

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

6KCBWDAY2 - Tuesday - It's All About You

So it's day 2 of the 6th Annual Knitting & Crochet blog week and the topic is All About You.

The idea is to encourage sharing a different side of ourselves, other that the bit that is obsessed with knitting/crochet/spinning etc. I'm going to start by showing you a picture of my bookshelf. I think your bookshelf can tell you a lot about a person and their likes and dislikes.

So you can see here that I have a few books about  knitting & crochet and spinning (which I've had a (not very successful) go at - but that's a story for another day!) and there are a few fiction books, and one autobiography (David Jason, which I haven't even opened yet). To be honest I have a Kindle Paperwhite and most of the reading books are on there now. It's just so much easier to cart around with you, especially if you commute.

The main subject of the books on my shelf is cooking. I love to cook and bake. My husband is Portuguese so I've tried to learn a few Portuguese dishes so he can have a bit of a taste from home. I love cooking shows and that's why you'll see that I have quite a few celebrity chef cookbooks. I love actually using them and even just browsing through for ideas, Much like browsing on Ravelry at patterns really!

So let me share with you what I made last Saturday. I made Bacalhau com Natas, which is a Portuguese saltcod dish made with a bechamel sauce and a splash of cream.

Then it was a pineapple upside-down cake that's from the Leon Baking & Puddings book, although I made it this time in a loaf tin. You put a caramel sauce in the bottom with the pineapple and so its all caramelly & sweet, with chewy bits around the edges. Delicious! This cake is often a request in our house!

I made my sister's wedding cake when she got married and she's asked me to bake one for her daughters' christening. Perhaps I'll post a picture when I've done it.

So what do you like doing when you are not knitting/crocheting?

Monday, 11 May 2015

6KCBWDAY1 - Monday - If You Were Yarn

So I really enjoyed taking part in the Love Your Blog Challenge from A Playful Day and enjoyed having a few prompts to get my brain going! So when I saw that Eskimimi Makes was advertising another prompt inspired blogging week, I knew I wanted to take part.

The topic for Monday is: If You Were Yarn. This is a tough one. It's like one of those off the wall questions that you get asked at interviews sometimes. It's been hard for me to differentiate between the types of yarn that I like, and the type of yarn that best describes me!

We are encouraged to look at different types or brands of yarn and to decide which one best suits our personality. I looked at the information about different types of yarn in The Knitter's Life List by Gwen W. Steege.

Have you got it/seen it? It's a really great resource that covers all areas of knitting and it has a really good section about different types of yarn. It's a book you pick up and then suddenly realise you've lost a whole chunk of time where you've been distracted by all the yarny elements inside. The section on wool isn't very extensive though so I looked at the Knitbritish blog at the post on Wool Tasting. It really was food for thought as I have always had a problem with wool garments that I've bought in the shops being itchy so I don't usually go for wool.

I'm not sure if I'm a plain wool though, or even an alpaca or other luxury yarn (although I do love alpaca) because they require hand-washing and a bit more effort. I don't think I'm like that - definitely not high maintenance. Nor am I just your basic acrylic - cheap & synthetic. I would say that after consideration I'm more like a blend or something that has been superwash treated. Perhaps something like Drops Baby Merino.

Photo credit to my Mum for this one!
It's 100% merino wool but it's machine washable so it's practical. Yep, I think that's me - practical. It's spun from multiple strands and so has good elasticity. As with other types of wool it's an active fibre that reacts to change in the body temperature - it keeps you warm in the winter & cool in the summer, so it's flexible. I would say I'm quite a flexible person personality-wise so that fits. It has good stitch definition and gives a neat and even finish. I like things to be neat and even so that's me too. It's warm and I think I am a warm & friendly person and it's strong & durable. That's definitely me. Lots has happened in my life and I'm stronger for it! I'm a fighter.

A difficult one to start the week, but it got me looking at yarns and considering different options. What type of yarn are you?

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Knitting & Crochet WIP Update

Hello friends!

It's been a couple of weeks since I last spoke about what my current projects are and so I decided it was time to give you an update.

My knitting project that is currently on the needles is Ocean Breeze by Alpaca Select from Simply Knitting. You can see my last update about it here. Last time I was just finishing the back but I have finished that now and moved onto the front. The front has a beautiful cable pattern which runs up from the cast on edge. It's taking a bit of concentration now as the cable panel instructions are in a different place on the page to the main pattern, so you have to keep an eye on both to ensure you are working the right place in the cable and that you are still following the main pattern where there are decreases and increases. That's good to relax & concentrate the mind but you do have to be careful to count! Here's a couple of pics:

Progress has not been so quick to be honest, but that's because my time has been diverted by learning to crochet. You may remember that I'm taking part on the Crafts from the Cwtch Make Along this month and that having never worked from a crochet pattern I have been challenging myself to make Joanne Scrace's Spirographical shawl. I've got the hang of it now and have made quite a few motifs. The pattern is made up of 12 large motifs and then you have to wash & block them, before creating the 3rd smaller motifs and joining them together, I've made 6 and am part way through number 7.

Some people have already finished their shawls or are nearly finished. They look amazing I'm really inspired to try out some off the other patterns in The Shawl Project and some of the other shawls that people are making. Check out the progress of all the shawls on Instagram using #cftcmakealong. I'm there as @knit.purl.relax - come and say hi! There's a Ravelry thread too here.

Well that's it for now, but I'll keep you updated and watch out next week as I'll be taking part in the 6th Annual Knitting & Crochet Blog week from Eskimimi Makes. Look forward to seeing you then!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Learning Crochet

It's already May - can you believe it? It's amazing how fast this year is whizzing by! I've been waiting impatiently though for May to arrive as I'm taking part in the Crafts from the Cwtch Make Along which started on May 1st. You can read all about it here.

The idea is to make a shawl or other neckwear using a skill that is new to you. Some people have chosen lace or short rows - I decided to go with crochet, particularly when Sarah started promoting various discounts on her blog and I saw the designs from Joanne Scrace in the e-book The Shawl Project: book one. I was hooked! (he he he bad pun)

I had been looking at shawl designs made of motifs and the design Spirographical, which you can see here really pulled me in. Then it was just a question of what yarn to get. I've already blogged about the yarn I chose here - it's DROPS Alpaca in teal. Stunning colour.

So I have patiently spent most of the weekend learning to crochet. I have an old issue of Simply Crochet to hand (as it has excellent How To guides in the back) and after several false starts, I finally got underway.

My husband was laughing as I sat, frown of concentration on my face until I had the stitches mastered. I also had a bit of help from my Mum once it came to working into a stitch rather than a chain space, but I finally got there. I must admit I did feel fairly chuffed when I'd finished the first one! The first thing I wanted to do was show everyone! In fact, this project and talking to other bloggers has inspired me to finally get an Instagram account. You can find me there as @knit.purl.relax and on Ravelry as gilliana82 where I and the other Make Along participants will be sharing our progress and frustrations as we learn. I must admit, its already inspired me to try some other designs and techniques!

Yesterday evening I moved on to the second motif, Motif B. I found this one a bit more challenging until I realised I wasn't doing the right stitch or going in the right place! But challenging is what it's supposed to be, and I did eventually get there today.

Anyway, I'm off to continue a bit more. Are you joining the make along too? There's still time - come and join us!