Saturday, 24 December 2011

:: 24 :: Glad tidings we bring, to you and your kin

"Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too,
And God bless you and send you
a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year!"

Merry Christmas, everyone.

:: 20 - 23 :: a festive home selection

Just a little selection of the festive elements in the house at the moment.

[20] is probably the most history-full. He's Beartje - the bear I've had since I was born, and he's been living in that little stocking/scarf combo for longer than I care to think about. The stocking was one of the first things I remember making on a sewing machine - at a Craft Class at Burnley Mechanics that I attended from about 8 - 15 (ish). 7 years of Saturday mornings in the basement making things. Yay! He's also wearing a very fetching scarf - my first piece of knitting. It's all of 16 years old, so I think it isn't doing badly. The badge is a souvenir of one of Felix's earlier projects, the Missability Radio Show.

[21] is my current knitspot - the sofa is usually a more muted brown, but even it has been overtaken by the spirit of the season. The knitting is a second sleeve. All will become clear before the new year (I hope!)

[22] Our tree this year. I love it. I'd like to add a little more colour for future years, but there are a few handmade touches in there.

[23] is one of them. This little fellow is from a lovely Little Cotton Rabbits pattern released for Christmas a couple of years ago. Julie's knitting is amazing, and this is a fab little pattern - I made two bears and a bunny for my family, though I don't know what happened to the others.

:: 14 - 19 :: Wintry weather

A White Christmas doesn't seem to be on the cards this year, but in itself, that doesn't really affect how I see Christmas. Perhaps it's the dark, and the very real awareness of the winter solstice, or perhaps simply the colder temperatures (and colds too), but what I like most about this time of year is the interplay of light and dark, the contrast of it being cold outside, but so warm and cosy in!

Friday, 23 December 2011

:: 13 :: Glad tidings of all

I love getting Christmas cards, but I'm generally a terrible correspondent, and most years, haven't actually received enough for it to be worth working out a 'display solution'. Perhaps it's a sign of getting older, perhaps it's just that we have so many networks of friends now, but in either case, I've enjoyed receiving news from friends and family near and far. And they gave me an excuse to break out the Christmassy ribbons, craft pegs and mini decorations. I rather like my festive bookcase! If you look closely (apologies for the awful light in the picture), you may even spot a couple of seasonal birds and hearts, and the products of my August Knitting the Almanac-along; Christmas fiddle-faddle in the woods produced a pair of Rico cotton stars, which felt most at home here.

:: 8-12 :: Lots of Christmas Crafting

Erm... so I disappeared again. Sorry! Christmas crafting is a large part of my Advent every year, and this year was no exception.

Of course, I can't show you anything much that I made this year, because it's all under other people's trees, wrapped and gift-tagged and waiting for the big day.

So here're some things made in years past - my own little Mousey [8], made from Ysolda's pattern in Whimsical Little Knits. This is a fantastic pattern, and was a joyful toy to make, since there's very little finishing involved!

The little bunny rabbit [9;11] was made and dressed for a friend (from the purl bee), his clothing made from scraps left over from prototype for the 30-odd jackets I made for the European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO photos). I'm so proud the jackets are still being worn and looking good. Don't know about the bunny - he did send me an email a while ago, but I should probably check whether he's in need of new wardrobe items...

The beret is a Selbu Modern [10] - my first stab at colourwork two years ago for my sister's Christmas present. This was the moment at which I realised (1) that stranded colourwork isn't too scary, but that (2) my tension in that colourwork is *insanely* tight.

[12] Dates from last Christmas, I think, and shows the tea cosy and napkins made for my parents, basically out of my head. The only problem with making things out of my head, I've found, is that I tend to err on the side of caution when guestimating sizes. Teapots don't grow much. Hey ho!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

:: 7 :: Wintry weather

Thankfully, the view from my window today does *not* contain the white stuff... but it has been forecast. May you all be safe and warm as the mornings get darker and the Christmas deadlines approach!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

:: 6 :: Squirrels

Our tree isn't up this year yet, but we are going to be getting one, so here's a glance back to our tree 4 years ago... If you look carefully, you can see a little shop-bought angel - and two squirrels. Why not have squirrels in your tree? Even if one of them is purple (colours dependant on my bead stash, of course!) They'll be coming out again this year.

:: 5 :: Saint Nicolas

Happy (belated) Saint Nicolas! Also, I made my first batch of mince pies - the season is truly here. I use this recipe from BBC food, which makes a pastry with just a bit of extra 'zing' (it's the orange). Because I'm me, and never have time to wait for butter to soften, I made these with margarine. I'm not sure I could tell the difference.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

:: 4 :: Pitt Rivers

If all the doors of my advent calendar opened on places where I had found calm, and peace, and inspiration, then the various museums of Oxford (on a quiet winter's day) would feature prominently. From the beauty of the Ashmolean's paintings (and its much talked-about architectural redesign), with the added bonus of being right next to the Taylorian languages library, through the dark and mysteriously purposeful spaces of the Museum of the History of Science, and the briskly insightful exhibitions in the Bodleian, to the soaring space pictured here, which houses both the wondrous collections of the Pitt Rivers (yes, I know, including shrunken heads), and the Oxford Natural History museum, the free entry of these museums was an amazing addition to my time in Oxford. They wouldn't be there without the academic presence of the university, but they are (refreshingly) not academic spaces. Just curious spaces, full of light and air and information.

Friday, 2 December 2011

:: 3 :: Lighting up the town

Yippee! Today's the day I teach my first knitting workshop, and the Malvern Christmas Light Switch-On is happening! This is one of the ladies from the Switch-On parade a couple of years ago. I am working this afternoon, so might not get to see much of the day, but I am hoping to run past the Arts and Crafts fair in the Priory churchyard, and maybe see a lovely lady from near Ludlow, who has sheep. And weaves blankets. And sells her own yarn...

:: 2 :: a bit meta

It might seem a bit self-referential, but here's a bit of last year's advent calendar. It hasn't been put back up this year, at least in part because it only really fits sweets, and I'm looking for better inspiration for the countdown. I have been admiring this over at mooncalfmakes, which looks like a great plan (we have *lots* of tea). Will think on.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

A New Month

I've always enjoyed bloggers' advent calendars, and felt that this year I should do one too. My aim is to keep it up, and post a little something every day through until Christmas. I'm finding that the more I blog, the more I want to blog, so I'm hoping that this will give me the little boost I think this blog needs. It might also give me the opportunity to catch up with the crafting I've been doing! I know I've missed out on Wovember, but thought this picture captured much of my connection with wool - in its natural state, I've been surrounded by it all my life, and only relatively recently have I developed that connection further. I'm currently looking into local sheepbreeds to me (in Worcestershire), and wondering which of the British Wools I've seen are actually spun here. I know that Laxton's Mill in Guiseley (about 20 miles from where this sheep portrait was taken) are spinning yarns (inc. wools) for a number of companies, but I've yet to find out exactly which ones. I'd love to see really clear labelling from yarn companies, saying not only 'Made in X', but where the fibre was 'grown', and where it was processed and spun. Is it a British sheep breed, 'grown' in Britain, and processed here? Or is it British sheepswool, shipped across the world for processing, and sent back for sales? There are clearly wider issues regarding the ways 'Wool' is branded, and used in marketing more generally, but as a knitter, it's the provenance of my wool (and yarn) that preoccupies me.

While we're looking back a little, here's the project from the end of last month's Almanac-along (in the interests of transparency, I should mention that the grafting was done this morning):

It's the Moccasin Sock, knit on 2.5mm needles, in Regia-4ply-sock in one of the Kaffe Fassett colourways. The construction on this sock is EZ-interesting, in that you knit all the ribbing flat (the leg, and the top of the foot) first, knit the st-st toe-top, and then pick up stitches all the way around the foot to knit down (with a short-row section for heel shaping), decreasing round the toe and heel ends, and finishing the whole thing off with a good bit of grafting down the length of the sole, and seaming up the back of the leg. It looks like a very odd sock off:

but is surprisingly comfortable on.

As to the future:
That, my dear readers, is Mr P's Christmas Cobblestone. Cast on this morning, and to be knit as my 'Last Minute Hurry Up Sweater' in time for the Big Day. Another high aim... let's see how it goes :)