Friday, 28 December 2012

Some quiet days

Amidst all the hustle and bustle of festivities, carol services, planning for days in a short-staffed office, cooking, shopping, crafting, cooking, wrapping, labelling, cooking, travelling and cooking...

There are moments of stillness and quiet.

And moments to take time to finish a job started too long ago.

And some moments when you realise that the project bags in use are not a modern sculpture, and instead represent what you hope will be many more months of knitting pleasure to come.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Workshop Season is here!

There's so much to say, and so little time to actually tell you about it... After a long summer training in a new day job in a new sector, I've finally managed to get some details in place for some workshops this autumn.

See, I've even got a flyer designed and everything! The lovely Joni at Bluebells (Facebook link) in Worcester is welcoming Ruthcrafts (alongside other people) to her workshop space above the shop for knitting sessions on some Saturday afternoons. Needless to say, I'm really looking forward to some dedicated time spent with knitters, and to meeting some fabulous new people. It should be great fun.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Knitting progress - two pairs of socks

It's finally official - I've finished two sock patterns, and they're now available here for your perusal. The first, Sunwise, uses a simple moss-rib stitch pattern to create columns which wend their way slowly around the leg and across the top of the foot.

Written in three sizes, this pattern was designed to be wearable by either sex, and for each sock in the pair to be identical, or symmetrical, as the wearer or knitter, desires. Will a symmetrical pair enable you to escape the dreaded second sock syndrome? Or would you like to choose between a Sunwise (clockwise) and Widdershins (anti-clockwise) pair?

Available through Ravelry or by clicking the button below for just £2

The second pattern is named for the gulls' evoked in the colourway so expertly designed by Juliet and for the simple lace pattern so familiar from the February Baby and Lady's Sweaters.  

Kittiwake combines this feminine, chevron lace with a twisted rib pattern and a slip-stitch heel which flow from its points. The heel flap splits the stitches unevenly, which may look peculiar while you're working it, but ensures a snug fit when the extra ease of the lace work comes into play.

Again, this is available through Ravelry, or through the button below for £2.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Walking, henning, and playing with fabric

It's been an  eventful spring here at Ruthcrafts HQ - the Bizart fair was lots of fun, and I very much enjoyed catching up with Mrs McIndoe and Tickled Pink's Ann, and getting to know Claire of Lily Mays and Jodie Edwards a little better! Fondant Fancies provided most excellent cake - I must make time to spend some Sunday afternoon tea-times with them soon.

Since then, I've been to two fantastic hen dos - very different, but both very fun! In preparation for the first, I and some old friends simply had to make a trip to the Malvern Quilt Show at the Three Counties showground. In fact, they made quite a trip, but its on my doorstep, so I had the added benefit of a beautiful walk in the early summer sunshine. Sadly, I failed to take any pictures on this occasion, but I have got a couple of shots from an earlier visit, when the weather was distinctly spring-like.

Then, I was heading in to the Creative Crafts show, which was full of a fascinating range of crafters of all kinds. This time, it was purely fabric indulgence, with a beautiful exhibition to round out the shopping experience.

The fabric purchased travelled home, and that very weekend, we spent a fabulous afternoon cutting and pinning and stitching and sipping and chatting, and the result was sixty beautiful metres of bunting to adorn the hen's reception venue in a very few weeks' time!

All that patchwork could hardly help but get me thinking, so this past week, I've been playing with my felt tips and stash, and I've come up with a (less-than-perfect - please don't look too closely!) little something to become a cushion sometime soon.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Going to Bizart May Fair

For the first day this month and more, the sun is shining, and there's blue sky - great signs, because today, I'm involved in the second Bizart designer-maker fair at the Lyttelton Well in the centre of Malvern. Months of planning, weeks of making, and now, the day is here!

We've 19 vendors from ceramicists, jewellers and photographers to ceramicists and toy-makers, and the lovely Fondant Fancies are with us to provide much needed cake! More information on the event, and the vendors, on the blog.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Secret plotty plots and the lovely Louise

Once again, it has been quiet, and once again (though it has been dreich and gloomy, and chilly, too), it's been in part because I've been part of a secret plot that I couldn't share!

This time, it's the plan of the lovely Louise, podcast-writer and presenter (and renewable energy businesswoman) from Caithness Craft Collective, who responded to my suggestion that I and Artist's Palette Yarns would like to send in a giveaway for her show by decreeing that I should be the first designer in her new Designer Alley feature.

If you're not already a Caithness listener and fan, do go and check her out - Louise is something of a textile technique expert, and talks about her quilting, textile artists' group and embroidery as well as her knitting. She regularly includes spotlights on particular textile techniques and elements of Scottish history and culture, as well as a whisky review by her husband. That, plus lots of humour, and knitting news, and what more could you ask for? A designer interview? Well, she's got that sorted as of this week, and here's the link for the show I feature in. I almost can't believe it!

Louise will also be hosting a knitalong for my Allegra or Alletta pattern in her group on Ravelry (and I'll be hovering to help with any queries), so do give it a listen, and know that if you feel like joining in, you'd be very very welcome!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Today (just)

Just wanted to say that today (Tuesday), in UK date systems, is 21022012. Which is a palindrome. I like that!

Musings on macaroons

This weekend I made two separate sets of what the recipe I have calls macaroons (they don't look like the little shiny spheres I've more recently seen called macaroons, but they taste great). The first batch, made early one morning, came out exactly as I expected them to, after a little experimentation with timings. 13 minutes at 180C made smooth, round, slightly risen and golden almond delicacies... Unfortunately, there are no specimens remaining for photographic proof.

The second batch, made in an afternoon's distraction, contained exactly the same ingredients (2 egg whites, 225g sugar, 175g ground almond), made in the same bowl, and was baked on the same tray, in the same oven, for 13 minutes at 180C. They tasted delicious, but the mix was much wetter, and the resulting biscuits are less smooth, and spread more on the baking tray, though some did rise slightly too. The only difference I can think of? I whisked the egg whites for slightly longer and slightly more vigorously the second time around! Note to self: the smallest change can make a difference.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Tomorrow at Fibre Flurry

It seems spring is springing at the moment - the lighter evenings are cheering me up no end, exciting projects are making progress, and some of the events I've been preparing for for the last three months are happening! I told you about Bizart last week, this week it's the turn of Fibre Flurry. Fibre Flurry is a fantastic independent yarn shop in Hall Green, Birmingham, and also the name of the yarn and fibre festival that the owners organise each year. Plans are in place for Fibre Flurry (festival) 2012, and I'll tell you more when I know details.

For today, however, the big news is that tomorrow, February 18th, from 1pm-4pm I will be teaching a workshop there. Entitled Beyond the Knit, it's a workshop designed for those who've been knitting squares, and scarves, and blankets, but want to stretch beyond garter stitch, and learn about purls, ribs, all the excitement of stitch patterns, slipped stitches, and knitting in the round. We'll be using my Doric cowl pattern (more information on the Patterns page) as a starting point, and having lots of fun expanding our skill sets!

For more information, or to book, please see the Fibre Flurry website.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Bizart and craft fair - a fabulously quirky event

Saturday dawned bright and clear and frosty, the forecast snow having fallen early and mostly cleared. Having packed the night before, I set off (somewhat pack-horse-like - one of the few occasions where I notice not having a car) for the Lyttelton Well, met with Rachel and Rosie, and from that point, the day flew by! Before we knew it, we had a craft fair before us, tables and chairs all set up, crafters in place, tea and coffee facilities made available, and the doors were open for customers to arrive.

And arrive they did. We had a steady stream of people coming to look, chat, and buy, and it was lovely to see them all. Ruthcrafts took a collection of work - information about my workshops, patterns and project bags (which can of course be used for a whole range of other things too!),  a few lavender-scented birds, and fleece cushions and hot water bottle covers.

It was a great experience, and I've learned a lot from it, particularly that I need to remember that people can't see tiny fonts, and that despite being interfaced, my projects bags don't stand up on their own without anything in them!

 The other vendors were amazing, and I'm so pleased to have had the opportunity to meet such lovely and talented people. If you'd like to see exactly who was there, and doing what, I'd recommend checking out the Bizart blog, where we've been doing vendor profiles for the last fortnight. A glimpse of the show itself is forthcoming, but photos are already up on the facebook page (search: Bizart).

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Reasons for my silence

It's been a bit quiet around here, hasn't it? Well, I'm very pleased to be able to give you, dear readers, a reason for that. A reasonable reason, at that. Yes, I've been busy, and yes, I've been travelling, and yes, that's been unhelpful in trying to blog, but once, I also have a much better reason: I've been blogging away. I'm very pleased to be able to admit my connection to Bizart (click for the blog, search for us on Facebook, etc).

Bizart is a project set up by myself, a certain Rosie Smith, and a name you may recognise: Rachel Lilly. We were talking about opportunities for young crafters or designer-makers in the local area, and decided that we wanted to create some more. So we've begun by organising a designer-maker fair, and are planning more events, details of which I'll share when I can. For the moment, let me give you the details of this one. It will take place in the Lyttelton Well Main Hall in Great Malvern on Saturday 11th  February (this weekend) from 10am-4pm, and will feature over a dozen talented local craftspeople and their work. I'm very excited to be a part of this, and looking forward to meeting lots of lovely people. If you'd like to find out more about them, head over to the Bizart blog for vendor profiles on the majority of them (more coming every day, which is one of the reasons things have been quiet here!)

Thursday, 26 January 2012

A Christmas of Baking Goodies

I'm very conscious that Christmas is actually now quite a while away, but I do want to share some of the lovely gifts I received - particularly as I've been able to put them to good use. The biggest theme in gifts this year seems to have been cooking, with very kind people giving me more beautiful silicone bakeware, drying racks, cookboooks, and a cupcake tower.

They've all been tried and tested, and I'm loving the additions to my cupboard. In fact, I may have to get a bigger cupboard.

These are some coffee cupcakes from Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery, and a version of red velvet cupcakes... They tasted great, but I am a bit sad that I didn't find the energy to ice them - they look so much better then! Since making these, I've also been playing with my new recipe book, Rachel Allen's Easy Meals, and have made the Orange and Almond cake and Vanilla and White Chocolate baked custards. The recipes are clear and easy to follow, though I found preparation times were longer than stipulated (might be me being slow, of course!), and both worked well. I made the foolish error of allowing myself to feel rushed, and taking the cake out of the tin too soon, so it collapsed somewhat, and the syrup (which should have been condensed further) was used to stick it back together! The custards were nice - I wanted to give them a go as slightly more exciting versions of the blamanges and crème caramels that certain relatives love, and they seemed to work... but I just don't like the texture when there isn't a strong flavour to take my mind off it. I might try them again with a strong dark chocolate, and see what happens!

As I'm more often at home at the moment, I'm enjoying the ability to socialise more from here, and I'm hoping the spring will see me experimenting with new recipes (and finding more guinea pigs to share them with). The only downside to the power of baking is that I have all this cake. Is it too late to suggest that a goal for 2012 may be to develop the willpower to resist eating it all?

Friday, 20 January 2012

Rudolfina accessories released

So, you wait ages for a pattern, and then two come along at once. Not only that, but once again, this is a pair of patterns in disguise.

The Rudolfina Accessories set comprises a pair of fingerless mitts and a beanie, featuring co-ordinating cables assorted to the scale of the projects. The mitts take approximately 130m of yarn, and the beret about 170m, meaning the entire set can be knit comfortably from three 50g skeins.

Both knit in the round, the beret alternates wide 'Horn' cables with narrower plaits, decreasing at four points to create an effective four-pointed star pattern.

The mitts feature a smaller 'Horn' cable on the back of the hand, and a plait along the far side (down from the little finger), with the added detail of a simple mock cable pattern over the palm, making the fabric softer and thinner for ease of wear.

Rudolfina Accessories: £3.00

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Allegra/Alletta : patterns released!

I'm coming to the conclusion that the New Year (growing older so quickly!) is going to be the year when I stop promising myself that I'll do things, and actually take the steps to make them happen. Rather longer ago that I initially planned, I mentioned that I'd had a lot of fun on a photoshoot with Rachel, and shared some of the shots with you.

I can now explain that this is a shot of Alletta: a top-down oblique triangle shawlette worked mostly in stocking stitch, with a diamond lace edging. Named for my aunt, who has since received the sample, Alletta is a relatively simple knit, which grows quickly, and works well in a range of solid and semi-solid - or even, as you can see, self-striping - yarns! It takes about 400m of a fingering weight yarn.

But that's not all. Alletta is one of a pair of shawls, the other being Allegra. Using the same lace pattern, and knit from the top down once again, Allegra is a right-angled triangle shawlette with all-over lace work. Needing about 400m of fingering weight yarn, Allegra is a great use for a precious semi-solid yarn with a little drape. The sample shown here was knit using Artist's Palette Smoothie Sock, which is a beautiful, beautiful yarn, and very easy to work with.

Either of these shawlettes would be a great intermediate lace knit - whether you like a relatively plain knit in stocking stitch but with a bit of interest at the end, or whether you prefer to work out the lace pattern over a small number of stitches first, to gain familiarity before you embark on the bigger project.

The 'eBook' (Alletta/Allegra: a pair of shawls) can be found on Ravelry here for the princely sum of £3.00, or click the button below.

[First time I've used the button, so please let me know if there're any problems!]

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Sharing some of my Christmas Crafting

Christmas 2011 was not a very crafty Christmas for me. I made things... I hope people liked them. But I did also buy a relatively high proportion of my gifts this year. Mostly, this was a decision based on time. I was knitting a jumper for Mr P, after all, and was conscious when making my Christmas lists that I simply wouldn't have time to knit a lot of other things.

I did, however, decide that a very special couple deserved something handmade. I've made embroidered cushions / pillowcases before, but I thought that an actual portrait demanded an actual frame. Mr P was sure there would be some way to make technology provide me with an outline sketch of a photograph, but I decided that elbow grease might work just as well, dug out a spare lamp, and cleared the lightbox section of my desk. In fact, it got double use this time - once to trace the outline from the printed photograph, and once to trace that outline onto the fabric. I'm afraid I failed to take any pictures of the work in progress, but here's the finished item, in its frame and ready to travel north to its new home. It isn't the most artistic of productions, but I'm pleased with it, and that will do for now.

And then there were the curtains. I've been promising Mr P (and myself, if I'm honest) that I'd make our flat some curtains for a very long time, and splurged on some sale fabrics in early October, only for them to sit in a tidy pile and wait. When my sister mentioned that she and her boyfriend would really like some plain curtains for their new cottage, I decided it was time to finally work out how a proper pair of curtains was put together. A bit of googling (and yes, I did turn to Kirstie Allsopp amongst others) and advice from the local curtain shop later, and my sister's new bedroom was draped. What more could my own curtains be waiting for?

Well, other than header tape, which I couldn't get until the shops opened again after the New Year, nothing but the imminent arrival of guests, apparently.

I love the sailing curtains in my office (which doubles as the guest room), though I do need to take them down and rearrange the gathers. Elsewhere, our balcony door now has a heavy drape (and a matching draft-excluder is in the works); and Mr P's study / my sewing room has what I think of as 'the gentlemen's club' curtain.

Monday, 16 January 2012

2011: A Year in Knitting

So, 2011 was the year of Knitting the Almanac for me. I've already talked about the first half of the year, but here's a bit of a recap, in case you missed it, and in order to provide completeness. (If you click to see the whole picture, it does include almost everything I talk about, starting from centre top and working clockwise through the year).

January: an Aran... my first self-designed project, using Elizabeth Zimmermann's recipe, and a cable stitch dictionary to knit my own saddle-shouldered aran cardigan. The first time I steeked, too!

February: a baby thing (February Baby Sweater) - easy and successful, about to be posted off to friends who've just had their first child.

March: a difficult sweater - FAIL. I like the idea of the technique, but the design I worked out to make it work for me as a jumper had too many stitches between colourwork sections - meaning really bad gauge issues, and a session at the frog pond. It has since become October's child's jumper, and stash for a Coraline cardigan and textured vest top.

April: a mysterious blanket - success! Not all that mysterious, in that making a multicoloured blanket rather displays the way it was knit, rather than hiding it as per EZ's plan, but I'm very pleased with it.

May: Squirrel mittens - great success, but recurring gauge issues... I love these, and am going to try them again, but I've found that my tension in colourwork is very, very tight, and they do not fit my (quite big) hands. (Here's a gratuitous shot of the person with whom they have found a home)

June: a hat. Easy, and actually quite nice. I removed some of the point, and it has not yet been cold enough to warrant hats here, but it will be pressed into service as temperatures drop.

July: a Pi shawl. I love this. I've blogged about it in detail before, but that was before I wore it much, and I was concerned that a circular shawl might be better used as a tablecloth than as a shawl. Not true - it's a great wraparound item, and I've been wearing it whenever my coats permit (ie, when I'm not wearing my winter waterproof, which has velcro)!

August: Christmas fiddle faddle - quick and easy. This felt a bit like a cheat, but I was rather busy with other things (getting married, specifically), and so I was very relieved to find that I could knit an EZ Christmas star in 45minutes. They even found a home amongst my Christmas card display for the festive season.

September: Nether garments... the unfinished project of the year. It hasn't been frogged, but thanks to my long legs, the fine yarn, and the simplicity of the knitting involved, this project is (so far) stalled at the just-above-the-knee point of the first leg. I'll go back to it, but not yet.

October: Open-necked pullover - really good knit. This was complicated by the fact that I had a child in mind, but not to hand for fitting, but it does, after all, fit, and I love the final effect. It was delivered just before Christmas, so missed the mass photo shoot, but here it is before it got buttons!

November: Mocassin Sock - qualified success. I knit one sock for the project in this month, because I was in the midst of writing and test knitting basic sock patterns (mini, child and adult) for my workshops, and so felt I had paid my sock-knitting dues. The mocassin construction is interesting, even if it looks very very strange off the foot, and involves 5 inches of 2x2 rib worked flat. I will make the second sock soon, I promise!

And finally, December: Hurry up Sweater! I think he likes it - it's Jared Flood's lovely Cobblestone pullover, started on December 1st, and finished December 31st. This is the only pattern of the year where I really stepped away from EZ's instructions, and followed someone else's pattern. Partly because I don't like Chunky knits, partly because Mr P is quite particular about styles, and partly because I didn't like the wishbone neckline.