Challenges

New Year’s resolutions are so old hat, don’t you think?! Most people I know have eschewed formal resolutions this year, perhaps they’ve gone out of fashion. Or maybe it’s because most of us recognise that most resolutions are abandoned by the end of January, which makes us a little discontented and miserable through February.

I have made no resolutions this year. I have aims, which are softer, less structured things with correspondingly less mental self-flagelation if I fail in any of them! I aim to stay happy and as unstressed as is possible (with a house move coming up soon) for the remainder of the winter. I aim to take a second before I speak and try not to snap at my children, although this will definitely be easier if I feel happy and moderately unstressed! I aim to cut down on my refined sugar intake, beginning soon. This will be challenging, especially with the amount of chocolate we have left in the house since Christmas, but I will have to try. And of course there are the yarnie challenges.

I’ve not thought these out very clearly yet, I just know I want to knit more! Last year was a bit of a non-starter for me, craft wise, and I’m hoping to pick up where I left off before the desire to make things vanished in the mist. I’ve made a good start so far this year, planning the cardigan I mentioned last week and picking out some other patterns that I’d like to try soon. I’ve also entered myself into a challenge on Ravelry to knit up 1500 yards of yarn a month. This is a lot, but at about fifty yards a day I think it’s achievable if I get back into the habit of knitting whilst I’m sitting down relaxing in the evenings. Most of the time my knitting doesn’t involve me studying a pattern to the exclusion of everything around me, so I’ll still be able to chat with GG and enjoy a couple of programmes on the TV whilst I work. I’ve already got a couple of projects under my belt.

These are slipper socks for Cheeky, who is seven and a half now and wearing (I think) size 12.5 shoes. They are made out of superwash blue faced leicester wool in a heavy aran weight on (I think) 6mm needles. The plan is to dye the socks, and Cheeky has asked that they be dyed red and yellow. Hmm, I did warn him that he might get some orange patches in between the red and yellow, but he didn’t seem to mind too much! Once they’re dyed, I have a bottle of this liquid rubber or latex or something which you apply to the soles of the socks in order to make them less slippy. I mostly knitted them at the end of last year, but I finished them on the 1st so the final ten yards can go into this year’s tally!

Next, I made these washcloths and soap bag. I bought a couple of packs of balls of cotton yarn from Lidl about two years ago and still have quite a lot of it left. So I decided that washcloths are always useful, and whizzed these up as a quick-gratification project. The soap bag is designed to prevent the problem of dropping a slippery soap. As the bag is cotton, the soap can be left inside and the whole thing immersed in water and used to wash yourself. I’m pleased with how they turned out, especially as I knit the little bag using the ‘toe-up sock’ method and so there was no seaming or grafting needed to finish it off!

On the needles at the moment is the second in a pair of flip top mittens for GG. He travels to work on a bus every day, and finds it inconvenient having to take his gloves off every time he needs to get change or bus tickets out, or fiddle with his phone (which he also uses as an MP3 player). Fingerless gloves were dismissed as the ends of his fingers would still get cold, and so he decided on flip top mittens with fingerless gloves underneath. And providentially, Ellie gave me a book of glove patterns for Christmas, along with a couple of sets of bamboo double pointed needles. I’ve put them all to good use, and found a pattern which suited GG. I’m up to the base of the fingers on the second mitten already, and hope to finish that by tomorrow evening. He tried the first one on yesterday evening, by the way, and pronounced them very comfortable and cosy! Hopefully I’ll have some pictures of the finished items soon. I’m knitting them out of a new-to-me yarn called Lang Omega which I bought in Big Knitters a little while ago. it’s a 50/50 blend of nylon and acrylic, and so they’re washable, and it is so soft. I think I’ll be buying this yarn again for future projects, so long as it stands up to wear. I’ll keep an eye on how the gloves go for a few weeks before I decide, but I’m always on the lookout for a nice reasonably cheap yarn, so this could be good.

Right, having already been awake for 2.5 hours (it’s 6.10am) I’m absolutely starving, so I’m off to find a yoghurt. I hope the new year is treating you all well!

If you’re in Cardiff tomorrow…

…come and see me at Roath craft market, on Keppoch Street in the Mackintosh Sports and Social club! We’re open for extended hours, from 9.30am until 3pm for these last two Saturdays before Christmas. And now for the two extra enticements to my stall; firstly, I am having a pre-Christmas sale! Buy one item of jewelry, and get £1 off each subsequent item of jewelry purchased in that same transaction. So, you can get a very nice set of jewelry at an extremely reasonable price! Secondly (and probably more importantly) there will be a lovely big bowl of chocolates on my stall for all who pass, in the hope of generating even more smiles and lots of Christmas spirit!

Busy busy busy!

I really should have turned off my laptop by now, because I’ve got a thousand and one things to do, but I’ve been missing talking to you all so I thought I’d dive in with a quick hello! I’m just about to go off and dye up some of our new Stardust yarn, which is a yummy merino and nylon blend (perfect for socks) with the added bonus of a touch of silvery sparkle in there too (which makes it perfect for everything else in my book!). I’m having the hardest time not keeping all the yarn for myself, but I can’t knit fast enough to keep up with it all anyway, so I am just telling myself that I can always dye more for me when I have time to knit it!

I’ve already dyed up three skeins of the Stardust in purple and navy, and have sold all three, so I have my fingers crossed that it will be a popular yarn base. I also have some merino silk blend to play with today, as well as some laceweight yarn. I received a sample pack from one of our suppliers with the loveliest baby alpaca and silk blend laceweight, which I will definitely be keeping for me! So I’m thinking of dyeing up that skein today and trying to find time to knit with it sometime soon. Although, with Christmas looming, it may have to wait until January.

I’m off to Roath Market tomorrow morning, and am hoping that people’s thoughts will have turned to Christmas shopping when they come into the craft market. I will have my jewelry for sale, as well as a shawl knitted to my own design and of course our Jelliebean Yarns. I hope to have some more knitted items for sale in the next few weeks, but I’m working on a commission at the moment which really needs to take priority in my knitting time. However, hopefully that will be finished in the next couple of weeks, then I can really crack on with turning out some knitted gifts.

I don’t think I have much left to knit for my own Christmas gifting; I got the bigger items out of the way early on. There’s a few pairs of gloves and some hats to do, but other than that I think my home  made gifts yet to be made are mainly foodie ones which will have to be done nearer to Christmas anyway.

And a couple of photos to round off my update;

My first attempt at shawl design, and using my own yarn. I’m quite pleased with it, although there are a couple of points where I want to tweak the pattern before I publish it. Again, I think this will probably now have to wait until after Christmas – how that gets in the way of my creativity!

A cardigan for the baby daughter of one of my husband’s friends. I really need to get this in the post before C grows out of it, but I’m hoping to do a matching hat before I post it off, so I’ll wait a few more days.

Handsome (DS1) was ill at half term, and so I made him this bow tie to cheer him up. He is a massive fan of Doctor Who, but hasn’t dressed up as the eleventh doctor yet. I thought this might help him along!

So that’s a little insight into what I’ve been busy with in the last couple of weeks. I hope you’re all well, and that the approach of Christmas is filling you with glee rather than gloom!

A real live shop!

This morning, I took some of mine and Ellie’s Jelliebean Yarns to Big Knitters yarn shop on Wellfield Road in Cardiff! It was very exciting! Anna, who runs the shop, had already made a space in the shelving for our yarns, and let me put it out myself! (I know that made me sound like a five year old, but I was THAT excited!)

Anyway, I took some photos (of course!) so that I could show you how beautiful our yarns look in the shop setting!

This is the shop that we are stocked in (oooh, even typing that makes me squeal inside with excitement!), right on the corner of a lovely, busy shopping street in Cardiff. Doesn’t it look lovely?!

There’s our yarn, on the middle shelf below King Becky’s yarn. It’s a great position in the shop, right opposite the door as you enter and next to the checkout. Don’t all the colours look beautiful together!

I’ll be going back in next week after my next dyeing session. I’m glad Anna’s so friendly and understanding about my need to go and say ‘hello’ to them now and again! Now, hopefully, the yarn shop’s customers will love them enough to buy them!

Exciting new venture (again!)

It’s not long since I told you about my Etsy shop selling jewelry, www.jennieworldcrafts.com. And yet there is another venture which I’ve not yet shared with you. Since the summer, Ellie and I have been dyeing yarn, and we also have an Etsy shop set up for that at www.jelliebeanyarns.etsy.com. I’m so enjoying doing this. It’s so close to my most loved craft; knitting. And yet it’s so different that I can flit from one thing to the other without getting bored!

Another thing about it that I love is that if I feel like knitting, say, a shawl in purple, I know that I can now go and dye that yarn myself rather than waiting to get to a yarn shop or wool festival before I find my perfect colour.

Anyway, I’ll share some pictures of my yarns with you in a minute, but first off, we had very good news at the weekend! As soon as we choose which yarns to take, we will have our yarn stocked in ‘Big Knitters’ yarn shop in Roath, Cardiff! This is tremendously exciting news, especially as we are such a new little enterprise. We’ve only been dyeing for a few months, but we’ve had such a gratifying response both from people we know and those we’ve only just met. Many of our friends at the local knitting groups have been kind enough to buy some of our yarn. We’ve also been fortunate enough to sell to crafters visiting from the United States as well as, via our Etsy store, to the US and Finland! And every skein I hand over or send off brings little shivers of excitement! It’s thrilling to think that, sometime in the future, this could be a viable, profit-making, income-bringing business for us!

Anyway, here are some of my yarns so far:

Firstly, those which will be listed in the shop in the coming few days;

Witching Hour

Midnight Jade

Autumn Days

And next, those which are already listed in the shop, or have already sold;

Acid Hiss

Blackberry Blueberry

Gryffie Roar

Ocean Swell

I am loving the opportunity to play with all the different colours and see how they all meld together so beautifully. My only problem at the moment is that I want to knit with them all! I have reserved a skein of the ‘Midnight Jade’ for myself (there have to be some perks to this job!!) and I’m designing a shawl with it at the moment. To my credit, I think I’ve only held back four or five skeins for myself so far, all to use to design new knitting patterns, so I think that’s pretty restrained!

This yarn is all British wool, from Blue Faced Leicester sheep in a 4ply or sock weight. The wool is yummy because it takes the colour so well, but it also has a sheen about it which really accentuates your work. We’ve also got new yarn bases in to try, so I’m looking forward to sharing some of them with you soon, just as soon as I’ve planned which colours to use for which bases!

Publishing patterns!

On Sunday I published my second pattern on www.ravelry.com. I had loads of 4ply (sock weight/fingering) yarn that I wanted to use up, and I wanted a hat to match the purple shawl I made earlier in September. But I couldn’t find a pattern that I liked, so I decided to create something from scratch. And here it is;

I’m really happy with how it has turned out. And it’s very exciting to see how many people have already downloaded my pattern. Two other people have even cast on to knit it already!

If you have a Ravelry account, you can get the pattern for free here. If you don’t use Ravelry, but would like the pattern, leave a comment and I’ll work out how to publish it here.

I’ve made mittens to match, and I’ll be publishing the pattern for them soon as well. I made them to be a bit loose, as I’m planning to line them with fleecy fabric. If I ever get some free time, that is!!

Working hard at new things

I’m determined to, at some point, write about everything that I’ve been doing since I last blogged regularly. It may take me a while, but bit by bit I’ll get there!

At the beginning of July, I was trying to decide what to give to my sons’ teachers for the traditional end of year gift. Cheeky has two teachers this year, as they’ve come back from maternity leave on a job share, so I had three gifts to find.

I decided that they would have lots of chocolates, flowers and toiletries and so, being a 24/7 knitter, decided to use my talent for the greater good and make them something! I decided on mittens, being a lot quicker than scarves, and then decided to knit fingerless ones with the intention that they could be useful during autumn P.E. lessons in the cold wind!

The first pair I knitted from an existing pattern, with slight adaptations. For a start, the pattern made elbow length gloves but I didn’t have the time for that so I made them a few inches shorter. I was pleased with how they turned out;

The second pair, though, was a different story. I really wanted to make a pair of mittens with a cable (twist) design, but couldn’t find a pattern I liked anywhere. So then I sat and thought to myself, this is silly. I’ve been knitting for a long time now, I should really be able to design my own patterns rather than relying on Ravelry‘s database for everything. So I designed some myself!

I was really pleased by how they turned out, and also that I managed to match up the yarns exactly between the two gloves so that the stripes happened in the same places on each one! And then I had to make something for a Ravelry swap I took part in (about which, more later) and so I thought, another pair of mittens from this pattern would be a good idea, just to make sure that the pattern works well and there are no errors;

And here they are. I was even more pleased with them in a solid colour, as the pattern really pops at you from these ones. So i decided to bite the bullet and publish the pattern on Ravelry, which means that I’m now a published designer! It was very exciting to see “Jennie Powell’s original designs” above my pattern, and I’ve opened some floodgate or other in my mind. Every day I’m thinking of new patterns to create. I’ve just got to find the time to knit them now!