Monthly Archives: September 2014

*hums* Never Smile At A Crocodile…

cos you can’t get friendly with a crocodile… *here endeth the hum*

Sorry, bad habit, humming. Sometimes, since having children, I’ve caught myself walking down the ward at work humming ‘Row, row, row your boat’. Not very professional, is it?

Anyway, back to the crocodiles. TheTwistedYarn, the Toddler Twinnage, the Stoic Spouse, and the in-progress Arne and Carlos blanket have been on (a very short) tour. Look! Here we are, pottering through the Oxfordshire countryside in the cool autumn sunshine.

Arne and Carlos blanket on tour

Arne and Carlos blanket on tour

We were on a mission, hitherto promised to the Toddler Twinnage, to go see some crocodiles. So, as yer do, we pottered over to Oxfordshire’s crocodile sanctuary. Hmmm… crocodiles and Oxfordshire…. two rather incongruous concepts, given that our nearest native crocs must be several thousand miles away in more humid climes? Of all the things Oxford/Oxfordshire is famous for, crocodiles ain’t exactly high enough up the list to be vying for the trophy, are they? To be honest, we don’t really do scary beasties at all round here, although I’ll concede that autumn wasp stings can feel awfully sore for a while.

But back to The Crocs Of Ox. We found them! Here’s a ‘snap’:-

Nile Crocodiles. No smiling allowed.

Nile Crocodiles. No smiling allowed.

We also found a perfectly sensible solution to the problem of mischievous visitors:-

Simple Solution

Simple Solution

I met a sage old croc called Daisy, and showed her the Arne and Carlos blanket. Actually, I tried to extol to her the benefits of knitting, given her sedentary lifestyle. But Daisy remained impassive, staring at me with mean marble eyes and I suspect fantasising about human-shaped lunch served with a lightly piquant sauce. I don’t think we’ll be seeing her on Ravelry any time soon.

Crocodile, meet knitting.

Crocodile, meet knitting.

And coming home, I worried about the lack of knitting/crochet angle of the blog post that I was composing in my mind, so I went online and found… the crocodile (crochet) stitch! Look at this beauty! I think even Daisy would be impressed. I found a tutorial here. It’s actually easy to do, and the perfection of the numbers and arrangement behind it are so so satisfying to a logical mind. Here’s a quick swatch that I crocheted. It’s a lot easier than it looks:-

Crocodile Stitch (crochet)

Crocodile Stitch (crochet)

I’m thinking a scarf, no? Or maybe a crazy scaly hat?

Anyway, that’s all for now. TheTwistedYarn has a vile stinking cold, and is retreating to the medicine cabinet. Again.

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Autumn. Knitting. That sort of stuff.

Evenin’ all.

*Nods at absolutely everyone. Then tries to stop head wobbling after protracted period of nodding.*

It’s been a mostly good day, here. There were early morning views of our local-ish 4th century BC hill fort. (Previous blog post here, from my very early days of blogging.) Hmm, can you just about see its stepped sides in this picture? It’s rather magnificent, and a pretty fine spot from which to defend the locality.

Iron Age hill fort in cautious early autumn sunshine

Iron Age hill fort in cautious early autumn sunshine

And there’s the new knitting project. My first proper grown-up pattern, to be published soon. For now, much secret-squirrel prototype-related activity is on the needles, especially at times when any sane and sensible person would be catching up on sleep. But it’s a secret, so you really must read this post in a whisper, OK? *Taps side of nose enigmatically* The finished product will look rather different, but look at these delicious colours!

Secret!

Secret!

More soon. But don’t tell anyone, OK?

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The Near-Perfect Crochet Book

Oh goodness, I think I’ve just fallen in love. (Apologies Stoic Spouse, for this small lapse in fidelity.)

But it’s love. You know, the sort of love that gets mightily on your friends’ nerves, and which results in a structurally-unsound pile of unwashed laundry because who needs to worry about the mundanities of regular life when you’re in lurrrrve? Like many such love affairs, its start wasn’t so very auspicious. I discovered that there was a book all about how to join crochet shapes together. Sounds a little… dull, no? Worthy and relevant, yes, but deeply dull.

Just how wrong can a lass be?

Pretty freakin’ wrong, it seems. I have this book (and I paid for it – nobody’s twisted the arm of The Twisted Yarn to say nice stuff).

Connect The Shapes

Connect The Shapes

And, once you look past the unprepossessing title, it’s rather fabulously awesome as a general crochet manual for anyone who’s beyond the getting-the-hang-of-granny-squares stage. (People! If you’re not already there, please hurry up and get past that stage, so that you can enjoy the wonders of this book!) Yes, it does have some measured, sensible advice about attaching separate motifs, and about join-as-you-go, and about motifs where joining is inherent in the design, like a network of lily-pads across a pond. (I know, lily-pads aren’t really joined, but it’s hard to come up with decent analogies whilst being climbed by the Toddler Twinnage.) But that’s not the stuff that had me drooling just a little on its previously pristine pages. Look at these beauties!

crochet collage

What I like, other than its sheer yarn-porn potential, is the fact that for every single design there are written instructions, and a chart, and a photograph of the result, between which you’re pretty much guaranteed to produce something decent. Here’s one I made:-

I love this swirling 3-d design. :-)

I love this swirling 3-d design. 🙂

I found this book when I was looking for something that would help me with overlay crochet, or anything where layers of different colours are built up vertically, and I was sold as soon as I saw this:-

Pretty, no?

Pretty, no?

And there are some patterns, too. Ones that you might actually might want to make. My work wardrobe seriously needs this skirt:-

Definitely A Psychologist's Sort Of Skirt

Definitely A Psychologist’s Sort Of Skirt

Mind you, I’m not sure what’s so camp about this rug:-

Camp Rug.

Camp Rug.

Overall, Connect The Shapes is a feast of colour and design yumptiousness. It would suit a wide variety of skill levels, but as I said, maybe leave it for later if you’re busy embroiled in your very first granny square. I have to say, I’m still a little intimidated by the BPtr7tog, whatever that is:-

Scary Beast

Scary Beast

The Stoic Spouse thinks it looks a little like a formula for nuclear fission and assumes that I’m crocheting a nuclear bomb. But maybe he senses my infidelity and is feeling twitchy.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: No husbands were harmed in the making of this blog post. The Stoic Spouse has read and fully approved its content, and still seems to be on speaking terms with me. 🙂

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Colourful Crochet Cushion Covers

Don’t you just love it when a creative plan works out?

(I hope that last sentence doesn’t sound too smug – I could show you plenty of disasters, too.)

Our kitchen is in the oldest, 18th-century (allegedly even 17th-century), part of the house. It’s lovely, but colour-wise it’s rather bland. Or rather, it was, but we’re working on that. I decided that the kitchen chairs deserved a makeover to match the curtains. Look, those chairs were soooo dull. Couldn’t you just fall gently asleep looking at them?

The chairs, before makeover

The chairs, before makeover

Cue much busy activity:-

Kitchen chairs in progress

Kitchen chairs in progress

The plan was to paint and crochet the chairs to match the curtains. There are a few things that I should mention at this point. First, the whole project was inspired by a post by Selma at Eclectichomelife.blogspot.co.uk, and it was she who introduced me to the marvels of Autentico chalk paint. The beauty of Autentico is that you don’t need to prime the wood before applying it. Also, the paint doesn’t smell. Two coats of paint, a final coat of wax, and you’re done. It’s not cheap, but I can’t recommend this stuff enough.

Autentico paint

Autentico paint

I spent a happy afternoon in the garden painting and waxing. Work was briefly interrupted by a shield bug whom I hadn’t the heart to move. He was so pretty:-

Shield Bug Knows He's Cool

Shield Bug Knows He’s Cool

Meanwhile, I was busy crocheting cushion covers with colours inspired by the curtains. The pattern is a free Drops design, available via Ravelry. Very easy but I spent a lot of hours on these beasts. You might think that making four cushion covers would be quick: you’d be wrong. Anyway, I hooked and hooked and hooked and hooked, then sewed on tiny bee buttons, just because I could. (I do love bees.)

Bee Buttons

Bee Buttons

And eventually, the things were done. Look!

The Chairs!

The Chairs!

Not too bad? May I inflict another shot on you?

Crocheted chair covers

Crocheted chair covers

Over a kilometre of yarn and many, many hours went into making those cushions. So now they’re in the kitchen. And that’s made me spot the flaw in my plan: I now need to crochet cushions for the Toddler Twinnage’s chairs, don’t I? *Sigh.* I foresee another dozen hours evaporating in a frenzy of obsessive crocheting…

The Chairs In Situ

The Chairs In Situ

Anyway thank you for reading, as always. More soon. Happy knitting/crocheting…

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We have a winner! (And autumn colour is lurking.)

And…. we have a  winner for the signed Arne and Carlos books giveaway!

Chosen randomly by the helpful algorithms at random.org, the winner is entrant number 58:-

Winner!

Winner!

…which on my list of entrants translates to Mary Beth Wiggins‘ entry over on Facebook. Wa-hey! Congratulations. 🙂 I’ll be in touch to get your address, and then two lovely shiny signed Arne and Carlos knitting books will be winging their joyful way across the globe to you. Thank you to everyone who entered – you made it fun. I definitely think that the next giveaway should be stork scissors.

Meanwhile, I’m busy with the final-but-lengthy stages of a new and rather exciting crochet/painting project for the kitchen.

Kitchen chairs in progress

Kitchen chairs in progress

Details of the finished result to follow soon in another post.

It’s a strange time, here. The last traces of summer are holding on, but there are hints of autumn, too. I saw the leaves of this tree at work, which pretty much sum up the current seasonal ambiguity:-

Summer and autumn leaves

Summer and autumn leaves

The Stoic Spouse has been on leave from work, and busy varnishing doorsteps (stoically, of course), whilst I paint chairs. The Toddler Twinnage have been rampaging round the garden, high on varnish/paint fumes, pretending to be horses, or sometimes zebus.

The good thing about the Stoic Spouse being around (other than the sheer, unalloyed, joy of his company, obviously) is that I can occasionally leave the house, sans toddlers. So I’ve been for a run several times, and have seen many lovely things. I’ve blogged before about the lines of poplar windbreaks that stand guard over long-uprooted cherry orchards in our village. They look especially fine against a late summer sky:-

poplar windbreaks

poplar windbreaks

And again:-

Poplar windbreak, 2.

Poplar windbreak, 2.

And there are tree-lined places to run:-

tree-lined running route

tree-lined running route

And, finally, a rainbow of vegetables picked fresh from the garden for our lunch. (They’re all so small, though! Why are our veg so small this year? Surely it can’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that I’ve been quite lazy about watering them?)

A rainbow of home-grown veg for lunch

A rainbow of home-grown veg for lunch

And that, my dear friends, is all for now. Back to the crochet…

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In Which I Took A Tiny Break From Knitting To Visit The Family Seat

There is an old pub, deep in the rolling English countryside, not so very far from here. Baskets of flowers hang from its every exterior beam and bracket. A little fountain plays on the lawn out front, and a stone lizard guards its small pond. A ghost roams its cellar. There are rooms to rent for the weary traveller, and the bar is crowded with a collection of champagne bottles and every beer you could imagine. Returning outside, the flowerbeds are edged with bright pool balls, and the view is of gently sloping arable fields. It stands outside a picture-postcard village, on an old drovers’ route, where travellers in former centuries herding livestock to market paused to rest their feet, frown at their blisters, and drink awhile.

Hops suspended from the ceiling, bunches of grapes ripening in the garden, what's not to like?

Hops suspended from the ceiling, bunches of grapes ripening in the garden, what’s not to like?

Yes, yes, you may be thinking. That’s nice, but there are thousands of pubs like this across the UK, and TheTwistedYarn does her level best to keep them all in business. So why mention this one?

I mention it because for the 300 years until 1940, this pub belonged to my forebears. This is as close as the ‘Yarn gets to a family seat. Not quite Windsor Castle, I know, but one does one’s best. And we – the Stoic Spouse and his visiting father, the Gregarious Grandfather, together with the Toddler Twinnage and I – decided to visit yesterday for lunch. I had never been before. I was so intrigued that I actually PUT DOWN MY KNITTING.

The bar has much champagne. The view is peaceful. And stone fish adorn the fountain.

The bar has much champagne. The view is peaceful. And stone fish adorn the fountain.

There is a ghost, apparently, the sad soul of one of my ancestors who potters about in the cellar rearranging barrels and causing general mayhem. Apparently he hung himself down there, and still wanders morosely amongst the soda supplies and spare wine. As a psychologist, I can’t help but wonder what drove the poor man to it. There is a story that one particular chair in the pub always feels uncannily cold thru’ his influence, but as we sat outside in unseasonably hot September sunshine, I cannot comment.

Don't you just love the pool ball flowerbed edge?

Don’t you just love the pool ball flowerbed edge?

I spoke to my Mum on the phone about all this today, for it is on her side of the family that this pub was owned. She explained that our ancestors had a hefty role in running many many pubs in rural Oxfordshire and west Berkshire. A few things clicked into place. Maybe it’s no coincidence that I live in a converted brewery. Maybe it’s no coincidence that I’m not entirely averse to a drink. Maybe it’s no coincidence that I’ve settled in this part of the country, despite the fact that I wasn’t raised here.

Anyway, we came, we lunched, we conquered. And now I must get back to some knitting, and listening to some attempts by the Gregarious Grandfather to persuade me to buy a skein of qiviut, because he rightly thinks that it sounds like yarny heaven. If I succumb to the pressure, be sure to know that I will blog about it mightily here whilst hoping that my bank statement gets lost in the post.

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It’s The Arne And Carlos Giveaway!

Righty-ho, peoples, it’s giveaway time. Lemme hear ya say, “Oh really? How delightfully intriguing.”

So. (At this point TheTwistedYarn sneezes, sits down, clears her throat, and attempts to adopt her best, most official voice. Unfortunately the voice comes out sounding more than a little squeaky. Ah well, no matter.)

Those of you who’ve been following the ‘Yarn for a while *waves and thanks you enthusiastically* will know that this blog won the Deramores Award recently, which entailed quite a few goodies landing on my doorstep. These included a small stack of signed Arne and Carlos books, and I’ve decided to run a giveaway of two of these, just to share the joy around a little, because the world would be a better place if everyone had some Arne and Carlos in their lives. If this goes well, other giveaways will follow from time to time. Maybe some stork scissors will come next, given that they’re a regular feature of this blog.

For now, I’m giving away two lovelies: one signed copy of Knitted Dolls With A Designer Wardrobe, and one signed copy of Easter Knits, both beautiful books by Arne and Carlos.

Look at these lovelies!

Look at these lovelies!

Both are wonderful treats of clever, colourful patterns, but they’re also visual feasts in themselves. I love Arne and Carlos books as much as lifestyle guides as for the patterns they contain. Arne and Carlos are geniuses. Yes, you’ve seen patterns for knitted dolls and knitted decorations before, but you’ve never seen ones as original and elegant as these. Here are some treasures awaiting you in the dolls book:-

Knitted Dolls

Knitted Dolls

And here’s a sample of loveliness from the Easter book. There are decorations, rabbits, chicks, and lots and lots of gorgeousness (much of which would be useful for plenty of other occasions, not just Easter).

Easter knits

Easter knits

Both books are signed by the authors. HOW COOL IS THAT?!

signed by the authors

signed by the authors

Anyway, there are two ways to enter, and each one earns one entry, so I recommend doing both, in order to double your chances of winning some loveliness.

(i) Leave a comment below (including some way in which I can contact you if you win, such as Ravelry username, email address, or somesuch).

(ii) Potter over to Facebook, ‘like’ the Thetwistedyarn page if you haven’t already, and leave a comment under the giveaway announcement there. If you really, really are a Facebook conscientious objector, then as an alternative you can send me an email at thetwistedyarn [at] outlook [dot] com (address disguised to confuse spammers), telling me that you heartily resent the incursion of Facebook into our lives but would like to enter the competition nonetheless. Okey-dokey?

(iii) Actually, there’s a third way of earning an entry. Here’s how: make a large sign saying “www.thetwistedyarn.com – the world’s most fabulous craft blog“, stand somewhere really crowded with it displayed prominently for at least an hour (New York’s Times Square, say, or possibly Shanghai Railway Station), and post a photograph of yourself doing so in the comments thread below. I will then (a) be gobsmacked and love your forever, and (b) give you a bonus entry in the competition. Can you detect the machinations of an evil marketing genius mind at work here? Or is it painfully obvious why I was encouraged to leave my only ever marketing job, years before I became a psychologist?

The deadline for entries is midday GMT on Sunday 14th September 2014. On this date, I will use an internet random number generator to select one winner, who I’ll then contact asap. I’m happy to post the books anywhere in the world, because I realize that most of the ‘Yarn’s readers are from outside the UK.

Terms and conditions apply:-

  • Mum, I’m sorry, but you are not eligible to take part. If you won, it would just look like a fix. Ditto the stoic spouse.
  • You must be over the age of four to enter. *Frowns and shakes head at the toddler twinnage.*
  • Entries from anyone named Algernon will automatically be disqualified. Sorry, but I just don’t like the name Algernon. My giveaway, my rulez, innit.
  • More seriously, I’ll make every reasonable effort to contact the winner immediately. If after a week of trying, they haven’t responded or it’s proved impossible to track them down, I’ll select an alternative winner by the same fair and random method.

So there it is! The Arne and Carlos giveaway! Tell your friends! Tell your enemies! Tell your enemies’ enemies (who are, presumably, your friends).

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Knitted Mandala Picture… Finished!

(YES, THE SIGNED ARNE AND CARLOS GIVEAWAY IS COMING, NEXT POST!)

Right now, my grin would make even the Cheshire cat look surly.

I’ve finished the ****ing, ********ing, ******************************ing knitted mandala picture! Wa-hey!

You know what? I gave up on the gold embroidery, because although it was lovely and glittery close-up, it just looked messy when viewed from across the room. So I unpicked it. But that meant that I’d, er, finished the mandala. At last. It’s come a long way since this:-

Busy Designing Stranded Knitting, As Usual

Busy Designing Stranded Knitting, As Usual

All that was left was to mount it on to a canvas block, pop it on the wall, and hope that the Stoic Spouse didn’t dislike it too much. But canvas blocks are expensive, I discovered. And they’re rarely available in the exact size I wanted. So I sauntered over to www.getcanvasplus.co.uk and bought four 36-inch mitered strips of wood.

Mitred strips of wood

Mitred strips of wood

They slotted together pretty easily, with the enthusiastic assistance of a hammer, some pliers, and some choice expletives, although one of the strips was a little too curved. Then I fetched a large, mean, staple gun. Staple guns are scary*.

The Staple Gun. And A Toy Car.

The Staple Gun. And A Toy Car.

(* Yes, I do scare easily.)

I chopped up a cheap old table cloth, stretched it across the frame, and stapled it to the wood at the back. Hey, you at the back! Stop daydreaming and pay attention: this is about to get more interesting! So then I had m’self a blank canvas.

The Blank Canvas

The Blank Canvas

Hmmm. Minimalism not being my ‘thang’, I stretched the mandala picture over the tablecloth, pinned it to the frame, stood back to look, frowned, swore, and adjusted the pins (repeatedly) until it was more-or-less central and more-or-less circular.

Then I apologised to the knitting before brutally stapling it into place.

DISASTER!

The staple-gun was a nasty beast (told ya), and the sheer force of its stapling ripped the knitting in a couple of places. Look! A hole!

Nooooo!

Nooooo!

There were a few of these, ripped open during my frenzy of over-zealous stapling. At least they were at the back of the panel, so I found some thread and darned the hole. Then darned it some more. And then, frankly, descended into a little frenzy of darning, just to make absolutely sure that the hole would not spread. Come the nuclear holocaust, the only things left on earth will be cockroaches and the darning on my mandala, and the beautiful but rather over-engineered wood-store that the stoic spouse built in our garden.

Anyway, it’s done now:-

a

Knitted Mandala Picture Finished

 

It’s not going to hang where I’ve photographed it, because it’s too big for that space and also because it looks rubbish there, but the redecoration of the living room is a work of glacially slow progress, so the mandala’s intended destination wall currently remains a tad…. blotchy. If I hadn’t been so damn busy with the mandala, I might’ve finished painting the living room, a fact that I suspect has not gone unnoticed by the Stoic Spouse. (What he doesn’t know is that I’m also working up to crocheting a rug for the living room floor. Heaven knows how many hours that’ll take.)

So. There y’are.

  • Approximately 60 000 stitches in DK yarn.
  • The green is Fyberspates Vivacious.
  • The cream is Wendy five-ply.
  • It took a while, knitted stranded in the round, then steeked, yes steeked.
  • Steeking is easy.

And if you’d like, I’d be happy to share the pattern for free, just so someone else can suffer the hours of pedantic stitching that went into this thing 😉 I just need to figure out how to transfer it from pencil scribbles on giant paper, to a snazzy modern e-pattern that you can download in a moment.

Hmm…

Wanders off to ponder….

And now, to celebrate this thing, I’m going for a run.

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