Tuesday 28 December 2021

Crochet Snowflake Table Runner

With all my Christmas projects finished and a week to go until the big day, I decided to try and slip in one last Christmas project.  A crochet snowflake table runner.


I've been wanting to do this project for ages, but I've found it really difficult to find some approprate wool.  The suggested wool is out of stock and no one can suggest an alternative.  In the end I took a chance on some Rico Fashion Cotton Metallise DK, which I was very pleased with.

Although the pattern was free, it had lots of detail and was easy to follow.  They suggested making a lenght 12 snowflakes long, but my table isn't that big so I stopped at 8. 


Once made you need to do something to stop it curling up at the edges, so I mixed some corn flour with water and dipped my crochet into it, then pinned it out to dry.  The starch from the corn flour is supposed to keep everything in place, and it seemed to work, without making it stiff. 

This was quite a quick project to work on and looked really pretty on the table.  I like how it matches our wooden table.  And if I decided it isn't long enough, it would be really easy to add more snowflakes.

Friday 24 December 2021

Christmas Cards 2021

I decided to try printing my own Christmas cards again this year.  This time I decided to print directly onto the cards, so found myself some white ink, and cards in colours I thought would work together.

I like how they came out, a little bit messy, but sort of jolly.  Hopefully everyone else enjoyed them too.  Happy Christmas and all the best for the new year. 

Saturday 11 December 2021

Glass Bead Making Workshop


 I've always been fascinated by glass beads, like tiny bits of magic captured in glass.  So when I started thinking about my '12 significant things' list to celebrate my 40th birthday, learning how to make glass beads was high on it.

Of course Covid stopped the bigger plan, but a couple of weeks ago I managed to tick one off the list and attended a one day glass bead making class at West Dean College.


I hadn't been to West Dean College before, but I've got a feeling I'll be going again.  The buildings and workshops spaces are amazing and the whole place buzzes with creativity.  It sort of reminded me of Art College.

Weirdly I'd actually met the tutor Sarah Downton at The Big Bead Show a couple of months ago, although I didn't know it at the time. 


With only 6 people on the course and windows open it felt like a safe environment to learn in.

Sarah started by talking us through how to use the torches and melt glass and got us making glass drops.  Like captured rain drops!


Then she showed us how to make beads.  Firstly in transparent glass, then mixing colours and adding opaque glass.  Next we added ground up glass and swirles to our beads.

Glass rods

I loved how relaxed the whole day was.  Sarah would show us how to do a technique then we'd be left to have a go.  We could make as many beads as we wanted within the time, and try out colour combinations and techniques as we learnt them.  Sarah was always on hand to keep an eye on us and help if we needed it. 


While the glass drops could come home with us, the beads had to be annealed first to strengthen them.  Walking out of the door at the end of the day, I didn't actually know what I had made as everything went straight into the kiln and you couldn't really see the real colours. 

A week later the beads arrived in a padded bag.  I put them into a bowl of water and cleaned them off and they spent the rest of the week on my desk to be enjoyed and fiddled with during meetings.


None of them are perfect and some are broken.  But who makes perfect things after only a day of trying?  But I do adore them!  They have come out so much better than I could ever hope for and I'm trying to decide what to do next.


Do I leave it there and enjoy the fact that I now know how glass beads are made?  Or do I join a longer course next year and learn some more techniques and try out some more colours?  It's not really the sort of thing you can do at home unless you are happy to spend some real money on it.


It has also opened up the idea of trying other hot glass techniques.  When I was at Art College I had the opputunity to try out glass blowing, but it was only about 8 years since I was scolded with hot water and only 3 or 4 years since I'd stopped going for check ups and I was still scared of hot things.  Of course I've been ironing and cooking and lighting fires for years now and so that fear is less and finding I could get quite close to the blow torch without feeling its heat was a good experience.  Something to ponder over the holiday period.

Sunday 5 December 2021

The Wheel of Development


With a bit of a restructure at work and a new Director, I've found myself part of the new People Forum and actually leading one of the Pillars - the Colleague Development Pillar, on the side of my day job.

This week we had our first Away Day in the new structure and our first face-to-face meeting in over 18 months.  It was grand to see so many people in the flesh again, but a little scary too.

The People Forum had a slot after lunch to explain to our colleagues what we are aiming to do.  We'd been asked not to use PowerPoint and so ended up with a speed dating affair where groups of people rotated round our Pillar tables and we had 8 minutes to tell them about our ideas.

Of course it wasn't quite that simple.  While chatting with the team about what we might do, someone suggested a Wheel of Development where people could spin it to get information about the Colleague Development Pillar.   Someone else suggested we could give people seeds as we're all about growth and so our table idea was born.

When I made it, it worked quite well - the arrow spinner borrowed from a board game.  But being rolled up for the journey on the train made it grumpy so it didn't spin quite so well with hilarious consequences.  A fun, and hopefully informative event for the team.

Tuesday 30 November 2021

The Sky Blanket - November


I can't believe it's the end of November already and that I only have one month of sky blanket to go!


The blanket is huge now but only needs one more row before it's finished.  It means the squares stop on 26th December, but I want to add an edge to the blanket which will take me to the end of the year no doubt.


What a crazy project!  I'll be glad to finish and be able to devote my time fully to whatever other project I'm working on, I have a few on my list.

Monday 15 November 2021

Another Hat


In July I posted a hat I'd knitted for running in.  I was pretty happy with that hat, so decided to try out some other colours, but then I started working on another project and it sat on the table for ages half finished.

Then when I went back to it I ran out of grey wool, so instead of a grey hat with some purple and blue detailing I ended up with a hat with purple and blue stripes.  Nothing wrong with that, but not quite what I was aiming for.


Not to worry.  I still think its quite a nice hat, so instead of upsetting 'im outdoors and undoing it, I'll add it to the pile of hats due to be sent to Hats for the Homeless in the next week or so. I hope someone will find it useful.

Sunday 7 November 2021

Freshwater Silver Pearl Necklace


A couple of weeks ago I went to The Big Bead Show at Sandown Racecourse.  I've had it on my wish list for ages, but of course everything got cancelled for the last 18 months.  It was my first inside event, but it was good.  Lots of space, not too many people and lots of lovely beads.


I was particually looking for beads and findings for my kumihimo projects, but then I found these freshwater pearls and fell in love.  They reminded me of a necklace one of my old colleagues wore and wondered if I'd be able to create something similar for myself.


There were so many things to look at and I bought many more things than just the pearls.  I must say thank you to Sarah Downton who had beautful handmade glass beads on display.  She answered my question on how she made her necklaces and what materials she used.

I was then able to use her advice to create my own pearl necklace. I'm so pleased with it.  It's lovely and light weight, so very easy to wear, but I also adore the colours of the pearls, sometime silver, sometimes blue, sometimes pink.

When we finally start going back into the office, I think this will be a lovely addition to some of my outfits.

Sunday 31 October 2021

The Sky Blanket - October


The blankets getting really big now.  To the point where I've started waiting until I've got maybe 3 or 4 squares ready before sewing them in.  It's a bit unwieldy.


I also used it for the first time this weekend.  We were watching a film and I was feeling cold.  I didn't want to pause the film while I went to find a blanket - it was right there on the coffee table - why not use it.  And it did a beautiful job.

And we had the 4th rainbow of the project.  I was so sure there would be more, but then I guess that is part of the beauty of a rainbow - they aren't that common, so they feel special when you see one.


Not long until its finshed.  I hope I can fit all my Christmas projects in round it.

Sunday 3 October 2021

Sea Spray Kumihimo Bracelet


I decided this summer that I would like to make my friend a kumihimo bracelet for her birthday.  Knowing she doesn't like waste and recycles nearly everything, I decided to make it from only things I found in my bead box.

I've got lots of different beads in my bead box and I can't remember where most of them have come from.  Some are obviously the remains of other projects while others were bought for ideas or projects that never happened.


As I looked at them I found three different beads that were perfect together.  Two tiny seed beads, one in pale green and one a darker blue/green, and a larger opaque set of beads from a necklace I made years ago.


The colours of these three sat so well together and put me in mind of the sea, as clouds hurry past.  Quick gleams of turquoise as the sun comes out and dull again as the cloud hides the sun.  Many of my friends holidays are spent near or in the sea and I thought she would like these colours too.

But I hadn't played with different sized beads before.  So I had a look in my kumihimo book before setting my beads out and having a go.

I am so cuffed with the result.  The colours sit so well together as do the different sized beads.  I was fully expecting to undo it and try a different pattern or give up on the different sizes but its perfect.  I'm very tempted to keep it for myself!  I hope she likes it.

Note: she did like it and it did fit!  She said the beads felt like small pebbles which also matches the sea theme.

Thursday 30 September 2021

The Sky Blanket - September


 I nearly didn't get this months squares done in time!  


Spending a weekend on the South Downs learning how to map read slowed me down and suddenly I was a whole 7 days behind.  However with a little bit of sneaky before-work-knitting I managed to make the time up and finished on time.

It's not only big now, but quite heavy.

Tuesday 21 September 2021

NNAS Bronze Navigator Award with Pied A Terre Adventures

 This year I am 40 and I have many plans on how I will celebrate this fact, however things haven't gone quite to plan due to Covid.

One idea was to run the Shipwrights Way, a 50 mile set of trails from the oak forest of Alice Holt to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which commemorates the journey the wood from the forest took to be made into ships.  I was aiming to split the run over a couple of weekends and enjoy the run through the Hampshire countryside.

But while I am pretty confident running on the roads, I find trails a little worrying, as what the map says and what the trail does don't alway match, and when running you are moving that little bit faster so getting lost can happen that bit quicker.  To try and help boost my confidence I wanted to go on a navigation course to help me have the best experience possible, and hopefully not get lost.

Of course Covid was the first issue, but then I also hurt my foot in March which meant a break and some rehab before I could even consider running so far again.  Frustrating!

Anway, this weekend I finally got to go on my navigation course.  I'd decided if I was going to do a navigation course I should at least get a certificate for my effort and had signed up for the NNAS Bronze Navigator Award with Pied A Terre Adventures, based on the South Downs. 

I turned up on the Saturday morning with the specified map and a pack full of spare clothes, first aid kit and lunch, but unsure what to really expect.

What I found was our leader Rich, and two other ladies eager to learn how to get the most from our maps.


It was a pleasant start as we sat on some picnic benches in the sun to go over the basics of map reading before going into the woods to start putting things in to practice. 

While we did cover some stuff I already knew, we covered so much more that I didn't.  By the end of day one I had a really good set of 'tools' to use on my walks and runs to help give me confidence that I was in the right place and about to take the right track.

Rich showed us how to really read the map, so it wasn't just some paths and roads, but all the other features along the route that you can tick off as you go and confirm you are on the right path.  He also showed us how to pace and time our walks so you have a good idea when you are about to get to key points on the trail.


I positively floated home with a head stuffed full of great information.

Day two was a very different day.  Standing on top of the Downs with a cold wind blowing and spotting with rain, I was glad of my gloves and waterproofs.  It was also a doing day as Rich set us locations to navigate to and we walked in the pouring rain around a pretty beech forest.


It didn't rain all day and I easily hit 10,000 steps.  Although I was tired, it was great to cement some of my learnings from the day before.  And it was a great feeling when Rich told me I'd passed with flying colours.


I've grown up looking at maps, but what I really loved about this course was that Rich gave me access to parts of the map that I've never used.  There is so much more information there that I've never seen before and now I know how to use it.  It's a very powerful feeling.

Everything we did over the two days was aimed at walkers, so I now just need to work out how to convert that so I can use it for running - I hope my timings will be quicker.  I'm really looking forward to using my new knowledge going forward for runs and walks, although I'm not sure what Milo will think if we have to keep stopping to look at maps on our walks.


With a bit of practice I hope to run the Shipwrights Way next year now.

I'm also now pondering the Silver Award.  I like the idea of learning how to use a compass to navigate without trails...

Tuesday 31 August 2021

The Sky Blanket - August

 I've found it pretty hard going this month.  I think there are two reasons.

1. I had hoped, as it's August, that there would be lots more blue in this months additions.  I've found all the grey a little wearing.

2. I've been distracted by knitting a jumper.  I'd much rather spend my time on something that is nearing completion and I want to start wearing!

But I got there in the end.  Only 5 months and 7 rows to go!

Monday 30 August 2021

Pink Memories Jumper


I really want to knit myself jumpers that I can wear every day.  But my first attempt, although it fitted was too tight and not quite what I had it mind.  So while I've had this pattern (the original design is in pink, hence the pink title, I'm tempted to try a pink one soon) for a while now, I've been a bit put off trying it due to that first experience.

However since then I have made my friend a jumper that did fit, and several cardigans that also fitted nicely.  I'd also fallen in love with the light grey wool I've been using in the sky blanket.  It's Stylecraft Special DK in silver and it's so soft and a lovely colour.  I just had to try it. 

This time I took my pattern into the local wool shop and spoke to the lovely lady there.  She talked me though measuements and doing a proper tension square.  I ended up doing three as the suggested needle size was way too small for my knitting style!


Then with everything ready I got going.  And it came out so well!  I am totally in love with this jumper.  The drape is lovely and it feels so soft.  I also love how swapping between garter stitch and stocking stitch makes the back just a little longer naturally as you knit in the round. 


I've got several patterns from this designer and now I know its possible to knit a beautiful jumper, they are going to be much higher up my list of projects.  It's very exciting, I can't wait to knit more.