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Popsicle Shawls in Mollie Makes

28 Sep

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A little over a year ago a pretty little craft mag was launched. Mollie Makes has taken the making world by storm, with its heady mix of beautiful projects, inspiring features and one to ones with some of the world’s top crafters.

I was a subscriber from issue one, so I’m absolutely chuffed to say that I’m in the latest issue. Hurrah!

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My Popsicle Shawls are a fresh twist on a classic – a mini shawl that thanks to a little clever shaping, won’t fall off your blinking shoulders!

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I wanted to create a design that was easy to wear, simple to make, and grew quickly. You can knit up a Popsicle in a couple of evenings, and all the stitches are very straightforward.

The yarn is Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton Worsted (nom), and the pattern uses 6mm needles so blink and you’ll miss it!

The first one I knitted – the lime shawl, started life as a mini strip of garter stitch. I was trying (again) to teach my daughter to knit, and this is what we ended up with after a little while.

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But she quickly lost interest (she’s allowed, she’s four) and I sat and stared at this 2cm strip for a few minutes, thinking, ‘well, I’ve knitted that, I don’t want to undo it, what can I do with it?’

Then I remembered a neat technique to pick up around the 2 short sides of a rectangle, and knit out to create a shawl shape. So I looked up Elizabeth Zimmerman‘s Pi Shawl formula, which I’d been wanting to try, and started from there, developing the shape to fit around the shoulders properly.

The increases are all partnered with dropped stitches to create long eyelets, and add a bit of interest, but unless you’re an absolute beginner, this shouldn’t be beyond you!

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Once I’d made the lime shawl, I had another go with blue, and refined the design a bit, to make the lower edge more ruffled. A bit girlier perhaps.

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I roped in my stylish friend Helen for the photo shoot (check out the feather necklace) and her hubby Tim helped out with holding reflectors and gave me some tips for getting the best shot (he is a much better photographer than me).

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We also had two pint-sized helpers – Storm (mine) and Jet (Helen and Tim’s little girl), plus their new baby. We were quite a sight!

We shot in front of a wall painted by Bristol street artist Inkie, who you might have heard of in connection with Bristol’s famous street art gallery See No Evil.

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And if you haven’t encountered See No Evil, look it up – it’s amazing.

Ttfn and happy knitting!

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Choo choo!

23 Jun

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Storm’s birthday was over the Jubilee weekend, so we postponed her treat for a couple of weeks as everyone was away on the big day. Something tells me we won’t get away with that next year…

I’ve wanted to go on the Avon Valley Railway (real steam trains!) for yonks, so this was my perfect excuse, haha.

We packed a picnic, roped in some family and friends, and somehow secured the only sunny day in a fortnight of rain. Hurrah!

I wish all train stations still looked like this…

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They swap the engine from one end to another half way through the journey so we got to see this…

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And this…

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Everyone seemed to like it…

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I loved watching this…

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And seeing this…

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(expert tickling by Abby)

And then we had cake (lemon – yum)

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And went home. Job well done I think.

Happy birthday chickie!

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Ma’am Mat: New design in The Knitter

12 May

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Apparently it’s the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this year. Did you know that? Me either ūüėČ

Anyhoo, to celebrate, I got all patriotic for a little design for The Knitter which is out about now.

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In the mag it’s known as the Jubilee Placemat, but I would have loved to have been able to call it the Ma’am Mat. As in Ma’amite. Arf.

It’s knitted in Excelana‘s new DK weight yarn which comes in some lovely vintage colours.

I had great fun finding the props for the photoshoot – the mug was my fave (from Cancer Research UK – ¬£3!) and is now residing in my kitchen cupboard, where it has become my ‘mug of choice’. (Minimalism alert – Al managed to break my purple¬†Pantone mug¬†about a week after I bought it so we are on an even keel mug-wise, you’ll be relieved to hear.)

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The mat is worked flat and then the edging is picked up and worked in the round. It would probably take a couple of evenings to make and uses less than one ball of each colour – you’ll have plenty left of the red and the white, not so much of the blue.

Annoyingly, I brought it home and now can’t find it, so for now I’m stuck admiring these brilliant pictures (styled by Sarah Clark at The Knitter, who is just top at that kind of thing – thanks Sarah!).

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I suspect on Jubilee weekend itself a lot of peep’s breakfasts won’t be quite as civilised as this one, what with the four day holiday, ahem.

Happy knitting!

La Madonna di Litta: Leonardo at the National Gallery

31 Jan

I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since I heard this painting was going to be in London…

… and now there’s only a week left!

If you have the chance to see it, then grab it! The exhibition at the National Gallery closes on February 5 and I’m guessing all the tickets are long gone. But maybe you’ll be lucky.

I practically stumbled across the Madonna Litta 8 years ago, in the Doges Palace in Venice. We wanted to see this amazing building anyway, but hearing there were exhibitions by Hieronymous Bosch, and Da Vinci was the cherry on the icing on the cake (the cake being getting to go to Venice in the first place, the icing being the fact that it was dry and sunny, and yet practically deserted, 2 weeks before Christmas).

But hey, the Doges Palace isn’t called a palace for nothing. That place is enormous! My friend and I wandered from hall to room, to corridor, to staircase, to no avail. We saw The Garden of Earthly Delights. It was amazing. And even more disturbing in the flesh than in the pages of a book.

Still, no Leonardo. After 2 hours of meadnering through gilded rooms and past masterpiece after masterpiece we gave up and headed for the exit.

On our way out, we spied a blue velvet curtain, the colour of the Red Sea. The thickest velvet I’d ever seen, hanging across a door, quietly minding its own business.

We stepped over a rope, and pushed through the curtain and into near darkness. The space was cloaked from floor to ceiling in the same blue velvet. And there she was.

We were the only people in the room. We got so close we could see the colour of her eyes. We held our breath in awe. It was, is beautiful. One of the most exquisite things I have ever seen.

It was a pretty incredible holiday. But looking back, eight years later, that was still, definitely, the best moment by far.

The irony, of course, is that, while Leonardo sketched the Madonna’s head for the painting, it was probably finished by one of his pupils,¬†Boltraffio. Does knowing it isn’t by a master stop it from being a masterpiece?

Well, anyone could have painted it. It would still take your breath away. Like I said, go see it if you can.

This is just one of the reasons I loved Venice by the way. We were very very lucky!

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Last minute presents…

24 Dec

Peppermint creams Р2 cups icing sugar, 1 whisked egg white, 2tsp peppermint essence, green colouring if you like them minty looking too. Roll out using icing sugar for dusting, cut out  (lovely cutters from Kitchens) , and leave to dry for a few hours.

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Mince pies – half a cup of butter, cup of plain flour, pinch of salt, juice and zest of an orange for the pastry. Leave at least 2 hours in the fridge before rolling and cutting out. Just 15 minutes in a medium oven.

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Gingerbread trees. Cut out stars of different sizes from gingerbread dough (secret ingredients – dark brown sugar and black pepper). Layer up using plain icing as glue and leave to dry.

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Ice with thin green icing and add silver baubles. Leave to dry again before dusting with icing sugar and edible glitter.

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Covers and ribbons on the preserves!

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And that’s it!

Happy Christmas everyone! I do hope yours is absolutely wonderful xxx

Totterdown’s Woolly Wonderland – in pictures

26 Nov

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Well, we did it! 50 knitters and crocheters (including children from the local school, who made the lovely sign), a huge pile of yarn, donated by The Knitter, Simply Knitting, and very generous local people. And hours and hours of work.

This is what you get when you put it all together. Totterdown’s Woolly Wonderland is still up in Arnos Vale cemetery, and there are no plans to take the work down. Instead, the cemetery volunteers will remove pieces when they start to look a bit tired. As people seem to have been adding to the original pieces which were put up, I suspect there will always be a few trees with woolly decorations in this much beloved cemetery.

Anyway, enough words. Just take a look…

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IMG_6110We spent the actual weekend of the Front Room arts trail hosting a tea, cake and pom pom making party at Hannah’s house, and raised ¬£30 for Refuge.

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What we didn’t really foresee, was how much the kids would love it all…

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And did I mention? The sun shone ALL weekend!
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There are too many people who contributed to thank individually, but rest assured, every scrap of work was appreciated and used.

We’ve been asked what’s happening ‘next year’ and the honest answer is, it’s been so much work, we haven’t thought that far ahead. Ideas on a postcard perhaps?

One day to go til Totterdown is a woolly wonderland!

17 Nov

Wow. Well, after three months of knitting and crochet by the lovely people of Totterdown and Knowle, this weekend is IT. It’s time for Totterdown’s Woolly Wonderland at the¬†Front Room!

Hannah, Violeta, Ange, Jean, Pat, myself and a few others were at Arnos Vale cemetery this morning, finishing a few things off and hanging up the first of the pieces. We hope to be finished by early afternoon tomorrow, so that the children at Hillcrest School can see all their hard work sparkling in the autumn sunshine.

We’re not going to spoil the surprise of what everything looks like in situ, but below are just a few pictures of the project, in progress over the past few months, and some of the amazing people who’ve made such a generous contribution, of their time, skills, materials and enthusiasm.

If you’re not on here, it doesn’t mean we’re not grateful, we just didn’t take your picture!

Do come down to the cemetery over the weekend to see everything up in place. There will also be a knitting and crochet cafe at 19 Summer Hill on the Saturday and Sunday from 12noon to 6pm both days, when you can come and do some crafting, and have some tea and cakes.

The cakes are being sold in aid of¬†Refuge, so if you have time to make a few, or fancy contributing some shop-bought ones that would be absolutely fantastic. Just drop them by 19 Summer Hill any time over the weekend (although maybe not 5.55pm on Sunday or we’ll be forced to eat them ourselves!),

As well as our crafty cafe, Hannah’s house will feature photographs by Violeta and screen-printed T-shirts by the¬†Bristol Hospitality Network.

As an aside, you may have heard that there was an arson attack in Arnos Vale a few nights ago, which destroyed all the seasoned logs which the cemetery normally sells over the winter. This means a loss of about £2,000 in income for the cemetery, so if you feel like you want to, you can make a donation to buy a virtual log.

OK, here come the pictures! If you have anything ‘last minute’ to give us, just email woolywonderland@gmail.com with the details, or come down to the Spielman Centre in the cemetery on Friday morning where there should be someone who can collect it from you.

Jean making a giant crochet flower
A pom-pom finger knitted snake, made by one of our younger members
Violeta gets Pablo crocheting early…
Frances, with just a few of her beautiful garlands
Ladybirds in progress…
Sarah and Ange with their accidentally coordinating projects – and outfits
Betty and Pat enjoying some alfresco crafting
A beautiful garland posted to the project. Thanks!
Knitting in the pub!
Val and some other knitters at The Oxford
Linda and her amazing snake

With thanks to Emma Turner for the lovely pictures from The Oxford, Hannah for her sterling work with her phone camera, and absolutely everybody else too!