Monday, 16 January 2012

Ravelry Love!

Looking at my Ravelry profile, I saw that I had been a member for a couple of years.  2 years of periodically browsing the free patterns, while I debated projects on my mental wishlist and subsequently forgot them. Okay, so my new year resolution was no more UFOs (unfinished objects), which means I must complete my WIPs (works in progress).  On the other hand, such inspiration!  Even better, if you see something you like, you can add it to your queue, which is a wishlist kept for you.  You can also list your needles and hooks, so that you  know what you have (or not - I have this on a spreadsheet).  You can list your stash.  It's also a social network. You can look for projects and patterns with a stack of search criteria - by yarn, yarn weight, the type of item you're interested in, the yarns in your stash, key words ....  You can record and share your WIPs, UFOs - which are 'hibernating' - and finished projects.

I remember a time when sewing and knitting your own clothes was often cheaper than buying.  Now, I'm not so sure.  I saw a pattern for a jumper using a lovely yarn which was on sale.  Even at the reduced price, it would have cost about £120 to knit!  Being on the large side, it looks as though most jumpers now would cost at least £40-£60 to knit.  No wonder smaller items are popular; hats, gloves, scarves, socks, little dolls and 'cozies' for everything from teapots to coffee cups, water and beer bottles (for those who like their beer warm, I suppose?), mp3 players, phones, iPads and Kindles.  There are patterns for coasters, potholders and panstands (NB, not to be made from synthetics like acrylic and nylon!) and even face- and dishcloths.  The latter are supposed to be more eco-friendly, lasting longer and being cheaper than shop-bought, but given the price of yarn, I wonder if that's true.  For me, it seems like taking the handmade pledge too far, but I've started wondering about using discarded T shirt hems ....

As I looked through the various patterns and projects, I realised there are a lot of holes in my knowledge of knitting and crochet stitches and techniques. One thing Ravelry doesn't have is a set of tutorials, but I expect there are plenty elsewhere on the interweb.  I love the idea that I could get back into this, learn new skills and at some point, give back by posting a free pattern of my own.  As for creating an original pattern good enough to sell, that will have to wait until another year, when I have acquired some expertise and dealt with the current WIPs, UFOs and  wishlist!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

It Is A Truth Universally Acknowledged ...

... that no matter how big your stash, you won't have the particular item, or colour, fabric, yarn, matching thread, ribbon, button, beads or tool that you want or need for a project.
In this case, no stitch markers.  What?  How did I manage without stitch markers?  (By using loops of waste yarn in a different colour, as far as I remember.)  Could I manage now without stitch markers?  Yes, of course.  Like so many things, I didn't really need them, but I wanted some pretty stitch markers to the point where I knew I would have to make some, just so that I didn't start to daydream and obsess about stitch markers.

So I put down the project to make some, reflecting that this is probably a good way to generate another UFO (but I couldn't do that, because the project in hand was the baby suit).  I took out my findings and some beads, and checked that the jump and split rings I had would in fact fit the 6mm needles I was using.  No, they wouldn't.  And by the natural law of the stash (that you may have all sorts of stuff, but not the precise thing you need at the time), I didn't have any rings big enough.

Burrowing into the stash to find wire to make larger jump rings, what came to hand first was some old copper wire, scavenged when the old house wiring was stripped out.  I forgot about just making simple jump rings and started playing.
I ended up with a few horseshoe shaped markers which could be used for knitting or crochet and a figure 8 style with a glass crystal bead.
Cravings settled for the time being, I used my stitch markers and finished the baby suit. So much more satisfying than using loops of yarn!

Since I was rather enjoying knitting (and the speed at which you can knit up baby clothes!), I thought I might make some mittens and found some nice patterns, all of which called for double pointed needles (dpns).

... Sure enough, apart from a set of antique steel 1.25mm (at a guess) ~ no dpns in my stash!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Itchy Fingers and Tiny Hands

A couple of months ago, my fingers were itching to do a bit of knitting.  What better excuse than the impending birth of a colleague's first baby to start a small project?

I chose a 'onesie'  - a hooded all-in-one suit - from the free patterns on the Lion Brand website (you just have to register) and picked up some cheap DK yarn from a local store.  Then wondered if I could remember how to knit.  I used to do a reasonable amount, but haven't done any since I moved to Wales 12 years ago.  I couldn't have described how to do it to someone else, couldn't remember and picture in my mind's eye which way to put the needle through the loop.  As I picked up the needles and yarn to do a tension square, muscle memory took over and my fingers seemed to work on automatic.  Fine.  My tension was a little loose, and increases and decreases lacked finesse, but it started to flow.  After some angst and a referral back to the picture to see how the pattern could possibly work, (the front opens on an angle from one leg all the way up the the neck), I completed it just in time for the baby to be born by emergency C section 5-6 weeks early.  So, it will be rather too large for the little love for a few months yet, but hopefully it will be easy to use and wash.

Whilst browsing patterns for baby clothes, I came across lots for baby blankets. At a local school's Christmas Fair at the beginning of December, one of my friends acquired a small 'endless granny square' blanket as a present for the new baby.  It was bright and cheerful and I made a mental note to borrow my Mum's book on crochet afghan squares when I saw her the following weekend (which I subsequently completely forgot about!).  Ah, hit by another creative inspiration ... but that's another post.

The baby shower was today, and we did indeed shower gifts on mother and baby.  He was so lovely, calmly being passed around all his belly dance 'aunties', a tiny bundle of pure potential with hands only just big enough to grip one of my fingers.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Sales and Sequins

Someone was complaining to me a few months ago that they seemed to wait ages for a hafla and then three come along at once ... and then they didn't have a thing to wear.
It can be difficult to know what to wear for a hafla if you are going to watch and dance in the 'disco' bit at the end, but aren't performing. Obviously, you're not going to sit around in bedlah (a bra/skirt/belt set).  They are generally casual parties, but with the sheer amount of bling being worn by dancers and audience, it's easy to feel under-dressed.  So if you generally wear some sort of belly dance skirt and top for class, you could wear that, with extra jewellery.  If your classwear is usually yoga pants and a T shirt, and the only other dress you have is more suitable for a prom/wedding/night at the opera, then you need to invest in some party wear. Don't wait until a week before the next hafla (which is actually only 3 weeks away), the January Sales are a good place to start.
What to wear depends a bit on your personal style, but here are some suggestions:
  • Go for fluid, luxurious-looking fabrics - satin, chiffon, velour, crushed velvet, lurex knit.
  • Look for tops which feature sequins and beading, or to which you can add sequins and beads.
  • If you like trousers, look for flared or wide-legged evening trousers, such as palazzo trousers, which seem to be making a comeback at the moment.  Harem pants are still fashionable too, and stretchy jersey trousers can also be used for class.
  • Skirts and dresses should be long - ankle length.  Go for something with enough fullness to swirl as you move, or a straight cut, with decorated side slit(s) to provide room for movement.
  • You are surely not going to dance in killer heels?  Look for sequinned and beaded sandals or ballerina flats.
  • Charity shops can be another good source at this time of year, with the pre-Christmas influx of last year's party wear that doesn't fit any more, or has been seen at several parties already, or the results of a new year wardrobe clear-out.  Staff are sometimes reluctant to remove what's in the window, but you can remind them that the most important thing is to make the sale and take the money.
  • Look out too for dress jewellery such as diamante or crystal necklaces or brooches. You know you've got too much bling if a) you fall over under the weight of it or b) you can illuminate distant objects.
  • Don't forget your hip scarf.  Or layer a coin belt over a lurex scarf. Or wear all three.
A friend of mine went to a hafla last year in a dress she'd picked up very cheaply.  It was a fairly plain, straight-ish, sleeveless black dress, but with brightly beaded panels extending down each side of the neckline onto the bust.  Teamed with sandals, bangles and long earrings, with a veil as a stole, she could wear it to any party.  Add a black and gold bead and coin hip scarf - instant belly dance goddess.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Happy New Year!

In mid December, a friend asked me what resolutions I would be making for the new year. I answered - none.  I'd stopped making resolutions a long time ago, wondering why a new year should make a difference to the timing of setting goals. If you decide you want to do something and have a goal to aim at, you can start at any time and set your own time limit.
Still, it made me think - what are my current aims? It's too easy to get carried along by daily life and it's good to plan ahead, and be able to look back in satisfaction at what you've achieved. So I made a few resolutions to be going on with:
  • No more unfinished objects (UFOs).  This includes projects and ideas on the drawing board, choreographies and blog posts which spend much too long in draft!
  • Dance and create, every day.
  • Enter the Ifanca Helene James short story competition. (My entry for last year's was a UFO.)
  • Look after myself better, because I am worth it, (and definitely worth more than a pot of hi-tech face cream).
  • Gain my proofreading and copy-editing certificate.
  • Finish the year so much more tidy and organised than I started it. Seriously.
This could go on for pages, so that'll do for now.  How about you?  Any comments on your new year resolutions?