A Summer Rainbow

Remember this post? Where I decided I was going to spin up a rainbow of leftover merino fibre given to me by a friend and ex-needlefelter?

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What began as  Tour de Fleece project ended in a burst of rainbow loveliness! Even as singles this yarn was stunning:

I’m delighted with the end result. 204g of a lovely heavy DK/lightweight Aran (about 10wpi).

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Plying!!

I was so excited to finish this off, in fact, that I left instructions for the husband to hang it outside to dry while I had the kids out for the day. This is what I cam home to. Points for creativity, although I do wonder what the neighbours made of this!

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The only problem now is finding the right pattern to knit it up!

Tour de Fleece 2016

This year, I got a spinning wheel for my birthday from my loving (and long suffering, he might add) husband. As if I needed a new hobby. But I could feel the call of the wheel, I dreamt about the softness of the fluff and saw the vibrancy of hand dyed fibre in my mind whenever I had a spare minute. So I took the plunge and posted an ISO (in search of) post on Ravelry.

And within a day, A fellow Raveler messaged me. She was looking to sell her Ashford Kiwi 2. Was I interested?

Was I!

So I took her up on the offer and haven’t looked back since. I absolutely adore her. I’m still deciding on what her name might be, but we’ve been getting acquainted these last couple months and when I head about the Tour de Fleece challenge, I was IN. My challenge was to spin up some merino from a friend’s leftover needle felting stash into one big rainbow skein. I split each colour into two lots to spin separately, with the idea that I’d ply them together when finished. My other goals were to concentrate on finding a good spinning rhythm, to practice consistency and control and to better understand the brake tension.

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It’s been going well so far. I’ve really enjoyed the challenge, and I can’t wait to see this lovely yarn plied and knit up!

 

 

Even my very small helper has been excited to give spinning a go.

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Happy spinning! Keep pedalling!

 

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Schooooool’s Out!!

It’s the last day of school here and while the streets are filled with excited, sugar-filled children shrieking with joy, there are a few who have shed a few tears. (Not me of course. Nope!) The end of the year is a bit magical: the days are long, uniforms are beginning to look shabby and too small, and everyone seems to be itching to get out into the sunshine (when we have sunshine!). I get it. But for parents it often also marks a milestone of sorts. It’s a physical signifier of the marking of time, a tangible snapshot in the endless days of parenthood where we notice just how much our kids have grown in the last year. Teachers notice this too, and so I understand when a few of them get a little weepy watching their small charges charge into the distance while they wave at a receding backside.

With this moment in mind, I try every year to come up with some sort of gift that symbolises just how much we appreciate their effort, dedication, and patience. In the past I’ve made tote bags, imagining the teachers using them to throw in their lunch and maybe a book or two along with their keys, phone, wallet, etc. Another year I made notebook covers with embroidered drawings my son made. This year I settled on a similar theme, because I love the look and feel of linen and handmade just seems so much more special to me somehow. But I didn’t have time to embroider detailed pictures for seven teachers (including assistants), so I went for a simpler option. And I’m so delighted with the outcome that I want ones for myself next!

This year I had the kids draw directly on the linen with fabric pens, then I framed the pieces of fabric. On the back of each frame is a note to the teacher, expressing our thanks, along with a description of the picture.

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A cat, a cucumber and a ball. Well, why not?

 

So, school is out and the summer is HERE! Have a great summer, everyone!

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WWKIP Day 2016!

It’s that time of year again, when we grab our balls, sharpen our needles, and – wait, what did you think I was talking about? I’m talking about World Wide Knitting in Public Day!

This year we joined up with the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum on the 18th of June and hosted a brilliant day of knitting, crochet, spinning, yarn dyeing, weaving, and all sorts. The Ulster Guild of Spinner, Weavers and Dyers were there, as well as a few of the museum’s other talented craftspeople, all set against the backdrop of the beautiful mock village of Ballycultra.

Our group arrived early to set up: we knit and crocheted several wee things to hide amongst the bushes and trees for the kids to find, and then we positioned ourselves scattered throughout so that people ran into us everywhere. It was like a knit attack!

 

We made several new friends, and many more from our Facebook group joined us. The Top Floor Art Craft Circle were there, and Pamela from NI Big Sock even joined us for a few rows despite being up to her ears in patchwork hexagons! (Thanks, Pamela!) And some of us were just excited just to get out for the day.

In addition to free entry to the museum if you brought your knitting, The Wool Shop in Bangor was kind enough to donate 50 free goody bags for the first 50 knitters/crocheters in the door! We got a sneak peak at what was inside:

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The museum’s willow weaver also made a special display, just for the occasion! (This proved to be quite popular, as you can, um, see. Ahem.)

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All in all it was a brilliant day. Nikki made us knitting bingo worksheets and a knitting related word search, in case we needed something besides out current wip to pass the time! There was plenty to keep us busy though. We watched Kay dyeing some gorgeous yarn specimens, and the Guild of Machine Knitters were there too offering a demo. Amazing stuff!

We had great weather for it, and had a picnic in the sun for lunch so we could all meet up and chat, because knitting in our respective places (The Bank House, the school, the cottage on Tea Lane, the draper’s, and the Ballydugan house) was hungry work!

 

So there you have it. I tell ya, when we plan something, we don’t do it by halves. Nikki, my partner in crime, and I are dangerous when we put our minds to it! And of course I had help from my wee fella too! Much thanks to them both, for without them this wouldn’t have been half as fun! And huge thanks to everyone who knit/crocheted wee animals for hiding and who came out to join us for the day!

 

Happy crafting!

Happy Monday

Ok, so it’s Tuesday. But I finished this project in the early hours of Monday morning and it made me smile all day, so I’m presenting it to y’all to brighten your week. Here’s a teaser:

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I do sell these, by the way. Prices vary according to the project, but I think they’re pretty reasonable and the materials are top notch (linen, silk, cotton, wood, etc.). You’ll also have a choice of presentation style: in the hoop or framed. The best way to contact me is through my Facebook page, A Million Paper Stars, or through Instagram (same name) or Twitter (@Patchworkninja1). And of course I’m always delighted to take commissions. Just ask!🙂

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Enjoy your week!

New Scarf Pattern – the ZigZag Scowl

I designed this scarf with my mother in mind, but it turned out she wanted something a bit plainer. Like garter stitch. Snore. Anyway, I think it turned out pretty cool anyway. Guess I’ll be keeping it for myself!

 

It will be up on Ravelry soon, just keep an eye out for the ZigZag Scowl! (It’s called a scowl because I couldn’t decide whether I wanted a scarf or a cowl, so I leave that decision up to the knitter!) It’s best knit with aran/worsted weight or chunky/bulky weight yarn, and can be knit up with as little as 160m of yarn (less if you want a cowl that’s worn close to the neck!).

 

Happy knitting!

Get Ready for WWKIP Day!

It’s almost time again for World Wide Knit in Public Day 2016!

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Remember last year?! This year the Belfast Stitch n Bitch group are hosting an event at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum on the 18th of June from 11 to 3.30pm. Knitters, crocheters, stitchers, sewists and spinners will be in place throughout the folk museum demonstrating their craft. Come down and check us out! Have a go, learn more about crafting, come see the possibilities of yarn craft. As a bonus, bring your current knitting/stitching project and get in free! Stay awhile and chat with us!

Also, Belfast Stitch n Bitch are now on Instagram and Twitter! Follow @belfastsnb for the latest updates and craic!

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DIY Knitting Chart Holder – A Tutorial

I’ve been toying with the idea of making a knitting chart holder for a while now, and this weekend, I decided to just go for it. I’m test knitting a friend’s pattern and a chart holder would come in really handy so I don’t mark up the original, while another pattern has tea stains all over it from me trying to use a tea mug to hold it in place. So yeah, I needed a holder.🙂

And when I saw some magnetic sheets from this stall at the Crafting Live Show in Belfast this past weekend, I knew I was going to make a go of it. Except I wasn’t sure where to start. Or how I was going to make it. But I did some thinking, some Googling, and after careful consideration, decided to wing it. (That might just be my motto for everything, by the way….)

I had spotted these on Etsy, and while I liked the design, I didn’t fancy paying the customs and import tax. Plus, you know, the challenge of making my own had been thrown down. But my design is loosely based on those. And here’s how I did it:

I bought a cardboard binder in Tesco for 75p to use as a backing, and fabric and hook and loop fastening from my stash. I also needed glue, a ruler and pencil, scissors,2 magnetic sheets, a bit of interfacing, sewing machine, and thread. (I’m going to assume basic sewing knowledge, just let me know if you need anything clarified.)

So first, I decided on size. (My magnetic sheets were about 8″ x 12″, so I went with that.) I cut out two rectangles the same size from the binder, and glued a magnetic sheet to one of them. I measured my fabric and cut two rectangles (outer fabric and inner fabric) at 17″ x 13″. (It’s going to fold in half, like a book, so keep that in mind if you’re using a fabric with a one-way pattern.)

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I also cut a small rectangle about 9″x 3″, for a pencil holder. I folded the long sides in by 1/4″, then the top down by 1″, and placed it right-side up on the right side of the outer fabric, about 3″ in from one of the short sides, and with the bottoms aligned (the bottom of the pencil holder will be sewn into the seam of the bottom of the chart holder). I topstitched it down.

I then sewed around 3 sides of the rectangles with right sides together, leaving one of the long sides open, with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Turn the open edges under 1/4″ and press. We’re going to slide the cardboard bits (one with the magnetic sheet) into the opening. But not yet.😉

In order to make the cardboard bits really snug and to stop them moving around in there, I measured them against the fabric rectangle and drew a line along the top of each cardboard bit. (I was left with about an inch in the middle of the fabric rectangle for the fold.) Then I stitched down both lines (see the pic on the right).

Ok, almost there. Next, I made a strap to help it stay upright. I cut a strip of fabric about 12″x 3″, then a piece of interfacing at 12″ x 1″. I folded the strip in half wrong sides together and pressed it down, then ironed on the interfacing to the wrong side with an edge butting up against the centre crease. Then with wrong sides together,  I sewed raw edges of the strip together along the long sides and one of the short sides. I clipped the corner and turn it right side out and pressed it flat. Then I positioned it about 2″ up from the bottom, against the back of the magnetic sheet, with the raw edge stuffed inside the opening.

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Now here’s the hard part. If you have a zip attachment on your machine, use it. We’re going to topstitch the opening closed. If it’s too tight, or too awkward, then it can easily be hand-stitched instead using small stitches. You’ll want to catch the strap in there, too, and make sure it’s stitched down nicely. Then I positioned the hook and loop fastening, experimenting as to where it fit the best and provided the most stability, and stitched it by hand onto the inside cover opposite the magnetic sheet (because when it’s flipped out, the hook and loop will be on the outside – see the bottom left picture below).

Lastly, I measured three 1″ strips on the second magnetic sheet and cut those to use to hold my pattern in place. And it’s done! (A little washi tape on top of those strips might look cute too!) Hope I haven’t left anything out.

Now off to knit….

Awareness? Or Acceptance?

April is Autism Awareness month. I think we need to redefine what awareness means. Better yet, let’s move on to acceptance. Autism acceptance. Most people have heard of autism these days. They’ve heard of it, but they might not know what it really means. What it means to live with it, or be accepting of it. What it means to understand it. This needs to change, for all our sakes.

Here’s what I know. I wasn’t going to say anything, and just let April slide on by, but then I realised that the more I hear about those living with autism, the more I understand. The more I support neurodiversity. The more I want to know. And maybe it can be this way for others, too.

So here are some snapshots of what living with autism is like for us:

  • Every weekend we face upheaval. The upheaval of routine, the uncertainty of change, and anxiety for all of us. Today (Saturday), my 6yo ASD son was up at 6.30am (not too bad), and went downstairs on his own. In the past we used to disconnect the wifi and hide the remote and the iPad, but he would just reconnect everything, climb the bookcase looking for the remote, and hack the iPad passcode (6 times so far), so we don’t bother anymore. This morning he climbed onto the kitchen counters, busted into the not-so-secret chocolate stash and ate it all. He hid the wrappers underneath the sleeping cat. Although he knew that later that morning we’d be going to the cinema, he still resisted getting dressed by kicking, screaming, and punching the wall or hitting himself in the head repeatedly. We finally got him into the car and he pestered his 3yo sister the whole way, seemingly ignoring my telling off. At the cinema, I had to hold his arm (as well as the 8 month old) to keep him from running away. He broke free and ran to the appropriate screening room ahead of us. During the movie, he jumped up and down with excitement, and ran up and down the row, couldn’t sit still, climbed over the chairs, but the joy on his face was catching. The theatre was nearly empty and it was an autism-friendly screening so I felt comfortable letting him be. During an emotional scene, he kissed his baby brother, assuring him it would be ok. After it was over, he took off without waiting for us. In the car, I asked him if he’d like to own the movie when it came out on DVD. He uncertainly said yes. Why watch it again though if you’ve already seen it? At home, he played outside with some other kids living on our street. Playing is difficult. He doesn’t understand the jokes, or the teasing. They’re bigger and faster, and this frustrates him. He can’t control how they play, and this enrages him. His birthday party invites have dwindled, but he insists that if he gets an ice pop, his friends should get one too. He raids the freezer to pass them out without asking, and then gives them his crisps too. When he falls down and scrapes a knee, he screams a bloodcurdling scream, refuses to come near me and yells, ‘No no no no!’ over and over. Sometimes he tells me he hates me when this happens. He doesn’t mean it. He’s in pain and doesn’t know how to handle it. It’s difficult to assess how hurt he is, and sometimes he needs to be held or he’ll run away. He hates being held. Twenty minutes later he’s calm enough to assess the damage: a simple scrape. It cannot be plastered. He hates plasters. Bedtime is a careful dance between us. A mix of coaxing, encouragement, and some firm demands. Sometimes it ends in meltdowns for all of us anyway. Upstairs and in bed, he moans loudly for 30 minutes. He hates the feel of his pyjamas, but nothing is a good solution. He won’t take them off, he won’t exchange them. He won’t stop moaning either. He eventually quietens and falls into a heavy sleep to the sound of blaring white noise. Tomorrow, he will hate getting dressed. He will refuse to put on his shoes. He will play outside and he will get annoyed at the other kids. Bedtime will be a nightmare. And it’s bath night.
  • At the playground one day, everyone stares as my son careens around wildly, tripping over his own feet, screaming wildly (no one is sure whether he’s upset or happy, but I know he’s just blowing off steam). They all stare as he fights me when I try to speak to him about taking turns, about not walking backwards up the slide, when I yell at him for smacking his sister. They stare as he screams at me when I say we have ten minutes left before we have to go, when he falls and hides from me, when I yell at him again for trying to leave by himself through the gate. No one seems to notice how he helps the small girl up after she falls, how he pats the toddler on the head gently and bends down to smile at him, how he feverishly hugs a newfound friend. No one sees him put all his rubbish dutifully in the bin, how he makes his baby brother laugh playing peekaboo, or how he helps me find his sister amongst the crowds.
  • At home, he talks tirelessly about Minecraft and Terraria, and lists game strategies, character features, YouTube celebrities and describes the landscapes of different levels. Any interjections you make might as well be made to the cat because he sweeps over them with yet more information. His encyclopaedic knowledge of the games is astounding and endless, yet he applies this knowledge to real world physics and math in creative and brilliant ways. His logical solutions to certain problems are both simple and unexpected and most of the time make me laugh with a mixture of surprise, pride, and genuine humour. His math skills are phenomenal for a 6yo. His reading is equally good. Two years ago, his P1 teacher wasn’t sure he knew how to count to 20. At home, we discussed negative numbers, fractions and decimal points. His teacher didn’t believe me. At home, my son cries that he hates school, doesn’t want to go, because I asked what he had for lunch that day. He hates wiping his face after dinner, dislikes using utensils and despises bath night.
  • At school, the teacher apologises for having had to physically restrain him during a meltdown because he misunderstood how to queue properly. He gets suspended 4 times in a month because his frustration levels peak and he hits out at other students, at staff. He bites a girl by accident and is asked to leave for a few days; the girl’s mother posts publicly on Facebook that he’s a ‘wee shit’, and her friends and family (some of whom also have kids in the class or at the school) call him an asshole and a bastard, saying he doesn’t belong there. Her husband threatens to go down to the school in an ominous way, suggesting a grown man might be considering thumping a 6yo special needs kid. I read all of this and alert the principal to this form of backhanded cyberbullying, but nothing is done. He panics during oral questions because his mental processing of the question takes longer than it does other students. He also won’t write it down because his handwriting is poor and he finds it difficult. His classroom assistant is an angel, and we fought for almost a year to get him this help. She understands him, steps in before he implodes, reads his body language and recognises his anxiety. He is calmer now, and participates more readily. He is sweet and kind and he worries when she’s off sick. He knows her favourite colour, her favourite food, and knows how to make her smile, but he ignores her morning hello. Especially on a Monday.

This is autism. And there’s nothing really to see here but a lovely little boy who loves Minecraft and babies and, given half a chance, would probably ship his sister off to live with Grandma. (He’d immediately complain about missing her.) Accepting him means accepting all of him, accepting the autism and the little boy as one indistinguishable entity, and all that’s in between. It’s part of what makes him special, but it’s not all of it. It might be what makes him different, but not less. And that’s all there is to it really.

EYF: A Review!

This post is little late (ok, a lot late), but better late than never, right? Anyway, I wanted to share my thoughts on the recent Edinburgh Yarn Festival (17 – 20th March), because it’s an up-and-coming popular yarn festival and it deserves all the attention it gets!

The Edinburgh Yarn Festival first happened in 2013, and had its second event two years later. The one in 2015 is the first one I attended, and it was magic. It was a yarn lover’s paradise. Our knitting group regularly attends the Knitting and Stitching Show at the RDS in Dublin every year, but the EYF is on a whole different level of niche market. Tailored especially for those passionate about fibre, it manages to expertly combine a fantastic display of vendors, host classes for all skill levels and interests, and provide an atmosphere of friendly conviviality. It is for all of those reasons that I love going! Walking through the aisles of stands in the Corn Exchange, I was struck by how many people were not only wearing hand knit items, but how many of the patterns I recognised by sight. I admit to feeling a little starstruck when meeting (or even just spotting) many of the talented designers and dyers ambling about!

Just to give you a quick visual tour of some of the amazing stalls you can find at EYF:

Above, from left: La Bien Aimée was showcasing a new pattern by Julie Dubreaux, Cosmic Dandy, and had a selection of amazing skeins to choose for it; Skein Queen was there with her usual stock of richly coloured variegated yarn, and the fellas from Easyknits were there with their rainbow stock.

Below, clockwise from left: the beautiful Jessica from Ginger Twist Studios managed to stay bubbly and cheerful the whole weekend; Yvonne from Dublin Dye Company brought an astonishing array of gorgeously dyed yarn; the Buffalo Wool Company from the US were there with their yarn made from bison (yes, bison!!), a strong and surprisingly soft fibre; and Larissa and Helen from Travelknitter and the Wool Kitchen respectively shared a stall, which provided much temptation.

There was also plenty of fibre for spinners! Louise from Spin City was so nice to me, and went through all kinds of info regarding different spindle weights, fibres, etc. for a new spinner. The Tour of British Fleece were there too, with a well-informed stall with samples, pictures, and all sorts of interesting things to look at and touch. And John Arbon’s Textiles stall was a treasure trove of yarn, fleece, fibre, and patterns.

And the Podcast Lounge! There was a podcast lounge for podcasters and for people to meet and chat with the podcasters. Jo from Shinybees gave a seminar, Louise from Knit British was there with a friendly smile, and so many more! The whole atmosphere was one of friendship, fun, and knitterly (or crochet/fibre) passion. I made a lot of friends, saw old ones, and had a brilliant time with a few of my fellow crafters from Down the Crafting Rabbit Hole.

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Nicky and Me

The one negative opinion I have about the festival is about the organisation of the classes. Signing up for a class is, in itself, practically a lottery because they sell out so quickly. And because they’re sold months in advance, it can be difficult to assess how your plans might change. Cancelling the class incurs a relatively high cancellation fee, which apparently you can be charged even if you find someone who wants your ticket (which isn’t hard, although for some reason a thread about this in the Ravelry group was archived which I felt it was useful info for others). And if you’re late, well that’s just too bad. You may have paid the money but the organisers have made it clear they will not allow late entry. I understand that it would be annoying to deal with constant latecomers, and it could disrupt the classes to have people coming in late, but in all honesty, we’re not learning calculus, or life-saving skills, or anything that requires exceptional focus and attention. In my experience of the two years that I have attended the festival, the atmosphere in the classes has been informal and relaxed, and I have no doubt the skills of the instructors could have easily accommodated someone who had gotten held up by public transport or other reasonable excuses. The majority of festival goers aren’t lucky enough to live in Edinburgh, and therefore require a bit of navigation around the stunningly gorgeous city! But all in all, we all had a wonderful time and can’t wait to go back next year! Hope to see you there!