Thursday, 31 December 2015

So long 2015, it was good knowing you!

It's New Year's Eve (or Old Year's Night as it's called here in Norfolk) so time to look back on the past year and be rather embarrassed by my attempts to stick to my knitting resolutions. It's not felt like it's been a great year knitting-wise as I lost almost 6 months of crafting time because of tendinitis in my wrist and thumb. So let's see how I did with my resolutions!

1. To knit from stash as much as possible.
Oh dear, it's not been good. Too many temptations this year including IKnit Fandango, Fibre East, Ally Pally, Festiwool and a trip to Ireland, not to mention the closing down sale of The Natural Dye Studio. My yarn stash runneth over. I calculated the number of miles of yarn using the spreadsheet facility on Ravelry, and let's just say that I have A LOT!! Enough said. So this morning I re-organised my stash by dyer/company and all the boxes are labelled. It should be a piece of cake to locate yarn for a project and therefore I won't need to buy any! (Are you laughing and saying, 'yeah, right!'?)

2. To spin regularly and try to attend some guild meetings, as well as enter some handspun yarn into the spinning competitions at Fibre East.
I started off the year doing quite a bit of spinning, although I didn't make it to any meetings. I've put my guild membership on hold for now so that I don't feel guilty for not going! I did enter a variety of skeins and handspun knits into the competitions at Fibre East and was utterly amazed when I discovered that I had won the overall spinning competition. It's frustrating that I haven't been able to spin since then, but with luck, I should be getting back to it early on in 2016.

Fibre East spinning competition 2015 (11)

3. To write up and publish my knitting and crochet patterns.
I was delighted when I was approached to take part in a blog tour to launch a limited edition pack of yarn from Stylecraft and designed a cushion cover to show off the colours. This pattern has been published on Ravelry (pattern here) and I have also published the pattern for my tape measure cosy. A sock pattern is currently being test knitted and there are a couple of others in the pipeline too. Exciting times ahead!

4. To try some colourwork.
Nope! Not this year again, I'm afraid! But I shall be taking a colourwork class at Loop next month so am hoping that this will be the nudge I need. One of the things the class covers is learning to knit in the continental style, and I am wondering if this will be easier on my joints. I'll tell you more when I've done the class!

5. To finish projects that are currently hibernating on Ravelry.
Not done too well on this, but I have done quite a bit of frogging today and my hibernating projects are all ones I want to finish. Knitting time is too precious to work on something you don't love!

6. To improve my sewing skills.
I have sewed on and off during the year and found that it was something I could do wearing my splint provided that it wasn't too fiddly. I bought a new sewing machine and Santa Mr JK gave me an overlocker for Christmas, so I am looking forward to even more sewing adventures next year. Here's a collection of my sewing projects this year.

Sewing Year 2015

Other highlights this year include teaching my friend Diane and her friends to knit socks. Diane has gone on to knit several more pairs and even better, her daughter has started knitting and sewing too after staying here for a weekend. I just love it when a new knitter is born. Another highlight was receiving a photo from Melissa of her gorgeous daughter Thora wearing a cardigan I knitted for her. We've only ever met in 'Blogland' but I love it that friendships can grow through a shared love of crafting. Just look at Thora's beautiful smile - definitely a knitworthy baby! I also volunteered at Fibre East and plan to do the same again next summer. It was so much fun.

As 2016 is a matter of hours away, I guess I should think about my knitting goals. I don't think that they will change much from previous years if I'm honest.

1. To knit from stash as much as possible.
2. To sew a garment that is actually wearable!
3. To continue designing and publish some more patterns.
4. To improve my free motion stitching.
5. To start spinning again.
6. To finish my Cosy blanket and my Love Squared blanket.

Thank you so much for reading my blog. I do love writing it and it does astound me that people want to read about the happenings chez josiekitten. Have a very Happy New Year and may 2016 be filled with good times for you and your loved ones. xxx

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Christmas 2015 done and dusted!

So the Big Day has come and gone for another year. I do so love the build up to Christmas, with all the traditions that we continue. I do hope your day passed by happily. I am thankful that where we live has not had the heavy rainfall and flooding that some parts of the UK have experienced. It's terrible and I cannot begin to imagine just how awful it must be. 

In the days before Christmas, I managed to get quite a bit of baking done. Chocolate brownies as a contribution for a Boxing Day lunch, some very buttery shortbread (recipe here) and a batch of Mr JK's Oma's Christmas biscuits. His aunt still makes hundreds of these each Christmas using Oma's mechanical biscuit press. They are crisp, vanilla biscuits and it is virtually impossible to only eat one!

Christmas baking (2)

Christmas baking (1)

On Christmas morning, we were up bright and early. Mr JK was running in the local parkrun and I was volunteering for the first time. Around 80 runners turned up dressed as Santas, reindeer and even a Christmas present! It was a fun way to start off the day.

Christmas Day parkrun

Flo has had an eventful Christmas! Santa brought her some of her favourite treats and I think she overindulged because yesterday saw us taking her to the vet (thankfully our vet was open for a couple of hours, despite it being Boxing Day) where cystitis was diagnosed. After two injections, she is pretty much back to her normal self, but we are going to be more strict with her treats as she doesn't drink enough to consume the quantity that she would like!

festive Flo by tree

Perhaps we won't give her any presents next year. She had quite enough fun just pouncing about on the wrapping paper, so she probably won't notice!

Flo enjoys the wrapping paper! (3)

Santa was also very generous to me. Funny how he knew that I had wished for an overlocker! I think that I am going to find it very useful. Mr JK came up trumps too with some great yarny books.

xmas gifts from Mr JK (1)

And Flo gave me some little black kitty stitch markers! Clever girl!

xmas gifts from Mr JK (2)

While Mr JK was at the gym this morning, I sewed another Christmas coaster - the Santa this time. I am really thrilled with how it turned out. If I was organised, I could make some as gifts for next Christmas! 

Christmas coasters (1)

I shall love you and leave you for now with my '2015best9' photos from Instagram. I've only been on Instagram since September but really enjoy the immediacy of this social media. You can create your own 'best9' here. If you are on Instagram, please follow me and then I can follow you back. There's a link at the top of my blog to find me. See you again very soon when I'll be looking back over 2015 and forward to 2016. xxx


Monday, 21 December 2015

'Tis the season for giving...

A present? Pour moi?! It must be judging by those adorable kitty temptations decorating the parcel! Someone has gone to a lot of trouble, just for little me!    

Flo's treats from across the Pond (2)

My snout is quivering as I can smell 'kitty-friendly' aromas from within the packaging. I need help to open them, my paws can't do it fast enough for my liking. Where's Mum when you need her?! MUM!!!

Flo's treats from across the Pond (3)

Ahhhhhhh, that's better! Please excuse all the cat drool on the tissue paper, it's top quality catnip in that little sachet that has sent me all dolally! My head is spinning around and I can't quite think straight for now!

Flo's treats from across the Pond (1)

I'm just going to sit here awhile keeping an eye on my little hoard of goodies! Thank you to my dear chums Wabi, Ella and Honey from across the Pond, I love everything you sent me! xxx

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Sew Festive!

advent week 4

The last week has been unbelievably busy, with Christmas performances at school, another concert with my chamber choir, Christmas dinner and class parties, not to mention making cards and calendars! So I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the bell rang at 3pm on Friday. Mr JK and I celebrated the start of the holidays with an Indian takeaway and it tasted very good indeed! 

Yesterday I allowed myself the luxury of a day of sewing, starting off with some Christmas bunting. I bought the kit when I was at The Makeplace last weekend. It was very straightforward to make and the mix of fabrics that had been selected was perfect.

sewing bunting (2)

Once I'd sewn all the triangles together and turned them the right way round, it was a question of deciding what order to stitch them onto the tape. I pinned them in place, then sewed them on and bingo! One length of bunting done!

festive bunting (2)

It's now hanging up in our hallway and does look rather jolly!

festive bunting (1)

Today, while Mr JK was out running 20 (yes, 20!) miles I started on my next festive stitching project - some Christmas Tree bunting. I bought the kit from SewMeSomething after spotting it on Instagram. It is super-cute, consisting of nine felt trees. I spent some time discovering my inner bling as I decorated the trees with ribbons, buttons, sequins and stars. It was hard to be restrained, but I tried not to overdo it! 

Xmas tree bunting in the making (2)

Once decorated, the trees were stitched together - I used my sewing machine rather than do it by hand - and then lightly stuffed, before being pinned onto the tape and attached with a button.

Xmas tree bunting in the making (1)

Ta dah! Here it is, already hung in place over the kitchen door. I love the thought that both these lengths of bunting will be decorating our home each Christmas for years to come.

Xmas tree bunting (1)

Apart from sewing, I have made a couple of tape measure cosies as gifts. I love being able to customise them for friends and they are so quick to make. You can find the pattern here if you'd like to make one for yourself. 

tape measure cosy gifts (11)

tape measure cosy gifts (4)

tape measure cosy gifts (9)

Mr JK and I went to our local church carol service this afternoon. It was so atmospheric, lit by candlelight, and lots of old favourite candles. I feel so Christmassy now that I'm planning a day of festive baking tomorrow. Mmmmmmm. xxx

Sunday, 13 December 2015

And so it continues ...

Advent week 3 (1)

It's been non-stop all week, with rehearsals, two concerts, a birthday to celebrate and lots more besides. Yesterday I went to a class at The Makeplace to learn the basics of foundation paper piecing and it was a little haven of relaxation amongst all the hustle and bustle of the week. I made one festive coaster and have patterns to make three more. Flo has already sat on it and declared it too small for a cat blanket!

Christmas coasters (48)

These are the four examples that had been prepared to inspire us. I rather like the Santa and will probably try that one next.

Christmas coasters (1)

I've finished the first colour repeat on the Cosy blanket; it really is very lovely and I plan on working on it over the holidays to see how much more I can get done. I'm ignoring all those ends for now until I find a really neat way of hiding them.

Cosy blanket WIP part 1 done (3)

Once I'd finished the using all the colours, I wound some wooden pegs with each yarn and added them to my collection of Stylecraft Special DK samples. I'd like to make another blanket some time and these little pegs provide an ideal way to play around with the colours. 

Stylecraft pegs fun

I started my collection with the Limited Edition yarn pack when I designed my Ripple Stitch cushion earlier in the year. Talking of which, there have been just over 950 downloads of the pattern so far. I cannot believe it! It would be amazing to hit the 1000 mark. If you're interested, you can find the pattern here. You can use any combination of colours you like. Sarah has knitted hers using different blues and very kindly agreed to let me share her project with you. Isn't it lovely?

Mr JK's socks have made it to the heel flap, so still have a long way to go, just like Norwich City themselves! They are very bright so I imagine they will be 'weekend only' socks!

Mr JK's Canaries sock WIP

Flo is in disgrace for knocking over my Mum's Christmas tree when she was having a mad five minutes dashing around the house and also for pilfering decorations from the other tree. Mr JK has rescued a couple of knitted stockings and she also seems to have taken a fancy to one angel in particular! Hmmmmmmmm!

I shall leave you with a couple of photos of our mantelpiece. I love it when the candles are lit and the soft light illuminates all our special things. Have a good week, hope it's not too busy. xxx

feeling Christmassy (3)

feeling Christmassy (2)

feeling Christmassy (1)

Sunday, 6 December 2015

A busy weekend

This weekend there has been...

 ... lots of sewing. I made my Christmas Tree hanging from Daisy and Grace that I bought at Ally Pally in October. I did the applique on the sewing machine and it was pretty fiddly! But I love how it turned out.

Christmas tree (1)

... a little bit of hooking. I have three more stripes before I finish the first section of the pattern. I think I might need to start sewing in those ends so it's not a mammoth task at the end.


... some baking. I made a batch of Noisette Nibbles. They are rather yummy and if you'd like to make some, you can find the recipe here. I filled half with Nutella and the rest with Reese's Peanut Butter and Chocolate spread. Mmmmmmmm!

Noisette Nibbles (3)

... a 10K run through a forest dressed as Santa! Mr JK joined lots of other runners in a fund-raising run. I'm not sure what the collective noun for a group of Santas is, any  suggestions? Mr JK completed the race in around an hour and wore a full Santa suit, including a hat and beard the whole time! Go Santa JK!

Santa Run 2015 (23)

It's a very busy week ahead at school and I also have two concerts with the chamber choir I sing with, so I don't envisage much knitting or crochet will be done. Roll on Saturday! xxx

Advent week 2

Friday, 4 December 2015

Between friends - part 2

I know, I know, back so soon. But I just have to show the other parcel that arrived quite unexpectedly last weekend. I knew that my friend Cathy  had posted me something, but I certainly wasn't expecting it to arrive only 4 days later all the way from Canada! Cathy and I have been Ravelry friends for more than 6 years now, and have enjoyed shopping for each other at various yarn festivals. We both love all things purple, blue and green, so I can be pretty confident that if I like something, it's a fairly safe bet that Cathy will too! I was extremely lucky because Cathy had travelled down from Canada to visit two yarn festivals in the USA this year - the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and Rhinebeck. (Rhinebeck is on my Bucket List!) What treats awaited me when I opened the parcel! It was crammed full of loveliness...

swap with Cathy (2)

...a sheepy box bag, sewn by Cathy herself, a skein of the deepest purple yarn ever from Lisa Souza, some gorgeous gradient fibre from Fiber Optic and (be still my beating heart) a gradient set from Miss Babs. I have lusted after these ever since I saw photos of them at Rhinebeck 2014. The photos don't show how lovely they are, but believe me, I am going to be keeping this little lot for ME! ME! ME! (Florence was lurking while I was taking the photos so I had to leave those little skeins safely packed away just in case she decided to go pilfering!) Cathy also included a couple of souvenir badges from the two festivals, some rather yummy maple candies and a cute hedgehog notions case from ThreeBagsFull! Cathy had a conversation with Michele and they both laughed when they found out that they both knew me! Just goes to show how small the world is when you're a knitter!

swap with Cathy (3)

swap with Cathy (4)

swap with Cathy (5)

swap with Cathy (1)

And now I have the whole wonderful weekend stretching out ahead of me, with great plans for nothing more than a bit of sewing, baking, hooking and knitting! I will show you what I've achieved on Sunday! Hope your weekend goes to plan too! xxx

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Between friends - part 1

One of the things I love about knitting is being part of a global community of knitters. Ravelry has made our planet a much smaller place, and I really value the contact I have with like-minded people all around the world. I've made some good friends and even managed to meet up with a few of them over the years. One day, I'd love to visit the USA and stop off to see all my knitting friends. I try to check in on Ravelry at least once a day, and enjoy being a moderator in a couple of groups. In the ThreeBagsFull group, we recently had a 'bag buddies' swap and I was partnered up with Lisa. We chatted a little to get to know each other and discovered that we have very similar likes! Putting a swap parcel together was easy. I received my 'box of delights' from Lisa last week and I have to say that I was well and truly spoilt! Would you like to see all my treats? Silly question, of course you would!

For starters, a Tall Mia bag with a seriously cute kitty print. Michele has a fantastic eye for spotting the best fabrics for her bags. If you'd like to see what's currently on offer in her Etsy shop, take a look here. I have quite a few of Michele's cat themed bags, and love this new addition to my collection!

swap with Lisa (2)

Lisa very generously gave me not one but two skeins of yarn - both from The Plucky Knitter. The skein on the left is Worsted weight in the shade Vintage Icebox. Such an elegant shade, I can see it becoming a cosy cowl or hat. The skein on the right Plucky Feet in the colourway Some Pig. I have an idea for a pair of socks using this one.

swap with Lisa (3)

Lisa and I decided that as we are both spinners, we would throw in some fibre as an extra. I am just thrilled with the braid of JulieSpins Polwarth and silk in a glorious mix of purples and lilacs.

swap with Lisa (8)

There were loads of other goodies inside - Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, a fun kitchen spatula, sheep notelets, labels for my handspun yarn, lip balm, almond and honey sock soap which smells good enough to eat and lavender hand balm which is already working wonders on my dry hands. 

swap with Lisa (9)

Lisa also included a very useful booklet 'Stashbot' - a comprehensive guide to building a useful stash. It lists lots of different items of knitwear - hats, socks, sweaters etc - and the yardage needed for each size. Just brilliant! Definitely worth sourcing one out if you don't already have a copy.

swap with Lisa (1)

Lisa was just the best swap partner, and we have already decided that there will be more swaps in our future! But that parcel wasn't the only one I received last week. Oh no indeedy! You'll have to come back in a couple of days to find out more! xxx