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    It's a mystery!

    Have you done a KAL or CAL before? A KAL is a knit a long, CAL is crochet a long, and they can be internet based or done by a knit group. The idea is that a group of people knit or crochet the same pattern at the same time. It's a good way to make the most of the community aspect of our crafts - and it's fun to see how different yarn choices make the same pattern look different.

    A MKAL is a type of KAL with a twist - it's a mystery! You don't know what the finished object should look like when it's finished. So you are taking a risk. But luckily it's just knitting - you can undo it if you hate it!  The mystery aspect definitely adds a fun element to the whole thing. Mystery KALs tend to be for accessories rather than garments - they don't take huge amounts of yarn & are always suitable for gifting if they're not quite to your taste.

    Woolly Wormhead does a MKAL every November. These have produced some seriously beautiful hats! This will be the 7th year, and I'm in! The pattern will go on sale soon and knitting starts on Nov 1st. All we know is that it's a hat, there are 2 styles and we will need 100g 4ply (or fingering weight) yarn. I have treated myself to a skein of gorgeous Malabrigo sock from The Wool Stop in Violeta Africana. It's a lovely hand dyed purple. Yes I know I have a lot of purple knits. But I wear them all the time! In fact the last hat I made is also purple - I may have a problem! 

    While I was thinking about Woolly's Hat a long, I had a quick look at other MKALs and stumbled upon one by a designer that's new to me. It only cost $2, it's mittens, and the clincher - the name! Marie Curie MKAL, run in the 'Made with love & science' group. You might not know that I did a chemistry degree - and Marie Curie is a total girl crush for most women scientists. The only woman to have won two nobel prizes, and in two different disciplines, she was amazing. Working with her husband, she discovered radioactivity and unusually for the time worked on a par with men. How could I resist! 

    I'm loving these mittens. There's colourwork, cables and beading. I wasn't going to bother with the beads until I saw the second clue which has just been released and realised what the beads were for. I'll be buying some beads tomorrow!

    I'll show you pictures when the pattern is complete. Until then - if you fancy some interesting colourwork mittens which will look gorgeous even without the added geeky excitement of knowing what the pattern is - there really is no excuse not to buy this pattern! 

    I'll be back soon - I have to tell you what I think of Kat Goldin's new book. That may be connected to my new purple hat.....


    More Wales

    A little later than planned - thanks to a fairly vicious tummy bug - here's the photos of our two favourite trips on our mini Welsh break. I bought a book - Wild Swimming Hidden Beaches that we decided to use as our holiday guide as we weren't going on a 'proper' holiday. But when we went over to see my sister, and when we went to Wales we got to go to places that we would never have done otherwise, and it was lovely :)

    The first beach was Porth y Rhaw. This was almost at the westerly tip of South Wales, between St Davids & Solva. The Welsh coast path goes right by this intriguing cove with a pebble beach and - the main draw - a large tidal pool deep enough for jumping in. The walk down was through a pretty wood  with a good sized lake and little waterfalls before it opens out and crosses the coast path. A minor scramble down past some big boulders led to a rocky beach. As it turns out we weren't the only ones to have this book - the only other family there had the book and the same idea! The twins nosed out the jumping rocks within seconds and scrambled along like goats. The rest of us followed rather more gingerly! We had the best day! the tide wasn't very strong, the water was cold but not bone chilling and the other family had a son a little younger than the twins & were happy to have partners in crime!

    I girded my loins and jumped in. I wasn't quite up to the twin's acrobatics, but I was the only female willing to give it a go, and I couldn't let the boys have all the fun! The jumping & swimming bit was enormous fun, but climbing the rocks without my glasses to get to the jumping points was completely terrifying! We had quite a few spectators as the path went along the green ridge you can see above the jumping rocks. The spider crabs that the book warned weren't in evidence - even I didn't reach the bottom when I jumped in. It was one of those unpredictably perfect family days - enough action to keep the twins happy, enough rocks to throw to keep Matt happy, enough privacy and a lovely family to chat to. They kindly gave me a hot cup of coffee when we had forgotten that we might need warming up. Just a really brilliant day.

    When the boys were at primary school the year 6 residential trip was at Stackpole Head - which was the other day trip we did. Barafundle beach (bottom right) was a bit of a hike from the car park and was just beautiful. Perfect, almost white sand, minimal rocks, gentle waves. But horribly icy water. I was not going in that day! We found out we're not really a perfect beach kind of family. The twins found the only bit of danger available, Matt complained bitterly about the sand, there were loads & loads of people. We had to be constantly aware of Matt as he was in a grump & the fact that he is now so tall means people get a bit twitchy if he goes to join in playing with their younger kids. He looks older than he is, so I get the reason, but he likes to play with young kids & doesn't understand why it might not be welcomed. So we had our picnic, then went for a walk up onto Stackpole Head. The landscape is amazing. Some places just feel ancient - and this was one. We walked along to the utterly terrifying Confuscius hole - literally a giant hole in the ground - not fenced off, or with any warning signs - which you can access from the sea. It might be fun to do that, but from above - just terror. Every bit of my Mum instinct wanted my kids well away! Beautiful, and I'm glad I saw it - but was even more glad to walk away! 

    If you've never been to Wales, I hope you liked seeing a tiny bit. I'll stop boring you with family photos now - the next post will probably be about crochet as Kat Goldin just sent me a copy of her lovely new book of crochet gifts (yeah, gifts for me!)

    PS - Autumn has definitely hit & I'm happy to report that my Lopi jumper is cosy & non-scratchy :)


    Welsh Glamping

    I forgot to tell you about our glamping trip! We had 4 days glamping over the summer, which was new to us. We've camped a lot in the past - but this time we had proper beds with proper pillows :)

    We went to Cwm Ty Coed near Carmarthen. After much consultation on Facebook, I found out that it was pronounced Coom tea coyd. Kind of. There were 2 tipis and 3 bell tents, and we were in one of the tipis. They were lovely - all 5 of us fit in nicely. There were beds with duvets, sheepskin rugs, welsh wool blankets, storage boxes, solar fairy lights, hanging candles and a chimenea on a rush floor. The tipi only needed to have sleeping & storage stuff as there was a seperate covered camp kitchen for each tent, and your own washing up area & UV filtered spring water tap. Perfect!

    That's our tipi! And the really practical camp kitchen with bottled gas stove. There was a large fire pit with logs to sit on, and deck chairs. Wheelbarrows were provided for transport between the car park & the tents.The sweet little caravan was the site's shop, which ran on an honesty policy. There were ducks & chickens in the camping field, and you could collect the eggs for breakfast. The cabin in the centre top picture had electricity so was handy for recharging phones and had a collection of books & games in case of bad weather. The zip wire by the cabin was very popular with all the kids. The owners would also set up an outside cinema with a blanket & cushion covered straw bale sofa & tea lights on cable reel tables - you can see the photo above. The farm dogs were friendly and kept our boys entirely happy! There were composting toilets on site - which we were a little wary of after our previous encounter with them.

    But look! Even they were lovely - and because the site was so small, they stayed clean and absolutely fine to use. The showers felt fairly open - the top of the shower cubicles were open to the elements, but above head height & the water was gas heated so it was a nce mix between back to basics & luxury!

    I hope the site doesn't get much bigger - part of the charm is the amount of space and privacy . The tipi was great for us because of the huge amount of head room, and we had hot water bottles to add to the cosy-ness! The bell tents each had a wood burning stove, which is vented outside the tent so they would be my choice for a younger family. In fact there were kids from around 18months to 19yrs when we were there. The younger ones loved the freedom of running around, the ducks, chickens & sheep in the next field. The older kids (all boys) liked the dogs & building fires!

    I would absolutely reccomend a stay at Cwm Ty Coed - the owners are lovely and the site is charming. It would be a brilliant place for a large family gathering. In fact the whole site was booked for the weekend (which was why we only stayed for 4 days) for a 50th birthday party. Sounds like a great plan- just hope I don't have to wait until I'm 50!!

    I'll put some holiday photos up tomorrow as the welsh coast is so spectacular, and you might not have seen it before x


    Icelandic Lopapeysa sweater - finished!



    Do you remember that I bought a sweater kit after seeing the Alafoss stand at Unravel back in February?Well, I started knitting it when we went to Wales on our glamping holiday. And less than a month later I finished it, in plenty of time before the weather gets really cold. 

    I'm so pleased with it! I'm not a petite person (!) & I did wonder if there really was enough yarn in the kit to make the largest size. I made the largest womens size, which in reality is smaller than the same chest size for a man's jumper. I didn't know how much positive ease would be included so I decided to go for a needle that gave me a slightly looser tension than the pattern. The largest size (45") is the same as my chest measurement & I knew I wanted the jumper to be big so I could use it in place of a coat if I wanted to. So the looser tension meant that the sizing would be generous. As it turns out, there is plenty of positive ease without it drowning me, so that's exactly what I wanted. And with loads of yarn left over. 

    The colours are glorious and will glow out in our rather grey miserable winters. I really enjoyed knitting with the Lett-lopi. It felt properly wooly & while it is currently a bit scratchy (which is fine, it's an outer layer) it has a definite softness, especially around the stranded yoke that suggests that it will soften and get more & more comfortable with wear. The stranding was fun & the chart was easy to follow. I did make a few mods. The main one, which I now do with most jumpers was to change the positioning of the arms. I measure nearly 10" more around the front of my chest than around the back, so instead of placing the arms equally, there are around 30 more stitches at the front than the back. I added a couple of short rows after the colourwork to raise the back of the neck, and I did around 1" ribbing for the neckline which is longer & folded over in the pattern. England is not quite as cold as Iceland so I felt that a less bulky neckline would be more wearable here.

    I'll make another one I think, but this time I might steek it to make a cardigan. Caerthan, the dyer behind the supremely covetable Triskelion yarns has recommended the Alafoss Plotulopi yarn - and I'm always happy to follow a recommendation!

    I'm not very comfortable with having my photo taken, but there's not much point blogging about my new jumper without photos. So here are some very sensible pics (ignore the creases from folding). I'm going to wear the hell out of this jumper :)


    Sewlicious by Kate Hexell book review

    Every now & then I go through the library online & order the new sewing/knitting/crochet books that they have in stock. One of those was Sewlicious by Kate Haxell

    I haven't come across the author before, and the front cover didn't get me very excited. It's pretty, but a little self consciously 'distressed' and vintagey. The cover project is a pretty collar, in muted neutrals with decorative shell buttons. Interesting ways to sew the buttons on when you have a close look, but it's all a little safe and not really very me. I was not expecting to be AT ALL excited by the projects in the book. I was unsurprised when I saw the introduction had a patchwork dog coat  picture. Poor dog. And the apron (I actually like and use aprons) was a rather mumsy length and very 70's print fabrics in browns with creams & orange. Fabulous giant rickrack trim, but not something to set my heart fluttering. But then I got to the projects - and all my preconceptions were blown away. I <3 this book! The second project in the book is a doll - but what a doll! The Tattooed lady doll is distinctly burlesque & foxy. Using patterned Toile do Jouy fabric to give a tattooed look is so simple & so clever. I don't even like dolls but still want to make this one!

    The very next project is a Geektastic quilt based on a fibonacci sequence. By this point I'm in heaven. I don't do patchwork or quilting - but the clever mix of simple squares & an appliqued spiral of circles makes my geeky heart happy. By the time I got to the next project, Dead Flowery, I was reaching for my sewing machine. I haven't seen free motion machine embroidery like this before - and it does it for me completely. A flowery fabric with a scribbly skull stitched onto it? Yes please! I drew the pattern onto my fabric by holding the template up against a window, and launched into stitching. It took a bit of trial and error to get the hang of using my sewing machine to scribble, but I really enjoyed it. Instead of making the skull into a picture, I made mine into a project bag where it is currently holding my Alafoss lopayesa sweater-in-progress.

    I've never really quite got excited about decorative stitching. I did enjoy making reverse applique flames for my boys' gym competition leotards a few years ago,  but that was because I knew they would stand out and work really well with the music - Cliffs of Dover by Eric Johnson, they knew it from Guitar Hero 3! But something about the projects in this book clicked with me. I've used ideas from 2 other projects in this book to decorate a plain fabric for the bag making workshop I'm running in November, and I love how it looks. I think it's the mix of solid satin stitch & scribbly freemotion embroidery. Anyway, I'm looking at applied decorations in a totally different way :)

    The 2nd chapter is 'Under Canvas' and again there were projects to appeal. I loved the Do away with damp picnic mat which mixes floral fabrics, tartan, pieces of an old cabled sweater and granny squares. Oilcloth backing provides water resistance, and the mix of fabric & crochet is just brilliant. I've also make the hot water bottle cover. Somehow it never occured to me that the cover doesn't actually need to follow the shape of the actual hot water bottle. Doh! The mix of fleece & faux fur is super snuggly. I used some really good quality dense fake fur, which feels amazing but was a bit of a pig to sew.

    There are more chapters, and more projects but I won't go on. You probably won't be surprised to hear that I bought the book. I thought it would be good for students to look through when I teach my next sewing class, which is a 10 week course at Kingshill House in Dursley staring this September. This course is full, but there will be another one starting in the new year. I like the different aesthetic of this book to lots of other sewing book which are rather more flowery in their preferences. The instructions seem pretty clear - to be honest I didn't pay too much attention other than for the free motion stuff as I put in zips etc pretty often. But if you are looking for a sewing book that appeals to the less flowery - you could do much worse than this one!