Friday 30 January 2015

Knit Your Own Kama Sutra Review

Today Knit Your Own Kama Sutra arrived on my doorstep, wrapped in brown packaging. I won it from the TV Choice competition website and was intrigued to see what I would find within its pages. Would, indeed, its contents make me blush?

It was not to be, although I did laugh at some of the poses ... Let me explain. The book primarily contains a pattern for a man doll and woman doll, with bumps in the right places. When you knit up the dolls you can put pipe cleaners in the limbs to let you move them into whatever position you choose, although in a couple of scenes the dolls seem to have Olympic level gymnastic abilities. Skin colour, hair, eyes etc are customisable, and there are outfits for the dolls to wear in each of the scenarios. Cabin crew outfit for the mile high club? Check. Photocopier to get jiggy on the office? Check.

It's much more reminiscent of a Carry On ... film rather than something steamier. Knit frilly undies or white boxers for your doll, or even a bottle of champagne for them to enjoy in the 'spa scenario'. The book is all good hen night fun, but would anyone actually bother knitting them? My husband would think I'd flipped if I presented him with his and hers kama sutra dolls, having lovingly matched his skin tone and knitted his glasses.

Dare you to ask for it in your local library though ...

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Try, Pull Out, Scream, Then Try Again ...

There has been lots of coverage the national media recently about how knitting is good for your mental health. It's meditative, therapeutic and wonderful at reducing anxiety. See this article on the Huffington Post website espousing knitting's miracle ability to alleviate pain and depression.

Usually I'd agree. I'm on strong painkillers every day for my physical disability and every now and then dealing with it, when I never get a day off from pain and discomfort, becomes too much. Then I want to hide under the duvet until I get my mojo back, which is usually in the next day or so. Perhaps this reactive depression is nature's way of making me rest - usually I push myself to my boundaries because there's so much I want to do and I have lots of life left to live.

Certainly knitting as a hobby is a great one for me. The monotonous (though not to me) rhythm of following pattern helps me get into a 'zone' where my mind is distracted from what hurts. I love seeing in knitted yarn what I've achieved that day. Plus it's a hobby I can do in bed if needs be. I have brittle bones and my most common fracture is a leg bone, be it femur or tibia. So I can knit even with a fracture!

The gloves knitted by Susan Crawford
Last week, however, knitting was profoundly BAD for my mental health, to the extent that I felt like using my needles as mini-javelins to skewer the pattern I was working on. Let me explain. Before Christmas I was desperate to find a pattern for a pair of gloves, not wanting to buy some from a shop. After lots of searching I came across a great one at Yarndale - my post about it is here.

I knitted one and a half gloves but then took a breather from the project in order to knit a couple of Christmas gifts. Last week I went back to the second glove, thinking it would take a long evening to finish it. But could I do it? Could I heck. I must have spent about 16 hours knitting then pulling out, knitting then pulling out even more because I was going very wrong somewhere in the lace pattern. For the life of me I couldn't work out what I was doing wrong.

My choice of colour for the gloves
That glove, however, was not going to beat me. My blood pressure probably went sky high, rocketing as I got crosser and crosser with  myself for not being able to knit that ruddy glove. Eventually I pulled the whole thing out, only to start again and still go wrong with the lace pattern.

Finally, a mini-miracle. It clicked in my brain what I was doing wrong, and I remembered that I'd briefly had the same problem when I started knitting the first glove. Twice in the lace row there's an instruction to yarn over then knit through the back loop of the next stitch. I was putting the yarn to the front, but this wasn't creating the extra stitch required. Instead I had to wrap the yarn around the needle. Of course when the pattern stated a yarn over before a normal knit stitch just putting moving the yarn to the front before knitting worked fine.

Last night I finished the gloves. They are very comfy and I'm sure I'll get lots of wear out of them. They'll also serve as reminder to persevere with a pattern, but not to let myself take it too seriously when knitting goes wrong.

My finished glove!

Friday 23 January 2015

Toft Launches Charity Crochet Jungle Challenge

One of my favourite British yarn companies, Toft Alpaca, is on the look out for crochet volunteers and gifts of green wool for its forthcoming charity craft installation.

Kerry Lord with some of her creations
I'm currently on a yarn diet, having reached the point where there's no more room in my house to store all the lovely balls of wool I've collected over the years and keep meaning to use up. The Knitter magazine will be following my progress in knitting up the treasures I've found under the bed - and avoiding buying any more - in a series of columns this year. That's why I found Toft's call for donations of green wool a great chance to purge myself of half-used balls in that hue and also do my bit for charity.

Kerry Lord, founder of the Toft Alpaca Shop, took up crochet whilst pregnant - the result being the successful crochet pattern book Edward's Menagerie, named after her son. Toft's crochet jungle project is aiming to raise money both for Birmingham's Children's Hospital and Noah's Ark Children's Hospice.

So what's the plan? Every Sunday in February anyone and everyone are welcome to go to Toft Alpaca, join in the fun and receive free crochet tuition to help make part of the jungle.

The finished jungle will go on display at The Spring Stitching and Knitting Show in March and then on tour throughout the year.

If you have any spare green wool please send it to:

The Toft Alpaca Shop
Toft Manor
CV22 6NR

... or bring it with you to one of their Sunday sessions. I can confirm that Toft has a fabulous cafe with cake and hot drinks that go down a treat whilst crocheting!

Saturday 17 January 2015

Knit British For Babies

At the moment there are seven babies close to being born for whom I've got my knitting needles out. One friend is expecting triplets! I'd barely finished knitting Christmas presents when it was time to pick projects that will make lovely newborn baby gifts.

For me, choosing the right yarn is the most important part. Babies don't want scratchy, itchy yarn next to their delicate skin. That's why some yarn ranges have a dedicated 'baby' range. Here are some of my favourite yarns for knitting gifts for babies, suitable for varying budgets:
Junior Jumper

1. Debbie Bliss Cotton DK. I was first introduced to this yarn through the lovely knitting book The Knitted Nursery. I did some pattern testing for my friend Nancy and found that the cotton DK is a lovely yarn to work with. It's soft and creates great stitch definition, plus there's no shedding or scratchiness. I've knitted the Happy Bunny and the Junior Jumper for quite a few babies in the past and they've always gone down a treat. Plus they're easy to wash. This is a great pattern book for beginner knitters and for quick knits.

2. MillaMia Naturally Soft Merino. The pattern book Bright Young Things contains a couple of tried and tested patterns in bright colours - the Olle hat and the Teddy Blanket, which I'm currently working on. Like the Debbie Bliss yarn the merino is soft and squashy but holds itself together well when knitting. I love the bright colours in the range and the primary colours are perfect for both if you don't yet know the sex of the baby you are knitting for, or if you want to avoid the stereotypical pink for girls and blue for boys route.

3. Sirdar Snuggly. This is a  yarn specially created for babies and feels as its name says. This sweater pattern that will fit babies up to children aged 7 is very similar to a couple I have knitted for twin boys. This yarn is priced at the cheaper end of the scale.

4. Rowan Baby Merino Silk DK. A more expensive choice, this yarn feels luxurious. I like to use it for smaller items such as a hat. It's machine washable and comes in a range of 26 muted, pastel-style colours. Rowan supports the yarn with number of patterns, my favourite being the Defoe hat to keep those little ears warm!

So it's back to the needles for me and I wish my five expectant mum friends every luck with their forthcoming births!

Monday 5 January 2015

Yarn Shows in 2015

Happy New Year! 2015 brings lots of yarn shows to look forward to - a chance to discover new British artisan yarns, designers, meet the people behind your favourite wool brands and generally have fun.

Here are the dates of the yarn shows I've found out about so far:

18th - Waltham Abbey Wool Show

20-22 - Unravel

27th-1st March - Knit and Stitch It

5-8 - The Spring Knitting and Stitching Show

14-15 Edinburgh Yarn Festival

26-27 Wonderwool Wales

30-31 Proper Woolly

25-26 - Woolfest

25-26 - Fibre-East

15 - The Pop Up Wool Show

26-27 - Yarndale

17-18 - Bakewell Wool Gathering

No doubt more dates will be announced throughout the course of the year, including for Autumn's Knitting and Stitching Show in London and Harrogate.

I'm doing well so far stitching to my 'no buy' yarn New Year's resolution. When I've used up the yarn I already own then I'll let myself purchase more. There's nothing to stop me looking though!

Do you know of a show I've missed out? If so please let me know below.

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