April 8, 2012

Le Weekend

Filed under:Baking,Favourite Things,Photography,Stash,Travel — Aileen @ 23:45

This weekend has had a little bit of everything. We’ve spent it in Galway. It was really good to get away for a few days. There has been some practice, some running, lots of tea-drinking, idle chat and a lot of snoozing. Yesterday I made the best of the good weather and had a browse around town.

I stopped by Pippa Blue to see their new space. They have moved across the road from their previous place on Middle Street into the Cathedral Building (directly opposite). They’re up on the first floor now but this has the massive benefit of greatly increased space and wonderful light throughout. Of course, I totally forgot to take any photos but take it from me, it’s lovely. They’re running all manner of classes and workshops now, as well as offering their studio space for hire, along with the use of a sewing machine and serger.

I picked up some Tanya Whelan cotton (the print) and some Klona cotton (the solid) for spring tops…

…and a fat quarter of Japanese Echino. The other stuff is two types of interfacing. I poured my zip-on-the-bias woes out to Eva, who proceeded to furnish me with two samples of their interfacing. One is a medium-weight sew-in interfacing, which I’ve never used before but should definitely do the trick, and the other is of the lighter iron-on sort. I can’t wait to try them out.

My mum has requested a pencil skirt for her birthday so I went to Hickey’s. It’s nearly as good as the one on Henry St but tends to have more things on sale. I dislike shopping in Hickey’s. It is the perfect example of how simply filling a shop full of yarns and materials does not make an inspiring environment. Anyway, after a long time digging around, I found some ivory ‘panama’ (polyester) that fit the specs. The lining is only acetate but the panama is quite light so it should be ok.

In the course of my digging, I found a few different knits. I bought the Renfrew Top back when it first came out because free international shipping was offered if you pre-ordered. It struck me as a most useful pattern, with different sleeve and neck-line options. It’s quite hard to find a decent knit and it’s not something Murphy Sheehy tends to stock a lot of. I stumbled upon this, a wool jersey.

At €15 a metre, I classed it as expensive but when I went to buy it, I found out that it had been marked down to €10. It’s not mega-stretchy so hopefully it will be nice to work with.

I wandered around the town and took a lot of photos (I have a photoblog here and also have been posting to Instagram under ‘knittingneels’ so follow me if you’d like to see more of my other photos).

The highlight of the weekend was definitely the gluten-free! cake brought to Sunday dinner by Alb‘s brother’s girlfriend.

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January 21, 2012

Samantha Slippers

Filed under:Favourite Things,Sewing,Zakka — Aileen @ 15:04

I just realised that I have once again forgotten to take photos of my knitting. I have a blue shawl that is nearly finished and is quite possibly my most gigantic one yet. It is colossal. I cannot wait to cast it off… mostly because I want the needles to get stuck into a Bedford sweater (can’t find a link to the actual pattern page but that’s what it looks like).

In the meantime, I have some slippers to show you.

It’s the Samantha slipper pattern from I Think Sew. It’s a downloadable PDF. What I really like about the pattern is that each pattern piece for each size is on its own page, so I only had to print out two pages. The instructions were extremely clear so overall, this was a simple and reasonably quick sew – about two hours.

I used some leftover cord from my Proper Attire Skirt and some leftover material from my sewing machine cover. I sewed a US size 5 which is about a UK 3.5-4.

They are super comfortable and even though they’re not the warmest, they are ideal as house shoes, guest slippers, a thoughtful present or as travel slippers that can be rolled up and tucked away in your handbag.

I was thinking of giving these to my organ teacher since she has the same shoe size as me (I borrowed her organ shoes once). All in all, this is a great pattern and I’m sure I’ll be making it again.

I put my polka dot blouse on hold momentarily because I thought I needed to get more buttons. But while I was tidying up, I came upon another packet of the same buttons in another size. It turns out that they’ll be fine for the cuffs, so I’m hoping to make a start on those buttonholes later.

Work has been extremely slow lately but I have put myself in for a number of projects (orchestral piano with wind band for an opera, a flute duo concert, rehearsal pianist with the same opera company as last summer) so I have a feeling that it won’t last. When I get down about not working so much, Alb always reminds me to enjoy my free time while I can…

I started a very simple t-shirt, the Scout Woven Tee. Also a downloadable PDF, it was quite the instant-gratification pattern. I got the material at Pippa Blue while I was in Galway at Christmas and I’m sorry to say that I got the last of it. I will talk more about the pattern when I finish it off but for now, I’ll leave you with a close up of the print. I think you’ll understand why I was drawn to it.

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December 29, 2011

Humble beginnings

Filed under:Favourite Things,Shawls,Works In Progress — Aileen @ 13:30

This is one of the first Christmas presents I ever remember getting. I was maybe 5. It’s missing the peg for holding the spool, but otherwise still works perfectly.

It has a magic mechanism that forms the stitch without needing a bobbin. My mum cut out two pieces of mauve fabric, pinned them together, and told me to sew along where the pins were. It’s envelope shaped. There may have been a hem along the envelope flap. Mum sewed a buttonhole and helped me sew on a big button. Then, she cut up many, many strips of scrap fabric and put them into it. I spent the entirety of Christmas sewing all of these pieces together and keeping them in the bag. Simple, happy memories! I’m a bit sad that the mauve bag hasn’t been found but it’s nice to still have this wee memento.

I have been enjoying some monogamous knitting over the holidays – another 3/4 hap shawl out of the Plutolopi I got at the K&S show.

It’s hairy, it smells of sheep, it’s warm: I love it. I have one skein of each colour and there is loads in each – about 300m – so I might go for a more gigantic shawl than usual.

I hope you’re enjoying the week. I always find the time between Christmas and New Year’s very floaty indeed. Lots of knitting, sewing, ravelry and pinterest in one’s pyjamas (with or without chocolate/coffee/tea/mandarins). Let’s enjoy it while it lasts :)

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February 14, 2011

My favourite things #2: Ebooks

Filed under:Books,Favourite Things — Aileen @ 15:25

It is great to see e-readers gaining popularity. I have had mine for over a year now and I can honestly say that it has cut my consumption of paper goods to a fraction of what it was. I think that this, coupled with the platform that Ravelry gives to independent designers to sell their patterns digitally, has pushed the concept of knitting patterns into a new realm. There’s the instant gratification of it – when you download a pattern, you have it instantly. In the same vein, you can hold off on buying a pattern until you really need it; there’s no physical limitation on how many are available. It’s less wasteful and therefore cheaper – no paper and no shipping. The whole idea of Ravelry downloads, and downloads of patterns in general (like from Webs, Patternfish or Chic Knits) has really expanded over the last few years.

I also really like the idea of knowing that the money is going straight to the designer… I think this is the main reason that independent design and publishing has flourished. Recently there have been a few releases of knitting e-books that really caught my fancy. First up is Westknit’s Book Two. His website is here and you can see what Book One was like here. Book Two isn’t listed there yet but you can see all the projects in it through the Ravelry link above or on Flickr.

These Splitbark mittens were my first love from the collection. It has a complimenting hat, too.

At first glance, I wasn’t that captivated with the collection as a whole but when I saw what other peoples’ projects looked like, I was convinced. The collection is available in print and digitally and I think all of the patterns are available individually, too.

Another e-book that made my day was the release of Veera’s Book of Gray. I have knit a number of Veera’s patterns and wear them all the time so this I found very exciting. My clear favourite is Graystone.

All of the patterns are available to buy individually although I ended up with the whole collection. I can really see myself knitting my way through the whole thing.

My last favourite isn’t new at all – it’s Romi’s 7 Small Shawls to Knit. This has been an on-going project where she releases one pattern a month or so. I think there is now only one left to go. They are all beautiful and quite different from each other. They are designed to use up your precious single skeins of sock yarn or hand-dyed yarn. I love them all! I think I even found the perfect shawl for my wedding. Sure! I don’t have a dress or invitations or any of that stuff done but the knitting is sorted!

Needless to say, I have already cast on for the Splitbark mittens so stay tuned for some progress pictures!

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October 26, 2010

My Favourite Things #1

Filed under:Favourite Things — Aileen @ 17:41

Every now and then I come across little things that I think are cool. They’re not really substantial enough to post about on their own so I’ve been making little collections. Here’s my first offering.

Favourite Thing the first is something I have had for absolutely ages: a Knit Kit. I initially bought one as a totally unnecessary purchase from This is Knit. It was about €15 or €16 if I remember correctly and thought it was a bit expensive. But I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and frankly, I don’t know how I managed without this yoke.

On the left there’s a little crochet hook that pops out of the side of the case. It’s pretty curvy – I don’t think I’d be crocheting garments on it any time soon – but for picking up dropped stitches or just a few along an edge for a band, it does the job. On the top is a row counter. I have always managed without but find myself using this one regularly enough. On the right is a tiny fold out piece of plastic with a small part of exposed blade for cutting yarn. You know when you’re finished a section and you want to plough on, start the next bit and not hunt for your scissors? On the bottom is the measuring tape. Finally a method that sticks the tape to something you can’t lose easily…!

The back looks like this and opens up like this. If you visit the product website, you’ll see that a really neat fold-up safety scissors comes included. I had mine confiscated in Dublin airport (not any other European or US airport I’ve brought it through, mind)(and I found it funny that they took the blunt scissors and not the many darning and sewing needles I had in the same compartment). As you can see the compartment is big enough for stitch holders, point protectors, those Knit Picks allen keys and darning needles. Again, great to have them all together in something that is too big to misplace easily.

Like I said, I found it a bit expensive when I didn’t know whether or not it would be useful. Personally, I feel that by now I’ve gotten my money’s worth, thanks to not having to replace my tape measure every few months!

Favourite Thing the second: Hallowe’en and all the little preparations we make for it. Last Friday, I saw kids coming home from school in their costumes (a pre-event exclusive, no doubt). My next door neighbour has a life sized skeleton hanging from her tree. I never did trick-or-treating as a kid. Instead we went next door to my granny and we played games like ducking for apples (ducking for money was better but you really had to work for it), saucers and that game where you peel an apple in one go and throw the skin over your shoulder and it’s supposed to make the shape of the initial of your future husband. We used to crack hard nuts with a hammer on the tiles around the open fire – almonds were the best but the hardest and resulted in the most amount of sore thumbs in proportion to nuts extracted. I also remember the novelty coconut that would inevitably have to be drilled open.

I like how Hallowe’en is such an old, old festival that seems forever tied in with remembering the dead. In Mexico they celebrate Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. They make a small shrine to the loved ones that have died and put out their favourite foods and drinks and things. The skull is a popular cultural icon for this day and in that spirit, I used this pattern (Ravelry link) to crochet up a few and get Bertha in vogue.

It’s a really easy pattern and I was able to use up some handspun.

Favourite Thing the third: lunchboxes.

I’m allergic to gluten and dairy so when I’m working away from home I usually bring a lunchbox with me. I used to make sandwiches with gluten free bread but the bread was working out pretty expensive and they weren’t that nice anyway. I stumbled upon the idea of bento – an asian idea of bringing a home-packed meal. A quick look on Flickr will show that this is no measly sandwich we’re talking about here. Some people spend insane amounts of time on these things. Me, I take rice left over from dinner, cook up some eggs (poached, scrambled, boiled, omelette), throw in anything else good left over in the fridge, bit of fruit, good to go. I use silicon bun cases for separating the occasional wet items (Aldi had them on offer last week, did you see? 12 for €2.99).

A lot of people write about how colourful lunchboxes keep their kids interested… err, it doesn’t hurt for bigger people either. I find myself looking forward to lunch more. And hey, anything that saves money and uses up leftovers is good, right? I’ve found it makes me a bit more creative about dinner so that I have something nice for lunch the next day!

(If you’re curious, the panda box I got from Amazon and had a friend bring it home to me when she was coming over. It breaks up like this. The plastic lid helps keep wet stuff in its place. Happily, I don’t think I will ever be too much of a grown up to use this. It makes me smile every time I take it out of my bag and I think the elastic band makes it look like a ninja panda! I use a spork or if I’ve forgotten to wash it, just grab some regular stuff and wrap it in some kitchen towel.)

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