Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Stash Challenge Nos 3, 4 & 5

This crocheted blanket is my third item in my stash buster challenge. It has been a mammoth undertaking. It is made almost entireley from oddments of sock yarn
Now why would I do that, I hear you ask. I seriously asked myself the same question many times during it's creation, especially once at the end of a whole day (yes, a whole day - when I should have been doing a mountain of other things!!) of crocheting squares together and sewing in ends. I got to the end of that day only to find that it still only measured 36" and Greenfields Africa really like thier blankets to be 39". Hence the gold border.
The only reason I made this blanket was because during the stash sort I found about 6 squares already completed from a previous mad moment when I had decided to make something (I have no idea what!) made of sock yarn granny squares.What was I thinking! And so, as someone who hates to throw anything away, I decided it was time those squares grew up and left home as a completed blanket. It is not an experience I shall repeat in a hurry.
I do have a similar few orphan squares that I found , but at least they are double knit yarn so their progression to a completed blanket should be a whole lot quicker!
Lets move onto projects 4 and 5....... These are both baby hats. Both made from some really luxurious 4 ply merino, and both a boring dark colour that needed brightening up with a few stripes.
But that after all is the purpose of my challenge - use what I have, to the best of my ability, so make useful items for Greenfields Africa, so to that end they fit the bill perfectly!
So, it's almost the end of week 5 of 2013 and I have successfully managed to complete 5 stash buster projects (and number 6 only needs sewing up and photographing!) so I'm well on schedule!
I must confess to being a little "knitted out" so I think there will be some sewn challenge items appearing in February, especially as I keep thinking about the little children from a photo in my previous post and their worn through jeans!
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Monday, 28 January 2013

Stash Challenge No 2

My stash busting challenge that I've set myself is going very well -not especially fast as I'm using up the 4 ply yarn first, so projects are fine, delicate and well, a tad slow to finish! But on the plus side those oddments are no longer sitting unused at the back of a cupboard!
This little cardie was made using half a ball of sock yarn. It should fit a 6 month old, and like all my stash busterr items, is going to Greenfields Africa charity.
For some unknown reason I really enjoy knitting little cardigans. Maybe its because there is a little more to them than baby hats, but they still come together quite quickly or maybe its because I'm a big fan of simple stitches - little sections of garter stitch or rib next to stocking stitch, and this is exactly what you usually see on a fairly plain cardigan.
The Greenfields Africa charity has posted a few photos of people receiving their donated items and they have certainly inspired me to keep on going with my challenge.
It is so lovely to see what other people have knit and to see them being received. Some of the families in Africa have such a hard time providing basic neccessities for their children. As well as my stash busting knitting, I'm definitely going to sew some pairs of shorts for little boys such as these and some colourful dresses for some little girls

I'm pleased to say I've already finished my January quota of stash busting knitting and I'll show you more photos in the next few days.
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Friday, 25 January 2013

Cushions for Kids Company

For the last couple of weeks or so I have been busily sat at my sewing machine every spare moment I could manage, making cushion covers for a charity called Kids Company. I have posted about this charity before, and this excerpt from their website says it better than I could ever do:

"Kids Company was founded by Camila Batmanghelidjh in 1996. We provide practical, emotional and educational support to vulnerable inner-city children.
Our services reach 17,000 children across London, including the most deprived and at risk whose parents are unable to care for them due to their own practical and emotional challenges. For many, the roles of adult and child are reversed and, despite profound love, both struggle to survive.
These exceptionally vulnerable children not only negotiate significant challenges in their family homes, they also face immense threat within their neighbourhoods. Often they are exposed to relentless violence, some are forced into working as drug couriers or prostitutes, and many experience chronic abuse.
We provide a safe, caring, family environment where support is tailored to the needs of each individual. Our services and support empower children who have experienced enormous challenges to lead positive and fulfilling lives. Despite great difficulties, the children we work with are hugely courageous and embrace the support we offer"

I am part of a team of volunteers organised by the lovely and generous Nicki who is regularly given the names of children especially in need of some love and comfort and she then distributes the job of cushion making amongst her volunteers. The children then have something colourful and comforting to hug, that they know has been made just for them. She has a website here.
All the cushion covers have a pocket on the front and the child's name on the back.
I get sent the pictures and the name of the child along with their age and what their colour choice is and I construct the cushion cover from there.
I try to pick up fabric at reduced prices either in the sales or at shows like the upcoming Sewing For Pleasure show at the NEC Birmingham from 21-24th March 2013 so that I have a ready stash of colours when the cushion orders come in.
Over the last couple of weeks I have made 9 cushion covers. I don't know who designed the bat picture on the left hand side of the middle row, but isn't it just wonderful!
When my list arrived, one little girl had no design or colur choice attached to her name, so I was able to make one up for her.

This is what I came up with. The birds are appliqued and the legs and feet and flowers are embroidered. I had such fun designing and making this.
Now all these cushions have been posted to and received by the children, so it's back to my stash buster challenge.
You make think I've a lot of work to do to catch up, having only posted Stash Buster Challenge No 1 so far and it is , by my reckoning, now the end of week 4, but fear not, I have been quietly getting on with them, and I'll be sharing the photos over the next week or so.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Stash Challenge No 1

The first item in my Stash Buster challenge is completed - a little baby hat! I have set myself a challenge of making 52 items for Greenfields Africa in the 52 weeks of 2013 all from the ever growing collection of yarn oddments that I have.
I am starting with the 4ply (fingering weight) oddments. There aren't too many of these, but if I want to use it all up I have to give some careful thought to how to use it to best effect. In my challenge to
myself I'm trying not to buy any extra yarn or fabric to make the items - just use exactly what I've got!!
The darker colours and neutrals are going to make baby hats like the first item I've made. Not the brightest of colours for a little Ugandan or Kenyan baby, but I've lightened it as best I can with the small scraps of white and cream.
The black I'm going to keep back as it will be very useful for embroidering features on little soft toys to be included in the Mama bags that  new mothers are given to encourage them to go to the local hospital to give birth.These mothers are extremely poor and many have only a scrap of cloth or an old towel to wrap their baby in. The mama bag provides them with basic clothing for their little one - a baby hat, booties, a cardie, a babygro (onesie) and a blanket and often a small soft toy.
The white and yellow balls are going to be quite a challenge to use successfully. They are mercerised cotton. Unlike my beloved organic cotton, they are not soft and comforting and will have very little stretch. I remember when I taught my sons to knit they insisted on calling the yarn "string" and string is exactly what this yarn is like! - Yes, I confess I taught all three of them to sew and knit and they can all mend and alter their clothes extremely well. They soon gave up the knitting though!
 If you've any ideas what to make for Greenfields with this horrible stuff, let me know.
The variegated yarn is going to be much more enjoyable to use. I think there is enough for a little cardigan and I've completed a few more crocheted blanket squares.
 So, one down, 51 to go!! Are you making any charity items this year? I'd love to know what you are makng.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

My 2013 Stash Challenge

So, how to bust my yarn stash ( and make a dent in the fabric stash too) by the end of this year.

The Problem: I have a lot of very nice high quality yarn,much of it is organic cotton, but it is all single balls or part balls. They are balls left over from previous projects and they are piling up, and causing me some concern.
There are not a lot of things you can knit with just one ball of yarn other than baby hats and mitts and multi coloured blankets and it would take a population explosion in our family to be able to use all this up!
I want to put it to good use, and I want to make things that are attractive and worth making with it and I want to feel motivated to use it.
The Solution: There is a charity called Greenfields Africa which I heard about through Loving Hands, a charity knitting group to which I belong. Greenfields Africa  help the poorest of families in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa by providing basic clothing and neccessities for the first few months of a newborn's life. To try to reduce the mortality rate of babies and mothers in childbirth, the pregnant mothers are encouraged to attend 3 antenatal classes. They are then entitled to a Mama bag in their last month of pregnancy.
The Mama bag is a drawstring bag about the size of a pillow case and contains a baby vest, a babyro, a knitted hat, a knitted cardigan or jumper, knitted booties/socks and a knitted blanket. It also contains toilet soap, Vaseline, cotton wool and surgical gloves for the birth as many babies are born at home in basic huts and nothing is provided by the State.
Knitting and sewing for this charity would be a wonderful way to use my stash!!
The single balls will make plenty of hats and booties, and I have a few balls that are large enough to make a newborn cardigan ( their website does say they have enough cardigans for now, but I shall still knit what I can as this is a whole year challenge I've set myself, and they may need them again by December!)
Blankets only need to be 36" square, so i'm sure I can sort the oddments into colour groups to make some reasonably attractive blankets. I've also read that fabric blankets are ok, so I can make some with a patchwork front and a brushed cotton backing - sort of mini quilts without wadding - a brilliant way to use up all those tiny scraps that are lurking in a storage unit somewhere.
I can also make Mama bags with the larger pieces of fabric.
This is a great solution to my stash problem, and there is enough variety to keep me motivated. It is important to me to try and make nice things with my leftovers as this is going to take up a lot of time and I want to feel I'm not just knitting for the sake of it.
So, my 2013 challenge to myself is this: I'm going to try and knit or sew 52 items for the Mama bags, including the bags themselves over the 52 weeks of this year. The challenge is to make them as attractive as possible using just stash, without  buying anything extra.
I've made a start using the 4 ply yarn as it's my least favourite - it works up so slowly! The pink/orange is the sleeve of a cardie and the granny squares will make a blanket.

I'll post photos of each and every item as I make them so you'll be able to see how I'm getting on.
I hope you'll cheer me on when it's going OK, nag me when the posts are behind schedule and suggest variations when I'm sick of knitting baby hats!
I hope to be able to take the comment moderation off soon. I have been getting an awful lot of ridiculously stupid spam comments which has meant it is neccessary to moderate. Please don't let it put you off commenting. I do love to hear from people who aren't spammers!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Looking Back, Looking Forward 2012-2013

We might be a whole week into the New Year, but I'm still very much in a reviewing and sorting mode. My son and his wife returned to Canada on Friday after having spent a wonderful 10 days with me over Christmas and as I've been taking down the decorations and putting the house straight I've been thinking about the highlights of 2012 and making plans in my head for 2013.
So, the highlights of last year:
1. Top of the list has to be our family get togethers - both the Christmas just gone and our summer break in Devon, pictured above.
2. The quilts I managed to finish (I'm not even thinking about the ones I've started but haven't finished!):

 3. The gifts I made for family and friends (these were fun to make):
4. Then there was the UR Priceless blog challenge I took part in, Again great fun, but it started a problem with spam comments on my blog, which i just don't seem to be able to get rid of, so I'm not sure if I'll partake in any more :(
5. And finally, I have to include reaching 2000 sales in my LoveFibres Etsy shop. Thank you so much to everyone who bought a pattern!
So, on to 2013 and my challenges for myself are as follows:
1. Grow more of my own food, and incorporate more wholefood into my diet. I have already been out working on my veg plot as we've had an incredibly mild week and I have planted some (actually, rather a lot!!) of garlic and planted out some kale plants that were growing in pots in the greenhouse.
2. Get used to living on my own, as the one son who still lives at home with me is aiming to buy his own place some time this year. I can't be really be sad about this, as I only wish the best for him, for I really do love having a house full of young people!
3. Bust my stash - both yarn and fabric!! I may have placed this third, but I think it should have been at the top of the list, as I'm sure it's going to take the most time. Whilst I firmly believe that a critical amount of yarn or fabric is necessary to bring out the best creativity in someone (well, that is what I tell myself every time I get the urge to buy something!!) I find that as I get older I feel the need to free myself of un-needed possessions. Does anyone else feel this way? I remember that my Mum did. Whenever I asked what she wanted for birthday or Christmas, she used to say "anything as long as I can eat it, drink it or throw it away"-  meaning that she didn't need or want any more possessions - that happiness came from time well spent, not from materialism. So this is my year of de-cluttering. I have a lot of yarn and fabric - all oddments left over from past projects, and I have set myself a rather daunting challenge of using up as much of it as I can in the next year.
I will tell you more about this challenge in my next post.
I hope everyone is having a happy start to their New Year!



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