Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pottery Workshop update

Look at those happy hens, enjoying the sunshine! These are our current ladies, Davina (white), Fizz (grey) and Pig(widgeon), and I think they are as happy about a bit of warmth as we are. I counted at least 4 new dust baths in their run just now and they seem very contented indeed. 

We've had a somewhat busy week with all sorts of appointments, so things are a bit slow otherwise, but at least I can report that slowly but surely my very own pottery workshop is coming together. 

A few weeks ago I finally got all my courage (and savings) together and drove to the pottery supplier near here. I'd phoned ahead, so they had got my enormous order of raw materials, glazes, and clay together and I initially stashed it all in the workshop. When the weather got a little warmer I took a proper look at it all and set about decanting everything into more suitable containers. Thank goodness for all the empty yogurt and ice cream buckets that I'd kept. Always worth never throwing anything away, right? 

It all felt quite weird, and also a teeny bit scary, standing there with my big dust mask and disposable gloves on. Most of the materials are OK (even though none of them are exactly healthy to breathe in), but there were also a few more toxic glaze ingredients, and the boys were under strict instructions not to come looking for me...

It's all very exciting. I've even started to mix some glazes and my first batch is ready for testing.

Can you see Betty the big kiln on the right? 

She is STILL not connected. You would not believe the obstacles that we've come up against in our plans to connect her up. Things are looking good, though, and with any luck she should be functional within a few weeks. 

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Catching up...

Doesn't this look amazing?

I actually have no reason for posting this, but it made me happy this weekend. The first locally grown strawberries are always a highlight of early summer for me, and these were absolutely delicious. 

Despite this rather misleading start this post is actually not about strawberries but about catching up on all those neglected FOs that I never posted about. It's time I update my Ravelry list, so without further ado I present:

The Boneyard Shawl

The Boneyard Shawl was started almost well over a year ago (heck, make that nearly 2 years ago) when I purchased some gorgeously soft Seidenstrasse yarn at a little wool shop on Borkum in the north of Germany. I cast on for this shawl there and then, and despite slow progress I finished it in September 2016. It's an easy and effective pattern but I still found working it a little boring. Apparently I'm not much of a shawl knitter... 

I do like the finished product, though, and actually wear it fairly regularly, so I'm glad I persevered. 


The second FO is the Bias Knit Sari Silk Scarf

This was a stash-busting project. Do you remember when Sari Silk yarn was all the rage? All those years ago? Yeah, that's when I bought this skein from a little online yarn shop called Hip Knits. I think it closed down years ago but they used to have lovely hand-dyed silk yarns and I used them quite a bit at the time. 

Anyway, since I had this skein of Sari Silk languishing at the bottom of one of my yarn boxes I thought this pattern would make a good stash buster because you basically knit until you run out of yarn and presto, you have a scarf!

This was super quick - I started on 17th Dec and finished on 21st Dec 2015 in the midst of my flurry of xmas knitting at the time, but then I never actually posted about it. 

So there you go, two neglected FOs, finally documented! :) 

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Friday, May 19, 2017

FO - Olive sweater

You know the relief when you finally get an interminable, never-ending will-this-ever-be-done project off your needles? In my case this was Olive.

This sweater, knitted from the Super Birthday Sweater pattern, was starting to be some kind of nemesis. Honestly, I think I started this last September? And it's not by any definition a challenging project - it's a top-down raglan in quite heavy aran or even bulky, on fat needles. It should have taken weeks, not months, to finish, even without putting much effort into it. 

But perhaps that was the problem. It was just not a very interesting project. Not even the yarn was interesting. I was using a non-descript single-ply yarn that I got off ebay about a decade ago. It's OK, but it's a bit over-twisted and it's a little scratchy. I do like the colour, though, and I thought it might work well for a simple raglan.

I finished this jumper on Sunday, during a Eurovision marathon (recorded the night before so the boys could watch it). When I tried it on I realised that I had somehow totally messed up the waist. Obviously, as bored as I was with this project, I had never bothered to try it on. It looked loose and baggy and it was pretty clear that I wouldn't be able to wear it as it was. 

Needless to say, there was zero chance of me unravelling this to re-knit the entire body of the sweater. 

No. Way.

I decided to take the plunge and try my first ever darts. A couple of days ago the jumper was for the chop - I marked the areas to be cut by roughly sewing them together with bright yarn and sewed the sides together about 500 times on my sewing machine. Then I took the scissors to the surplus knit and then zigzag-ed the loose ends together once more.

The result, on the inside, isn't pretty, but on the outside it actually looks OK, even though I still feel that it's a bit over-generous in places...

I'm still a bit paranoid about the cut edges though, so may do some more sewing...

Friday, May 12, 2017

Rats! There's rats in the house!

So this is another development of recent months - we are now the proud owners of 8 (!) fancy rats. 

If you are squeamish about rats you may not want to read any further than this - even if I have always found them cute I know that rats are not everybody's favourite animal. :) 

So, rats...

Of course it didn't quite start with 8 rats. Boy #1 had mentioned for a while that he would like a pet, and it was either a dog or rats. While I adore dogs, and actually had one growing up, I really can't envision how a dog would fit into our currently rather chaotic family life. Sure, it would fit right in with us as a family, but all the walking? Between work and ill children, and doctor's appointments I can't help but feel that it would be what ends up pushing us over the edge. We just don't need the extra stress and pressure right now. 

So rats it was going to be. 

I did a bit of research and we ordered a cage and on boy #1's birthday last autumn we went to Pets at Home and brought home 2 baby rats, both boys, both 9 weeks old. I've since learnt that pet shops are not the ideal place to get rats, as they usually come from rodent mills and often have health problems as a result, but hey, we were new to all this. 

After some initial hick-ups (one was very shy, the other one so super-excited he chomped down on our fingers liberally), Larry (grey/mink) and Dave (roan) settled down happily and were a huge success with the boys.

Of course that was only the start. Going back to Pets at Home for some toys for the cage I spotted two older rats who had been left in the rescue section and I felt so bad for them that I brought them home with me. They were older gents, about 1 1/2 years old, called Algernon and Bucky (re-named by boy #1 as Snowball), and they had been left because their previous owner didn't have time for them anymore. 

Algernon and Snowball were a little shy and scared, but again settled in just fine. 

Of course that also wasn't quite the end of it. By this time I'd realised that rats are really best either rescued, which is always a good thing to do of course, or purchased from a responsible breeder who works on improving health and temperament issues, so when boy #2 and #3 voiced their concern over the 'unfairness of boy #1 having rats when they didn't' I started looking around for breeders.

We thought we'd found one quite locally and went to pick up 2 girl rats (boy #2 was set on girls). None of us were very impressed with the breeder and they were so terrified that it took months of taming for the two girls, Tam and Bluey, to really feel safe with us. 

In the meantime a breeder a little further afield, for whose waiting list I had signed up, contacted us to say that she had two little girls that we could have so off we went to get more babies. 

This is how our last two rats joined us. Sky and Parsnip moved in with us in March and completed the rat family (who are, for obvious reasons, not kept in the same cage - if we did that we'd probably have about 124 by now!!). They are tame and playful and affectionate, and did wonders to Tam and Bluey, who proudly took on the role of older sisters and started thriving as a result. 

We are quite fond of our ratty family by now. They are smart and affectionate and have huge personalities. Who knew they could make such fabulous pets? 

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Pottery FO

I haven't had much time for any sustained pottering in recent months, but every so often I spend a few hours, mainly at our dining table. The pottery shed is pretty much functional by now (maybe the topic of another post), and Betty the monumental kiln, although still not connected (looong story mainly to do with electricity supplies and long cables, so pretty boring really), is getting closer to being functional (also perhaps the topic of another post), but it's been cold around here, and if it's cold around here it's always even colder in the pottery shed. D has put an ancient gas heater in there for me but it looks lethal and I'm scared to switch it on and possibly blow myself up in the process... 

So until it gets warmer I prefer sitting in our dining room. Not much dining happens in there anyway, because we mainly eat in the kitchen. And also, the rats live in there now, so really I should call it the 'rat room' (that's again another story - I have quite a selection of future blog posts lined up now!). Anyway, what's a bit of clay between friends (and family, and cats, and rats...)? Sitting in there has the added benefit that I'm not absenting myself entirely from parenting - I can still hear and see everyone, and I can still go and fetch drinks, and food, and look for lost stuff. :)

A little while ago I was experimenting with different textures in clay. I started a vessel at the pottery class I occasionally go to and then I borrowed some plaster moulds to pour slip onto at home so I could finish the project in my own time. The result was this:

It's a stoneware vessel, glazed very simply with cobalt oxide. I absolutely love it. :)

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Of how to end an unexpected blogging hiatus...

Hi there? Anybody here?

You can have no idea how often I've thought about blogging these past months and seriously, there must be at least 4 draft posts written that I then never got round to posting and which are now completely out-of-date and obsolete.

I can't even really say why I haven't posted. Sure, things have been BUSY, but the mad busy period led to an extended period of unpaid leave from work, so it should have been possible to get into a normal posting habit again. All I can think of is that it's a matter of routine. Once you are out of the habit of posting regularly it suddenly becomes a BIG THING and you feel you need to dedicate time that you think you don't have, etc. 

All the while I've been missing this little space in which to talk about all the things that make up my life that aren't work. It's healthy, a space like that, and it's good for the soul, because in the end, what it means is that you are taking some time to reflect and to consciously enjoy all the different little things that make up you and your life. 

So new good habits need to be established. Life continues to present us with challenges, but I also need to take time to step back, get back to the things I enjoy and that help me feel calm. 

I am still knitting, and crocheting, and pottering, albeit in spurts - sometimes not much for a few weeks, sometimes frantically, all of the time. Things have been erratic, but I'm also taking steps to pace myself more and to avoid the boom and bust pattern that has snuck in in recent months.

I do have things to show, FOs to present, developments to discuss, but it'll have to wait. Boy #1 and I also have a little photography project going which is part of his CFS treatment - the Happy Moment Photography Challenge. Every day he is supposed to take one picture of something that made him happy, even if just for that moment. In order to support him I've joined in, so I might try to post a few of our pictures here as well.

Just to kick us off and to show that I've not been entirely idle, here are some very very overdue FOs, knitting and otherwise, which I actually finished, not for last Christmas, but the one before!

First up is an oversized super-girly Cowl that I made for my stepmom. 

It was supposed to be a normal cowl, actually, but as I was crocheting this thing grew and grew until it was a monster! It's made with some very fluffy, pink and sparkly novelty yarn that my boys bought for me a few years ago, and which had been sitting in my stash ever since, waiting for the right project to come along. 

My step-mom is very girly (and lovely) - much more girly than I am - and she also likes long walks in the woods. She is also frequently feeling cold, so I thought this would be ideal to keep her warm and snug. :)

I've also managed to snap a quick picture of the finished Ripple Plate that I made for my dad. This thing is huge, so the picture doesn't really do it justice. For scale, imagine that the second ripple from the centre is already larger than an average apple. 

Although not 100% pleased with the glaze, despite re-glazing it 3 (!) times, I am quite happy with the result and it was certainly well received.

As for newer FOs - I'm so pleased with this plate:

To show the size of the plate - this time with some Regia...

This is also a gift and was given to a dear old friend who loves cats.

There are so many other projects to follow, but at least I've made a start and hopefully I can get myself into a better posting habit again. 

Thursday, September 01, 2016

FOs and WIPs and such... A Year of Projects...

... Well, in my case more like half a year of projects. Not that I have that much to show for.

I have, however, steadily been working on and I do in fact have one FO. It's been a FO for some time now, but I never got round to posting about it. It's the Scheepjes CAL Dancing in the Rain blanket. I joined the CAL on Facebook and, apart from a few lapses, kept up with the pattern pieces pretty well. Some were tricky, others were not favourites in the making, but mostly they were fun to make, and always challenged my crocheting skills. It's been good to make this blanket, yes, and it's very rewarding to see it used by the boys every day. They really do love their blankets. The first thing they said when we got to our flat when we went on holiday a few weeks ago was 'but there are no blankets on the sofa!!'. I think my enduring love of blankets may be to blame. Clearly it's rubbed off on them...

Anyway, here we go - 'Dancing in the Rain', all complete and such:

The yarn is acrylic, which, considering the near-constant use this blanket is receiving, is probably an excellent thing, and after some initial teething problems I actually got on with it very well. There was a significantly more expensive Merino option for the kit, but I'm glad I stuck with the acrylic - it's soft, and light, and the blanket feels very snuggly.

I'm also slowly making progress on two projects that I've had on the needles for ages - Black Acer, and the Boneyard Shawl. 

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Photo Challenge, Life Challenge... - Life, Photography, and the Rest...

Photo Challenge 
Day #5 - 'After Dark'
-- in my case, 'At Dusk, in the Garden' --

So it turns out that I'm also not so good with prompts. Or at least not all of the time. Some of the prompts for my personal photography challenge worked well, but others leave me somewhat uninspired. Others still are difficult for me to achieve because they don't fit in well with how this family works. So I rarely traipse around outside after dark, because, quite frankly, I'm totally exhausted and planted firmly on the sofa long before it even GETS dark this time of the year, and the last thing I want to do is head back out there to experiment with nighttime photography.

I'm not ready to throw in the towel, though, because the prompts do give me a way of thinking more about photography again, of using my camera in more experimental ways. It prompts me to look around me more again, and this is something I've been doing far too little these past few months. It's soothing to get out there again, to look around me, and to see the world afresh.

The last few months - heck, the entire year so far - have been difficult. I don't often write about much of a serious nature on this blog, partly because it's public of course, but also because that's just not quite how I use the blog - it's not what it's for. I use it to think about the good things, the fun things, the things that keep me sane, so I don't tend to bring the things that are more difficult into it very often.

But goodness, life just doesn't let up at the moment. There is work, of course, but it's mainly been on the home front that the real challenges lie. Boy #1 has been ill so much in recent months. Nobody quite knows what it is, although a range of blood tests were able to rule out all of the really sinister stuff. The consultant at the children's hospital we were referred to thinks it's M.E (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), which, for a normally very energetic and active little lad, would be pretty devastating. Reading up on the symptoms he is ticking rather a lot of the boxes, though, so it's certainly looking plausible. Needless to say, this worry has occupied a lot of our time in recent months and continues to do so.

In addition to that boy #2 has recently had a diagnosis for Aspergers. It's been long in coming, and we've known for some time that there were things (mainly on the social interaction side) that he was struggling with, so it's not really a surprise but rather a relief that it's confirmed, but again, this has taken, and will continue to take, a lot of our time while we figure out how to best support him.

It hasn't helped in recent weeks that both boy #2 and boy #3 have constantly been low-level unwell with sore throats and general lack of energy. I've been fearing that they were developing the same symptoms that boy #1 is exhibiting with the ME, but it turns out that it's actually a latent case of tonsillitis -  they had a swab and it's been confirmed. I had no idea that this could happen (had associated tonsillitis with raging fever and unbearable throat pain), so both are now on antibiotics. At this point I'm just relieved it's a *something* and it certainly goes a long way in explaining why the past few weeks have been extra special tough around here!!

Wow, what a whingy post! See what I mean when I say I don't like to bring this stuff into the blog? I am still crafting, I promise. Right now I'm struggling to find time to take pictures of WIPs and FOs so that has been delaying my blogging. The weather is good today so I may find some time (and good light) to drag some of the projects out for their photo shoot. :)

I'll leave you with another couple of prompts from the photo challenge:

Day #4 - 'Something Green'

Day #11 - 'Something Blue'