Garden Birdwatching

This morning I took part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. The idea is to watch birds in a garden or park for an hour, and count the maximum number of each species.

We had good old sparrows;
2016-01-30 Big Birdwatch

starlings, which I haven’t seen in a while;
2016-01-30 Big Birdwatch

a couple of blackbirds – here is the female.
2016-01-30 Big Birdwatch

The robin also made an appearance,
2016-01-30 Big Birdwatch

and here’s my garden favourite, the blue tit.
2016-01-30 Big Birdwatch

The online counter on the RSPB website is pretty handy for submitting numbers, and the survey runs over this weekend. A very pleasant way to spend an hour indeed!

Pretty Noro Kureyon

At the end of last year I gathered all the bits and pieces of my yarn stash that had accumulated in bags, boxes, and piles around the house.
2015-12-28 Stash organising

Then some organising happened:
– relieved my stash of random things I’ve accumulated
– weighed everything, took photos, and updated my Ravelry inventory to reflect all unused or remaining yarn (anything over 10g; the rest went into a leftovers pile)
– sorted through my needles and crochet hooks and updated my Ravelry needle inventory
– found ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’

As I went through my stuff I said hello to a few projects that still await completion, and decided to rescue a fairly simple Noro Kureyon scarf. The original pattern is knit in stripes using both ends of the same ball of Noro Kureyon yarn – Noro being famous for their beautiful colours and colour changes.

When I first started this (in January 2014!) I attempted knitting from both the inside and outside of the ball, but it got dangerously tangly and soon went into the hibernating pile. So now upon returning to it I divided the ball into two even(ish) sections and wound up a second ball, while admiring the pretty colours.
2015-12-29 winding Noro Kureyon

2015-12-29 winding Noro Kureyon2015-12-29 winding Noro Kureyon2015-12-29 winding Noro Kureyon
2015-12-29 winding Noro Kureyon2015-12-29 winding Noro Kureyon2015-12-29 winding Noro Kureyon

And here are the two balls, and the scarf-in-progress with new rows added.
2016-01-09 Noro Kureyon Scarf

Goodbye Old Year, Hello New Year!

It’s certainly been an eventful year, but yet again it feels like it’s all come and gone in no time at all!

2015 was the year of weddings. My eldest brother got married in January, Gareth and I got married in Aberdeen in July, and then the September extravaganza in Kuala Lumpur: my second brother got married, and a week later Gareth and I had our Hindu wedding. My parents were very busy.
2016-01-03 Weddings of 2015

Our friends made us some new friends this year – Marla came along first, followed by Ella, and Alec, all of whom were lovely little guests at our weddings. It was a bit of a knitting drought this year, but I turned out dresses for both the girls, and booties for Alec (Ella’s dress in this photo isn’t joined up yet – remarkably I didn’t take any photos of the finished item!).
2015-08-31 Poppy dress 2015-11-14 Poppy dress
2015-04-18 Baby booties for Maz

In the first half of the year new babies arrived, and in the second half of the year new ones were announced, so it looks like 2016 will be the year of babies too! Most excitingly of all, my brother and sister-in-law will be having a little one, so if we thought it was going to be quiet for our family after this year, well, it’s not :)

In other knitting/crochet news, over 2014 and ’15 I made up a pile of little hearts which we used as part of our wedding decor in Aberdeen.
2014-07-10 2015-07-04 crochet hearts for wedding

In the world of feminism, this was another great year, and I truly hope the trend keeps on going. Celebrities used their fame and their awards speeches to raise important questions and declare feminist messages; there were improvements in the coverage of women’s sport (and the England Women’s Football team did splendidly at the World Cup!); girls shouted out for more representation of women in education (female thinkers in A-Levels politicsfemale composers in A-Levels Music); more women in parliament after this year’s elections, and a whole new political party was formed to push forward the agenda for gender equality, of which I get to call myself a founding member.

We’re nowhere near where we need to be, of course; there was plenty of sexism and misogyny still happening in 2015, in case anyone needs a reminder, but what’s great is just how much these issues are being talked about publicly, and increasingly so. Here are some brilliant feminist moments from this year, and I look forward to more in 2016!

Many amazing things have happened around the world and here in the UK over the past year, and many difficult and downright awful things happened as well – I’m aware that I’m so very lucky not to have been directly affected by these events, and wish strength and peace to those who were.

As for my world in 2016, there’s plenty to look forward to – our honeymoon; a nephew or niece (woo!); doing up our garden, which has been a little neglected this year; watching a school of baby fishies grow (they’ve just hatched); hopefully making it to a new knitting festival in Inverness; and I aim to do a whole lot more reading, knitting, crafting, and blogging with all this non-wedding time I’m going to have :)

Here’s to the New Year, and wonderful wishes to you all! What are your plans for 2016?

Is it Christmas yet?

Last weekend we put our tree up, along with a wee Christmas table.
2015-12-12 Christmas tree
2015-12-12 Christmas tree

The bits that were snipped or sawed off the tree were put to good decorative use.
2015-12-12 Christmas tree
2015-12-12 Christmas tree

This year we’ve also got Christmas stockings – I’ve never had a stocking before, so I’m very excited :)
I love the fabric, which is from Makower’s “Scandi Christmas 2” range, and the stocking pattern and tutorial is from Falling Flakes. The quilting isn’t obvious in this photo, but I’m really pleased that I’m getting better at both straight and free motion quilting, and I’m particularly thrilled by the addition of fur trim in ‘polar bear white’ (a great idea from Gareth which I was almost too afraid to try!).
2015-12-12 Christmas tree

As always, we have some new baubles this year,
2015-12-12 Christmas tree
2015-12-12- Christmas tree

and some old favourites.
2015-12-12 Christmas tree
2015-12-12 Christmas tree
2015-12-12 Christmas tree

We’ve both been beset by very un-Christmassy flu through the week, so we’re admiring our tree while recuperating, and looking forward to a nice break over Christmas.

I hope all your Christmas plans are going well too!

Dorset buttons

I first came across Dorset buttons when I read Tracy Chevalier‘s Burning Bright. It’s set in London in the late 1700s, and revolves around young people and coming of age themes. The main characters include a family from Dorset who make these buttons (and who end up being neighbours with William Blake).
2015-12-05 Sticka Dorset buttons

Henry’s Buttons gives a good history of this craft, a thriving cottage industry from the early 1600s to the mid 1800s. The buttons are made by wrapping yarn around a ring (“casting and slicking”), then creating spokes across the ring (“laying”), and finally weaving the yarn through the spokes (“rounding”) to make all manner of patterns. The classic Dorset button design is the Crosswheel or Cartwheel (instructions here or here).

I read that book a few years ago, and I’m not sure what reminded me of this craft again, but something made me look it up online. I bought a kit from Beaker Button, which included instructions for a few other designs, and I thought we’d try it for this year’s Christmas Crafting with my knitting group.
2015-12-05 Dorset buttons

Baby Marla was very excited about this.
2015-12-05 Sticka Dorset buttons

Everyone else was concentrating very hard.
2015-12-05 Sticka Dorset buttons

2015-12-05 Sticka Dorset buttons

2015-12-05 Sticka Dorset buttons

The Dorset buttons can be used for anything a regular button can be used for – we used large rings and thicker yarn to make big buttons for Christmas decorations, but they can also be attached to keyrings, earring studs and hooks, flat ring or brooch bases, or anything else.

After much casting, slicking, laying, and rounding, we ended up with some lovely buttons.
2015-12-05 Sticka Dorset buttons
2015-12-05 Sticka Dorset buttons 2015-12-05 Sticka Dorset buttons

I also tried the ‘ammonite’ design, which I’ll turn into a brooch. I’m quite taken by this design – it’s quite subtle, but a bit of a thrill when you do spot the spiral shape.
2015-12-05 Sticka Dorset buttons

We finished off with Gareth’s butternut squash tagine
2015-12-05 Dorset buttons

And after all that Dorset excitement baby Marla was out cold.
2015-12-05 Sticka Dorset buttons