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Comfortably Crafting

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            Like everything else when the grumpiness sets in, crafting takes a back seat while I hold onto my sanity so it’s nice to see my latest piece completed.   It’s been sitting on the coffee table for the last few months and although I attempted a knot here and there, I couldn’t build up the enthusiasm or creativity to play with the string.

          Over the last week or so the creativity has come back, and yesterday I finally found the confidence to glue down the ends and attach the mirror.

          Until recently I hadn’t thought of myself as a crafter, I just like making things.  I was talking to Eldest Daughter the other day and she said I’m a “Gardener“, I argued that I’m not very good at it, but she pointed out that if I was going running, no matter how good or bad I was, I would be classed as a runner, and so because I am actively looking after my flowerbeds, even though they are just a tiny section of Ma Nature’s world, that makes me a Gardener.

          I’m not one for fitting into a particular description or category, but I knit, I knot, I sew, and I’m a a general maker of many things.  The category of Crafter is so broad that I could easily slot in there somewhere and still have room to move around inside… So I guess I’m a crafter.

          One thing I most definitely am not is an organiser, I very often give off the appearance of being organised, simply because I’m so scatty that I have to concentrate on doing the right things at the right time.  I’m a creature of habit, I do the same things over and over again, the same things in the same order.  One task has to be completed before the next is reached.  In this way if my magpie mind flits off to a shiny thought elsewhere, I can return to the job in hand and follow it through in order to see where I left off, and what comes next. 

          Even something as simple as breakfast time has to follow a routine… Get up, take tablets out of my bag and take my first tablets with a glass of water, then the other tablets get put on the counter next to the kettle.  I have to wait half hour between my first tablets and my second or my coffee, which of course gives time for my mind to wander off elsewhere, but those tablets have to stay on the counter until I take my second tablet, and have my caffeine coffee, then they’re allowed to go back into my handbag until the next morning.  If I’m away somewhere, let’s say staying at a hotel where I have to leave the room tidy and the pills go back into my handbag while I go downstairs for breakfast, then that’s it… The routine is broken and the second pill very often just sits forgotten in my handbag to confuse me later in the week when I’ve got too many left, and then it dawns on me why I haven’t been feeling so well.

          Last Christmas I was asked to help organise the “Christmas Craft Fayre” by a crafting friend.  Part of me was horrified at the thought, but part of me was so disappointed at the cancellation of the Fayre I’d booked a table at that I shocked even myself and said yes.

          My Nana always told me that I could do anything I wanted to… I just had to want it enough.

          My Craft Friend was to be the organising half of the team, playing to her strengths, and I was to bring my strengths… My imagination and talking to people skills.  Somehow we achieved an amazingly successful Christmas Fayre.   I set us up a Facebook group to help keep the crafters in touch and smiling, I made posters and shouted about the Fayre to anyone and everyone who would listen, and my Craft Friend pulled everything together for the Grand Christmas Fayre.

          My Nana was right, I really wanted the Craft Fayre, and we pulled it off. However, my poor little grey cells were so over stretched that the rest of my world wasn’t coping so well so I had to take a few steps back and re-group. .

          I wouldn’t have missed the joint organising of the Christmas Fayre for the world, it was a great experience and I made loads of new friends but my poor marbles… That’s another story…

          I decided no more organising, I would revert back to just being a crafter at a craft fayre, the Facebook group had extended to a second site for selling, and I couldn’t keep up with all the rules and regulations to keep everything legal so I took a step back there too… Just to the basic page of “show and tell”… Keep it simple, keep it smiling.

          The crafting still goes on… I’ve found a little shop where they will sell my knotting, minus a little commission per sale.   I took on a few repeat orders, but found I didn’t enjoy making the same thing over and over again so now I don’t take orders, I just let my fingers play with the string and see what they come up with.

          I can make what I feel like, sell a couple of bits at the shop to cover my costs, and then at the end of the year spend a day at a Christmas Craft Fayre.

          Once again, crafting has become comfortable. 

                     More from before: A little peek further into the world that I’ve “Created“.

Pattern knitting

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           I’m attempting to follow a pattern, something I haven’t done since I first began knitting in my early teens.  I’m not good with reading in general, the words on the page don’t keep still and so although reading each actual word is not a problem, reading them in the right order is.

          I’ve knitted quite happily without a pattern for many years, I use my eyes and imagination, I think of something I would like to knit, (I do particularly like textured patterns), I put the stitches where I want them to start and just move them around as the knitting grows.  Knitting for little people is a bit different though because the pieces are miniture and miniture shapes aren’t quite so forgiving if you don’t get them right.  I do however, have a really good reason to try to follow a pattern again, almost as good as the reason I gave up smoking over thirty years ago. 

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           I began with the back, the rib was easy enough, a slight confidence builder as the Aran wool took on the knitted appearance far quicker than the thinner wool I’ve used recently.  I find the hardest part of following a pattern is the first “repeat”, setting the stitches in the right order.  This went off OK, eventually, and once the pattern was set the back grew easily, and quite quickly as I followed the picture instead of the words.

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          The pattern said to do the sleeves next, most probably to help set the pattern in my mind, but I tend to be to eager to wait until everything is finished, quite apart from not enjoying the sewing together, so whenever I can, I knit the front and back first, and put them together so that I can then complete the neck.  This leaves just the sleeves and side seams to sew up to finish.

          The pattern I have chosen has four different shapes of jacket on it, in five different sizes… I could have been kinder to myself  in my choice, but figured I could use the same pattern over and over again.  It works a bit like one of those official forms… If you answer this… Go to question something … If you answer that… Go to question something else …

          Once I found the right version of the left front, set my pattern and knitted the 26 rows required, I noticed one little word I had missed out… Just one little four lettered word (no, not work)… MORE… Work 26rows MORE.  I had knitted four rows to set the pattern, so 26 rows more meant a total of 30 rows, not really that much of a mistake on a large jumper, but in miniture knitting, with thicker wool, a big mistake.  A mistake I rectified easily enough, the perfectionist in me is quite adept at undoing things and doing them again until I’m happy with them.  My next hurdle was having to decrease on every third row… Decreasing is easy, and counting to three rows to decrease is also easy, remembering which number row I’m on is not… I have a bit of a magpie mind… It’s easily attracted by shiny things or thoughts, for instance, I’ll start a row and I’ll think to myself firmly… “this is row two”, then I’ll knit a couple of stitches and reach for my coffee, take a sip, and return to my knitting thinking “what row was I on?”

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          The one advantage I have is that I know my mind flits around to little shiny thoughts so I compensate, as I start a row I write down little marks on a piece of paper in groups of three to remind myself where I am.

          It won’t be long before I’m one of “those” little old ladies… One of the three sisters…

      The three elderly sisters lived together, the first sister went for a bath but as she dipped her toe in the water she glanced at the soap and then couldn’t remember if she was getting in or getting out, so she called for help. “I’ll go” said the second sister to the third, but as she was going up the stairs she stopped to catch her breath… And couldn’t remember if she had been going up or down so she called to the third sister. The third sister rolled her eyes and thought to herself, “how would they cope without me, thankfully I still have all of my marbles intact”, she tapped the kitchen table, thinking to herself, “touch wood”, then shouted to her two sisters… “I’ll be there in a minute… I think there’s someone at the door. .

          After finally finishing the left front, I placed it on my knitted back piece and found it was longer… Of course I knew where to look for my mistake… MORE…   Easily corrected ….

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          The collar… This is something I haven’t tried before so I was interested to see if the pattern directed me in the same way my imagination did.  It was pretty similar to how I had imagined, ribbing back and for in the middle of the back to make the collar longer than the buttonhole rib, which incidentally I wasn’t overjoyed with as Ive always knitted the buttonholes from top to bottom, not side to side… And now I remember why.  But I was very happy with the roll collar and will be using that again.

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          Unfortunately, my button supplier is locked down against the virus… “the invisible mugger”… “Stay home… Protect the NHS… Save lives” .

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          The sleeves came next, increasing every fourth row and keeping the pattern in place of course meant knitting some sections more than once, but that’s OK, that’s how most things in life my work in general.  I very seldom have a plan, I just have a general idea of how I want things to work out and I go with the flow, if something isn’t working out right, then I go back to the last time things were right and set off on a slightly different path.

          Still no buttons… And at least half of my giant ball of wool left… Back to the pattern.  I mentioned there were four choices of jacket to knit, but did I mention the bobble hat?

          Knitting the hat was fun, but making the bobble was amazing… I really don’t remember the last time I made a pom-pom. 

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          I finally managed to buy some buttons. My wool lady was visiting her shop to pick up some supplies for herself. She arranged for me to pick up my buttons during the hour she was going to be there, and so, with my shopping list in hand to queue at the supermarket on my way home, I tapped on the glass door of the locked shop to be let in and came away with so many happy thoughts clutching my treasure in a little paper bag… Strange times indeed. 

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          Of course, still having half a ball of wool just sitting on the coffee table next to the knitting needles while I waited for buttons… You can’t seriously thing I would play some more…

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           More from before: A little peek further into the world that I’ve “Created“.

More Glass Blowing

          Wow!!!  Just Wow!!!

          Well, of course not “just” wow… But Wow!!! . 

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          My Girls, their Boys, and Mum-in-law all clubbed together to give me their best ever birthday present yet… More Glass Blowing.

          Do you remember last year I had my first “Glass blowing” experience and I made my trinket bowl at  “Stuart Wiltshire Glass“?  I enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t wait for another go, of course, as is often the case, life got in the way of living and it’s taken me well over a year to find myself once more wearing my protective yellow sleeve in Stuart’s workshop and being talked through the whole process of making a large vase.

          Imagine me, listening intently, with a broad grin stretching from ear to ear while Stuart runs through the process of what is to follow and the stage is set.

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          I took my trinket bowl with me to match the colours and Stuart set up the coloured glass next to the little metal table.  We were to be making a vase this time and because I had chosen to make a bigger item instead of paying for two visits with my voucher, there was to be a lot of moulton glass wobbling around on the end of the pole and I would need lots of help.  As I listened to the run through of what was to happen memories surfaced from last time and I enjoyed them all over again.

          We (for we, read Stuart with me helping, not the other way around) took a metal pole and dipped it into the moulton glass, then took it out to cool slightly so that we could dip again for a more substantial amount of glass on the pole.

          Stuart rolled the glass on the little metal table as before until it had cooled to a sausage shape at a more controllable temperature, the we pressed the glass into the colours on opposite sides of the sausage, lemon on one side and orange on the other, making sure not to mix the colours.

          Next the glass went into the furnace and we turned the clear sausage with coloured lumps round and around until all the lumps had melted into the main body of glass.  I remembered doing this to my trinket bowl, but the extra weight of the glass made it drop down as gravity caught it so the turning had to be more controlled than the quick almost spin of my trinket bowl.

          Once the colours had melted into the body of glass the next stage was to make them swirl, as with before, this was achieved by letting the glass melt downwards and then quickly winding it up again before repeating a few more times to swirl the colours without mixing them.

          You can imagine now that on the end of the pole now was a very wobbly lump of very hot glass.

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          The pole we were using this time was hollow to enable me to puff right into the centre of the glass.  Stuart blew the first bit of air into the glass and I watched the bubble appear inside. Then he battled with gravity to shape the glass as I added a few more puffs to the inside through the hollow pole.

          Back into the furnace went the glass to keep the glass hot enough to play with.  Stuart kept it turning while reminding me of my next set of instructions. 

          I sat on the “Glass blowers throne”, a purpose built seating area surrounded by different tools of the trade gathered around it, there was such a view into the firey furnace in front of me that the cold weather outside and storms to follow over the next few days were as far from my mind in that moment as could possibly have been.

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          I dipped the wooden scoop into the bucket of water, not the smaller scoop of last time, the biggest scoop, placing my hand nearer to the scoop end of the handle, I rested the far end underneath my elbow to take part of the weight and Stuart brought over my vase, resting the pole on the turning cogs on the front of the throne arm rests, he took the front of the scoop and we used it to round the base of the vase.

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          In and out of the furnace the vase went to keep it plyable and the large scoop was replaced by a bat shaped paddle to flatten the base.   Next Stuart added some glass to a new pole and attached it to the center of the base. I used a metal file to dribble a little water onto the neck of the vase and tapped the original pole to make the neck snap away.

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          With the base of the vase attached to the new pole, the top went into the furnace to melt the sharp edges and Stuart battled gravity again until we were happy with the shape of the top.

          A few puffs of cooler air on the surface helped set the shape and the vase was almost made.  Over to the other side of the workshop it went to snap off the supporting pole at the base and then we used a blowtorch to melt away the sharp edges where it had been attached.  Stuart held the vase with his heatproof gloves for a photo opportunity and then it went into the cooling oven to cool it slowly overnight.

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          More from before: A little peek further into the world that I’ve “Created“.