Monsterful Monday: in praise of the Great British Bake Off

Yep, I went there. I have knitted in front of a programme about baking, because apparently I’m turning into somebody’s great aunt Margaret or something.

Season 3 is being re-screened on Prime, and I haven’t seen it before so please don’t tell me who wins.

Maybe it’s because of my heritage, but I love how British this particular iteration of the talent reality show is. I love how Mary Berry tries to find something positive to say about each contestant’s efforts. I love how happy people are when Paul Hollywood likes their cooking. I love how they own it when something’s gone a bit wrong, they don’t try and argue about it. I love how the departing contestant each week is given an enormous bear hug from Mel and Sue, the presenters, as well as all the other contestants.

And season 3, oh season 3. Cathryn, who is all of us wanting our baking to turn out well and being nervous. Victoria, who knows what a ‘filip’ is and wears padded vests and I suspect has a couple of dogs and a family tree that goes back to Cromwell, or at least her name on a plaque at a fancy girl’s school. And James, the student from the Shetlands in his array of devastating fair-isle jumpers, who is every hipster crafting girl’s dreamboat. Note, I don’t have a crush on him, though I do wish I had some of his recipes and that I could find out whether he bought the fair-isle jumpers or had them made for him by his Nan. I hope it’s the latter.

There’s actually an impressive number of guys in this season, and I think it’s great seeing men embracing something so ‘domestic’ as baking. I am deliberately not looking up who won Season 3, because that would ruin the fun.

I love the gentle innuendo, “we need to come up with something naughty to say about this week’s challenges. It’s tarts…nope, can’t think of anything.” And my personal favourite, of course, “we all know what makes a great cocktail party: keys in a bowl!”.

And I love all the inspiration it gives me to bake myself- the flavour combinations that make me hungry, the tips and comments from Mary and Paul that help you know what good baking looks like…

All I can say is, I love this show and I actually made choux pastry from scratch last night and turned it into profiteroles, and it’s because I’ve been watching this show.

The Susan Crawford Along: casting on our vintage knits

Nik and I both got started, and we’ve started keeping each other updated on what we’re doing. Enjoy!

Nik: 

I have 1000 vintage dresses (shush) that I don’t tend to wear because their line doesn’t lend itself well to normal/modern cardigans. I have been searching for ages to find the perfect cropped vintage cardigan, so I was pretty excited when this one came along. I’ve been meaning to knit it for ages, but RSI is hard on the hands. But now, thanks to some gift vouchers and a nice pair of warm gloves, I’m ready to start!

Ellen: 

For me, the issue I have with cardigans is that I loathe ¾ length sleeves. Which is problematic as most every retro-styled cardigan I’ve seen seems to have ¾ sleeves if it’s a plain one. But my reason for choosing the jumper I’m making is party the shape, which I think is pretty fabulous, and also the slightly OTT Christmas-ness of it. For that reason I stuck with a super-bright red yarn for the MC, though I’ve no idea whether the fibre content is actually what it said it was when I ordered it, because Ebay. It feels very soft though. I’m excited to get going on this.

Nik:

The cardigan I’m actually making is the Princess Twinset one – sorry if there was any confusion! I get what you’re saying about the ¾ sleeves, it’s a pain. Especially since they’re such an awkward length! Just started casting on – 2.75mm needles. Ouch. And my only 3mm have vanished into the aether. Weirdly, I have four lots of 3.25mm. Why.

Ellen:

Argh, sorry for the pattern confusion. Fortunately, I cast on before we got a houseguest who likes to be in the lounge- counting when someone else is talking to you is the sort of thing that leads to stabbing. But I don’t find I need to concentrate quite so hard when I’m ribbing. Though I probably should, I slightly futzed the first row because I managed to forget whether I was on a knit or a purl stitch. And I hadn’t even put the knitting down and come back to it later. Yup.

I feel like getting the ribbing on the front done is taking forever on the tiny needles.  I didn’t have any of either size of needle. Actually, that’s not true. I probably do have both sizes of needle. But a lot of my needles have projects on them, and also there’s the problem of the circular needles I like (the KnitPicks Options ones) not actually having anything on them to tell you what size they are. So I probably do have the right size needles but HOW WOULD I KNOW?

And yes, I probably should have finished some of the projects already on the needles before starting this one… I feel like I should have a point about that. But I don’t.

Anyway, I still like the way the yarn feels, and the ribbing it’s producing is nice and sproingy (IT IS A WORD). I just want to get on to the bit with the larger needles so I feel like I’m making more progress.

A 4ply knit jumper doesn’t seem so crazy now, does it?

I often find myself wondering, as I look at vintage patterns, “did someone really knit this?”. Not just as a sample, were there people out there who actually looked at these jumpers made from super-fine yarn and with complicated lace or cables, and make them and wear them? I hope they did.

I feel that way looking at some modern patterns too, but then it’s usually “how would anyone afford to knit that sweater in that yarn unless they were the designer and getting yarn support?”. Or with Wollmeise jumpers, “how the hell did they manage to get SO MUCH of it when it sells out so damn fast?”

But I digress. I have never wondered ‘did someone really knit this?’ with more curiosity than when I found these patterns on Etsy.

Knitted wedding dress

 

Yes, that’s a wedding dress. A wedding dress knit in 4ply yarn (like the jumper I’m hoping to cast on this weekend). Oh, but it’s not JUST a wedding dress!

Knitted bridesmaid dress

The crafty bride could also make dresses for her bridesmaids. Or get them to make them themselves. Even the Mother of the Bride was included:

Knitted mother of the bride dress

Or (according to the description) fairy godmother. You know, if you have one. Actually, if you did, you could probably get those dresses knitted up no problem.

I think I know why all the women in those photos look so happy. It’s because they finished the damn project and now they can move on to something REALLY challenging.

Like a house cozy.

House covered in knitting

From http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/yarn-bombing-los-angeles-craft-folk-art-museum

Yup.

Announcing: the Susan Crawford-along

My friend Nik and I have two clothing-related things in common. We both love and adore vintage-style clothes and wear a lot of them. She saves up over time and then buys Stop Staring dresses. I scour auction sites for secondhand bargains from my favourite labels and treat myself to full-price things when I can afford them.

The second is that we’re both crafters. Nik has always impressed me with her willingness to embrace things like Rowan patterns. When she introduced me to the glory that are Susan Crawford’s vintage style patterns, I was smitten. There’s just one problem.

Like most vintage patterns, Susan Crawford’s gorgeous designs are, for the most part, knitted with fingering weight yarn. If you’re new to knitting, I shall explain. It’s super thin. The stitches are tiny. The needles are also tiny. This is a recipe for things that will take a lot more knitting time than your average snuggly jumper.

But just look at these jumpers, will you?

The retro styling!

Image copyright Arbour House Publishing

Image copyright Arbour House Publishing

The British-coronation gorgeousness!

Lion and Unicorn jumper

Image copyright Arbour House Publishing

The F***ING CRAZY SLEEVES!

Jumper with crazy sleeves

Image copyright Arbour House Publishing

How can you NOT want to at least try that on- yes, those are some cray-cray shoulders, but look what it does for her figure. Glorious.

To prevent us stabbing ourselves, or our partners, with a knitting needle (or several), and to motivate us to knit the whole thing and not a few inches of it before it disappears to the bottom of the knitting basket (you know it happens), we decided to do a knit-a-long. We’ll be blogging together on our progress, the trials, the tribulations, the things we learn about the patterns, as we go- for our and your entertainment.

Nik is making the Lion and Unicorn Jumper from ‘Coronation Knits’ while I’ll be attempting the Perfect Christmas Jumper. Yes, even though Christmas is in the middle of summer here. This means that we’ll both have to deal with intarsia on tiny needles. Fun!

While I love the reindeers on the pattern I know what I’m like. Therefore I make no promises about not switching the design to be space invaders or something else weird.

Here’s hoping the end results will be as glorious as we’re both hoping (and that the wool I bought doesn’t itch too badly…).

And of course, if you’d like to play along at home, you can! Just get yourself a Susan Crawford pattern, and the relevant yarn and needles. We’d love to hear about/see your progress!

Gratituesday

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been hell-for-leather getting ready to run a LARP, and I have to admit, it’s triggered my anxiety. But I’ve learned something very helpful, at least for me. Listing off the things I’m grateful for in my head actually helps reduce my feelings of anxiety. I did it a lot on Saturday. I’m so grateful to have found a technique that works, and also grateful to the Best Beloved for taking good care of me.

Gratitude, people. It’s good for you.

Commuting 

I know, I know, what kind of a crazy person would be grateful to be commuting? The kind of crazy person who has a big-ass crochet project to finish, that’s who. That half an hour or so in the morning and the evening is a great time to fill with crafting. Not only because I’m slowly chipping away at the project- actually, not so slowly when I consider how much it’s grown- but also because it encourages conversations. I’ve met other crafters on the train, or people who’ve wanted to ask about the yarn or the process. My answer is always the same when they express admiration that someone can do that- “it’s easier than it looks.”

Of course, it helps that I have the pattern mostly memorised and I’m not knitting lace. I suspect if I was trying to work on a shawl, as I plan to, my response (in my head) would be “please be quiet, I’m counting”.

Rainbows

One of my favourite things about Auckland weather (yes, I have some) is how often there are rainbows visible here. To me, they always seem like a promise of good things.

Testing out takeaway places

Of which there are many near our new house, so we have quite a few to try. For science, you know. I’m grateful to have so many places near my home that will bring me (or serve me) hot delicious food on the nights where everyone is too knackered to cook (like Sunday night).

Getting out in the sunshine

Yes, in the middle of winter. Sunday was the third Moonbright game, which involved hanging out in Auckland domain. I was shattered from the night before, but being outside and soaking up some warmth and making more vitamin D did me the power of good.

Startitis

More about this on the blog later in the week, but a friend and I are doing a “what the hell were we thinking knitting an entire jumper on tiny needles in fingering weight yarn” knit-a-long, mostly to motivate each other to finish them. I’m excited!

The little things

Hugs, sleep, electric blankets, hot baths, tea, and all the other things that keep you warm in winter!

I have a question about Project Runway All Stars

Having run out of seasons of Project Runway to watch (at least before I start re-watching them again), I moved on to Project Runway All Stars because, well, sewing, and episodes I hadn’t seen.

It’s pretty good. I don’t mind that the host has changed, or that there are different judges. I miss Tim Gunn, but then who wouldn’t? But the mentors they have on the show- both women- really know their stuff. Joanna Cole especially.

There’s one thing, though, that really really bugs me. And that’s the way that the judges are introduced.

“Designer and co-founder of Marchesa, the beautiful Georgina Chapman…one of the most famous names in fashion, designer Isaac Mizrahi”.

The guest judges and male judges are introduced championing their success and accomplishments.

So why is it so important to make a point of Georgina Chapman also being ‘beautiful’.

Being beautiful doesn’t qualify her as a judge for a fashion design show. Her work with Marchesa does. Marchesa is a pretty darned famous name in fashion. She’s hugely successful. She makes beautiful clothes. But what we’re being told, as viewers, makes her a great judge is that she’s also beautiful.

Why does it matter? There are plenty of successful fashion designers who don’t conform to stereotypes of beauty. And a lot of them have been judges on the show. In fact, their non-conformity and bold celebration of who they are AS they are, is why we love them.

Diana Vreeland was very conscious of her not being a conventional beauty, and was one of the most influential women in fashion for years.

It bugs me because yet again, a TV show is suggesting that a woman’s achievements are somehow lessened, somehow not as valuable, if she isn’t also beautiful. Replace that with married, or a mother, and you have way, way too much of the mainstream media.

I guess what I’m hoping is that in my lifetime, we’ll get to the point where being physically attractive isn’t a qualification. For anything.

Monsterful Monday- brought to you by the letter R

Recommendations

I decided to get my ears pierced for my birthday this year. Strangely, with three tattoos (and counting), I’ve still never gotten any piercings so this was my first time. I therefore asked a friend of mine who has MANY holes punched in her where she gets them done, and she pointed me at Streetwise in Newmarket. They were brilliant. I was lucky enough to get Shane Johnston, a Master Piercer who’s been doing piercings for 20 years. He told me what they were doing at each step, explained what everything was for, spent a while fussing to get the position of each pierce just right to look symmetrical (as someone who is weird about symmetry, I really appreciated that).

It’s two counts of gratitude, really- one to the friend who recommended Streetwise, and one to Streetwise themselves for being so good. If you’re in Auckland and want to get a hole punched in you (well, one that involves jewellery), then hit them up.

Relaxation

Next weekend is going to be hectic as, so I was very grateful not to have too much to do this weekend beyond mainline Project Runway All Stars (I don’t love it as much as the original, but it’s still sewing crack), unpack more boxes, and knit. And also ask stupid questions while my Best Beloved plays Minecraft. Always fun.

(T) Rex

Lets face it, the T-Rex is the real hero of Jurassic World. We all know it. Even the film-makers know it. I watched it with some friends at the weekend, and it was everything you would hope from a big silly movie with dinosaurs. Including hero shots of the dinosaurs. Also, whoever thought you’d come out of a movie thinking “those velociraptors were adorable”? Certainly not me. And yet.

RuPaul (and Priscilla)

Meet RuPaul and Priscilla, the metal flamingoes who arrived as a gift from a bunch of friends for the housewarming at the magic house. The Best Beloved hid them outside the door, rang the doorbell and legged it around the back of the house while everyone else watched for my reaction. I love them, aren’t they fabulous?

rupaul

 

I’m so grateful to the friends who got together to organise buying them, hiding them (in the garden shed no less) and surprising me with them.

And the Rest

Snuggling, living with the Best Beloved (so far so good), crafting on the train- and fellow crafters on the train, supportive friends, tea, marmalade, Parks and Recreation, co-writers and GMs, Carl’s Jr (the buttermilk ranch chicken burger is so gooooood), working out a quicker route to work, and sleep. Oh, so much sleep.

Never trust a panda

OK, I know, it’s been over a week. And I honestly sat down to write all about what I’m knitting, and what’s been going on in my life (the toran is coming along nicely, and mainly I’ve been cooking all the things because one of my flatmates is ill).

But then I thought ‘hey, I really ought to print out the pattern for Mopsy Bird“, and suddenly I’m being presented with patterns with names like “A beret that is different!”.

beret

 

Which of course led me down the Trove rabbit-hole. Trove, that home of so, so many 4ply jumper patterns. It takes me long enough to knit a pair of socks using 4ply. Knitting an entire jumper? Probably insane. Which is why some time soon I’m totally doing it. But then I found this.

panda

Oh, it’s a panda, yup, totally ordinary stuffed toy panda.

perambulator

Wait, what? Why perambulator?

WHY IS IT STANDING UP UNAIDED? Is it sentient? Are there instructions somewhere in the 8th December 1949 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald explaining how to use your bloodstone circle for animating knitted toys?

Great, now I’m scared that if I make this it’s going to start walking around my house in the middle of the night.

babadook

I’m just saying what we’re all thinking. 

 

 

If nobody needs me I’ll be locking all my black and white yarns in a trunk and then hiding under a blanket.

Thoughts every knitter has on entering a new yarn store

1923368_7439200109_8265_n

Where’s the sock yarn? How is this place organised?

Oooh, pretty colour!…oh no, but it’s lace.

Well, I could totally start knitting lace if I wanted to.

Oh man, this is so soft…I wonder if anyone would notice if I rubbed it on my face?

How much is it?…Christ, for ONE skein?

Oh, no wonder, there’s cashmere in it.

I want to put it down, and yet I can’t.

Well, one skein is pretty restrained. Look at me being restrained…oooh, angora!

That colourway…it’s not really my thing, but limited edition!

I should have got a basket. Do they have baskets?

I don’t have any projects that need buttons. But these buttons are so pretty. Maybe I should find a project that needs buttons…

This would be perfect for that sweater, I wonder how many balls I would need…

HOW MANY?

No, don’t you dare start looking at that yarn over there. I may want more of it.

God, I hope they take debit cards…

Oooh, free wool wash!

Oh thank goodness, there’s a swift.

Winding this into a ball is SO much faster with a swift.

I wonder if they sell swifts?

OK, I am totally not buying any more yarn until I’ve finished a project.

That beanie hat I’m nearly done with counts, right?

What’s on the needles Wednesday

Or rather what’s on the crochet hook. Which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Being as I’ve just moved house, and unpacked my yarn and FOUND some of my UFOs, I’ve been working on homey projects.

There is *one* knitting project on the needles, which is a toran for the house, using the Welcome Toran pattern from Jean Muir. Being that I can never leave a pattern alone, however, it’s not going to have the fair isle pattern in the photos. It’s going to have Totoro-themed intarsia from the Norwegian Totoro Mittens pattern. It’s been a while since I’ve done colourwork. We’ll see whether I survive the experience.

There’s also a crochet blanket which I don’t have a photo of because I was too busy cowering underneath it staying warm last night. But there IS one I do have photos of. It’s a gift for someone, so I probably shouldn’t put it online but hey, I don’t mind if they know about it.

20150610_103517

Look at it, it’s skulls all the way down!

20150610_103531

This particular project is actually sat next to me on my desk right now, calling to me. We’ll see how long I can resist…

What about you? What are you working on this week?