This is the second crochet blanket I’ve made in two months. Yes, I know it’s June and gloriously sunny outside but what can I say? I live in the north of England and I’m realistic.
While I was finishing up my Ann Perkins blanket* at the end of April, I had a huge urge to make a solid square blanket: one colour per square like Heather’s Elmer blanket.
I used Stylecraft Special DK – I don’t usually like acrylic but this is alright. In the flesh, the colours are quite nice, it’s not quite as shiny as most synthetics and it’s super cheap. I used six colours: plum, grape, mocha, raspberry, parchment (nicely off white), and claret – the latter being my least favourite colour of the set, but I think it adds a nice contrast to all the purples.
One of the reasons my crafting extravaganza hasn’t gone as planned is because of my hands. Between lots of wet felting, crochet and protecting my super-sensitive new scar over the last month, they’ve been slowly turning into T-Rex claws. But it wasn’t until Friday, when my knuckles were properly swollen and achy as well as stiff, that I actually thought about it seriously.
(Me, on Friday. Except I have curlier hair. And glasses. And a shorter tail.)
When I’m working at my computer, I’m pretty good at taking breaks, sitting in a good chair and doing little exercises to help reduce shoulder/eye strain etc. (I don’t use it any more but when I worked at the university, I used to use Workrave to keep me in line.) But for some reason, I don’t apply the same principle to crafting – I can sit curled up in a ball, on the sofa, for hours at a time, and the only exercise I do to break it up is occasionally tickle an animal or clasp my claw around a cup of tea. (This is a small exaggeration, but only a small one.)
As my dad has pretty bad osteoarthritis and I’ve had joint pain problems in the past (in my knees particularly), I’ve decided to take Claw Friday as a bit of a wake up call so it doesn’t get worse in the future. I’ve started breaking up my crafting like I do my computer time (and like any sensible, normal person would do) and switching between different things (eg between crochet and sewing over the weekend) rather than doing the same thing over and over again. I’m hoping to start going swimming again regularly from the summer onwards which will help things generally but in the meantime, I’ve also started doing some hand/forearm exercises that I remember from my yoga/pilates days – hopefully encouraging my muscles to become a little more flexible again. It’s amazing how just a few days of those has already improved things.
Do you do any particular exercises to help prevent RSI/other injuries during your crafting/making or gardening etc? Do you have any tips?
Since most of April will be taken up with dramatic shenanigans, I decided that I should try to clear some things from my “WANT TO MAKE!!!” crafty to-do list during our short break over Easter. I found five small projects that I thought I could achieve in that time, as well as wanting to finish my big project from March (a big granny square blanket) and to block & frame some of embroidery/needlework projects from over the winter.
This was my first to-do – one driven by practical need rather than just creative want.
I bought a bulk load of cotton thread off the internet last week – it worked out about 30p per 500m reel rather than about three or four times that if I was buying them individually. I got them to replenish my very rundown sewing kit – I had run out of black thread, how does that even happens?! it’s like running out of teabags! – and I suspect they’ll last me years and years, as my last lot did. There are far too many reels to fit in my normal little sewing kit though so I decided one of my projects should be making a new sewing box – ooh, I thought, I could felt something, or sew something, or build something or adapt a vintage vanity case or something, it’ll be fun! Then after a few joyeous moments of running through the creative and fun ideas in my head, I realised a boring box file would be perfect for them.
I reclaimed an old file from some even older paperwork and I made some dividers out of scrap cardboard. The most time consuming bit was deciding how to arrange the colours ;) It was almost too easy – so much for having lots of creative, fun adventures making something! At least it was a freebie though.
It actually works pretty well – it’s easily portable and storable, and I can see all the colours in one go. The dividers, even with a bit of blu tac to stop them slipping down, aren’t strong enough to hold the reels in place when it’s upright and open, but they are fine when it’s closed. I can store related things in the other half of the box and I’m thinking of glueing some stiff cloth to the inside of the lid to hold needles and possibly add some little elastic loops for holding other tools.
It’s Day 5 of my break now and as well as a trip to Southport on Saturday, I’ve been doing various other things: I’ve doing some experimental crochet stuff (though not as much as I’d like due to sore hands, boo), some (machine) sewing on card and some embroidery. The first two haven’t gone quite as well as I’d hoped but lessons learnt etc, and I guess I’d be moaning about them being too easy if they had been a success ;) The embroidery is of a row of tomato plants, heavy with fruit – wishful-thinking stitching: the snow will melt and I will be able to garden soon, I will, I will!
Have you had any time for making things recently? If so, what have you been up to?
2012 was my year that didn’t happen. A combination of circumstances and mood meant I achieved very little all year. It bummed me out until I just accepted it, and in comparison 2013 has been chipper and wonderfully productive.
I did a lot of embroidery and other hand-sewing in January and February – an combination of kits (to learn new skillz) and my own designs. This month has been crochet-tastic (I’m working on a big double-bed size blanket – 31 squares down, 23 to go) and I’ve also done some wet felting with resists. All Lily cares about though are the cushions I’ve made for
I started them yesterday then ran out of thread so finished them today. Both days had intended to be garden days as I’ve got a whole bunch of seeds that need to be started ASAP but the eight inches of snow out there is getting in the way somewhat. I remember this week last year, sowing lots of seeds in the mini heatwave then watching them either rot in the soil or succumb to damping off when the weather turned again in April. I’ve not got anything tender on the go in the greenhouse/outside just yet though so this snow will delay things but hopefully won’t kill off much.
In case anyone is interested, the cushion covers are made from an Ikea fabric, Lappljung Randig, which is a lot nicer in person than it is on the web — and it should be because £8/metre isn’t super cheap. It’s a heavy cotton though, and it coordinates well with our grey sofa, and not just because both are covered in dog hair. (Lil is on her blue sofa in the office in the picture.) I bought the fabric back in February, on our usual Valentine’s Day visit to Ikea (it’s so quiet!) but as I nearly cut off the tip of my index finger the following morning, I couldn’t sew them until now. Two related #pro-tips:
Cushion sewing #pro-tip: Remember to open the zip before you finish stitching the final edge, else, annoyingly fiddly.
Cooking #pro-tip: Sharp, fast-spinning stick blender blades are SHARP and FAST-SPINNING.
I’ve got a strip of fabric left over, about 45cm wide and 2 metres long — I think we’ve got enough cushions now (if Lily shares) so I’m trying to think of ideas for it. I might get some fat quarters to coordinate with the colourful stripes and make a little lap quilt. That’ll have to wait its turn on the project list – I’ve got a year of craft ideas to work off first! (Speaking of which, I’ve been on Pinterest for ages for Recycle This but only just started Pinning non-recycling things – I’m louisaparry on there.)
What have you been up to?
We’ve had some snow a week now but the “proper snow” only arrived last night. We woke up to nearly six inches on the ground – and on the greenhouse, the flower beds, the steps — on the everywhere really ;) It’s still snowing now, not a blizzard but a steady fast flow.
The trees are the heaviest I’ve ever seen them, with some branches bent right over under the weight of their cold blanket. Every now and then – actually, specifically right then when I was writing the first half of that sentence – one reaches its limit and drops its load, or it flicks the snow back into the parent tree and more falls to the ground. It’s painfully pretty.
The chicken wire roof of our chicken run has slowly grown its own snowy coating too. I thought it would be very dark under there – that the (automatic, light triggered) pop hole door wouldn’t have opened and our girls would be grumpy, trapped in the coop without food or drink, but it is surprisingly light. I cleared the snow off the section nearest the path before realising about the lightness but will leave the rest for now – it’s keeping the falling snow out of the run. The structure is more than strong enough to hold up for now, though I will keep an eye on it if the snow keeps falling.
The birds are holding up well. Our three old girls were around for the harsh 2010-11 winter: if they were humans, they’d probably be going around in flip flops and t-shirts, and bragging to the new ones “cold? cold? it’s not cold! It’s tropical compared to when I was a pullet.” (Humans say that, right?) Thankfully though, none of them is actually being tested in that way – their moults feel like ages ago now and they’re all feathered up again. As if on cue: fluffy bottoms ahoy!
I’m making sure they’re kept well fed to counter the extra energy they’re putting into keeping warm – I’ve got a stash of their layers pellets in the house for making up a warm porridge as-and-when. Their drinkers were freezing last week but they’ve been ok for the last couple of days. And they’re returning the well fed gesture – we had a 100% lay rate yesterday and today — really good going! I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow is a little lower though.
As ever, Lily-dog is carefully supervising my care of the girls – insisting on accompanying me into the garden at every opportunity and checking out the wider area around the run for ALL THE SMELLS. The cats though are happy to just watch from the window.
Is it snowy where you are? If you’ve got birds, how are they doing?
(Hi, happy new year, hope you’re all well. I’ve really got out of this blogging lark, haven’t I? :) )
Swillington Farm, the awesome organic farm near Leeds, has linked to my very old post about their chickens in their most recent newsletter and I thought it was possibly time for an update.
We’ve had a monthly meat box (like a veg box but, you know, meat) most months since Swillington Farm began delivering them in June 2011. While the contents of each box is different each month depending on availability at the farm, we always get a chicken from them and they’re always huge. We had a couple last autumn that dwarfed that first one we got – each breast alone was nearly 1lb (454g) in weight! I always joint the birds because we prefer to have the meat stretched across the month rather than in one big feast. That “14 meals from one chicken” is the rule, not the exception:
Added to veg/pulses, the breasts each give us four portions of some yummy main meal – usually some sort of curry or risotto, or something like enchiladas = 8 meals
The legs we usually roast whole – though sometimes when they’re very big (like last autumn), I have to joint them into thighs & drumsticks because they’re too big for me to eat in one sitting. Let’s be conservative though and just say = 2 meals
The wings we usually stock up to have a couple at a time but they are considerably bigger than standard take-away “hot wings” so would be fine one wing per person with salad etc for a light lunch. Again though, let’s be conservative and say 2 wings = 1 meal
The skin and liver still usually go to the animals but I roast the carcass and make stock, and use the stock and the meaty bits from the carcass/neck to make soup. I’ve made chicken, carrot and ginger soup for the last few months because it’s my favourite winter warmer. Our homemade soups are usually a minimum of five portions – some for now, some for the freezer. So the carcass & meaty bits = 5 meals.
… so that’s about 16 portions, with some of the frankly massive birds giving us even more. Gosh!
Obviously we are adding plenty of veggies/pulses/grains to all of the above – but each of them is still very “chickeny”. Anyone who knows us in person will know we’re not sparrow-like eaters: we eat big portions – too much really. We could easily stretch it further still if we weren’t such food-obsessed gluttons.
Swillington Farm birds are more expensive than supermarket birds but they really do go far. Organic, humanely raised, properly free-range meat is never going to be the most frugal option but for us, it’s one of those situations where we’re happy to pay extra to suit our other principles. Until we can grow our own meat birds, we’ll stick to Swillington.
(Just to be clear: this is just me gushing, not a paid for post by any means!)