I’m quiet at the moment because I’m working hard on some cards and papercraft stuff – which takes over the entire house! I will be updating my Etsy shop next week, once I have been to a craft fair on Saturday in Kent.
For a taste of what I’m making, check out the below gallery! This is all under the name of Skinny Lizzy, my beautiful doll given to me for my 21st by my Super-Granny. The sewing pattern for her will soon be available!
In the meantime, don’t forget to check out these places of Plutonium Muffins party interest!
This week has disappeared in a spiral of sewing and spinning – I’m so surprised it is already Friday! (I actually don’t think I know what day it really is? Monday?!)Anyway, with instant gratification something that I’ve been needing, as well as a craft fair in Kent to prepare for, I have been busy.
I didn’t post last Friday because I was at iKnit Fandango. Find out more about that in the Plutonium Muffins podcast, here.
It was my lovely Wonder-Mum’s birthday on Tuesday, and I sent her some blank canvases. I couldn’t think of anything else – until I figured that as a painter she would probably appreciate materials, in the same way that I love receiving yarn. She was tickled pink, and I can’t wait to see what comes from it.
Sewing for me
Since leaving my job last year for medical reasons, I have spent much of the past eight months lounging around at home in my pyjamas or my dungarees. Following on from a previous Friday Round-Up in which I talked about how I’m trying to take myself more seriously, I realised I need some new clothes. With a huge stash of fabric, a small stash of money, and a subscription to Simply Sewing*, a new magazine, I decided to take this into my own hands.
I have a large bust and good child-bearing hips(!), with a slim waist. And I’m short, I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about that? 5’3″ or 161.5 cm, to be exact. So normal sewing patterns don’t really fit. As a result, I’ve been making muslins to try tailoring some garments to my shape. The normal thing to do would be concentrate on one garment at a time, right?
That’s not how I roll. I have three fabrics, three patterns and three muslins in various stages of completeness lying around the lounge, which looks like a fabric bomb hit it. I anticipate getting some of this done this weekend, and hopefully next week I’ll be in some new handmade clothes!
Sewing for you
I’m selling at a craft fair in Kent on the 30th of May. As well as aprons, sock monsters and sarongs, I will be selling my cards, a new range of baby accessories and other sewed goods that I have been busy creating in my fabric-bombed workspace. I will also have a donation bucket full of ‘failed’ projects. Read: projects that had something go wrong with them and I don’t think I can sell. These will be up for free, although I will be accepting donations to Mind if anybody takes anything and wants to give some dollar to a good cause.
I’ve finished plying the first half of Follow Me Down Cousin Jack! I have just 80g of alpaca fibre left, and will be finishing that this week. I’ve been spinning like a fiend, and loving it. I do need to think about my posture, which is currently terrible. My back is rather sore because of the strain this is putting on it. Need to sort that out! But loving the spinning.
I’ve been playing with needle felting again. I’ve been making sheep and a little seal! I donated one of the sheep to Tonks, who can not keep her paws off them. I think she loves the wool! Anyway, her behaviour has been so instinctive and raw, which has been really interesting to see. I couldn’t help myself, I had to give it to her. There’s something strange about seeing around 8 hours of work get shredded by your over-zealous feline…the sheep was going to go to the donation bucket as I wasn’t happy with it, and that felt a bit liberating. She has me wrapped around her little finger.
Because I’m spending so much time on the sewing machine and making cards, I haven’t really had time to blog as much as normal. The problem is, if you don’t make, you have nothing to blog about! My knitting projects are all proceeding apace, and I’m loving my hap at the moment. I’ll give you an update next week!
* Eagle-eyed Twitter followers will have noticed I had a rant about this the other day. I said some terrible things. I will explain next week, but for now I will say that I’m on the fence about my subscription and am wondering whether or not I should continue with it.
Here’s a quick episode on iKnit Fandango for you! I spent a day with Louise of Spin City, and enjoyed spending time with some old friends from, for example, Yarn in the City, Kettle Yarn Co, Purl Alpaca Designs and Pom Pom Quarterly. I also made some new friends, and may or may not have purchased over a thousand yards of lace-weight yarn from Wollmeise. (more…)
I met Amanda of Owl Print Panda for the second time when I was at Edinburgh Yarn Festival. Don’t ask me when the first time was, I can’t remember – I just know I did! Amanda is an amazing knitter who lives in Glasgow, and makes the most incredible stitch markers. She has also just had a pattern published in the latest issue of Pompom Quarterly – she is the designer behind Talavera, a glorious lacy number.
I have a small thing for stitch markers, as I have found they are the ideal way to have a few jewellery type bits and pieces around when you’re just lying around in the house chilling with your knitting. My collection of broken childhood pendants have all been turned into stitch markers, and I’ve spent a little bit of time browsing the web looking for interesting charms with which to adorn my knitting.
Owl Print Panda – Stitch Markers
This is where Amanda comes in: the woman has a skill. She has the most amazing collection of stitch markers that I’ve ever found, in the charm/pendant style. I almost had a meltdown when I was at the EYF and saw her selection laid out. I bought a few, although I was watching the pennies. I ended up with these guys.
Now that I’ve had a couple of months to calm down, I decided I wanted to order a few more from Amanda. Although I adored all of them, I decided to go for the cupcake/muffin – this is the most ‘muffinish’ charm I’ve seen, and I wanted to make sure I had plenty of them so I can have my cake and knit with it too. In the process of talking through how many of the pieces she could get her hands on, Amanda offered up a set of her beautiful stitch markers for a Plutonium Muffins giveaway!
As well as ten new muffins to adorn my work, Amanda included an adorable dinosaur, and a lion that reminds me of the drawing that Rafiki does of Simba in “The Lion King”. I love my new stitch markers, and am happily planning a new lace project to make sure I have them in my hands a lot in the next few weeks!
So, here’s the method of entry. Head over to Amanda’s Etsy Shop here and have a look at what she’s got in there! It’s updated regularly, but if it’s empty when you look or you just want to admire more of Amanda’s work, you can check her design catalogue on Ravelry here. Leave a comment on this blog post saying what your favourite thing is – anybody who shares the giveaway on social media can get an extra entry provided you let me know you’ve shared it!
The winner of the stitch markers will get the set of stitch markers shown below, which Amanda picked especially for you. Included is a dinosaur, a Russian doll, a Scottie dog, an owl, a fox and a little bird – the rings are snag-free in my experience, and I’ve used them with up to 4 mm needles.
The giveaway will run until the 31st of May. Entries made after 5pm GMT on this date will not be included in the draw. The giveaway is open to all entrants, provided a valid email address or Ravelry username is left with the entry so I can contact the winner. If the prize is not claimed one week after the initial email is sent, I will re-draw. There is a maximum of two prizes per entrant.
Good luck everyone, and many thanks to Amanda of Owl Print Panda for her generosity!
PS If you’re interested in the tin I keep my stitch markers in, I bought it from a Pound Shop. It’s actually part of a smoking kit – I had had a couple of glasses of wine when I saw the tin, and decided to buy the kit for the sake of the golden retriever. The smoking paraphernalia made its way to the recycling bin, and I have a great container for my stitch markers!
I thought I would tell you about Foxy Loxy, the Joeli Caparco pattern that I knitted up and sent to New Zealand for Baby Oliver, the newest arrival to the family! I have not managed to get a photo of Oliver wearing the jumper (and I’m not sure if I would have been able to post it anyway, I’m not sure where the parents stand on sharing photos but if they asked me not to share it, I wouldn’t). Anyway, I thought it’s about time to do a finished object post!
I met Joeli at Edinburgh Yarn Festival, first making the acquaintance of her lovely husband, then meeting her. I enjoyed having a look at her stall, and fell in love with two of her patterns. By this point, I had spent all of my money (I don’t know if I ever mentioned I bought a loom?) and decided I would have to go withdraw a bit more from the Magic Machine so that I could knit the two jumpers that I loved.
Joeli gifted the patterns to me when I found myself sitting next to her on the sofa in the Podcaster’s Lounge – the wonders of Ravelry! When I asked if she would send me a PayPal invoice, she refused, and I am super grateful to her.
So, the pattern. Foxy Loxy is a colourwork jumper designed for small people from newborn to 5 years old. It’s knitted in a DK yarn, in the round. I bought some Sirdar Snuggly in cream and a light brown, and got going. I used 3.75mm needles for the rib and 4mm for the main body of the pattern.
You can see how uneven my knitting is! This was version one, and I was having real trouble with the colourwork. I do stranded knitting with the main colour in my right hand, and the contrast in my left knitting continental. I’m not great at continental knitting (more on that another day), and the tension was unbearable. You can see how very uneven the stitches are in the bands separating the two rows of fox heads too.
I couldn’t bear it. I got to the armpits of the jumper and ripped right back to the ribbing for round two. The second time it was much better and I got to the actual end of the jumper! However, I was weaving the stitches in the back every two stitches, as I was worried about little fingers getting caught in the floats on the back. This was a big error – when it came to blocking, there was just no give because the floats were caught in the stitches, so it didn’t really even out. The pictures show just how lumpy my finished object is (and how there is a learning curve to using blocking wires).
I posted the jumper to New Zealand, and it arrived a few days after Olivery was born – but as it probably won’t fit him for a good few weeks yet, I don’t think it matters too much! I’m now looking forward to knitting the other pattern Joeli sent me, the Everyday Sweets Pullover, which was launched as an individual pattern at EYF.
Just as a side note – I posted a blog on the state of my mental health the other day and I just wanted to follow up. It would seem I jinxed myself by writing that I had had no panic attacks, and the last two days have been full of anxiety from an unrelated direction, complete with panic attacks and all. I’ve been working on Kelpie by Jared Flood – the rhythm of endless garter stitch has been providing me with a bit of a tonic to the anxiety! Thank goodness for knitting.
I know I said I would post this finished object post about Naloa yesterday, but I didn’t quite manage to get the photos done in the time that I thought I would! So it’s a day late, but there we go. I also didn’t get any photos of it on, as John was away and I’m not so good at full-body selfies!
I finished the shawl on May the 6th, making it just under two months from start to finish. I took a big break in the middle while I tried to get the heel on a pair of socks turned, but after seeing Reneé wearing hers during a lesson at Wild and Woolly I was inspired to get it finished!
Just in case you’ve missed all of my discussions on this topic before, Naloa was designed by Reneé Callahan of East London Knit. After having spent many hours working on it and finally realising I had no idea why the pattern was called “Naloa”, I decided to ask.
The Naloa shawl had a water-based inspiration and Kanaloa is the Hawaiian ocean god…a bastardisation of a deity name:) @plutoniummuffin
The pattern was released in July 2014, and shortly afterwards, Reneé and Linda of the Kettle Yarn Company had a knitalong. I missed this, as I did not have the required yarn and by the time I could afford to order it, the KAL was over! The pattern was designed in BEYUL, a 60% merino, 20% silk and 20% yak blend from Kettle Yarn Co – the colourways used in the original design were Yurt and Turqouise.
Yurt is the undyed version of BEYUL, and you can see from the original design that it is rather grey. This is due in part to the black fibres that are blended in the yarn. The colourway that I used, Electric Aramanth, is a very vivid pinky colour – but a certain depth is lent to the colour by the black fibres that you can see running through it.
As well as my BEYUL skein, I used a skein of Westminster, another Kettle Yarn Co yarn that I bought at the first PomPom Christmas party. This is a grey yarn flecked with spots of purple. As discussed in this post about colour theory, the two did not go together as well as I wanted them to; but I soldiered on anyway.
When I reached the second colourway, I realised I had a lot of the skein of Westminster left; by the time I reached the point at which I should have bound off, I realised I also had a lot of BEYUL. I spent a long time extending the original chart, and after hours of daft confusion and frustration, I managed to sort it out.
I finished the shawl with 27g of Westminster left (319 yards) and 7g of BEYUL (372 yards). I was a bit worried about how the different fibre contents of the two yarns would interact with each other – but they are fine, and the shawl is wonderfully comfortable! John compliments it each time he sees it, and although I haven’t worn it out yet, I’m looking forward to having a stunning piece of knitting to show off at the next event!
I’m super pleased with this, the pattern was perfect with no errors that I could find, and very easy to follow, and I cannot wait to start knitting with more KYC yarn and ELK patterns. I recommend this as an easy lace project – I wanted to do it as a warm-up to a Belinda Harris-Reid design, and it was absolutely perfect.
I know this is a knitting, craft, fibre, lifestyle, spinning blog…but I wanted to give you all an update on the mental health situation because I think it’s so important to be open about it. If you’re not interested, I suggest you come back tomorrow…I’m going to finally be showing off Naloa!
I’ve teetered on the edge of publishing this for a few months, because my general policy is not to dilute Plutonium Muffins with my medical stuff. Another blogger that I follow has just spoken out about it, and it has inspired me to update my draft and publish it. Please find out more information via the NHS or the Mind website, or feel free to email me on email@example.com if you would like to discuss this in more depth.
Mental Health Update
As many of you know, I have been off full-time work for a long time as a result of some tough mental health problems. I was signed off in August of last year – more information here. I have been receiving treatment for depression since I finished my degree four years ago – this has ranged from talking therapies to cognitive behavioural therapy, with a variety of medications and other treatments tried.
I changed my medication when I was full of anxiety last year, and it took several months for that to reach a level in my system that it was actually effective. In the last few weeks I have slowly come off one of the meds that I have been on, as my anxiety has been much better. I no longer have panic attacks when I consider leaving the house. I can’t remember the last time I had one in general (touch wood). I’ve been able to get out and about easily. I’m sleeping less in the day, although still getting very tired and emotional if I don’t get enough sleep.
I decided to incorporate Plutonium Muffins and become self employed so that I could start to get back into work without having to work to an employers understanding of how my own mental health circumstances affect my performance, my self esteem, my colleagues or a company. I know there are a lot of employers out there who have great mental health policies. For me, I felt that self employment was right for the way I am operating at the moment.
You’ll notice that I sometimes post blogs at ridiculous times. If I have had a ‘mental health day’, where I have been lethargic, demotivated, unenthusiastic about everything, been in bed all day, unable to concentrate on anything, I will fairly regularly make up for it at anti-social hours. I wake up at about 5 am everyday, and no amount of lying in bed will make me fall back to sleep on some days. On these days, I get up and start working.
Equally, sometimes I may go to bed and not be able to sleep well, in which case I can get up and work until the wee hours, go back to bed and sleep in the next morning if I manage to. Self employment – particularly being staff on an online copy-writing agency – is helping.
It feels ridiculous saying all of that, I should just be able to power through it, right? I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced the type of brain fog where trying to do anything about it at all is just a no go. I’ve been in the middle of conversations with John, and suddenly had the fog descend and just be unable to take in another word. One of my therapists used to click her fingers at me when she could see I was zoning out – after one or two attempts to work through it with me, I was no longer allowed to see her as I’d used up my NHS hours on that service and we never went any further with it.
I can try sort out my hours to fit around the mental health, and as I get better and better, I can start to conform to a normal schedule again. If I can’t concentrate, I don’t try to force it – I have learned how to take steps to rectify it if I feel myself sliding into a state. (I didn’t have a nap yesterday. Sounds like a small thing, but it’s a huge deal to me – first time in months, and I got up at 5 am.)
I no longer see a therapist, and my running has been helping me a lot. To my annoyance, a few times when I have been feeling really awful, yet unable to lie down and nap through it, I have gone for a run instead. The rush that I get from going outside for half an hour – and obviously the endorphins through the exercise – helps me to get back to a workable state of mind, which is so helpful. I’m annoyed about this because my mum and GP have been telling me for years that I needed to get into exercise, and I failed at all attempts until this year when I started training for a half marathon. I hate being proved wrong!
The thing that has motivated me to continue training for the half marathon is that I have got fitter, and I’m raising money for Mind, the mental health charity in the UK. You can find out more about that here.
I don’t think that things are absolutely peachy just yet, but I am appreciating being able to operate at a higher level, and make plans for the future again. I have had a few ‘ups and downs’ in the last four years which has seen me taking a lot of time off work (as in a couple of years over that period) as my mental health fluctuates. I’m hoping that at the moment, the things that I am doing will help me continue to go ever onward and upward, and we won’t have another huge downward spiral.
So, that’s that. I’m going to do some knitting and possibly copywriting – not necessarily in that order – and have another cuppa!
Big news guys…it’s Friday! I’m not going to talk about the BIG news in the UK this morning, because this is not a politics blog…and I have tons to talk about this week, so without further ado, here’s the Friday Roundup.
Just a quick reminder, I published Episode 14 of the Plutonium Muffins podcast this week. You can listen to it here, or grab it in your favourite podcatcher. There’s a subscribe button so you never miss an episode too!
I finished Naloa! I am so, so pleased with it. I modified the chart and extended the pattern by something like three seven repeats of the pattern rows – I was playing serious yarn chicken by the end of it, and had only 3 g of my yarn left by the time I cast off…
I have yet to take nice photos of it, although here is a teaser shot from last night. I will work on that this weekend, and dish the details next week.
Taking Myself Seriously
I had a great piece of advice from someone a few weeks ago – they reminded me that if I wanted other people to take me seriously, then I should take myself seriously. What this means, in practice, is that if I am to be self-employed and making My Own Way, I need to feel like that is a serious thing.
Over the last few months, I’ve been a terrible slob, wearing pyjamas most of the day and only dressing up (badly) if I need to go out, never wearing make-up, nail polish, or generally just taking care of myself. I’ve realised that if I’m not going to be going out to work everyday, I need to make myself feel like I’m at work – so I’ve given my cosmetics collection an overhaul, and am trying to take myself more seriously. This includes ensuring the housework is all taken care of and that I have a clear workspace.
It has been seriously motivating.
While we are on the make-up, cosmetics, lifestyle type of thing, I’ve recently gotten addicted to the Zoella channel on YouTube. Zoë Sugg is a YouTuber, which basically means she makes her money by doing videos on YouTube! She concentrates on beauty, lifestyle and so forth, and I have no idea how I found her, but I do know that for the last few days I’ve had her videos playing all the time while I’ve been copywriting.
It’s so totally not something I am typically interested, but I’m trying to be a more rounded person, and I am secretly (or not so much) loving the influence of Zoella on my ability to pay more attention to my cosmetic regime.
The laces for my hacked Converses finally arrived, so they are finished and I can wear them around the town! The tutorial for making your own pair of these is here.
I went out with a friend, and she bought some plain shoes to decorate. She finished them really quickly – aren’t these amazing? She just did this with Sharpies!
This blog post comes slightly later than usual because I had a load of chores I had to finish. We have a duvet that has needed washing for a long time, and jackets that have needed to go to the drycleaners. I’ve accomplished both of these this morning, and the rest of the day is mine to work with as I choose. It feels good.
Bonus – YiTC
I went to the Knit Night with Yarn in the City on Wednesday! Here’s Alli’s photo of us using her famous, amazing selfie stick.
This feels like a slightly fragmented post, but there we go. I stayed up very late knitting and watching the election results, and my brain is a little fuzzy!
Have a great weekend, and check out more Friday posts at the below links.
I know that everyone is absolutely agog to know who was the winner of the Purl Alpaca Designs giveaway – the winner, drawn by random number generator, was Cassandra! Congratulations to you, I have been in touch by email if you could check and get back to me.
I thought it would be interesting for everyone to see the patterns that were most loved by the entrants to the giveaway.
A note for anyone planning to knit these garments – bear in mind that they are designed using alpaca yarn, and drape is one of the key ingredients to success. That’s not to say you have to use an alpaca yarn – I knitted my Icon Dress in John Arbon Knit by Numbers, which is pure merino – but you should consider this when choosing the yarn.
Purl Alpaca Designs: the chosen few
I think we all know that I love this one. Not only is it the most popular on Ravelry, but it came out tops in the giveaway. I had a range of really lovely comments from different people – one of you was planning to knit her wedding dress from this pattern, another felt that it would help her continue to love her body post breast-cancer. It’s on Ravelry here and the Purl Alpaca Designs website here.
There are currently 56 projects on Ravelry, and shocker – mine is not the brightest! Check out emerald787‘s dress! Here’s a little boast – mine was recently voted number two in the Let’s Knit project picks…find out more here.
The Isis Tailcoat came a close second to the Icon Dress – find it on Ravelry here and the Purl Alpaca Designs website here.
The construction looks really interesting, with the knitting going in different directions depending on which part of the Isis Tailcoat you are on. This is shown in the ‘back’ photo below…I haven’t actually seen the pattern so can’t tell you if there are a lot of picked up stitches in this – but it does look like it.
A recently finished project in the most stunning blue was knitted by charmofit. It is such a glorious colour!
Esme Jumper and Venus Coat
The next most popular were the Esme Jumper and Venus Tailcoat. The Esme Jumper has a similar patterning to the Icon Dress, but with variations in sleeves, collar and below the bodice, while the Venus Tailcoat is a gorgeous airy garment, and the thing you will most often see Tracy wearing when Purl Alpaca are at shows. Note the one that Tracy wears is sleeveless. The Esme Jumper is on Ravelry here and the PA website here.
The Venus Coat is on Ravelry here and the PA website here.
Other patterns that got a shout out from the giveaway included the Maddie Leaf Dress (my personal favourite), Niobe Jumper, and a couple of jumpers and cardigans. I had so much fun browsing through the patterns, and I think the designs are effortlessly stylish, comfortable, and extremely achievable as a large garment to knit, in most cases.
I will be keeping an eye on what comes next – and I hope I have opened your eyes to a lovely new set of designs! You can browse the full catalogue on the Purl Alpaca website here, or Ravelry here if you are that way inclined.
Thank you so much to Kari-Helene and Tracy for their generosity!
I went to Wonderwool Wales on the 25th and 26th of April 2015 and had the fortune to chat to a number of different vendors and attendees, a spinning guild, bought some fibre, saw some bunnies…all good things! John came with me, and we saw a couple of friends who we haven’t seen for a while. It was a fantastic weekend – find out more in todays podcast. (more…)