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Winter reaches us on the Bristol Downs

Hi! Happy be-lated New Year!

Yes, it has  been a long time since I posted. I’ll skip the excuses and get on to the goods.

So remember I’d been knitting several gifts for friends/family for Christmas? Well, here are the pictures I have of those. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of all of them before I wrapped them up. But as the French say, tant pis!

I’m sorry the lighting isn’t so good for some of these. I do the best with what I got.

Mittens and a matching tam (not pictured) for Momma in Choclate, by Deborah Norville. They match the scarf I made for her last winter — my first ever knitting project. Isn’t that sweet? I’m a married woman but I still like to make things for my Mom in the hopes that she’ll put them on the fridge.

Why yes, that is a Melanie Fallick pattern from her delicious book Weekend Knitting. The pattern was straight forward (my kind of project) and the final product looked pretty darn good for my first pair of mittens — another box to tick. I made another pair for my bro-in-law’s gf out of Wensleydale wool in Oatmeal. Unfortuantely I don’t have a picture of those, but i can tell you they were lovely and neutral and super warm because I lined them with fleece. I used a little bit of the leftover yarn for the strip in my hubby’s hat, pictured  below.

Next here’s the hat I knitted for my fella. I used the wool I bought when we were on our honeymoon in Maine. (I subsequently accidentally deleted all of our pictures from that trip, so little momentos like this are pretty special, if you know what I mean).  It’s spun by the last living Shakers in the world  from their community at Sabbathday Lake. And yes, we did go to a Shaker community on our honeymoon.

It’s warm and wooly with 2×2 ribbing. It’s a basic man hat. No frills. They like it that way.

Isn’t he cute? And the scenery’s not bad either. This was on our sledding day. England in the snow at Christmas is so ridiculously picturesque and nostalgic. We’re talking Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Last but not least, another man hat for my new bro-in-law. J’s got the crazy personality to pull of a slightly slouchy hat (though in this pic it looks like it fits him pretty snuggly). The yarn is ” Linus” by Knit One Crochet Too. They do a whole range of colors specifically designed for men. Isn’t that cool? I love the orange gradations splashed into the manly pine color.

Here he is rocking it.

And yes, that is a pet rat in his lap. Isn’t he adorable? His name is Mango and it makes me sad that he’s way over in NC while we’re in England.

How did y’all’s knitted gifts turn out? Did your peeps like them?

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Here it is — my brand new, first ever plarn creation! The design is based on Vickie Howell’s eco lunch bag from her book AwareKnits.  It’s just one of many great ideas from her book for the eco-conscious (and, I might add, time conscious) knitter and crocheter.

All in all, it took about a day of working off and on to complete it.  I added the last row of orange to the handles yesterday before breakfast.  It was a good one day project, but for someone who’s more comfortable working with yarn made from plastic bags, it could easily be done in a couple of hours.

There’s a sense of fun and novelty involved in crocheting with plarn that reminds me of those crafts we used to do as kids. (You know when we used to sit in those miniature chairs at those tiny, shellacked tables, sticky from the Elmers glue of past crafts, and decorate our paper plate masks, or some such project, with glitter and pipe cleaners? The messier the better.)

Making plarn is easy enough: you just flatten a plastic bag, fold it into a long strip about an inch or two wide, snip off the end and handles, then cut the strip into one inch pieces.

Cutting off handles.

Cutting the bag into 1" strips

Now unfold the pieces (which are now big plastic circles) and link them together so that they form a long chain. Wind them up into a ball.

More instructions about making plarn here.

Stitching up  definitely takes a little getting used to. I recommend only using plastic bags of similar thicknesses. You can see where I included plarn from a large, white, heavy-duty plastic bag. Not only was it thicker than the rest of the plarn (you can see how it bulges out), but it got to be rather painful to work with.  I cut it off after just two rounds because I couldn’t take the rubbing anymore.  In the end, I think it makes a niceish band to match the orange one, but I don’t think I’d crochet with it again.

In any case, I hope you enjoy!

After a week of traveling and having people over it’s nice to finally sit down and share some of the things I’ve been doing (and creating) lately.

So in between doing this in Dublin and seeing beautiful scenery like in the picture above and watching sunsets like this…

I’ve also been learning how to crochet.

My grandmother and knitting instructor was right: once you learn how to knit, crocheting is a cinch.  Of course, I still managed to botch things up a time or two, which meant having the unravel half the project.  But we got there in the end.  I decided to do a market bag (this is what I think of when I see the words “market bag”) for my first crochet project since, I figure, my vegetables won’t care too much if my rows aren’t perfectly straight. Jill’s  Rust Goes Green was a quick and easy project (even for a beginner) and it was a great way to finally use up some of this bulky nylon yarn I’d been practicing with for ages.

And the finished product…

And just for fun I made these dangly wire earrings with royal blue beads. I’m not sure about  the ear hook design so I’m thinking about changing them… maybe adding a loop so that the ends clip together to form a fill circle?

Two books that have become permanent features on my nightstand these days (along with the, happily, never-ending Cold Mountain Scarf) are Melanie Falick’s Weekend Knitting and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s The Hound of the Baskervilles of Sherlock Holmes fame.  The proprietor of the tiny second hand bookshop I bought it from in the market said Baskervilles was the only book that ever scared him…  I love the classic Penguin book cover possibly as much as the expert, chilling, and somewhat whimsical story-telling.

And in the meantime I’ve moved on to a new project (two actually, but the second will have to wait until another day). Now that I can crochet passably, I’m working on my first plarn project. Here’s a sneak peak of the lunch bag-in-progress, based on Vickie Howell’s design from her book Aware Knits. More to come when I’ve finished.

As many of you may know, I’m getting married in August and I’m currently in the process of planning a mountain wedding for a (gulp) modest guest list of over 200 people. Yeah, not so modest, I know.  Well let me tell you, no one has been more surprised than me at how gun-ho I’ve become about planning this here shin-dig. After all, I am the girl who in high school ruined my sister’s and every other girlfriend’s dreams of a white wedding when I decided there were undeniable symbolic similarities between the modern white wedding in the West and virgin sacrifices of yester-years. Not to mention I’m not a spot-light kind of girl, and I didn’t relish the thought of spending beaucoups of money on a party that would last a couple hours when that money could go towards a down payment on a house.

But then a friend and fellow bride-to-be gave me an awesome gift: The Green Bride Guide by Kate L. Harrison.  Swooning starts here.

One of my former hang-ups with planning a big wedding was that I couldn’t see how I could be a good steward of my money and the Earth’s resources and still throw  a whoppin’ good party. Take the meal, for instance. My fiancé and I are vegetarians. Would we force our guests, mostly good ole’ country folk and meat-and-potato-lovin’ brits to eat quinoa salad and barley loaf? Or would we give in to our guests’ culinary tastes and decide our wedding was worth the price of four pigs’ lives and a pretty penny to boot?

Not only did Harrion’s bride guide give me a lot to think about in the food arena, but she helped me realize that planning a green wedding can be fun, challenging and, best of all, it can be an excuse to get crafty. And by the way, we ultimately decided not to have meat. Hurray, the pigs can live!

So this week’s wedding craft was to come up with an idea for a cute, preferably edible, favor for our 200+ guests. And after much deliberation, i.e., surfing of the blogosphere, I think we have a winner. Of course, in hindsight, it was so obvious. What better favor for an outdoor mountain wedding than personal S’mores goody bags! We’re even having the wedding at camp — so why didn’t I think of this? Of course, we did… we were already planning to have a bonfire with marshmallow roasting in the evening, but the thought hadn’t even crossed our minds to combine the two and make them into wedding favors.

In any case, I’m loving this idea featured on Once Wed with the super cute tag  designed by Miss Pickles.

Not to steal this bride’s style, I’m thinking of making our baggies out of burlap with maybe the Hershey’s logo stenciled onto the front. And I might just have to convoy this Miss Pickles for a similar darling tag.

Also, what do we think about incorporating straightened-out coat hangers, i.e. marshmallow skewers, into the table flower arrangements? I’m picturing them bursting out of the zinnias and hydrangeas like those curlicue, gold sparkley twigs you stick into the Christmas tree… Anyone else? Just me? Okay, so maybe not.

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"The purpose of art is not a rarified, intellectual distillate -- it is life, intensified, brilliant life." ~ Alain Arias-Misson

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