Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Granny Meets Hippy

You would totally be forgiven for not knowing, although the clue is on my Facebook cover photo, but a hobby of mine is juggling.

My juggling balls in their original state!

I learned to juggle via a mixture of practicing by myself after seeing an item on a kids TV show about how to juggle – many moons ago, well before the internet existed to make this kind of thing easier – and later on by practicing with other people at a circus skills club I was part of as a teenager. I also sometimes randomly chat to people who are juggling in public, to see if we can swap tricks.

I’ve had my current juggling balls for quite a few years, over a decade actually now that I think about it, as I bought them when I was a student and had gone to London with a mate. I got them from a shop in Camden, really near the famous Camden markets. Wow, can’t believe I’ve had them so long!!

They are really good professional quality jugging balls, a great size and weight to work with. They have a stretchy nylon outer which means that they don’t roll off very far when you drop them, and this is coated in colourful vinyl to give a shiny colourful finish. At least, they were…

I was recently pretty upset to discover that the vinyl, which had been starting to crack ever since my juggling balls had been shipped over to Australia, was now really thoroughly cracked and was peeling off a lot in places. This was not only making them pretty messy, as coloured vinyl flakes would be left everywhere, but it also meant that the nylon fabric was over-stretching and at risk of breaking altogether.

A sorry state :(

I couldn’t find a local shop that sold juggling supplies so I couldn’t replace them, but luckily for me a friend pointed out that I could crochet new covers for my balls to keep them in shape!

I thought this was a great idea; I had seen amigurumi-style juggling balls before, but I immediately knew that I wanted to make mine in a granny style, joining two pieces in a similar way to the owls I made from Bunny Mummy’s pattern.

The worst part of this job was that I first had to scrape off all the vinyl that was still on the balls – there was plenty of it, and it seemed to go everywhere and stick to everything! Finally though I was left with the bare nylon, so that my crochet-covered balls wouldn’t continue to spread mess everywhere when I used them.

Next I dug out some icky acrylic yarn from my stash, the sort of yarn that you wouldn’t want made into a blanket of anything as it’s too plasticky and stiff in texture. (I’ve also been using this yarn for my amigurumi projects, as the stiffness helps the amis keep their shape) Then I began hooking granny circles, using trial and error to get each round too small to sit in a flat circle, so that it would curl up a bit into bowl shape. I tried the crochet against the juggling balls at each round to make sure that the finished cover would fit correctly.

I chose the colours randomly, and once again I was fascinated by how the colours seem to change as you add more rows. I made both sides for each ball the same, so once one was complete I immediately started on its twin. (Please excuse the rubbish photos, there wasn’t much daylight left when I was working on these, and I didn’t want to leave my project for days until I had daylight to take the progress shots!)

I wasn’t too careful with the ends, as these would all be hidden once it was complete. Instead of my usual technique, for these juggling ball covers I joined the ends by tying a good, tight, reef knot when each row was completed. 

Messy on the inside

Once both sides were complete, they fitted around my juggling balls with just a little bit of a gap between the two halves. This was deliberate, so that when they were sewn together they would fit nice and tightly – I didn’t want baggy balls!

To sew the halves together, I lined up the two halves correctly and used double crochet stitches (UK terminology) hooking into alternate stitches, into one half then the other. That doesn’t sound really clear! I essentially mean that I hooked one row of double crochet, with alternate stitches for this row going into alternate halves. I still don’t think this makes sense!! Ah well, here’s a picture, and maybe I’ll cover something else at some point and take more photos to explain it ;)

I made each ball different colours, and I was pretty pleased with them when they were finished. The thickness of the yarn (I used DK) meant that the finished balls were a little larger than the original ones, enough of a difference that it took me a while to get used to using them, but I figured that I can always re-cover them in the future using 4-ply of something, when the mood takes me :)

So here they are, crazy hippy granny juggling balls!

Monday, 21 December 2015

A Great Way To Spend A Day

I had a pretty dreamy day yesterday. I didn’t take any photos, I've been getting a bit slack with photos lately, but luckily I can share a couple of photos taken by other people.

It’s really warm and sunny here in the tropics, in Townsville, north Queensland. I was going to add ‘at the moment’, but it’s pretty much always warm and sunny here… It’s pretty great, although we are in drought at the moment after the driest weather on record and we have water usage restrictions. We also might have a cyclone very soon, so admittedly it’s not entirely great. (If the cyclone does develop, it will be called Stan. Stan the cyclone doesn’t sound very scary!)

Still, it is pretty great here, and getting to spend a day doing something a little different with some lovely people makes it all the better :)

The day began early to beat the worst of the heat, and we met up near the rockpool swimming pool on the Strand. We all met on our bikes, mainly vintage models, and we began with a gentle ride around the paths of Townsville, leading the home of one of our group for refreshments of chilled juice and slices of watermelon, followed by a coffee stop.

That's me, the second rider :)

After chilling and chatting awhile, enjoying the company and the coffee and the fact of being out and about, we finished up the social ride and went our separate ways. Many of us went the same way though, into the nearby street markets selling various handmade items, fresh fruits, plants, and foody bits. Bumping into another of my friends, we stopped for a catch up only to gradually meet back up with various other friends from the ride earlier – a perfect time to go for some more coffee!

A bit later that afternoon I returned to the Strand to go for a swim in the sea. At this time of year, the swimming here has to be done within stinger nets, to minimize the risk of getting stung by the dangerous local jellyfish. Following my swim by reading my book on the beach for a while, I then walked around to the rockpool swimming pool (a free, outdoor, sea water swimming pool) where I bumped into a friend from earlier again. We went for a swim together in the rockpool, where we decided we would get a fish and chip supper. We carried our paper parcel back down to the Strand, where we sat on the grass listening to noise of the ocean as we ate. We followed up with yet another coffee and some easy conversation, before it was time to head off home.

What a great day :)

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Diamonds Are A Baby Girl's Best Friend

Well, that’s the house move all over with… I think there will be a stage 2 to come soon – more about later perhaps – but for now, I am installed in a new place in Townsville, north Queensland, and packing up and moving is no longer taking up my days! Hooray!!

Rather than another catching-up post though, I have some exciting new news to share!!!! I have just become an Auntie for the first time!!!!!!  I really am tremendously excited about it, and can be caught during spare moments gazing at pictures of my new niece while sporting a big dopey grin. She really is so beautiful, and it feels quite strange to have all this love for a tiny little bundle that I’ve never even met. Although that said, before she was born I knew I had all this love inside me just waiting for her when she arrived, so I guess that was a slightly stranger feeling :)  (I haven’t met her yet because sadly for me, I am in Australia while she is in Wales. I am saving up for my ticket home though!)

Now you may be wondering why I hadn’t already been posting about making some crochet goodness for this little mite, and I have a good reason for that: she was pretty early! She wasn’t expected until January, so I thought I had time to move first and crochet later. How wrong I was… So now I am playing hooky catch-up to get a blanket off to this brand new little lady.

My niece’s mum and dad were the recipients of the glorious Mumbles Ripple, made at their request in sea colours. Sea colours was again the request when it came to the baby blanket, and from the various pattern options I showed them, they liked the look of filet crochet with geometric patterns. I had never done filet crochet before, but I understood the principle so this was all good, however yarn was a sticking point. With no decent yarn shops anywhere nearby, how on earth could I quickly get some yarn worthy of a new baby? Especially at Christmas time when the mail is busiest?? Luckily my stash came to the rescue!

While packing, I came across this yarn that I had bought some time ago and put away ready for a time when I could knit and could use it to make a cardigan for myself. I also love the blue/green ocean colours favoured by my brother and his wife, and had managed to pick up these packs of yarn in the sale. 

I had chosen this yarn because it was so deliciously soft with its blend of wool, acrylic and silk, and had chosen this colour as it is such a gorgeous rich blue. It also has this slight shading in the colour, which makes it a bit more interesting.

I also picked out a ball of cream James C Brett merino yarn, which is really wonderfully soft and gorgeous to the touch. I thought it could make a very simple (as I only had 1 ball of the cream) border for the blanket. I think it will look good together:

With the yarn sorted, I needed to figure out the exact pattern.  It was kind of agonising to have to wait until certain amounts of packing necessity had been completed before I could get to work on this. Finally the time came and I could draw out my ideas. I thought I would need a test though before using up my gorgeous yarn, so the next time we went to new local Kmart for some basic essentials, I picked up a ball of their super cheapy crappy yarn just to pattern test. Kmart also has a baby clothes section, so how could I resist that?

It’s summer here in the southern hemisphere right now, so it wasn’t easy to find clothes that would be too useful back home for the winter. I did however pick up this cute little set of sun smart swimming gear, in a size I hope she will need when it’s finally summer in Wales again:

And this totally cute t-shirt – it was the bicycle that sold it to me:

Of course, no self-respecting new auntie could stop there, so I also got some cute leggings with frilly bits on the bum, an owl-themed sleep set, an owl patterned onesie, funky bibs… 

I was most disappointed not to find any clothes with patterns of Australian animals, but that is my mission for the weekend!

Back to the blanket plans, and over the course of a couple of evenings (that’s how little spare time I had) I managed to whip up testers for filet zigzags and filet triangles. I liked both, so I asked for help choosing which design to start with. My husband pointed to the triangles and said I should do the diamond one as they are a girl’s best friend, and I loved that idea, so I changed the pattern from triangles to diamonds. (I still really like the possibilities with triangles though, perhaps a bit more than the diamonds, so she may end up with yet another blanket!)

And here is the progress so far – diamonds are a baby girl’s best friend :)

Sorry for the lack of useful details - I will do a less rushed, more helpful post later. But right now, I have a whole lot of hooky to get on with!!

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Week Ahead...

I’m just popping by briefly to warn you that I have a busy week ahead with house moving hassle. I detest packing up and moving, and this will be the 6th time in 6 years that I’ve had to move. I HATE IT!!!!!

As I’ll be so busy with that, then I probably won’t have much time to pop by here and post anything, but I’m not planning to have such a long absence as last time! In fact, I have several things that I’m looking forward to sharing:

I’m making good progress on the Cotton Hexagons, I have now finished all of the whole hexagons, and am working on the half hexies to straighten out the sides (I know some people like the wobbly sides, but I definitely fall into the category of people who like the sides all straightened out :) )  I will need two different types of half hexagon, one that is cut in half from a side to a side, for the ends of the blanket, and another that is cut in half from point to point for the sides of the blanket. (Please excuse the poor photos - I had to grab my chance to take them when I could, but it was dark by then and our lighting is terrible for photographs)

A game hexagon of 2 halves...

I’m doing the sides first; one side done, one more to go:

I'm not keen on having all those pesky ends still to sew in. I'm normally good at doing them as I go along, but I have foolishly packed away my yarn needles somewhere, so I can't sort them out just yet. Grrr!! Thinking positively though, and I love how the hexies looked when I bunched them up to get those pictures of the halves:

Filling in the half hexie gaps is really making it look good, and I can't wait to see it finished. Unfortunately, it has become clear that I don’t have enough yarn to start, let alone finish, the border though. What a pain!! I don’t know what approach to take to fix this, whether to hibernate the project until I can order more Patons yarn, or just to buy some 100% cotton yarn locally – and hopefully more cheaply! Of course this wouldn’t match completely, but if it was just for the border then that might not matter too much – if I’m lucky it might even look deliberate…

There's still more to share too:
I have plenty of stuff to share about my month off when my friend came to visit – it was such a great month!! We went to a few different places, and did a road trip and went camping lots...

I've been spotting plenty of iconic Aussie wildlife, and have a few photos to share with you all - I'm pretty proud of some of my spotting!

I also want to tell you about the sailing race week, mountain biking and kayaking I’ve been doing over the last few months. I’ve been pretty active and thoroughly enjoying it.

So there we go, lots still come, as long as I can get though house moving with my mind intact, and then stay organised enough! Catch you soon :)