Christmas competition!

Well hello there, how are you all? So Christmas is on it’s way and I have a little competition for you! If you’d like to win a personalised hand-knitted snowflake Christmas stocking such as the ones I have listed here, then here’s what you have to do:

1) Head over to The Purly Queen facebook page here and like the page

2) Then wander over to my shop here, have a browse through the listings and favourite at least one item (other than the Christmas stockings)

3) Leave a comment here on the blog or on the facebook page, telling me which item you liked most and who you think it would make a perfect Christmas present for.

Once that’s all done, I will enter your name in the prize draw and the winner will be picked on Saturday 6th December (that’s Small Business Saturday in the UK) so the stocking will be made in time for Santa to fill it with lots of goodies!

Looking forward to seeing which knits you like best!

Cheryl x

P.S. If by any chance you haven’t shopped on Etsy before, here’s a code for £5 off your first purchase http://etsy.me/1yuRXe3 , valid in mine or any of the Etsy shops. Happy shopping!

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Works in progress…and a challenge for February

So the dark, grey and damp weather continues apace and I am CRAVING colour and light. I’ve been working on a few colourful knits and thought I’d share their progress in case you were in need of a colour boost as well!

First up is the Failynn Fox Cowl that I’m making up for a lovely friend’s daughter and which I’ll then be offering in the shop. It’s a lovely warm foxy colour and I’m working it up in a lovely soft yarn. I’ve nearly finished the main body of the cowl and then need to make the ears and finish off the edges. What I didn’t spot in the pattern at the beginning is that the edgings need to be crocheted, so I need to get on with some more crochet practice before I can finish it! (More on this in a later post!)

Failynn Fox cowl in progress...also comes in adult sizes!

Failynn Fox cowl in progress…also comes in adult sizes!

 

Next up is something I’ve been working on for a while for the shop which I’m hoping you will all love. I won’t tell you what it is just yet but will give you a sneaky peek. Any guesses what it is?

A very hungry work in progress...

A very hungry work in progress…

And finally something that happened completely by accident…something for me! I was looking for some chunky red yarn in my stash for the rest of the previous knit and I came across two balls of yarn that I had bought before Christmas intending to turn it into a cowl for the shop. I ran out of time last year to do anything with it but something about the gorgeous bright colours of this yarn made my heart sing and before I knew it, I was casting on a cowl for me. I honestly can’t remember the last time I made something for myself. What with making gifts and knits for the shop, and the small matter of the PhD to finish, there hasn’t been time to cast on anything for me. (Not that that has stopped me thinking about it, I have a list of knitted wants as long as my arm!). And what’s worrying is that when I was looking at this yarn that clearly had my name all over it with all its gorgeous bright shades,  I started to feel guilty about even thinking of setting aside some time to make myself something. And that my friends, is just wrong!

So I looked at this lovely yarn, which reminds me of beautiful Bollywood colours…

Pretty!

Pretty!

…I cast on…

Exciting!

Exciting!

…and I’ve been grabbing ten minutes here and there where I can and knitting a couple of rounds of this…

For me...ME! :)

For me…ME! 🙂

The photos don’t really don’t do it justice, because it’s so dark you can’t really see how the colours blend really subtly into one another and as well as bright pink, orange and teal, there’s also some lovely soft green, purple and grey shades. I’m so pleased with it already and can’t wait for it to be finished so I can snuggle up in it. It definitely gave me pause for thought as well, I think there’s so many of us who are great at doing all the things we should and things for other people but something stops us doing nice things for ourselves.  I’ve been reading so much about self-care recently and as a society we are reeeeeaallly bad at it and yet it’s so important for our health, happiness and general well-being.

So dear readers, in this month where there’s lots of talk of love, I challenge you to do something nice just for you! 🙂 It doesn’t have to cost money, you don’t even have to make something for yourself if that’s not your forte but it could be something as simple as a lovely hot bath, a walk to clear your head or just carving out ten minutes for yourself every day…just for you. I’d love to hear if this resonates with you and what you’re planning to do for yourself this month….feel the love, people! xxx

The PhD blanket or Making it easier on yourself

As part of Operation Hygge, I decided that I wanted to make a blanket to cheer up our bedroom. Sticking to the make do and mend philosophy, I looked at the patterns I already have and went for a little dive in the yarn stash to see what I could make from the yarn I already had. And so I settled on this:

Debbie Abrahams Mosaic Blanket - source: Ravelry

Debbie Abrahams Mosaic Blanket – source: Ravelry

A gorgeous geometric bed-sized blanket and once I’d jigged around the colours a bit, I already had pretty much all the yarn I needed to complete it. So I duly started at the beginning of the year, trying to knit a square a day and have started to amass a little pile of squares.

Lots of knitted squares

Lots of knitted squares

As I was making them, the enormity of the task started to dawn on me. There are 117 squares in the blanket, not including all the stitching together, blocking, knitting the edging and the weaving in of thousands of tiny ends. Plus, as I’m using yarn that I already have rather than the lovely Rowan yarn that the pattern suggests, some of it is misbehaving and making things even harder. That bright petrol blue yarn you can just see the ends of in the pic above is a gorgeous colour but is cheap, nasty yarn that keeps splitting and getting tangled. There’s two different brands of bamboo yarn in there, both of which are lovely and soft but one is loads stretchier than the other so the squares are coming out different sizes. And I started to realise that this blanket project was in fact a metaphor for this final stage of my PhD: loads of things that need to be done and joined together to make one big thesis and many of those things are really bloody hard and make me want to cry and I am not working with perfect materials and it is going to take bloody ages.

And then I thought that the blanket was also like the PhD in that although it will be a real endurance task, it is all about doing one square/task at a time and at the end I will have a PhD/a cool blanket for my bed. And that was going to be the end of my post, feeling quite pleased with myself and my metaphor blanket.

Then the other day after a particularly stressful day, filled with lots of life conundrums I was chatting to a lovely friend who gave me the very wise advice of making things easy for myself and a little lightbulb went off in my head. Why am I knitting lots of little squares when I could just be knitting them in long strips? It’s still lots of work but it cuts out a lot of the annoying work and makes the knitting process much more pleasurable and so the weird knitted snake of squares came to life:

Finding the ease...

Finding the ease…

I’ve been hearing lots of people talking to me about moving with ease recently. Tara Stiles and Michael Taylor at Strala for one. I am pretty stubborn so I think it takes me hearing something several times and someone being blunt with me for it to sink in but when it does…yes, this year is going to be about finding the ease in everything, getting things done and looking forward to the way ahead. Now I just need to work out what the equivalent of knitting in one long strip is in PhD terms…wish me luck!

Knitting and yoga

Did anyone see this article in the Guardian today?

It talks about the way both knitting and yoga can benefit people by releasing tension, helping to calm the brain and generally having a meditative effect. I was really excited to see Tara Stiles in the article as I was lucky enough to take a class with her at Strala yoga when I was in New York last year and I loved it! From what I have read, some people in the yoga world have found her a bit controversial as she doesn’t use the traditional sanskrit names for poses etc but I think she’s actually doing a great job of making yoga accessible to everyone and highlighting that it should be fun and non-competitive, not about who’s the most bendy or has the most perfect body. I treated myself to her DVDs as a reward for passing my PhD review recently and hopefully when I have some spare pennies, I’ll be treating myself to one of these tanks:

Says it all!

Says it all!

I love both knitting and yoga and find that both definitely help with the stresses of PhD life. Having said that there are definitely times when knitting has the opposite effect and the secret knitting is proving to be one of those times. It’s a lace pattern which for non-knitters means doing lots of complicated stitches on very fine wool meaning that you can’t do anything else but concentrate completely on your needles, it takes aaaaages and mistakes are very easy to make! Still, hopefully it will all be worth it and turn out nicely in the end.

A sneaky peek...

A sneaky peek…

It looks just like a mess at the moment but I’m hoping that once it’s all knitted the magic of blocking will turn it into something beautiful. Blocking is basically wetting the lace and then pinning it out so that the lace pattern can stretch out a bit and you can see whether or not it’s what you thought you were knitting! It’s all a bit nerve wracking as the date it needs to be finished by is coming up very soon and I am nowhere near finished, argh! Now where did I put that yoga DVD? 🙂

Warning: Contains serious cuteness!

Hope you all had a great weekend! I thought we all might need a little lift as we head back to work after the bank holiday and so here are some pics of some seriously cutie babies modelling their PQ knits to bring a smile to your faces. One of my favourite things is seeing knits on the people they were made for, so getting pics this week of not one but two happy bubbas has been amazing!

First up is cutie baby Clara, who is actually a cousin of Mr Purly Queen:

Pretty in pink!

Pretty in pink!

And another one, which I thought I’d posted before but hadn’t. That blanket was a real labour of love but I think it came out pretty well and so glad that Clara seems to be enjoying it!

Snug as a bug!

Snug as a bug!

Next up we have baby Sophie, gorgeous daughter of my friends Clare and Nick. Clare and I went on holiday to Chicago a few years ago (Actually 9 years ago, 9!! Where did that go?!) and had an amazing time, including a visit to the legendary Burritos as Big as your Head 🙂 It really is called that! Fingers crossed I can pay a return visit this year when I go to the APSA conference.

Anyway, here is Sophie modelling her Purly Queen cardie…

Smiley Sophie!

Smiley Sophie!

And one of her eating it: Purly Queen knits are clearly very tasty!

Nom nom!

Nom nom!

Anyone else got pics of PQ knits they’d like to share?x

Catching up

Goodness, was March really the last time I posted here? Poor neglected little blog and shop! Over the last few months, its been a particularly intense and stressful period of my PhD meaning that I’ve had little time to do anything other than slog away at it. It’s meant that there hasn’t been an awful lot of knitting time and it has also meant that the poor old pooch has considered herself very neglected indeed and I have been on the receiving end of a lot of looks like this:

Poor Pepper dog!

Poor Pepper dog!

I’m relieved that this particular PhD hurdle has been jumped – not that it’s going to get any easier from now on, in fact as I’m entering the last bit of it, it’s likely to be just as intense but I’m telling myself it will all be fine. (If I think about it properly there’s quite a high chance I will lock myself in my wool room and never come out again!) Some good news though, I got through my end of year review and have also had a paper accepted to the American Political Science Association which this year is being held in Chicago…whooop! Chicago is one of my favourite places in the whole world and I have some lovely friends living there who I haven’t seen for many years so I am mega excited to have the opportunity to go back. Now I just need to actually get the paper written as well as all the other PhD stuff….*la la la, creeps towards wool room*

Actual knitting has been a bit thin on the ground but I have lots of new ideas for the shop and I’m looking into the idea of having my own webshop. More on that when I’ve had a chance to do a bit more research and thinking on it! I did make time to make a little flopsy bunny hat for my friends Caroline and Gary who had a lovely baby girl called Heidi a couple of weeks ago. This picture is rubbish but hopefully I will be able to get you a better pic of Heidi modelling it at some point.

Flopsy bunny hat: perfect for spring babies!

Flopsy bunny hat: perfect for spring babies!

I’ve also started work on some secret knitting 🙂 I can’t say too much more as there’s a small chance that the person who’s birthday present it is reads this blog so all I will say is that it’s quite a challenging knit and it’s made using this beautiful skein of Scrumptious lace weight from Fyberspates. The yarn is a gorgeous silk and merino blend, which gives it that lovely sheen and it is great to work with, although being laceweight it is very thin and delicate so the prezzie is taking quite a long time! I’m really hoping it will be lovely when it’s finished, I’ll try to remember to take some pics before I hand it over.

It’s a bank holiday here in the UK so I am looking forward to three glorious days off. Let’s hope the weather is kind to us! Hope you all have a lovely weekend wherever you are, Cx

The language of flowers

Brrr, cold isn’t it? I’ve been staying inside a lot recently partly because of the annoying cold that WILL NOT GO and partly because it’s been bitterly chilly and I feel the cold like a granny. I’ve been trying to put some time aside to read more for fun as it is easily my favourite thing in the world to do (well, apart from knitting obviously!). Even when I was very small I was quite obsessed with books and reading anything that I came across. My Dad loves to tell the story of when I was about 6 and must have been visiting my stepmum’s parents for the first time and they found me at the kitchen table reading the newspaper. They thought I couldn’t actually read it so were humouring me until I launched into a conversation about what I was reading (aah, so that’s where my ranting about current affairs and setting the world to rights started!!). I suspect this must have either been very cute or quite tedious, let’s hope it fell on the cute side!

My lovely friend Lizzy bought me an awesome bag for Christmas with this Louisa May Alcott quote on:

Too true!

Too true!

When I was looking for a picture of it, I came across a lovely shop on Etsy called Bookity, (whose brooch that is a pic of) and she sells gorgeous things like brooches, earrings and decorations recycled from unwanted books. Definitely worth a look!

Because I have to read so much heavy stuff for my PhD, there’s often not a lot of time or brain left over for pleasure reading. But I feel very wrong without at least one book on the go and so have been making the most of my local library’s ordering service to stock up on some books I wanted to get my mitts on but that the pennies wouldn’t stretch to. One of the first books I ordered was called The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

Purple Irises are one of my favourite flowers too :)

Purple Irises are one of my favourite flowers too 🙂

I had seen lots of posters for it a while ago but had assumed it wouldn’t be my sort of thing but it’s actually quite a touching and hard-hitting story of a girl who has grown up in and out of the care system and who tries to make a life for herself using her knowledge of the Victorian language of flowers, whereby people used to believe that particular flowers had certain meanings and so bunches of flowers would be picked very carefully for the messages they were trying to convey. I really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a book to read.

Speaking of flowers, I hope all of you that were hoping for flowers for Valentine’s Day the other week got them and just a little early reminder that if you’re in the UK, Mothers Day is on Sunday 10th March so not long away at all! I’m in the middle of giving the shop a bit of a spring clean but there are some nice handwarmers and hats in there at the moment which would make a perfect Mother’s Day gift and I’ll be adding some more as well as some flower brooches over the next few days.

Work in progress!

Work in progress

 

Keep your eyes peeled for shop updates! x

 

Grey and white

It is freeeeezing here. I am sat with multiple layers of woolies on, a hot water bottle on my lap and a furry spaniel by my side and I’m still chilly. Bah, I think I’ve got yet another cold on the way. Everything outside is a bit gloomy, all grey and white skies. I realise it’s slightly ridiculous to be moaning about the weather when people in the US have snow higher than their front doors but there you go, I am feeling VERY sorry for myself).

But here’s something that’s grey and white and a lot more cheerful. Towards the end of last year, my lovely friend Debbie commissioned me to make a reindeer patterned hat for her to wear on her super-exciting sabbatical this year. Her and her hubby are taking a trip to lots of different places in South-East Asia and while she won’t need anything woolly while they’re in lovely hot places like Thailand and Laos, later on in their trip they’re going to Everest Base Camp where I imagine it will be almost as cold as it is here 😉

We found the perfect pattern (from my ever-growing vintage collection), picked the colours and wool (Debbie Bliss Rialto which is a gorgeous extra-fine merino wool) and after a few weeks of lots of twisty fair-isle knitting, a beautiful bobble hat was born!

Debbie's reindeer hat!

Debbie’s reindeer hat!

Ah, seeing her lovely face has cheered me up a bit! I think some lemon and ginger tea and an early night is in order and hopefully normal cheery service will resume soon.

Remember, if you would like a reindeer hat of your very own or have an idea for something else you’d like made, drop me a line. Stay warm, people x

Knit relief 2012

Some exciting news this week, I finished my contribution to Knit Relief! If you haven’t heard of Knit Relief, pop over to the Teenage Granny’s fab blog here to read all about it. Basically for those of us who want to support Sport relief but are a little bit, ahem, let’s say challenged in the sporting department, this is our chance to raise some money through crafting not running!

There’s going to be a big Ebay auction starting on the 15th March with lots of lovely goodies to bid on, including my very own “Britannia baby” cardigan hand-knitted from a vintage 1960’s pattern…

 

… and specially finished with little Union Jack buttons to celebrate Britain in 2012. Perfect for any summer babies coming along!

As soon as the listings go live on Thursday, I’ll post them here. Please do bid, you’ll be supporting a fantastic cause and might win yourself some Purly Queen loveliness as well!

 

 

 

 

Blue Monday

Today was indeed Blue Monday but not in the ‘most miserable day of the year’ way that the papers churn out every January. Instead, a freezing cold but gorgeously sunny day meant it was like this:

 

And like this…

Blue!

Living in the the North West, the default setting for the sky over the last few weeks seems to have been a stormy charcoal grey or a frosty white, so a lovely bright blue colour today has been a welcome surprise.

It reminded me of a project I saw over at Lupin Handmade’s blog http://bugsandfishes.blogspot.com/2011/12/project-for-2012.html where she’ll be making a sky blanket by knitting a little square in the colour of the sky each day and at the end of the year will have a nice snuggly record of the year. Laura makes amazing brooches and hair accessories in felt in a variety of animals, flowers and birds – definitely worth having a look at if you fancy treating yourself to a little something!

Even though it is a lovely day, its still freezing cold so I have been snuggling up under my chunky blue cable knit blanket that I made last year whilst I’ve been working today. How I love working from home! On the needles is a little white and blue matinee jacket for a friend who’s about to have her first baby…

 

There’s a pile of little knitted hats and bootees waiting for me to sew them up and put buttons on them so I can add them to the shop…

 

And watching over it all is my little blue bird that hangs on the door of my little work space:

This little wooden bird was one of the many lovely little surprises I received when I took part in the Curiosity Project recently http://thecuriositybox.blogspot.com/ If you haven’t come across it before, this is a really fun and surprisingly touching project where you get given a little bit of info about someone else in the project and you send them a box full of little treats that you hope they’ll like and someone else does the same for you. Choosing what you’re going to pick for my Curious Friend’s was really good fun although a bit nerve-wrecking as well as you really hope that they’re going to like what you’ve picked them and of course, you also get the delight of a box full of goodies to unwrap as well! There should be another project of some kind coming soon so keep yours eyes peeled.

I hope your Blue Monday has been as bright and cheery as mine!x