Monday, 29 December 2014

Vienna just before Christmas 2014: a city break.

 Arriving late Friday in Vienna at a hotel on the Danube we had some apfelstrudel to celebrate and it was truly delicious.
 We had a view across the famous Danube, now dark and black, to the high rises of the Financial District.
In the morning we awoke to bright sunshine and the Danube, sehr shon was very BLAU!
The beautiful blue Danube, very fast flowing actually and busy with shipping traffic too.
Much bigger than imagined also.
First up we needed to get to the HOFREITSCHULE in the centre of the City for Miss Y and I were highly privileged to go see the Lippizaners perform their ballet!

 A few photos before the performance was all that was allowed.  It's an amazing manege, very Royal.

We came out again about 90 minutes later allowing for some shopping by Miss Y in the Hofreitschule shop for memorabilia and a white horse as tree decoration!
 JJ and Miss E were waiting outside tired and a bit fed up with the two Christmas markets they'd seen, one of which was proclaimed a tad smelly....

 Lots of horse drawn carriages of course, so suited to this setting?

And having passed the Radhaus and browsed round it's Christmas market we went to have lunch in the Landmann Cafe: glad to sit down out of the icy blasting wind we ordered.
 JJ is pointing at the ''vegetarian option'' which has just arrived for Miss E...
 An egg floating on a sea of spinach puree with a dome of mashed potato with fried onions.
 And our pancakes came thick and chunky with delicious apple puree and even better: a plum compote.
 JJ went traditional with the Austrian sausage ( bratwurst), gravy and sauerkraut option.
 Afterwards Miss Y chose to visit the Stadtpark to which we took the Metro: choosing to ride both U2 and U3 in turn and exiting at Stubentof...
There was lots and lots of mistletoe growing in these trees but very little snogging alas.
 Various sculptures including Mozart of course.
 And Mozart Kugeln in the shops: famous Salzburg chocolates!
 And many composers honoured in the Hollywood way with stars on the pavements.....
 It was getting late and we were tired of all the wandering and walking , so on the way home we spotted this candle decoration...
 Back at the Hilton on the Danube the waterfront was dark and the Danube black after we'd had a nap.

 Too tired to move and travel back yet again, we stayed for cocktails by the open fires and had a meal in the hotel restaurant.
 Goodnight Vienna, that was a lovely first day.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

2 Books with a bicycle on the cover: Mum's Book-club.

As you may remember - or not as maybe- my mother passed away this March 2014 and as a result I was left clearing through all her belongings which included a large number of books.
Now as she suffered from dementia for the last 7 or more years of her life there had been very little real communication for many years, we could discuss or let her talk at length about the 1940's and 1950-1960's but anything more recent had gone.
This period was intriguing but it was a pure listening role as it was before I was born! I could question and encourage but not contribute anything.
I realised that going through her books that if I read them there would again be that connection we used to have ? As I would be reading what she had read and be influenced- albeit differently I expect- by the book.Even with differing influences we'd be connected somehow.
So I have started to do so. There used to be a time when she'd tell me all about her latest book and as a teenager she steered me towards Georgette Heyer whose romances still have a dear place in my heart for frivolous and fun historic escapism. She recommended Nevil Shute's : A town like Alice which had me in floods of tears and I both read and watched the tv series '' The Thornbirds''.

Here follow two books I would never have chosen myself and which both had a bicycle on the cover:

This book by Anne Mustoe was simply amazing and a very good read indeed! Also very inspiring and interesting: a retired unfit headteacher in her 50's decides to cycle around the WORLD yes, almost 12,000 miles and mostly all on her own! She tells the tale well, has in depth classical history knowledge which she imparts as well as the scenery, weather and the people she meets.
I absolutely loved it and was sorry when it came to an end although the promised kidnapping mentioned on the back cover never actually happens. Not that I wanted it to but I was curious how a lady on her own escaped or resolved a kidnapping issue...

And this is where I think you can still buy the book:

Anne has written further travelogues and I look forward to obtaining them from a library to read also.
She was still cycling in her 70's when she died of an illness in Syria in 2009 I think.

The second book was also a very good read and quite spiritual in parts although the cycling element is much less than the cover would suggest?! I enjoyed reading this at bedtime and on trains and thought of Esme as a friend but was dissappointed at the way it ends, it's very abrupt like falling off a cliff without warning. It feels unresolved as I was not clear as to how she lived after a certain event takes place. There's a very slow start then an ambling along sort of middle section that takes up most of the book and then there's the cliff edge. But it has lovely sections that I look forward to re-reading and some in depth discussions of religion and bible readings.
It's about a Methodist mminister and written by one too, hence the in depth knowledge of the lifestyle, My mum was brought up Baptist but her mum was Methodist , my mum raised us all as C of E ( Anglican) but I raised my girls Roman Catholic in parts through their attending an RC primary school.

This is the book and again I would recommend it, it did make me feel closer both to Esme and Ember and my mum.

This is where I found it at Amazon in case you would like to read it too?

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Crocheting Shrugs: a pattern and learning from a mistake

Hello I was distracted and poorly with a cold when I started this so the order is not good. 
For the free pattern/guide for a flower lattice shrug in viscose- please scroll down to the purple shrug?
For amusing reading and honest admission that things can go wrong - in haste- and then need to be frogged and learned from? That's right here at the start?
I do think we should own up that we all make mistakes and in fact we can learn A LOT from making mistakes. 
So here it goes: it all started with a series of dances and Balls that are coming up and I needed something  ( new) to wear...

In York many weeks ago now I happened to see a dress I really liked in the window, in a shop called DIVA, anyway the shop had lots of varieties of this dress, I liked this blue version but it had a tear and was too small a size, so I kept looking. In some the strips are plain and the fabric patterned and in others the strips are patterned and the fabric plain black net....
I tried on a nice beige roses floral one too but it did nothing for me, so Greys and grey blue roses it was.
It fits very nicely and then flares amazingly when you twirl so perfect for dancing.
Bit concerned about the polyester composition and lining as it could get very very hot!
So I was thinking I may in time replace the lining with something cooler like a black viscose satin lining... And being sleeveless and me not liking my upper arms I was thinking: SHRUG needed!

SHRUG number ONE: where lessons can be learned as mistakes were made:
I learned the lover's knot on-line as per a video demo.
Tried it out and practiced with some spare cotton

Bought lovely shiny viscose in a blue-grey:
And started making a rectangle!
 Here is is joined into a tube for the sleeves and left open in the middle:
 It was quite tricky to keep it even and it stretches lots so measurements are anyone's guess.
I used a 4.5mm hook with the Drops viscose : colour DENIM,

  I searched through these books to find an edging I liked to finish it elegantly?
I went with a slightly amended Clover edging by Robyn Chachula.
( book bottom right)
Before the edging the shrug in lover's knot has taken up only ONE ball.
I wanted a heavy dense but feminine edge and these dangly clovers are lovely!
So I will keep and repeat this trim, it was so nice!

 Back panel looking good and loving the edging around the bodice part...
 Love the neck edging and how it hugs my neck ?
 Sleeve edging too wide and hangs all wrong for starters.
And not exactly flattering to the upper arm is it? Which was the point of making the shrug anyway.

 oh ooh, I'm not at all sure I like this now....
 Definitely a problem with that sleeve!
Analysis time! It needs frogging and re-working but how and with what stitches?! What went wrong exactly? More to follow but yes this one is being FROGGED!
I have learned this:
1. Make those loops a lot smaller!
2. Will use that trim again.
3. Not sure this denim colour is good with the dress.
4. May want a different more filet style lacy shrug with beads for this dress?

LOOPS far too big! 4-6cm across is not appropriate for this sleeve pattern and design.
And now the GOOD news:

Here's the story of it's design and development:

It all started with learning the '' flower lattice stitch'' from a YouTube video as I had tied this stitch way back in 2005 when I first came back to crochet and I could not follow the pattern although it was with a diagram and in different colours row by row, this was before I was on the internet, before Crochetville and long before I joined Ravelry... I struggled and put it away as a disaster. But never gave up and did not forget! So when I saw some atterns on Ravelry using this stitch I went searching for a way to learn it: using trusty Google this time and it found a number of helpful videos online.

I put ''CROCHET FLOWER LATTICE STITCH'' into Google search and it found me this:

And in a spare bit of tan coloured DK cotton I had a go- see sample above?

It is an excellent video tutorial and there are two key things to note with it;
1. It's in USA crochet terms so all the single crochets she mentions are really UK double crochets etc.
so use a USA to UK terms conversion chart as you watch and listen if you need to.
2. The main unusual feature but key to this stitch pattern is THAT YOU DO NOT TURN your work.
You work from left to right and then from right to left with the same side facing you.

I then started a wee shrug in a purple viscose yarn : DROPS cotton viscose available from wool warehouse: here:

It comes in 28 colours and had a sublime sheen, it's relatively easy to work with but can be splitty if you are a beginner it may be best avoided until you are confident in handling splitty yarns.
It's soft and for me- with many allergies- very comfortable to wear.
I used a 4 mm hook but if you work tight use a 4.5 mm and if you are a loose worker and want a firm fabric : use a 3.5mm.

I kind of ''winged it'' but here are the details of my shrug: it's a simple rectangle which was seamed partially on two of the long sides to make a shrug with a central opening and ''sleeves''.
I chose dark purple which is colour # 25.
This is a close-up view of the stitch pattern.

Here are all the details:

1. the stitch pattern is as per the video above.
2.The yarn is cotton viscose by Drops in colour 25 deep purple, I used a 4mm hook.
3. I used 142 grammes so just under 3 balls but Woolwarehouse have an excellent service, not only do you receive the yarn quickly and in a nice organza bag, you can send unused balls back for a credit note against future yarn purchases! So you can safely over-order and feel sure you can send surplus back if you so wish.  Like the old fashioned wool-shops on the village high streets used to do in the 1960's/70's
4.My finished size is approximately thus: but bear in mind it's quite a stretchy fabric?
And I'm 5' 2'', with a broad back and the length when worn for the sleeves is just a tad longer than 3/4...
Length  130 cm including the hem trims
Width: sleeve circumference: 44 cm
Length from neck edge to mid-back on the back is about 38 cm.
5. Start with  16 flowers in a row lengthwise and follow the pattern for 11 rows.
6. To close the sleeves I crocheted them together with a shorter row of flowers : 4.5 flowers from each end but you can sew them together too.
7. I added a row of chains to the ''open flowers'' which form the open circle that sits around the body: 
I crocheted roughly 6 chains and popped a dc into the top of the centre of the outward petal before chaining 6 to the next flower. I did this for the neck edge but stopped at the sleeve join so the hem edge is left open. This was mainly so I can tell which way to wear it?!
8. I added a trim to each of the sleeve hems as follows:
Staring at the join, attaching yarn to the outward facing 4th petal of a flower- the petal without any joins- : chain 6 stitches, work a dc into the chained space, the chain link between this flower and the next, ch 6 and work a dc into the top treble of the free petal facing uppermost on the next flower, continue all the way around. You now have 6ch loops all the way around, ss into the starting stitch.
Now work a chain mesh of similar loops: 
row 2: ch 6 and dc into the next 6 ch loop ( into the space not a stitch) and continue this all the way around.
row 3: repeat row 2. Repeat row 2 as much as you like,  I had 4 rows of these loops.
Final row: work 6-8 dc tightly over each 6 ch loop to give a scallop edge that is a little more defined. You can use a smaller hook for this if you need to.
SEW IN ENDS AND VOILA! Ready to wear!  I will admit here and now that I did not block this as it was viscose and the lace was well defined without blocking.
These are photos to show how it looks, I do not wear it like this!  The high definition contrast with the turquoise vest is just to show the shrug?

I DID however wear it to a Ball in my new - also home-made- silk and satin ball-gown.
It was perfect with the gown, very comfortable throughout a long night of Scottish dancing and the shrug in particular received many compliments....!
And I hope you will now feel that YOU can make one too?!
Will you let me know if you do?
Or share the project with me and others on Ravelry?

Good luck and HAPPY HOOKING!

P.S at this festive time of year it's also a quick gift and can be made in  just under a day and due to it's construction can fit almost anyone?!