Tuesday, 8 December 2015

We became lanterneers

With Christmas fast approaching, we look for fun family things to do and I was delighted to stumble across the Leamington Lantern Parade last week. Apparently this event to "Light Up Leamington" has been running for a five years, but living in Coventry we had never heard of it.

I checked out the link, expecting a few people wandering around with tea lights in jars, only to find it was a proper Christmas paper lantern parade. Just look at some of the pictures from previous events to see how fabulous it is (linky).

Dave agreed it looked fun, but with the short notice we weren't sure if we'd be going as 'lanterneers' or spectators. Determined to have a go, I gave the parade organisers a call on Thursday to see if they had any lantern kits left, which they did. On Friday, M and I set off to find the organisers office and buy some bits for creating our own fantastic lantern.

A lantern making kit turned out to be a selection of coloured tissue paper (which I supplemented from our craft supplies), wet strength white tissue, some willow withies, masking tape and a torch.

At home, M got straight to work designing her lantern and decided we should make a ballerina. 

Several drawings later and M had her design concept, which I converted into a wicker outline.
M's original design.
My interpretation in wicker.
Saturday M had her usual dance class, and after lunch we got on with the serious business of lantern making.

I say 'we' in the genuine sense as even though technically I'd disappeared upstairs to make a start on Christmas wrapping, I kept popping down and helping. Dave had the task of securing the withies into a suitable frame following our design. Garden wire was used to form a bun on the back of the ballerina's head. I showed M how to apply PVA/water (in a 50:50) solution to the wet strength tissue and Dave wrapped it around the frame.

Once we had two layers of wet strength tissue, it was time to bring the ballerina to life with layers of normal coloured tissue paper.

Anyone who has ever worked with normal tissue, will tell you this stuff is very delicate and prone to disintegrating when wet. I showed Dave and M how to cut the tissue paper into strips, apply glue to one strip at a time before gently adding to the ballerina. Sponge brushes are essential for this task and I think this was the most nerve wracking part of the construction process.

Dave and M worked all afternoon and well into the evening, with my help as needed. The torch was attached to a toilet paper tube in the ballerina's middle and we decided to tape some electric tea lights under her tutu, to give a little extra glow. Dave applied large glitter flakes to the skirt and a bit of ribbon completed the waistband.
The ballerina lantern in my kitchen.
The ballerina was still drying on Sunday morning as we did our best to manoeuvre around her in the kitchen and the glue was barely dry when I put her in the car to drive to Leamington. This is what I call cutting it fine!

And here she is, with M standing beside her for scale.
Just before the parade, a picture showing how big the lantern  is beside M/
We made our way to the meeting point for the Lantern Parade at the band stand in Leamington Spa's Royal Pump Room Gardens, joining over two and a half thousand other participants. Christmas songs played and a festive atmosphere filled the park as we waited for the nod to form up to walk through the town.

Finally we began to move, slowly and in procession, we assumed a position towards the middle of the column as it formed up. At the point we crossed the road to leave the park, I looked back to see lanterns still snaking across the gardens behind us all the way over to the Pump Room. There were a lot of lanterneers.
Our ballerina lantern, lit up and sparkling.
Here is a video clip from the front of the procession: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QLPnr1uP_g

And a longer one here, showing everyone walking past, but unfortunately we are barely noticeable as we're hiding behind a giant star.

Finally, taking it in turns to carry our ballerina, we walked up the hill, around a corner and back down, past market traders and the people of Leamington who had gathered to watch. I saw several people point at our lantern and correctly identify her as a ballerina, which was very satisfying. At the Town Hall, we made our way to the shelter of the Christmas tree to join in the carolling, before returning slowly to the car.

So ended our first Lantern Parade, which was a fun but mad scramble to put together a suitable lantern so we could join in. Next year, we need to  start our construction phase a couple of weeks earlier!

Useful Links:

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

A knitting and crochet catch up

It's been a while since I've posted here, mostly down to life getting busy, meaning I just haven't had time to collect my thoughts enough to write. It was only when I popped onto Ravelry to update a project that I realised how lax I've been. Ooops!

I thought I'd do a quick round up of some of the projects I've been working on over the past few months, which means casting my mind back a bit as I try to recall...

I went on a glove knitting drive towards the end of the summer, preparing for winter. I started off with gloves for M, adding to her dwindling supply of pairs that fit with ones that don't fit because they're a bit on the big side. I am currently embracing the she'll grow into it theme when making things for M!
First attempt at gloves.
I'd never made gloves before, so this was a steep learning curve which is why I started with a practice pair, intended for no one in particular. I picked up a book called Gloves by Sussette Palmer, working through the pattern for  'Childs Play' gloves and treating it as a tutorial (link to my Ravelry project) .

As these were for 'playing' purposes, I didn't worry about gauge or fit, concentrating instead on the process of what it was I was trying to achieve, namely learning how to knit fingered gloves. The result is OK, all things considered, but they won't fit anyone in this house, so I may end up passing them on.

The tricky bit with gloves has got to be the fingers, knitting such small tubes and keeping the tension even was difficult. I don't think I got it right and I had issues with ladders between DPNs, something that mystified me because I don't recall having problems the last time I worked in the round. It took me until the ninth finger to find my groove, so I tried again this time with a pair of gloves for M.
Finger gloves for M.
These were made exactly to M's specifications, but I upped the sizing a little so they should fit for a year or two. M loved them. I like them, but wasn't completely satisfied with the thumb. Tricky things, thumbs. My Ravelry project for these is here.

Not to be deterred, I also made M a pair of mittens (here on Ravelry).
Mittens for M.
The mittens were made using the Pretty In Pink pattern from the Gloves book and there were a couple of errors in the pattern. i.e.
  • When working the last row of the frill (R5), the pattern says ”k2tog to the end”. R1 starts on the wrong side, so R5 needs to be purled, hence the instructions should read ”p2tog to the end”.
  • Following the instructions for the thumb gusset will give 15 stitches to save off on waste yarn, not 13 as specified in the pattern. If do you want 13 stitches, increase until there are 11 stitches between your increases. (Personally, I liked the 15 stitches as it gave a nice roomy thumb.)
These definitely are too big. An (albeit small) adult visitor tried them on  and declared they fit her, which gives an idea of how big they are, but I like them and they'll fit ok in a year or two.

So I made another pair of mittens (on Ravelry here)...
Mittens for M.
M liked these ones and the fit is better. Still on the large side, but more wearable I think.

Lesson learned here - I really do need to work on how big, is too big and how big is just a bit of growing room for small people.

Next, I used some left over yarn to make a pair of gloves for me (Ravelry link).
Gloves for Me.
This time, I worked without a pattern and I sized exactly for me. I have long fingers and shop bought ladies gloves are usually too small, so this is the first pair of gloves I've owned that actually fit. I tackled my dislike of the thumb in this pair, offsetting its gusset by 3 stitches, meaning I have a left and right glove.
M said she liked these too, but I insisted they are for Me.
Hopefully, they'll see some good use this winter.

Next up, I tackled socks (here). It has been a long, long time, so I made a pair of bed socks/slippers for me.
Bed socks for Me.
Again, no pattern just me trying to remember what to do and while I'm OK with how these turned out, they are too big. Where there was some rounding up needed for pattern purposes, I went up rather than down which means the sock is much looser on than I'm happy with. They're OK for bed socks, but if I'd intended these for regular wear I'd have been disappointed.
A bit big, but fit for purpose.
Next I went on a hat making binge, making up three nearly identical hats except for the striping pattern.

The first hat was for M (Ravelry link), with the young lady herself choosing the colours and yarn. She also helped me with the striping pattern. I used a 100% wool Sublime Yarns Natural Aran and while it might have purported to be aran weight, it wasn't consistently so. Deliciously soft it might have been, but the yarn went from fat to thin and in some places becoming very skinny indeed, which meant I couldn't hit gauge for the pattern I used (which was Lindsey Carr's Seamless Earflap Hat)
M's new hat for winter.
In the end I picked a hook that worked (5mm), swatched to work out the tension and subsequent gauge, then recalculated everything accordingly. All of which means, I mostly used the pattern to get the proportions right.

M loves this hat, even if again, it is too big for her. She'll grow into it, right?

Finally, we have Blue Bed Socks for M (Ravelry link here).
And finally, bed socks for M.
Again, this is my own pattern and are hot off the needles this weekend. I used 4mm DPNs and stash yarn, using a simple 4x2 rib and shifting it either left or right every seventh row. The result was effective and M approves, although she has yet to put them to the test.
Fresh off the needles.
And that about brings us up to date, with the knitting at least!