Festive

There is a survival technique, one of many, that I’m not alone in adopting for situations that can’t easily accommodate multiple uses of the word ‘pardon’. Throughout my whole childhood well meaning friends, relatives and strangers all offered the advice that surely it was better to say pardon than to bluff and hope that you were smiling and nodding in the right place. It’s terrible advice! Completely and utterly impractical. Not only do you wear yourself out, you bore the pants off everyone else too. I’m reminded of the time I took a week long course in cued speech and met other profoundly deaf people for the first time. Jeepers, it’s really hard work making yourself heard! I got a taste of what it’s been like for those around me for years so I’m actually glad I spared them all the extra ‘pardons?’ A well placed nod or verbal agreement simply buys time until you’ve picked up sufficient clues and worked out what the heck everyone is talking about. No harm done.

Christmas Day was always about bluffing so that I didn’t spoil the occasion. The only problem being that after years of this it eventually became a day I dreaded. I found that I was actually bloody annoyed that I couldn’t properly take part in the chat and annoyed with myself for sitting there for years having this rather empty experience with my own family. When the kids were small this came to a head and I resolved never to pretend again. Nothing changed as far as keeping up with the conversation went but inside I felt free from the social obligation to smile and nod as though I was part of it. Instead I enjoy the dinner and I observe facial expressions and if I do follow a thread of conversation then it’s a bonus.

So, the festive feeling may have been late arriving this year but it’s beginning to creep in. M has another week in London to endure and I’m tying up loose ends here, walking the dogs and feeding the teenager. I finally got round to making candles. This always seems to be a Christmas activity these days. Some years I save all the leftover bits and throw them in the pot to make new candles but this year I’d ordered soy wax flakes because they are a bit more environmentally friendly.

They seem exactly the same to work with as wax pellets but I did notice that they sink much less in the middle whilst cooling and only needed one top up to level out. Normal wax sinks a lot and needs several top ups to get a flat top surface. I used a blend of three essential oils, including the pine oil I found in Dublin. Although I felt I was being extremely generous with them it turns out you can’t be generous enough. Next time I will double what I used, the scent is a bit subtle.

Half way through pouring the wax into the rusty baking tins we picked up earlier this year it occurred to me that they might not even be leakproof anymore but luckily they were all ok. I already had several packets of short wicks to use up but next year I’d like to try those wooden wicks that crackle, despite the fact the kids think it’s funny that I’d want a crackling wick I can’t hear. I just need to remember to look out for some interesting containers throughout next year, these rusty tins were fun but a bit small.

I didn’t take on too much gift making this year. I decided to focus on making only things that I know are needed. M only has a tatty old fleece hat he used to wear for fishing and it’s a shape that he can just about get away with so I made a new beanie using the same proportions, ie a big chunky turn up, and in a colour that I think he will really love. Likewise J doesn’t wear hats anymore but suffers with cold hands so plain ribbed wrist warmers seemed like a useful thing to make. He has one pair from when he was ten so he wouldn’t see the need for a new pair but the thumb was so badly made on those I’m hoping he will find the new ones an improvement. I have other gift makes I can’t share here yet!

I still haven’t done anything useful with my crocheted snowflakes from last year. I should really string them up and pop them on our tree I guess, or maybe make a garland. They were supposed to be made into cards but I’m not great at repetition so I must have given up after six and concluded that making 20 was too dull for words! I could make another six this year I suppose but there’s so much else to try too! I’ve got my eye on a few Christmas makes but I shall only start something once all the wrapping has been done and the cards sent off.

E has been having a good time in Edinburgh for her 21st Birthday treat. It’s been a bit cold, wet and windy but it sounds like there’s been plenty to see and do. A highlight being pandas and penguins at the zoo. It’s funny how I can remember the day she was born so clearly. When she was finally placed in my arms she clamped her big dark eyes on mine and seemed oblivious to all that was going on around. Non verbal communication right from the start. In contrast her little brother was probably just wondering when his next meal time was!

We are planning a Christmas Eve family craft session this year, with my niece and the kids. If all goes well and the glue actually sticks, we may have some log Father Christmas’s to show for it. M cut some logs especially and they’ve been drying out in the hall for a few weeks. J hasn’t batted an eyelid, he’s used to strange things lying around waiting to be made into something!

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Dublin

A few weeks ago M was asked to cover a job for Facebook in Dublin. We discussed arrangements for me tagging along but I never get too excited until flights are booked. I’ve learnt from previous experience that it isn’t happening until it’s actually happening! A few days after accepting the booking it fell through. Neither of us are were too disappointed, the timing could have been better. Then fast forward a few more days and Dublin was back on!

We booked flights on Friday and flew out on Sunday. I barely had time to pack, it usually takes me three days just to decide on a suitable travel crochet project! I love spontaneous and over the years I think this has rubbed off a little on M who has always been a bit more of a routine guy. Of course, he is slightly more motivated when a pay check is involved but even so, this was a quick turnaround.

I’ve never been to Ireland and had no idea what to expect. I once had a good friend from Cork but that’s about as far as my dealings with Ireland go. Dublin was a very pleasant surprise. We had all of Monday to explore. M did well despite mobility problems. Our plan was to walk a little and have coffee often and somehow this worked for us both on this occasion. I’m usually frustrated that we can’t walk at a normal pace for a decent length of time but cities are quite overwhelming with things to see and do and there’s not much point in covering a lot of ground in a short space of time. Also on the plus side we found several nice places to eat or have coffee that I logged for future reference, knowing that I’d have two more days to myself in the city.

Bewley’s coffee and hot chocolate seemed to be everywhere and we sampled a lot of the former and just one of the latter. M wanted to catch some live music in a pub so we visited the famous Temple Bar and he listened to some live music. I can’t tell you very much about it because I can only really hear and make sense of music I already know and is stored in my memory bank. M enjoyed it briefly and then decided we should leave on account of a group of men having one too many pints of Guinness.

We were lucky to have stayed in a lovely hotel which was walking distance to the city centre. It also had an adjoining restaurant which was extremely good. Beef stew with Guinness was very tasty indeed. I clocked up a lot of walking miles over the three days and everything was beginning to ache. I walk much more with the dogs but somehow pounding concrete rather than mud seemed to make a difference. I was rather weary when we had to go through all the airport checks on the way back and they decided to choose us to scan everything from the palms of my hands to the soles of M’s feet. Every single orifice of our cases and bags were opened and checked too. I was half asleep which probably helped get through that mini ordeal. We have nothing to hide and I’m glad they are thorough but I don’t think we’ve ever been through an airport without one of us having this level of check. Neither of us have a criminal record.

I happened to mention to M that it was just a tad stressful with the added bonus of not being able to hear what they were asking me, to which he replied, well we won’t fly anymore then. Turned out he was over tired too! Ultimately we both agreed that in future we should travel with twenty family members, get thoroughly hammered with any alcohol we could lay our hands on, make a lot of noise by shouting and laughing our heads off and get through airport checks without any bother. It worked for others on that flight.

I think we got home at two in the morning and I vaguely remember arriving but I don’t remember how I got into bed. The joys of getting older I guess. We clearly need to plan our flight times more carefully next time!

This is Knit was a highlight. I went once with M on the first day and then went back again after receiving a request from a certain someone. I decided not to be tempted by any of the hand dyed special skeins on this occasion. I wanted a jumper quantity of something, preferably aran and preferably locally produced. That turned out to be incredibly easy. Above the grey yarn pic you can see all of the Studio Donegal range which covers these requirements. It took a while to choose a colour but the sample in grey was calling my name and I knew it would be a safe bet. I did buy the jumper pattern thinking it was a basic knit (that I could do a little bit of each day despite wrist issues with knitting). On closer inspection there’s some knitting terms I’m not sure about, so many ways to cast on! I’ll either YouTube the special cast on and learn something new or wing it with part crochet and part knit!

In other shopping news I couldn’t buy too much for fear of not having enough room for my yarn purchases! The aran cardigans were hugely tempting but not difficult to order online and have shipped over if I’m ever short of cardigans, which probably won’t happen for quite a while! I did buy a couple of gifts of a textile nature that I can’t mention yet. These items were also everywhere and we both wished we hadn’t done previous Christmas shopping because we could have just bought everyone one of these!

I usually feel quite inspired and energised after a trip like this. I think it was the combination of tiredness and not quite feeling the love for Christmas this year that hit me when I got home. I used to like decorating the house and doing Christmas crafty stuff so I’m not sure why that isn’t holding any appeal this year. We’ve got some stressful stuff to sort out in the New Year that is preying on my mind but it could well be because the kids are grown up now. J will turn 18 a couple of days after Christmas and E will be 21 this week. I think that finally feels like the last days of their childhood are well and truly over. It’s a weird feeling.

Not that I’m redundant at all (even if I wanted to be)… E came home from University with a large bag of washing. We packed her off on a first class train carriage to stay in Edinburgh for four days as a 21st birthday treat. It looks and sounds like it’s going very well so far.

J came home from football on Sunday looking like he’d been beaten to within an inch of his life, his shirt was covered in blood and he informed me that the ball had made contact with his face, caused a massive nosebleed and that he’d decided to play on for the last twenty minutes anyway. Cue a Mother’s speech about how much blood and how dangerous that was. What were the coaches thinking? Thankfully his nose is fine and so is the shirt, it’s amazing what a cold soak can do.

Just to make this last week even more joyful Riley spent most of yesterday bringing up his stomach contents in random locations. Luckily we have a lot of tiled areas but even so it was pretty grim for 24 hours. Going for our usual ramble backfired by giving him chance to ingest grass which later came back up in three different piles. Today we went for another walk and he rolled in three piles of fox poo so that thing about ‘three’s’ is spot on at the moment! Harvey managed to wound his knee a week ago . A little gash that was too small for stitches or anything but has needed a dressing whilst it heals. He’s been a master at getting the dressings off and chewing the wound so that’s not healing as it should yet. The taste of TCP hasn’t deterred him at all! Little bugger.

In amongst all this excitement I’ve finally managed to make some soy wax candles using the old tins we purchased a while ago. I’ve yet to take some final pictures so I’ll save that for next time. I usually use wax pellets but I went for eco soy flakes this time and whilst a little harder to clean up spills I think they’ve turned out ok. The essential oil I used was called ‘Christmas in a Bottle’ so here’s hoping that when I burn them it smells as good as the kitchen did today while I was making them!

Sussex

We finally managed to shoe horn a quick break in between work assignments. Technology is a wonderful thing for last minute arrangements. We discussed possible plans last Friday and by the evening we had booked this little barn conversion in the village I grew up in. Although we had five days in total we lost a whole day to work running over in London so that messed Monday up a bit and on Friday we were away by late morning so we had just three clear days.

Rye was top of the list for various reasons not least because it was my closest chance of finding decent wool! It’s also home to the famous Merchant and Mills but luckily for our bank account I’m hopeless at fabric related crafts. I’d love to be able to make some of their simple clothing items but ugh, I’d be learning a whole new thing from scratch and I think I’m happy enough with my woolly pursuits. I won’t mention names but my usual spot for wool gathering seems to have gone over to acrylic worship. I did find a selection of lovely yarn elsewhere and ended up buying a few skeins of Malabrigo. Sussex born and bred sheep and their wool is what I would really have liked and could have found but I didn’t want to drag M all over the county when he really just needed a quiet week.

Coffee and cake in Rye was a real treat. Exchanges in shops are so much easier in my native accent! It’s almost like getting a bit of my hearing back. I should be able to cope with Northern accents by now but there are so many. I actually had a whole conversation with a woman who had a small dog and it’s hard to describe how such a small thing made me feel like a fully functioning human being again. I tend to get M to do the talking and listening and he hardly recognised me when I took an object in a junk shop and went to haggle with the owner.

We don’t buy much these days. There were a few vintage metal wall racks that would be useful here but we’re not quite ready for them. Major reshuffling needs to happen first! The vintage crochet scarf was an exciting find and a bargain at just ten pounds. I’ve soaked it in euclan and blocked it in preparation for minor repair work. I’ve got some thin pure wool left over from a charity shop bag of odds and ends that will be ideal for mending. I’m going to add a discrete dc row to both sides too. Ella has claimed this one and although I think I would have worn it myself, she will wear it with so much more style! I’ve been promising to do one of these intricate granny square scarves for a while and I’ve put it off all this time because of the millions of ends, so hopefully I’m off the hook now!

The barn was perfect although considerably smaller than the last one we stayed in. It had everything we needed including a lovely walk in shower. Two weeks would have been perfect! Little has changed in my childhood village. I showed M the playing field where I was allowed to play until 5 o’clock. Dad taught me to tell the time on my Tom and Jerry watch and woe betide me if I was late. One day I decided to climb one of the big trees, missed my footing somehow and was only saved by the strap on my dungarees. I was dangling high up off the ground by a mere strap but with a wonderful view and at 5.20pm I could see the top of my Dad’s head appear at the gate. I braced myself for the telling off but when he saw me of course he laughed his head off! Sadly they’ve chopped that tree down!

It’s always good to see my Grandad in person rather than FaceTime! We had some nice lunches out and chatted away. I told him I was sad not to live in the area anymore but in all honesty it just kills me that he’s so far away at a time in my life when I’ve finally got time to call round for a cup of tea every day if I lived closer.

I finally faced my fears and got the hem and cuffs of my fisherman jumper done. I had a bit of a mental block on those because I usually do them as part of each panel. I thought that picking them up afterwards might be a bit messy and awkward. I’d still rather do them as part of the main panel but I got them to work after a few false starts. I ended up doing my own thing entirely by going down a hook size and doing the rib the way I’ve done for hat brims. All the ends got sewn in quite late on Thursday and when the weather finally turned a little cooler on Friday I was able to wear it home. I fully intended to stay awake and make a hat with my new malabrigo wool but somehow the repetition of doing short half treble rows made me feel very sleepy!

Crochet trainer sock pattern

I’ve made quite a lot of these quick socks and I’ve seen similar ones floating around the internet that are made slightly more slipper like and embellished with flowers and so on. Once you get the basic idea you could do all sorts of adventurous adjustments!

For my own practical use I tend to keep them rustic and hard wearing. I use pure wool which usually needs to be hand washed gently. You can use any aran weight yarn, even a part wool content will help them keep their shape better.

UK terms

Using a 6mm hook and aran weight yarn, create a magic circle and chain 2 (the chain 2 does not count as a stitch here and throughout pattern).

We are starting from the toe.

6htr stitches into the circle, pull circle closed and join with a slip stitch to the top of the first stitch (not the ch2!) (6st)

Ch2, 2htr into each st around and join with ss as before. (12st)

Ch2, *2htr into next stitch, htr, repeat from *to end, ss to join. (18st)

Ch2, *2htr into next stitch, 2htr, repeat from *to end, as to join. (24st)

If you wish you can change colour here.

Ch2, htr in each stitch around, htr in top of first stitch (not the ch2) and continue working in spiral rounds without joining. After a few rounds it’s a good idea to slip the sock over your foot to see how the fit is coming along… if you have particularly wide or very narrow feet you can make some adjustments with your gauge and try a bigger or smaller hook. The sock should stretch a little when you try it on otherwise it’ll end up a bit loose fitting.

Work in spiral rounds until you reach the arch of your foot or as far up your foot as you want the sock allowing approximately 2cm for final cuff rounds.

Making sure any visible joins are on the underneath of the sock we will now divide for the sides and heel. Of the 24 stitches we are going to leave ten unworked that will go across the top of your foot.

Ch2, turn and htr in same stitch (ch2 does not count as a stitch for this part either!)

Work 13 more htr, turn.

Work as many rows as it takes to fall approximately an inch or a few centimetres short of the back of your heel. This will depend a bit on the ‘give’ factor of your chosen yarn.

We will now fold this flap in half with right sides facing inwards and slip stitch to join (see photograph). Your yarn will end up at the base of the heel. You can fasten off and rejoin if you wish but I do a loose slip stitch back up to the top (because I’m lazy).

Working in dc stitches now we will create a final cuff for the sock. Different foot sizes will mean different stitch counts so you’ll need to chain one and work dc stitches evenly on both sides of the sock with right side facing. Once you’ve completed one round of dc stitches try the sock on to make sure your opening is a good fit and adjust as necessary before completing four further rounds of dc. Work in a spiral and slip stitch at the back of the heel to finish.

Weave in ends. Make your second sock the same!

I hope they work out for you! They are extremely quick to make and I’ve even made myself an emergency pair in under two hours when I found myself on holiday in an apartment with stone cold floors (and no socks or slippers packed, but plenty of yarn in my suitcase!)

Feel free to message me via Instagram if you need help or spot a glaring mistake in my instructions!

October

I seem to be another year older since I last blogged. I had brief thoughts of doing 49 things before the next birthday but let’s be realistic, could I think of that many? I’m mainly content with my little lot. I have no burning desire to jump out of a plane, go white water rafting or anything like that. My thoughts are mainly wool related these days, along with simplifying things so that we have less stress in our future.

There is an overwhelming amount of house maintenance on my mind at the moment. I’ve mentioned that cycle before. We have something that needs urgent attention and M insists on seeing to it himself but then works all hours but refuses to pay someone to do it quicker (and better). At least we tackled the all important workshop this summer and several torrential downpours have proven it to be watertight at last. My own workshop also has an extra layer of felt on the roof too but neither have their trims back in place, that may well be another year.

We had plans to pop over to France for a brief holiday but cases that are assigned six weeks have a nasty habit of lasting ten weeks. I have been sorely tempted to book a shepherds hut or barn or something and just get away on my own. I am terrible at routine monotony and this is probably the most extreme case of it for a very long time. I pretty much do the weekly shop every Sunday, for Jake and I. He knows what he likes and inevitably some of the same things end up in the trolley, he loves M&S pancakes/crepes and whilst I feel guilty buying them ready made I too have succumbed to the simple lunch or breakfast of pancakes with a tiny bit of sugar and lemon. It’s the closest we’ll get to anything genuinely French at the moment.

Our weekdays jog along nicely with football training on a Tuesday which involves him driving, for practice and me dashing home for all of 50 minutes before going back to get him. Driving with a learner is even more fun in the dark, everyone should try it. Apart from brief chats about football, driving and studies we are like ships passing in the night. He still manages to walk past the bin on bin day. I look forward to the day when all this responsibility is his and his alone, he will have to wake up a little. I think it was the second week Ella was away at university when I received a message saying, ‘I don’t think I want to be grown up anymore’. Of course she’s doing it extremely well now. We are down to only one crisis per week.

There was a lovely brief autumn kind of month and then all of a sudden it feels a lot like winter. It’s absolutely freezing today and I’ve been wearing the same old aran cardigan every day. The house is plenty warm enough but if I sit for a little while I soon begin to feel the draughty spots. This particular aran cardigan was a vintage find and it’s perfect in a lot of ways, I like the fact the sleeves are quite narrow, this is ideal for crocheting without anything getting in the way! It’s also a good length. It looks stupid buttoned up to be honest but I think that was last an acceptable look back in the seventies. It’s this last point that made me wonder about a crocheted aran jumper. I’ve got two old books that have hideously complicated crochet aran sweaters in them. I think one is American which doesn’t help either but both are just so darn vague! One of them even says, ‘pattern the next section’ without giving any pattern! I’ve studied and studied them and I think the only way I’d ever make a garment with these books is by just winging it from the picture!

I eventually found a modern pattern online called the Meara Fisherman Sweater, it’s in U.S. terms and written very clearly. I still had doubts about tackling it but unlike other things in life I jumped straight in and was relieved to find it was actually quite simple. I had a blip with gauge even after doing an entire gauge square but that’s forgotten now and I finally have a front and a back loosely tacked together and thrown over Hilda just to see how it’s coming along. I’ve made it nice and roomy with dog walks in mind, it just needs sleeves, hem and neckline and it’ll be put to the test out there on those freezing cold muddy walks.

Although I’d already started the leaf stitch cowl before the jumper it has taken a bit of a back seat whilst I crack on with something I know I’ll be wearing a lot. The burnt orange cowl yarn is part alpaca and is incredibly soft. I bought four lovely wooden buttons for it but when E made a visit home I ended up sewing them on to her mustard cardigan. She will probably never button it up but we both agreed it was a nice finishing touch!

As of last month I am now the proud owner of one of the most expensive crochet hooks you can buy! Mum and I had a few funny text message conversations that started out with ‘I want to buy you something you’d never treat yourself to and wondered…’ Then me worrying that it might cost all that money and be terrible, and then finally throwing caution to the wind and ending up relieved that it is actually a beautifully crafted piece of kit! It’s called a Furls Odyssey and it absolutely glides through yarn and feels beautifully weighted and comfortable in the hand. I had some problems after making socks with a 2.5mm hook and it made me release that my crochet does have limitations, though not as much as knitting. 4mm is my most used hook size but typically I didn’t have a 4mm project on the go so I’ve started a textured hat for E and I made a purple pom pom keyhole scarf for little E. The latter used yarn I’ve had in my stash for a very long time, it was originally purchased for wrist warmers when Ella was ten! Yikes. I’m just glad it finally got used up! A little leftover ball has been added to the pure wool scraps bowl, she might even get a striped hat at some stage, before she too goes to university!

Stash Buster Crochet Cowl

With quite a bit more time to myself lately and the thought of winter approaching I’ve been sorting out my wool supplies and throwing ‘useless’ quantities in a bowl. Useful quantities have been tidied up, caked and divided into ‘pure wool’ and ‘everything else’. This bowl of pure wool but supposedly useless amounts spoke to me one evening and said, cowl!

I don’t know if it was the colour, the stash busting or the simple but useful aspect but it’s been a popular Instagram post so I thought I’d share how I made it. At first I thought, well it’s v stitch, it’s obvious, but on closer examination of my stitch guides there is actually a large number of ways of doing a v stitch. I’ve made two now and I made vague mental notes the second time so I can’t guarantee these instructions will be perfect but here goes!

DK yarn

4mm hook

Leaving a reasonable length of yarn for sewing gap chain 120 plus 2 for turning. The turning chain does not count as a stitch.

Half treble in first stitch and in every stitch across. Join with a slip stitch taking care not to twist the loop. (The gap between htrs can be sewn up now or later).

[you can of course make 120 foundation half trebles and join if you prefer]

The V stitches will be created as follows: htr, ch1, htr all into the same stitch.

Create the first v stitch in the same slip stitch used to join the round, this one will be created by using a ch3 to represent the first htr plus ch1.

*Miss 2 stitches, create v stitch, repeat from * until end of round. Slip stitch into second chain of starting chain, then slip stitch into the ch sp.

Change yarn colour if desired. Begin each round with a ch3 (acts as first htr and ch1).

In the second and subsequent rounds you’ll be working the v stitches into the chain spaces.

A note about colour changing…everyone has their own way of changing colour. For this pattern I pulled a loop of new yarn through the slip stitch performed in the ch sp at the start of a new round. If you plan to do one colour per round it helps enormously to sew in two ends at the end of each round so that you don’t have a big task at the end but also so that the ends are out of the way for changing in new colours.

Work until your cowl measures approximately 28cm tall or based on personal preference. As a guide mine measures 31cm wide and 28cm tall. I’ve sized it to be warm rather than with a decorative drape.

For the final round work 1 htr in each stitch around, join with a slip stitch and sew in ends.

I’ve used the softest of dk scraps for my final 2 rounds, in this case a tiny ball of angora that I had in my supplies. It’s just right for where the cowl will snuggle under the chin.

Socks

Social media does get a bad press sometimes but I do believe that anyone with common sense can take it or leave it. I never really got on with Facebook but I’m finding that Instagram is nudging me in directions that are good for creativity. October is Socktober over there and at first I didn’t think I’d bother joining in. My sock history involved several pairs of hard wearing aran wool trainer socks made for both M and myself to pad around the house or caravan on chillier nights. They’ve been excellent but they are fairly crude, worked up from the toe in the round, then back and forth on about half of the stitches and seemed at the back of the heel, then finally as many rows in the round to finish off, I hate wearing socks so I left those at trainer sock height.

The last photo above shows (on the left) the first attempt at a proper crochet sock but I really didn’t fancy a fitted pair made with a 3mm hook so I sized it up and used a 4mm which worked out as intended, a sort of bed sock fit. Thanks to the nudge I finally finished the second sock and I’ve even worn them a few times.

The sock on the right, with Riley who just can’t bear to miss out on anything, is my finished Beruna Sock. Without seeing any of the patterns in the book apart from the cover photo I took a gamble and ordered it. It’s called ‘Everyday Wearables’ and it’s by The Crochet Project. I’ve made quite a few things from their patterns and really appreciate the way they do things. Clear and well set out patterns make a huge difference to the pleasure of making something. They are particularly good at sizing which is also something that is not always tackled with much care.

I’ve since finished the Beruna pair and I’ve started a purple pair for E. This time I decided to make two cuffs, then work both down to the ankle and so on… to beat that second sock ugh feeling. Only this time I hadn’t anticipated how much strain the first pair had been on my wrists. I’m usually absolutely fine with crochet despite carpal tunnel. I wear wrists supports at night and that usually means no issues the next day. A 2.5mm hook is obviously my lower limit. I’m going to have to ration out the work on those purple socks to get them done.

Whilst having a break from tiddly hooks I decided to make the Brenn hat from the same book. I wanted a very soft brim so I used my special merino by The Uncommon Thread purchased in Loop earlier this year. I don’t have a lot of merino in dk so I paired it with some grey yarn I bought in Barcelona a couple of years ago. The combination has worked nicely in the squishy stakes, its obviously far too warm to wear at all right now but it’ll be serious insulation when it is!

It’s been like the middle of summer here lately. I don’t think I’ve bothered with a jumper for our daily dog walks for weeks. I even dug the shorts out again this week and it felt very strange walking miles with shorts on and yet autumn leaves on the ground.

Despite the unseasonably warm weather I have been trying to cosy up indoors. Crochet blankets are draped (or thrown) on the furniture ready for chilly evenings. We aren’t tight with our heating at all but it’s always a challenge to keep the conservatory warm over winter which is where our main tv happens to be. It’s a shame we can’t easily relocate it to our comfy and roasting warm bedroom. We had plans to install a wood burner this year but true to form (ie. not doing anything we decide within a five year timeframe) we haven’t got round to it. M is a bit reluctant to make a hole through the conservatory roof. I’m not reluctant at all. It’ll happen, just not anytime soon.

We’ve agreed that I should stop trying to find a style of woolly hat that will suit M’s head shape. If truth be told we call him pineapple head and he won’t thank me for sharing that. I think if I force him to wear a daft looking crochet beanie all winter in our draughty conservatory it might just bring the wood burner plans to the front of his mind. Cunning eh? Not a chance in hell of it working though.

At least there are still some good candidates for woolly hats this Christmas even though they all have a few from previous years. In my defence though I’m getting a bit better at making them. Getting the right size always used to bother me greatly but since I found a chart which gives all sorts of useful measurements I don’t worry so much.

It’s gone a bit stormy here with rain and strong wind and it is quite a challenge to write a blog post with a fully grown Springer Spaniel on my lap. This breed has many attributes, being brave is not one of them!

Autumn

God I love Autumn! I blame my lovely village primary school in part at least. Summer holidays were great but getting back to school was also pretty good. The Autumn term meant wellies in the cloakroom and a nature table in the classroom, which in turn meant getting out of the classroom to tramp around woodlands collecting pocketfuls of glorious treasure. Conkers were of course the most highly treasured finds. Thankfully not so much health and safety when it came to conkers back then. Apparently they give off a chemical whilst drying that repels moths which is why I have bowls of them everywhere at the moment. I’m not sure if it’s working but where there’s wool, there’s conkers. I just have to make sure they are above dog height. They keep expressing an interest and I don’t want to find out what happens if dogs eat conkers. I’m sure it wouldn’t be good.

I couldn’t resist choosing an autumnal shade from Baa Ram Ewe in Leeds when we dropped Ella back at university. She was supposed to be doing a workshop that very day but there was a mix up with email addresses and she didn’t get the cancellation email. It was a good excuse to try out a skein of their new Winterburn range. This particular shade is called Viking and has pretty swiftly become a hat! I really enjoy working with pure wool and the slight sheepy smell.

The hat pattern is by The Crochet Project, available in one of their book collections. It was also printed in issue 100 of Inside Crochet Magazine. I really love their designs and have one of the books of shawls but I must remember to add another to my Christmas list. The hat is called the Sitka Spruce hat which is not to be confused with a knitted hat pattern with the same name. This one is most definitely crochet! I made one of these back in April in an undyed yarn and I’ve been wearing it out on dog walks recently. The post trebles make a good thickness of fabric whilst being nice and stretchy too. I’ve got another on the hook for Ella, you’ll never guess what colour? Yep, yellow.

The mustard cardigan turned out ok after a dodgy start. We wanted an oversized comfy one and I found a free pattern that went up to the measurements we were looking for, did a gauge swatch and made a start. It turned out that the gauge was a pointless exercise. When I did the maths it was only ever going to make a chest measurement of 40″ for the 2XL which they described as a 50″ chest. Pretty frustrating. I decided I had enough experience to wing it but without any fancy construction methods. I just made the pieces traditionally and sewed it up. For the sleeves I measured Ella’s arms and looked up a sensible arm hole depth (I was surprised to find charts for these on the internet!) then took the cuff size and the armhole depth, worked out how many stitches I needed to increase based on my swatch which happened to be roughly double. It worked out that I needed to increase very other row which was easy to remember, especially whilst watching a good series on Netflix called Ozark! I’m going to add wooden buttons when I’ve found the right ones. I have a Jacob’s Cream Cracker tin full of buttons and none of them are right!

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’ll fit the way E wanted it to. We’ll be visiting soon, along with a few things she left behind by mistake and a few of her houseplants. It’s a slightly mad itinerary for M. He will return home from London on Friday, have one night in his own bed, drive to Leeds and back on Saturday and then return to London on Sunday afternoon. Crazy. I wish I could at least drive to Leeds but I’ve been having trouble with double vision. At least he will have company when he returns to London and also only for a short week. J will be travelling with him and sitting in the public gallery for two days by way of some ‘work experience’ so that he can see how the courts operate. I think the first day will be exciting for him at least. Two days might be a bit dull.

We’ve had a few days in a row of glorious heat and sunshine. The dogs have cooled down in the various streams we walk next to. I’ve thoroughly aired the house by throwing all the windows open. It’s been very mood enhancing, I’m kind of dreading winter with all its grey, cold and wet weather. For now though Autumn is fantastic!

Contest

It’s not every day that I tiptoe down the drive with my pyjamas on hoping to slide the bin into position before the garbage truck actually comes round. M usually does this job and I was cursing J for not doing it instead. He literally walks past a whole village of bright blue wheelie bins on the way to get the bus to school and despite that and my repeated requests it just doesn’t occur to him to drag it out for me or even back up the drive. My mother would blame the teenage brain. Well I’m certainly looking forward to the adult one.

Anyway, not only did I not have my best pyjamas on I was also startled by a delivery man who decided to come up the drive to the far side of my car which is indeed a strange route which ends with the teardrop trailer blocking the way. However, when I saw the logo’s on the box I smiled rather warmly at him which confused him totally.

I was a bit emotional and overwhelmed with this prize I won very recently. I hope it’s not the start of crying at Andrex adverts involving Golden Labrador puppies again because I thought I was done with all that when I was done with pregnancy’s.

There’s a blog post about the competition here http://kelbournewoolens.com/blog/2018/9/announcing-the-winners-of-crochet-summer-crochet-something-2018

It was an Instagram contest run by Kelbourne Woolens who are based in Philadelphia and I entered on the recommendation of a new insta pal, right at the last minute. I tagged my ‘leaf’ cushion for the home decor section and the prize was this wonderful Station Wagon blanket kit and set of Mason Dixon Knitting Guides. I only hope I can make a blanket as beautiful as this yarn deserves. The colours are right up my street, I can’t wait to make a start. Perfectly timed for winter too! I can see this being my ‘go everywhere’ blanket. Home, road trips, holidays in barns and shepherds huts etc! My Nan always told me to carry a blanket and a shovel in my car and I’ve never forgotten this advice! Incidentally, the lovely insta pal, Karen, who suggested I entered also won a category for best garment. I was completely blown away with her patchwork jumper and she definitely deserved to win, not only was it very clever it was also hugely inspiring. It’s made me really think about doing a bit more freestyle work!

The project bag was a very generous extra popped in by Courtney of KW. We exchanged some emails regarding shipping and so on and I was curious as to how the design of these came about. There is a story to those and it was heartwarming to hear about it. I did reveal that I was profoundly deaf but that BSL had never been my first language but I did learn some as an adult and that’s how I met my husband. In fact just after Christmas last year when I tend to think about learning new things I decided to try and memorise the ASL fingerspelling alphabet purely because it’s pretty cool compared to the two handed British one! So convenient too, you can finger spell anything you like whilst still holding a coffee with the other hand! I mention this, only half joking, because that’s where we practiced, whilst out having coffee.

On a serious note though, talking to Courtney and then today getting emotional about that project bag was really to do with the realisation that as a nation we still have some way to go before there is a similar level of acceptance here. I don’t want a pity party but I’ve had some pretty negative reactions to what is essentially a hidden disability. It’s taken me a very long time to actually tell people straight off that I can’t hear. I’m sure things are getting better. I hope they are. As Courtney said, ‘it was a small thing to celebrate a culture she’d lived adjacent to for so long.’ Isn’t that just so positive? In the old days when I’d retreat from anything ‘tricky’ or have to deal with blatant prejudice my Mother used to tell me that perhaps it was down to me to educate people. I used to groan loudly every time she said that (Kevin style) but of course she was right. If I don’t speak up I am letting the ignorance continue.

OK so back to the happy stuff and that is yarn! Armed with my new project bag I might just overcome that final hurdle and join a knit and natter group! Yikes! Goals for 2019 I think. I’ve got so much crochet planned for autumn/winter and they definitely include starting this blanket kit!

September

I seem to have chosen a record number of images for this post and that’s most likely to do with being a bit behind on the blogging front. Lots seems to have happened. Whether or not I can recall everything is another matter.

We took Ella back to university yesterday. She’s a funny blend of intelligent, confident, witty, funny, talented and then bam, just emotional about leaving the comfort and protection of home. Although she’s been working hard as a Barista all summer to pay for her student lodgings she’s only been over there a handful of times. A couple of weeks ago she went over by train and stayed for a few days and was paid a visit by a policewoman who was doing the rounds of student houses to encourage them to be more vigilant with locking doors and shutting windows when they are out. Far from reassuring E that they are patrolling and there if needed I think it only served to worry her more. She wants to enjoy all that cities have to offer but she’s happier in the countryside.

We had a very ‘Lincolnshire’ day as we later described it, one day this week. I think I’d made a plea for a quiet day at home after so much activity and so many tasks completed. It wasn’t to be. E woke up with a throbbing hand having managed to get a shard of glass in it two days prior when an espresso glass was broken at work and not cleared away properly. I swear A&E departments display signs telling you that your GP can handle minor injuries and GP’s tell you they can’t, but we at least tried and then spent nearly four hours at the hospital waiting, having an x Ray, waiting some more.. all got sorted, antibiotics were given, the waiting room was highly entertaining. We’ve never seen a patient come in whilst handcuffed to a prison guard before despite the prison being opposite the hospital. E watches all the prison series she can find on Netflix so she was particularly amazed that his injuries seemed to be consistent with your average American prison goings on. ie. he’d been ‘shanked’.

Anyway, that really wasn’t the reason it turned out to be a Lincolnshire kind of day. Cows running up a busy main road and being chased by two farmers, now that’s a scene we have witnessed a few times before round here! Not only that but much later, on the way home a whole truck load of sheep being transported had broken down on one of the busiest roundabouts at rush hour. I say rush hour but we really don’t have much of one. Nevertheless there were police at either side of the vehicle and a huge tailback and quite frankly, this is proper news in this county.

One of E’s uni friends hasn’t ventured out of his home city much by the sounds of things. When she once described getting stuck behind a tractor on a road (every day of the week) he was amazed that tractors actually used roads at all, he thought they just drove across fields. I know! This is either staggeringly stupid or just tragic. I’ve heard of city schools being taken to city farms but I think it should be compulsory to take kids out of cities to see how the country gets its milk and meat and where crops actually grow!

We had one finally purge on the pruning side of things. The apples and plums seemed to be well over so we took some dead or wildly out of control boughs off both of these trees. Without a huge ladder the work is low sided and will probably stay like that but there is another massive bonfire to burn and two more piles the same size waiting to be fed on to the main bonfire. We’ve had a fair bit of rain recently so we’re waiting for a week of crisp dry autumn days before we light it. Harvey really understands bonfires and takes branches up the garden and deposits them near to the bonfire then follows me back for some more. At all other times he would never ever dream of giving up a stick without expecting it to be thrown for him. We didn’t specifically train him to do this but we did have an awful lot of bonfires when he was a younger dog so he seems to have just observed this is what you do. It’s pretty handy because I drop a lot of smaller pieces on the way and he tidies them all up for me. Riley is not so keen on the whole bonfire area in general and is wary even when it’s not alight. When it is lit he goes indoors, whereas Harvey still carries on supplying branches for the fire.

Crochet has been happening, in varying degrees of skill and happiness. I started the History of Trees shawl at the beginning of September and fell slightly out of love with the whole thing when there were gauge issues. Sticking to what met the gauge has been the right decision for me because I didn’t want to order more yarn. I’m seeing plenty on the Facebook group who didn’t understand this concept wondering why they’ve run out. If you look closely at my trees you’ll see that there’s an extra branch on one of them. Did I rip back five rows and fix it? I did not. The yarn is hairy and a nightmare to frog. Trees have random branches in real life. So do my crocheted trees. Get over it. One Facebook member said they would always fix errors so as not to make any future ones. Well good luck with that. I’m ok with imperfection on this occasion.

I tested a simple pattern for a child’s crochet top. It attracted my attention because it struck me as a nice basic top that could be made in any yarn and any colour combination. This one is cotton and came up a bit large so I’ll be putting it by for my niece until next Spring at least.

I’ve been thinking a bit more about making it up as I go, when it comes to crochet I’ve always preferred the safety net of a pattern but it gets a bit tedious counting stitches after a while. I used one of my crochet stitch books and some leftover rubbish oatmeal yarn and started doing a sampler of stitches. Some are only subtly different from each other but there are eight different ones including fur stitch which I’d never tried before, popular in the seventies! I ended up looping it on a piece of pruned Cherry tree and it now hangs in a window which shows the stitches up much better. It was an accidental project and now I’d like to do a more planned version.

I tagged along with M to Newmarket recently and the pottery mug was my most exciting purchase! It perfectly matches a blue enamel coffee pot I already had which we use for camping. The mug isn’t enamel but the blue is as vibrant. It’s been ideal for a small bed time tea which has been our routine since we got married. The rule is that M has to make the last tea of the day, otherwise its divorce lawyers. He’s away for two weeks so I’m thinking ‘irretrievable breakdown’ quite frankly!

I’ve just finished a basic cardigan for E using a gorgeous mustard tweed yarn, it was totally made up as I went along stuff and it worked! Photos next time. I’ve also purchased a pure wool skein in an autumnal shade with a hat in mind. We’ve just had two days of warm, over twenty degree heat so by the time I’ve finished the hat I’m hoping for a slight nip in the air at least!