Spring

Putting all the evidence together I am convinced that we are born with most of our tastes and ways already in place. According to family observations I have never liked pink, frills and dresses and that goes right back to the beginning. Lately though I wonder whether an inbuilt need for solitary time was also in place from the very beginning or whether that’s just something you crave when life has been busy for a while. Today is the first such moment for what seems like a very long time. E is back at uni, J is out with friends and M is working somewhere roughly 125 miles away.

We’ve had a busy month or two. House selling has been a priority. Fingers crossed all is going ok so far. E has been home from uni and we’ve done all sorts including buying a second hand bike from an RAF base using a secret password to get in and visiting the moon. The latter was a six metre wide affair at the local museum. I wasn’t that excited to be dragged along but found it quite mesmerising once in this darkened room trying to figure out where the ‘invisible’ wires suspending it in mid air were.

Somewhere amongst of all this excitement E decided she would like a pink and slightly fluffy cardigan. Leader of the pac yarn was chosen from Hobbycraft and the Bobble Heart Cardigan pattern from a previous issue of Mollie Makes. I’m not going to lie, this much pink has been a challenge to see through. It will look amazing on her but I will be glad not to be working on pink once it’s finished.

Meanwhile I’m having a crisis of confidence with another crochet cardigan. I’ve got the pattern size guide and the intended four year old recipient’s measurements but I think I’ve worked it up a bit too close to the latter. It’s only a matter of days now until they travel North for a visit so I’ll be able to try the one sleeve garment on her and see how it’s working out size wise. I’ve only been using dk from stash so if it’s no good it’s no big deal, we’ll call it a useful practice run. The pattern is from The Crochet Project’s latest book called Pick and Mix. I love the concept of choosing a colour work stitch and a main body stitch in order to customise a garment to your taste. I chose the ‘getting Ziggy’ colour work option for the yoke and a simple offset half treble for the main body. I would definitely choose the main body stitch for an adult version in the future, it works into spaces which means it is pretty quick.

The last month has been a blur so I’m not quite sure how I managed to whip up a modified version of the Fronds Shawl for my niece and start a full size one too. I think I started the adult one first to see if I could finally use up that annoying cake of yarn that just didn’t seem to feel nice for anything else. It’s got four fine threads that all have a mind of their own and ugh, I’d never buy it again. I dug out the first Fronds I made and wore it out and about for a few days and eventually conceded that I would never be the asymmetrical shawl type of person. I frogged the new version and started again using the same adjustments I used to make little E’s colourful one. In a nutshell it increases more gradually to give a shallower depth. When I’ve got roughly half of the cake left I plan to start decreasing in the same way for a symmetrical result. It worked nicely for little E’s so fingers crossed it works out for the ‘grown up’ version too!

At some stage before E came home from uni we had a few days that were mild and sunny from early in the morning. M had been leaving at six a.m. and if he turns lights on and jogs the bed it is as good as alarm clocks going off for me. He can make as much noise as he likes without lights and jogging the bed and I will sleep on happily undisturbed for hours. So, I had a spell of being up and about a bit earlier than usual and on one of those mornings I put my crochet fisherman Aran jumper on over my red tartan flannelette pj trousers, made a large mug of coffee and decided to go for a walk up the garden and into the field in my wellies. We still have a building site for 31 houses in the side field but what you can’t hear can’t hurt you so I decided to ignore their very existence. Harvey’s shoulder injury is playing up in his old age and Riley seems prone to sprains most probably because he’s not as well built and sturdy as he should be for a Springer. So they were both limping that week and not up to our usual 3, 4 or 5 mile hikes. If we didn’t have builders to one side and a grumpy, nosey old man who hates the dogs to the other I think I would take my coffee up the garden more often. The field was full of fresh smells, dew, birds, insects, buds everywhere. The sky was an incredible blue. Definitely worth being up at 7am for.

I’m still longing to get back into our usual walking routine but events seem to be conspiring against us. I had an ordinary cold that was into its second week before suddenly turning into something much worse and knocking me right off my feet. I very rarely stop and rest for a cold. In fact there is something nice about wrapping up and taking the dogs out regardless, as if I’m beating it. This time though it was some kind of viral chest infection thing and with just a hoarse whisper I said to M, ‘I don’t think I’ll be getting up today’. He said, ‘God no, it doesn’t bloody sound like it!’ and went out to get cough mixture, flu capsules and Lucozade! Unfortunately it didn’t stop anyone leaving me to sleep all day and I can only assume I didn’t have the necessary strength to shout go away when I was asked where the salt was, where’s my blue shirt… do I look like I give a —- where they are!? The annoying thing about the salt was that not only was I finally in a deep sleep, the damn salt was eye level in the food cupboard! Not to mention that we have seven different types of course.

I’ve been slowly recovering but it’s taken a lot longer than I’d like. My rib cage has been incredibly sore and I’m absolutely wiped out by 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I know better than to do too much too soon so I’m still pacing myself. There’s so much to be getting on with. I have a tin of dark grey chalk paint ready and waiting to transform an old chest of drawers. I may well finally get round to painting our four dining room chairs the same colour if it’s a nice shade. I think it’s called charcoal. We have plans to completely gut the dining room and replace the bulky cupboards down one side with just rustic open shelving. There’s already bookcases either side of the double entrance into the conservatory but it seems we can never have enough book shelf space. Open shelves force you to be organised and tidy whereas cupboards, here, seem to be for shoving it all in never to be seen again. There’s the added bonus that our shower leak may have ruined the wall behind these cupboards so that’s our main reason for tackling the whole room. We need a new shower too. I see all these jobs as potential camper van funds being spent but that’s life I guess.

We’ve started to discuss ideas for a short break in October on the basis that it would be nice to have something booked ahead for once. It’s a round number birthday for me and although that’s depressing in itself it’s also an excuse to choose something I really would enjoy. I need to do battle with M’s love of creating surprises. I absolutely do not like surprises, they are never really what you’d choose yourself. I’ve already mentioned that I’d like somewhere completely off the beaten track and he’s already asked me why on earth I’d want that. This chat happened on a car journey and naturally a little voice piped up in the back, God Dad, you really don’t know Mum after all these years! So let’s just say I may have to convince him accordingly. Barn, cottage, hut, I’m not fussy as long as it has a fire, scenery and no human neighbours for miles. Sheep neighbours are fine!

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Pace

No I haven’t suddenly had carpal tunnel surgery and whipped up a little hand knit Icelandic number! I wish I could say it was all my own work but I did move pretty quickly when I spotted it on a vintage rail in Brighton! I’ve been watching the second series of Trapped set in Iceland and there are quite a few of these in various patterns, both cardigan and jumper. They seem to be quite expensive to buy new so I think this one was a bit of a steal for £10. I’ve given it to E on account of her feeling the cold quite easily. She’s in her second year at uni and having moved from halls to a house with a fixed bill deal was quite surprised to find they’d used nearly all their annual allowance in just a few months. The radiators have been turned down and appliances unplugged. There was talk of candlelight but with three boys and three PlayStations on 24/7 I think it’s obvious where the electricity allowance is going!

Brighton wasn’t on the agenda for our five day getaway. As is usual with all our time away it was combined with jobs for M in various parts of the country. Knowing that we’d be clocking up the miles either side of his free days I suggested we just stay close to the hotel we’d chosen for the trip. M had other ideas though and I must admit it is quite nice to see him go from ‘very reluctant to be in the South at all’ to ‘let’s go to Rye again, let’s go to Brighton again, let’s sit on the balcony at the De La Warr Pavilion again…’

It was only a flying visit and we headed for the same places we enjoyed last time. A coffee place with a great atmosphere and great coffee, which just happens to be a short walk from a very cool yarn shop called Yak. I visit many yarn shops because M’s job is all over the country and they vary hugely. I think they must be a blend of stock that is mainly commercially sensible and also partly just the owner’s taste. Yak is pretty much on my wavelength so it isn’t difficult to spend a bit each time we go! They also stock things like PomPom magazine and The Crochet Project booklets. which I don’t get to see very often.

We took the scenic drive home and the meandering water pic you can see above is part of the Seven Sisters Country Park. I’d have loved to have parked up and gone for a hike but it wasn’t something M could have done so I’m hoping I can return in the summer with a dog or two and negotiate leaving M in the car with coffee.

I’ve been subconsciously working on the basis that the less you talk the more likely it is that you’ll be heard. I’m not sure it works well with M but he certainly heard the silence while I took in the sea, the views, the hills and the forests and said he understood why I might be sad when we got home. I honestly think I’m coming to terms with Lincolnshire but I can’t face the idea of living there forever.

Shortly before our trip South we tried to find a place for coffee in the car with a view. It’s surprisingly tricky. There are hills but they aren’t local. We settled for a car park overlooking a small reservoir. I found it incredibly funny that this was the best we could do for a viewpoint and even M thought it was pathetic but we got the Kelly Kettle out, boiled water in no time thanks to the wind and retreated back into the warmth of the car to drink our tea. When the fog started to clear and the sun arrived it didn’t actually matter where we were. I crocheted a coaster for E (a request) and M did some invoices and had it not been for the large amount of tea and the lack of a wc we’d have stayed a lot longer.

There has been some crochet going in but it doesn’t seem like very much or very often. I had a hankering for a proper granny square cardigan / jacket type thing and did plenty of browsing online to see if what I had in mind was already out there. It wasn’t but it did help decide what I didn’t want. I eventually settled on a square that looks vaguely like a sunflower but that wasn’t really the intention. I’m doing plenty of squares without the yellow clusters but I think in the end it will probably look like sunflowers anyway. I can live with that. I’m using my Irish yarn which was intended for something else but I think I will wear this jacket a lot once it’s made. I like big knits for wearing in the house and when a coat is too much for outside but an average jumper isn’t enough.

I’m less than half way trough the number of squares required and I’ve abandoned the end weaving in part after twelve squares but I’m sure I will find the mood strikes me one evening and I’ll have a whole weaving in session. I did say on Instagram, ‘am I even a crocheter if I don’t own a granny square cardigan?’ which some found amusing, but it’s true isn’t it? Such a classic, every crocheter should own one.

In pretty similar colours I made a granny cowl as a quick, stash using up project. I made the linen stitch border one evening whilst watching a Jason Statham film. Not my usual choice but I’m always open minded when M suggests a film and it was pretty gripping (and cheesy too). Somehow I managed to crochet the border a bit tight and it wouldn’t sit flat nicely no matter how much I tugged it into shape. If I’d checked my work as I went and in good light I think I’d have spotted the problem, as it was I had to frog rows of fluffy yarn and one colour rows and chuck all that yarn away. When I redid the border with a bigger hook it was yarn chicken all the way! It was a nice quick make but with lots of ends, well worth the hassle of weaving in though.

Behind the scenes there have been lots of trips over to my old house. There have been a million trips to B&Q (or B and bloody Q as I like to call it!). A few more trips are required and then the for sale sign will be going up. This was supposed to be the year of getting things done to the house we live in but that’s all been shelved for now, though I am itching to blitz the hall with paint again and get M to build a new shoe rack. Currently the shoes are far too accessible for the dogs who like to greet anyone who comes to the house with a random piece of stolen footwear!

The pace this year was supposed to be slow and thoughtful and funnily enough it still seems that way in between the frantic DIY sessions and travel. Prioritising has long been a favourite word. In a nutshell that means coffee first and then everything else afterwards. We found a new coffee shop in Hastings this visit. We’ve been regular visitors to Hanushka Coffee in the Old Town for a while now and we were quite pleased to see they’d opened a second one in my childhood shoe shop. Another customer remembered the stock room being down the spiral staircase where they disappeared to find whatever they had in your size…usually a choice of two styles. It wasn’t a happy experience, it was, however, always an amazing building. As with the Old Town cafe the walls are lined with books. They aren’t for sale but people seem to read and then leave them anyway. M was very happy with the Sunday newspapers and crosswords while I watched the world go by.

A little bit of that contemplative time was spent remembering how much I used to enjoy photography. I would cycle the seven miles from home to Hastings Old Town and take typical photo’s of fishing huts, groynes, seafood shacks etc. The best bit was developing my black and white films at home inside a huge wardrobe and in my bedroom sink. I can’t remember what I used as blackout material for the window but I do remember a ‘do not enter’ sign I made for the door. It was only ever a hobby but the skills were later useful for a week spent with the local paper and the one and only photographer they had at the time. He was a great guy to shadow for the week but what it really taught me is that you need an outgoing, bolshy and confident personality to get the photo’s you need for press photography; the polar opposite to what I was comfortable with. Now that E has long since finished her A Level in Photography I’ve dug out her proper cameras and I’ve been trying to familiarise myself with the DSLR format. I don’t want to get into anything too seriously but I like the idea of taking slightly better quality images than my phone is capable of.

Today I seem to have a rare day off from loading the dogs into the boot of my car, driving a few miles down single track lanes, negotiating tractors, agricultural lorries and groups of Lycra clad bottoms on bikes. Not to mention shouting at Riley every time he drops his shoulder into a fresh fox poo for a good old roll around. Shouting makes no difference whatsoever. Then traipsing round many fields never quite getting the amount of clothing right for the weather and having to put up with dodgy cartilage in my right knee. Loading the dogs back up into the boot where they growl under their breaths at each other, only on the way home, for some strange reason. Shower with Riley. Clean up the flooded bathroom (unavoidable) and collapse with a hot coffee. Yep, I’m secretly glad they are both out of action today! Harvey’s long term muscle injury has good days and bad days. Riley developed a mysterious limp on the way back from the last walk, he’s been known to fake it when I pack a suitcase so we’re never sure. Meanwhile I walked six and a half miles round a large city with castle walls and riverside walk yesterday and my knee is suggesting that crochet would be quite satisfactory today. There’s the small matter of having to perform a housework miracle first. It’s always a bit worrying when a new ‘friend’ has been invited to dinner. I told J that I can’t do miracles and that we have two permanently muddy dogs so the kitchen floor is never going to sparkle! He seemed more concerned about M being home in time to cook his special chicken and pea risotto. Typical.

Coasters

I’ve had a request for the pattern for these simple coasters and whilst it’s easy for some to knock up a simple circle, it often saves time to follow a quick guide. As always with crochet there are some little things that help make a neater join or finish.

I have used a coarse unknown brand yarn thrifted years ago, it was quite tough to work with but ideal for coasters. Most yarns would work but it might be useful to experiment first if you’re making a set for someone.

The yarn I’ve used is roughly dk weight and I wanted a tight fabric so I’ve used a 4mm hook. 4.5mm might have been a tad easier on the hands.

U.K. terms

Start with a magic circle (picture 3) and chain 2 (does not count as a stitch).

Round 1. Into the circle make 12 htr’s and join with a slip stitch to the top of the first htr (not the chain 2).

Round 2. Ch2. 2htr in each stitch around, join as before.

[check your stitch count here, you should have 24 stitches. It’s important to ignore the ch2 at the start of every round and don’t count it as a stitch. With the joining slip stitch into the first htr it should push the ch2 slightly behind your work and therefore create a neat join.]

Round 3. Ch2. *2htr in next st, 1htr in next st* repeat from *to* around, slip stitch as before. (36sts)

Round 4. Ch2. *2htr in next st, 1htr in each of the next 2sts* repeat from *to* around, slip stitch as before.

Round 5. Ch2. *2htr in next st, 1htr in each of next 3sts* repeat from *to* around, slip stitch as before.

Round 6. Ch1. Crab stitch in dc around (picture 6) and slip stitch to join.

Weave in ends. If necessary, block or press with a cool iron.

(In rounds 3-5, you are simply increasing the number of single htr’s between 2htr in the same stitch, using this formula you can make a whole place mat too!)

Although not terribly exciting, this is the ultimate simple travel project. There’s nothing worse than a traffic jam and not having your crochet with you. One random ball of yarn and a spare 4mm hook has now been tucked into my glove compartment just in case!

Moving on

I’ve met some lovely people through blogging and Instagram. Some have become close friends. Good friends understand boundaries. If any of these friends wanted to share a burden I would most certainly be there for them. Hopefully life cruises along without too many burdens. Every now and then in life I come across someone who doesn’t understand boundaries and that has recently been the case. Someone who wanted more and more from us as a couple and when I politely said ‘too much’ that greed was fed through manipulative secretive measures. What can I say? Givers are sometimes that way so that they can take. Men are sometimes weak. Lessons have been learned all round. It’s OK to support someone professionally but when it becomes emotional and behind your back it’s inappropriate and extremely hurtful.

The cliche, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is most definitely true here. At least in some ways. We’ve had some long chats and reflected on everything. I think we are communicating better than ever and that’s often the key. M is typically a head in the sand person and I’d just rather discuss and solve. Ironically, having your head in the sand doesn’t mean you don’t speak much. Oh no, here it means you talk about everything at great length, in great detail, but you never talk about what really matters. So we’ve been working on that and it’s been great. In turn I’m trying to be generous with my listening.

We’ve been able to discuss some of the big decisions that we’ve been putting off for a while, mainly because there’s shouting every time they are mentioned. I’m not standing for any more shouting so I’ve plugged on and eventually we’ve come up with solutions to things that have been causing stress. One of which is the house I owned when we first met over twelve years ago. It’s been a huge burden, letting is an ongoing nightmare. I’m so relieved that we are finally selling it. Today we have someone starting the huge job of painting the entire house. M and I will be doing other kinds of repair work and cleaning. I can’t wait to see the back of it.

In the meantime at home, although I largely lost all interest in crochet (and life) whilst that crap was going on over Christmas I think I can feel a slight enthusiasm slowly returning. I finished a small blanket using the corner to corner method which is incredibly relaxing and easy going. I did rough lengths until it was a good proportion for a blanket and then straightened off the strips before joining with the final colour I’d held back for the job. All the yarn was part of a knitted blanket kit and whilst I would have loved the knitted version I really couldn’t have done that much knitting with my useless wrists. It’s lambswool and incredibly warm. It’s been used daily since thanks to the cold weather and our conservatory/living room which tends to be tricky to keep warm.

I treated myself to a new pair of boots just after Christmas having failed to find any in country stores or any other bricks and mortar shop for that matter. I risked ordering an Aigle pair on the basis that the kids had a whole succession of their classic navy and white wellies when they were small and they lasted well. I already have a navy pair myself but whilst they are fine for walking round the paths in the village (which I rarely do) they are hopeless for trekking around muddy fields (which I do every day). They were a tad on the pricey side but having had a pair of Hunters in my twenties which lasted a good twenty years I figured these might also be a good investment. I don’t buy very much these days but when I do, I’m very much like my Dad, I want to buy it to last. So far they’ve done miles and they’ve been comfortable, warm and waterproof. I’m extremely happy! There were a lot of years of suffering some old men’s walking shoes that leaked and had worn smooth soles.

In other news I was prompted to watch the Marie Kondo series on Netflix and was immediately hooked. I tried the folding method on M’s sock drawer and loved it so much I Kondo’d all our sock drawers! I asked the teen boy if he liked his new look sock drawer and he said, ‘very much’. I’ve yet to Kondo his entire wardrobe. Riley wasn’t that impressed when Kondo fever hit. He waited patiently most mornings while I chucked clothes on the bed in favour of an early walk. I don’t like routine so it sometimes pays not to get the dogs too used to a set time for walks. The look on their faces when you switch it up is pure guilt trip stuff.

I had a few hours in a city not too far from here last week. It should be a shopping treat but I tend to head for the charity shops, have a good coffee and then browse a book shop. That was pretty much my routine this time. I was happy enough to find a large bag of tapestry wool. I almost didn’t buy it but figured the low price was too good to pass up. Just a couple of pounds for eighty of them! I might make small crochet motifs with them and then join using a neutral from my supplies. I’m still pondering.

We’ve had some lovely cold and frosty days. I haven’t taken many photo’s, preferring instead to keep my hands firmly inside two layers of mittens! I did have one very pleasant day in the garden tidying up all the things that should have been tidied up before the onset of winter. It was surprising how much scrap or rotten wood was still lying around and although it was day time I risked lighting the incinerator to keep warm and get rid of the smaller stuff. The proper bonfire is about six feet tall and waiting for another dry day to be lit. I love a good outdoor fire. Harvey is so helpful when it comes to gathering firewood, he’s definitely the sort of dog you’d want if you had to survive in the wild!

It’s been so long since the last post I can’t remember what I’ve already written about, I apologise if I repeat myself. This year I am sticking to a using up policy. Yes I know I’ve just bought 80 tiny bundles of pure wool but at ten metres each and only costing a couple of quid I am not going to count them as new purchases. I’ve got various wips that need to be tackled, several kits that I’ve been saving for a rainy day and there is even a blanket that I would really like to finish off and start using. I don’t think this using up year is going to be much of a challenge to be honest. I haven’t Kondo’d my yarn stash yet but I really need to. I know there’s quite a bit more that I can donate.

The jar cupboard got the Kondo treatment a few weeks ago and it prompted M to bake. There may have been a hint in the shape of a book left open at the Victoria Sponge page. Let’s not mention the first one came out flat. I think I may have muddled the plain and self raising jars! The second one though, amazing! Yum.

So, we can all testify that the KonMari method is truly life changing. The surprising result, apart from chucking out loads of rubbish you didn’t know you had, was actually finding that you had more of most things you do want to keep. Mind blowing stuff.

I’ve written this post over a two week period, or rather, left it unfinished it and gone back to it. I’ve pondered about over sharing and come to the conclusion that if it helps process life then I’m going to go ahead. My Mum was a contributing author to a book about writing therapies and I do firmly believe that pen to paper does put things into perspective in a way that talking sometimes doesn’t. Occasionally an Instagram comment that suggests everything must be perfect in my world will concern me greatly because I know that there’s no such thing and I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to think life can be perfect. I’m not even striving for perfect. I’m aiming for content, a bit like one of my chilled out dogs lying beside my leg right now and dreaming of chasing rabbits.

We’ve recently had a few days in Oxford. I lived there for a while and it feels like going home. I didn’t take many photos but I’ll share those in my next post. I’ve also finally found my next project which will use my Donegal wool from Dublin. I’m swatching today so I’ll have some photos of those soon too. It’s gloriously sunny today and mild so I’m contemplating popping the dogs in the boot of a rather smart and very clean 4×4 that has been loaned to us while my front bumper is repaired. Never mind Bexhill where they park in shop windows from time to time, beware the older driver who reverses out of a car parking spot without looking at all. Crunch!

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!

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.