If the start of the new year was a little blergh, then things have definitely improved. This is probably due in part to having the house to myself once more. Dog walking routines have been restored and this is my ‘space’ to think, mull things over and formulate plans.
Last year M and I did try to explore new dog walking venues close to home. I love my usual place but after heavy rain the rivers are high and fast flowing. After many walks near such rivers one day Riley decided to take a dip. I will never forget the panic and the way he kept his eyes firmly fixed on mine as he swam desperately but without making any progress. It was too deep and too fast to jump in and hook him out so I lay flat out on the bridge and prayed I wouldn’t fall in head first whilst trying to grab him. When I finally did get hold of his collar it slipped almost over his head but luckily I managed to grab a handful of the scruff of his neck and yanked him out by that. I still have horrible flashbacks as to what might have happened. Had he got tired he would have been swept away for goodness knows how far.
This week I have driven to our usual place and had to turn back. The river is usually no more than a metre in depth but it’s currently three or four times that. I tried a local walk in our own village and met seven dogs with various owners (not my idea of fun). Despite the long muddy track and absence of roads other dogs are sometimes kept on leads and Riley is a pain in the backside when it comes to dogs on leads.
Having studied the local ordnance survey map we tried a nearby woodland marked with public footpaths only to find that no-one had trodden these paths for at least a decade! The dogs didn’t mind but the ground was extremely boggy and we didn’t get far before deciding it was a bad idea. So it’s back to square one. More map studying and exploring required.
Apart from the river issue I need to get out more in general. It’s all too easy to stay at home and find things to do. I tend to wait until M is with me before I venture much further than the dog walking places. I can cope with those because I don’t have to talk to anyone. It’s all too easy to let this agoraphobic tendency take over. I want to challenge that more this year. I do wish we had one of those fantastic out of town bookstores like the one we discovered in Derbyshire. That would be ideal, not only books but a cafe too and no city centre traffic or parking to contend with.
I’m letting the cupboard sorting motivation take over at the moment. I know it will end at some point and then I can tackle the going out challenge. For now though the bags and boxes for charity are growing daily. M was very pleased with my pan cupboard efforts (since he’s chief chef round here!) Not so much needed to be thrown away or donated from there but I did relocate some items to more logical places. My candle making pans for instance are now on a high shelf elsewhere because I don’t make them often. This particular sort out prompted me to bake for the first time in a long time. I made ginger snaps from a recipe I found over twenty years ago when I was enjoying having a whole house to myself for the first time. The baking novelty soon wore off!
Today I have sorted out the cupboard that houses all my pottery bowls as well as our every day crockery etc. I have plates going back to my student days and only odd plates from sets since then so they’ve all been boxed up and will be donated, leaving us with just enough of what I call our grown up stuff!
It’s a dull task, sorting. I find the best way to get through it is to bring music into the room and take breaks to do other, slightly more interesting things; otherwise known as procrastinating. Having washed up the empty golden syrup tin and found a couple of small, random, not much good for anything else, pots I decided to treat my succulent ‘pieces’ to some proper soil. They’ve been surviving perfectly well in jam jars of water for months. The large one, centre back, is the result of potting one about six months ago, so I’m hopeful these new little ones will take.
I read What Falls From The Sky by Esther Emery recently. It came to my attention via Instagram (ofsimplicity) and although I was concerned the religious side of things would spoil it for me, I found that it didn’t. Religion isn’t for me but I totally understand why it is for many. In brief, Esther Emery disconnects from the internet from the internet for a year and finds her spiritual self amongst other discoveries.
I enjoyed the book and although it was tempting to immediately announce a blog and Instagram break for a year I really gave it some deep thought and realised that in my circumstances, it is enriching my life not impeding it. At least to a certain extent. There are three main factors that come into play here. One is that I am profoundly deaf. One is that I am living in a place where I struggle to fit in. The third is that I live a creative life. The internet is not the answer to all of those issues but it does add something positive to each situation. Having said all that I am making a conscious decision to limit my browsing and socialising to first thing and last thing. I often take a coffee back to bed in the mornings, read the BBC News online, have a look at Instagram and check my emails. In the evenings I do much of the same and it’s also the time of day when I write most of my blog posts. It’s the mindless picking up of my iPad in between that causes me to lose time that could be better spent doing something else.
Some of that mindless activity is browsing for crochet ideas, patterns and inspiration. Thank goodness I never did get to grips with Pinterest. With non-internet activity in mind I sorted out my crochet magazines and crochet books. I use both a lot anyway but usually only after I’ve seen the pattern or item featured online.
On one windy and cold walk this week I took a hot coffee in a travel mug with me. The combination of biting cold wind and hot coffee made me feel quite smug with my new idea, it also made me stop and sit on one of the stiles while the dogs ran around like headless chickens for ten minutes. That’s when I decided that without the overuse of the internet for crochet project ideas I could really focus on what I wanted to make and what I wanted to make it with. I know this sounds ridiculous but so often last year I think I just got swept up with whatever caught my eye and that’s not always a useful outcome. Shawls for instance, they are fun to make, a good length of project time wise but I don’t wear them. I make hats like they’re going out of fashion because I like the pattern challenge particularly if it involves post trebles. So this year I am going to shift the starting point. I’ll tell you how the scarf project came about.
With just a few more days before returning to uni, E suggested a visit to our local antique and junk place. It’s huge so we have various parts we like more than others and know where to find the best prices, the vintage clothes and so on. In our first spot we found a cheerful red retro vanity case in perfect condition for just a fiver. I can see E using this to come back and forth on the train. Her eyeshadow is always a work of art and this takes a certain amount of kit! After a bit more junk browsing and resisting some items we have enough of, like old stone jam jars, and nice pottery jugs, we headed for the vintage clothing building. I really wish I had taken some photographs. These rooms are unmanned as such due to central tills but they do have cameras and I always worry that someone will spring from the shadows and shout, ‘oi, no photographs!’ Whilst E was trying on every vintage coat in this very large room I was rummaging about amongst the tatty old crochet blankets looking for designs that were genuinely vintage. There were a few granny square waistcoats and some scarves too. I wasn’t immediately inspired by any of the scarves initially. It wasn’t until I found the hand knit Aran cardigan I’ve been looking for since I don’t know when, purchased it and got it home that I suddenly thought it could be worn instead of a coat on milder days if it had a nice pure wool slightly vintage looking scarf to go with it.
One of the vintage scarves had been a chevron design in green, lemon and purple (not my ideal colour combo!) so I dug out my stitch pattern book (30p purchase from a table top sale!) and located the precise stitch I think it had been made in; the peephole chevron stitch. It’s an incredibly simple pattern repeat and I based my sizing on a scarf I already have that wraps comfortably round the neck in a loop and down. I wanted considerable drape so I used a 4.5mm hook with various dk yarns, all of which are pure sheep or alpaca and very soft.
The terracotta yarn is 100% alpaca purchased in Barcelona two years ago. It was a completely local product, hand dyed and so much cheaper than it would have been in England (the equivalent of just under £6). The off white is an alpaca/wool blend from Yorkshire a few years ago on one of our shepherds hut breaks. The brown yarn was from our brief trip to North Wales last year while M was on a business trip. The grey yarn is from Derbyshire, the sheep festival we attended in July last year. I love the fact that all of these yarns were produced so close to where they were purchased. It’s usually the only type of souvenir I bring home these days!
I’m on the grey section now and the whole scarf is deliciously squishy. Not only that but it also smells wonderful; not an overpowering lanolin type smell but enough to recognise that there is no man made fibre. The grey yarn is a blend of two sheep breeds and is the most unevenly spun, it’s also the most enjoyable of the yarns to work with. I’m loving the tiny little flecks of dried vegetation. When I put the yarn together I thought it might look too modern but with this peephole chevron stitch it seems to say vintage. It’s been the perfect project to work on while I watch Call the Midwife right from the beginning. It was one of the few Christmas specials I managed to catch and I’d forgotten how much I liked it as well as enjoying the crochet spotting!
There’s just one drawback to the scarf pattern, it’s going far too quickly! M has covered a few late night police jobs lately which can involve a lot of hanging around waiting for the right people to gather. It means I can be more of the night owl I was before I met him which is great for uninterrupted crochet time!