Cape

This week has been E’s last week at home before moving to uni halls. It’s been a funny old week. Boxes have been piling up, last minute purchases made, bits and bobs retrieved from the back of the kitchen cupboards that might come in handy. Although I was happy enough to care for her Roborovski hamsters, Scout and Jem and a Russian hamster named Badger she has an animal loving friend who offered and we came to the conclusion they’d be enjoyed more by the friend. I love little furry creatures but not when they die. I’m still getting over Lorelie, the little white Roborovski hamster that was set free from its cage via a loose tube by Mollie the cat. That didn’t end well.

Today though seemed like a good day for one final outing with the dogs. As Riley was making himself at home on E’s bed last night, grabbing the duvet in his mouth and tugging it into a nest shape, I think she finally realised that he wasn’t going to be sleeping on her bed for the next three years at least. We took them to Whisby Nature Reserve which is not far from where we live and has a lovely lake and wooded walk. The sun even made a brief appearance but it definitely looked like Autumn with fallen leaves everywhere after the recent stormy weather. The dogs wasted no time finding the water’s edge and plunging in. They later settled on a generous pile of blankets and towels in the boot while we had a nice lunch overlooking the lake.

They are still a bit grumbly with each other in the boot but more so when the vehicle is moving. I recently discovered that they growl less when I sing on the way home from my usual walk which was a fact I wished I hadn’t shared wth M and E on the way back from Whisby. M insisted I start singing because he said he was getting stressed about them whilst driving. I was on my third Glen Campbell song when I stopped to ask if they’d settled down yet. M and E said they had stopped growling ten minutes ago but could they have Wichita Lineman now please!

Everyone seems to be slightly hyper and the banter is in full swing. J stood at E’s bedroom door and asked when he could move in. It’s a long running joke that her room will become a craft room, a guest room, or J’s room. The truth is that we aren’t allowed to touch it for three years but I’m still mulling that one over.

I can’t seem to concentrate on crochet this week. My mind is definitely elsewhere. I have added tassels to the Sunday blanket albeit using unravelled squares from a project I’ve abandoned. It’s given them a curly look which is ok with me. It’s been tested, one chilly evening in front of the tv and it’s very cosy. I’ve started another using up a large ball of Aran for the main body and whatever I have to hand in that yarn weight for the border rows. This one will be for my niece so there is pink involved but I’ve sworn I’ll never buy pink yarn again after this project. I really dislike pink that much I don’t enjoy crocheting with it.

Tweedy yarn however, I do enjoy using, so the Little Red Riding Hood outfit was a quick, fun make. It was extremely simple, even a complete beginner could make this though I find it’s never really clear when a pattern includes a rejoin instruction. On this occasion it really didn’t matter too much because both sides work as right sides. Ribbon would work equally well for a cape fastening. I need to crochet a red apple or two for the basket now and although I initially worried that children these days might not know about the story of LRRH, E assured me that her class of year two children did, so I figured she’s still relevant.

The cape pattern is from the book Crochet Dress Up by Emma Friedlander-Collins. I like the fact that these aren’t impractical lighter weight yarn projects that take forever to make. Most seem to require chunky yarn with occasional dk. Perhaps my favourite pattern is the fairy wings made with the help of two coat hangers. Definitely one to try in the future.

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Adapted

It’s been a bit of a challenge to take photo’s this morning. It’s been dark, wet and windy. I’ve had fairy lights on to light the darkest corners. It barely lunch time and I’m on my third mug of hot tea. Candles have been lit and I had to nudge the heating on to low just to take the chill off the air. It’s no wonder I’ve been focussing on blankets these last few evenings.

I keep promising myself that I will write down all my ‘go to’ crochet patterns in a nice note book. I don’t trust iPads for future reference. I’ve lost too much data on computers along the way, with updates to technology happening so fast and not being able to keep up with transferring files to the latest format each time. I know that Mum has family recipes jotted down in the margins of old cookery books which is a lovely thing to be able to revisit if you have a keen interest in cooking (which I personally don’t, but Mum has).

These go to patterns are simply the most reliable when it comes to results, whether garments or toys or blankets. This latest blanket would definitely be a contender. I’ve taken the Sunday Shawl pattern by thelittlebeenz and adapted it to make one big square rather than a triangular shawl. If you’ve already made one or two of the shawls using the pattern this adaptation is quite easy to do. You just need to create four of the corners rather than just the one. I used the corner to join each row and it’s virtually invisible joining. For this blanket I did leave out a few of the final border rows. I felt I had enough of a border but I am thinking of adding a grey woolly tassel to each corner now, it feels like it needs that last finishing touch!

One tip if you have a go at this; don’t get too hung up on stitch counts. It’s really only the wavy shell row that needs a bit of close attention. I had to adjust the stitch count by doing the last few shells before the corner by skipping one stitch instead of two so that the anchoring dc finished in the right place before the corner trebles. It’s not a noticeable adjustment but it kept the corner correct which is the important part.

I had a good stash of Aran weight yarn when I started this so I didn’t exactly choose the colour scheme from scratch. Now that I know it works out I quite fancy making another in more neutral tones. The size has turned out to be approximately 110cm or 43″ square which is plenty for what we call a tv blanket used in our draughty conservatory.

The original shawl pattern uses a hook size bigger than you’d usually use with dk yarn so I followed suit and used an 8mm hook for Aran yarn. This seems to be about right for a nice drape and with the added bonus that it works up quite quickly. I don’t crochet particularly fast and I have a lot of interruptions and I still finished this blanket in about four evenings.

I have some pink yarn in my stash that most definitely needs using up whilst a certain little person still likes all things pink and unlike clothing I don’t have to worry about whether it will fit! I’m sure this size blanket would be useful for car journeys, afternoon naps, falling asleep in front of the tv… everyone should have one! 

Blankets

Mud has returned to my daily life with a bang. Riley’s chest front is usually a beautiful fluffy white colour. This is how it will look on most days from now on I’m sure. What the photo cannot convey is how strong the smell of fox poo was. He’s had two shampoos since and it’s still hanging around. Over the course of four miles I think he must have found every single one. It probably didn’t help that we took an accidental new route and skirted a field that technically wasn’t a public footpath. I try not to do this but I was otherwise preoccupied (woolgathering) and drifted down a mown path that eventually ran out in the corner of a field leaving no clue as to where to walk next. I stuck to the edge and rejoined the footpath further on. No sign of any farmers thank goodness.

If Harvey was a fox poo roller too I think I would have to take them to the local playing field or round the village on leads which would be no fun at all. My poor car is permanently tainted with this horrible stench. They’ve also been brushing up against the edges of this latest crop which is everywhere on our walk and makes the fields look very black indeed. I wasn’t sure what it was but I know a man who knows about these things so I asked my Grandad of course! He says it is a bean which they grind up and use for cattle feed. I must admit the crops round here are all a bit unexciting. When I lived in Banbury for a while I used to take my Springer, Algie, through lovely fields of ripe corn on the cob. Even on a mild day I’d wear my big old coat with four large pockets, two on the inside, out of sight and perfect for bringing home a few. Occasionally there were peas, but these are so tasty raw and fresh from the pods that not many actually made it home.

We’ve had more rain than dry spells over the last few days so my thoughts have turned to blankets. I’ve been doing a few rows of the blanket shown in my header here and there. It’s all kept in a basket and to hand so although it’s repetitive and unchallenging I am hopeful it will be a full size blanket one day soon!

Since I completed the last Sunday shawl I’ve been meaning to try and turn the pattern into a blanket or throw. I thought I’d seen this idea on Instagram but it turns out that was a poncho which must have given me the idea to adapt the pattern for other things. There is something very enjoyable about this particular pattern. The main body in one colour isn’t too dull and it keeps you motivated knowing that there’s some interesting border work to look forward to. I know it’s only crochet, yes I know.

In just two evenings I’ve crocheted the main body of the blanket/throw in a mid grey aran weight yarn with an 8mm hook. I’m holding a bit back from the 400g ball for some of the border rows. The challenge will be making sure I don’t add in any extra stitches by mistake because it’ll start to ruffle if I do. Ruffling annoys me greatly.

I have other blanket news too but that’ll be a separate post. For now, I’m going to brew a large mug of Rooibos and make a start on the border rows of what will have to be called my Sunday blanket. It’s the bit I’ve been looking forward to and dreading in equal measures. Could all go pear shaped quite easily. Riley seems to know when I’m making a blanket because he keeps trying to shuffle just a bit further on to it. There’s no such thing as too close as far as he’s concerned.

Balance

I really hope September goes nice and slowly. Just look at these blue skies, the late summer sun, refreshing lake. I don’t want to be trading this in for wind, rain and cold just yet. Harvey and Riley look so happy don’t they? Harvey is forgetting his pain and just enjoying the moment. I’m trying to do the same with my sore back. We walked an extra long route this morning while M was umpiring a few villages away. E was packing a few boxes for uni. J was doing last minute A Level reading which was puzzling as I could have sworn he said he didn’t have any prep or work to do for A Levels back in June after he’d finished his exams.

J did really well with his GCSEs. I’m not sure if he was serious or not but he did say his aim was to beat his big sis with the number of A’s. I think he got the same but she just pipped him with the number of A*. It was O Levels in my day so just when I’ve got used to the A and A* business they’ve now introduced numbers for heavens sake! J will be back at school soon and E will be moving into halls round about the third week of September. M is quite miserable about it, whereas I’ve probably gone through all the emotions and feel prepared myself and just happy that she’s going to do something she loves. I can’t say I totally loved every minute of my Graphic Design career but it did have its moments.

These days I’m happier without that level of stress. I worked mostly in advertising and the responsibility of making sure that the huge amounts clients spent on it produced favourable and accountable results weighed on my shoulders. Lighter work included working with a few famous musicians whose manager worked in offices not far from ours. It helped that I was young and not particularly aware of who they were when they came to me for CD cover artwork and publicity material.

I sometimes feel very old and I haven’t reached the big five o yet. It’s probably because everyone around me keeps harping on about that time of life and am I getting symptoms yet? Jeez, bugger off, I’m fine! Then I think, heck, does that mean I’m moody? I’m much more concerned with other things going wrong like tearing the cartilage in my knee last year. It’s taken a long time to get it back to normal and just when I’ve been able to walk miles again my back starts playing up. I’m sticking with walking as my cure all though, it really is uplifting to be out there just breathing in good country air.

I’ve missed being able to reach the big lake comfortably with my dodgy knee but trekking round Madrid made me realise that it was time to have another go and sure enough we did the whole big loop without a single twinge. It was rather disappointing to discover that the lake has been taken over by a plant or weed that makes swimming a bit dangerous. Harvey took a dip and realised that things weren’t favourable but Riley carried on swimming regardless and then had a bit of trouble on the way back to me. Needless to say we won’t be walking that way unless it dies off over the winter months. There are plenty of safer streams to swim in on a slightly different route, although some of them only consist of black sludge at the moment as you can see from the colour of Riley’s legs in the photo!

Life is a good balance when you enjoy the big outdoors in reasonable weather and something like crochet for instance ๐Ÿ˜‰ when it’s bucketing down. I wound those messy cotton hanks from Spain one rainy afternoon recently. With both winders spinning at the same time one of E’s friends was so curious she asked politely what I was actually doing. I suppose to the average person this would have looked quite confusing! Just wait until I have lots of dye bubbling on the hob!

Another rainy day provided the chance to finish the shawl that I started on the way to Madrid. I know I was going to take the slightly variegated deep yellow one with me but somehow that just started growing quickly in those last few days before we actually left and I wanted to make sure I had plenty of crochet to last a whole week. There was a muddle with my yarn order for the pullover that I had planned to take and somehow the express delivery got overridden by the free postage offer and so the order took over five days to process. I rummaged through my dk shelf and found the variegated purple/green/goodness knows what else coloured yarn right at the back, wound into cakes already. Then I just chose seven random balls of leftover yarn all under 50gms. I shoved it all in a fabric drawstring washbag so that it was extra squishy for packing. Although I have the pattern on my iPad I also printed it out and tucked that in with the yarn. That proved quite handy when we ended up spending most days at one of the public pools.

Every time I make one of these I wish I’d done the shell row with right side the other way up. It’s easy enough to do by cutting the yarn at the row end and starting at the other edge. In the grand scheme of things though it doesn’t really matter that much. The edging doesn’t use much yarn so I still have plenty of the lovely malabrigo purple left. It’s so nice to work with it nearly got chosen for every other border row!

I’ve now gone back to my yellow version of this shawl. It’s a nice easy relaxing make. I going to make the body of this one slightly bigger. I’ve also got to work out how to do the border with just two colours including the main body colour. I might even leave some of the border rows out, especially if I decide to just alternate the colours. I’m doing more of the make it up as you go along kind of thing these days.

I also saw a great idea on the Instagram hashtag for this shawl that I tried to find a second time and couldn’t, but in a nutshell someone had cleverly used the pattern and made a square instead of a triangle. I really fancy having a go at this using my supplies of Aran weight yarn to produce a good size lap blanket. I’m sure M will be very pleased about this plan because our heating bill last winter was quite a bit more than usual!
The Sunday Shawl pattern is by TheLittleBeeNZ and is available on etsy.

August

It’s a rainy day in August and I’m home with reliable wifi, unlike July’s photo scavenger hunt when I somehow managed to publish the draft with montage only. I’ve added the words since but it was annoying at the time! Thank you Hawthorn (http://livelovecraftme.blogspot.co.uk/) for hosting this fun monthly photo challenge.

1. Relaxed. It’s quite possible that crochet is the only thing that makes me feel relaxed. It’s the most unexpected of hobbies that came about as the natural progression from knitting which I was having trouble with due to rubbish wrists. I took up knitting after browsing the haberdashery department in John Lewis one day looking for creative inspiration. The range of denim yarns they had at the time with chunky needles was too tempting to resist. Later a cricket mum showed me how to do a crochet granny square whilst we were sitting on the boundary and it’s been crochet ever since.

2. Something beginning with M. Well, there is a significant M in my life, I’m married to him. We don’t take a lot of selfies but I do occasionally take his photo. I have to tell him to stop pointing at the scenery first. Weird habit. So, M for mushrooms. They are mostly fungi really. We discovered a guide to fungi lurking on the caravan book shelves and it’s been fun identifying all the different types that grow in this patch of woodland where we have kept the caravan all summer.

3. Time for… Apple and blackberry crumble. Ironically this year, although we have an abundance of both vital ingredients in our back garden we actually collected these from around the caravan site and bought the apples from M&S. Scandalous! Home is an hour and a half away and we forgot to bring the apples with us. The smell of it baking in our little oven must have wafted out of the windows and all round the site, it certainly provoked a few comments.

4. Tangerine. Yarn. Well, what else? I do love tangerines to eat but I don’t like it as a colour in the home. M on the other hand is drawn to all citrus flavours, smells and colours. He’d have an orange car if I didn’t threaten never to get in it! So when we went into El Gato Negro, the yarn store in central Madrid, he naturally pointed out the orange or tangerine coloured yarns available. Um, no, I’m not planning on crocheting any play fruit at the moment.

5. Something beginning with O. OK I’m flat out cheating on this one, because it’s an opportunity to share my fascination with ChurrO’s. They weren’t new to us for our recent holiday but they were fairly new to us last October when we visited Barcelona. We were fortunate enough to be able to roll out of bed, get dressed and tumble into a bakery/coffee bar a few yards from our apartment. J did this with absolute style ending with a double portion of churro’s and a coffee cup full of melted chocolate. All week I watched him tuck into this for breakfast thinking he was bonkers and despite loving all things chocolate I just couldn’t do it for breakfast. Neither could some of the other nationalities that frequented that cafe for coffee and croissants. In Madrid, however, everyone has them, young, old, rows of outdoor tables with chocolate, chocolate, chocolate and churro’s.

6. Whiskery. This makes me think of cats more than dogs, or old men with beards. I wasn’t a cat person at all when the kids persuaded me to adopt a cat but Mollie was an absolute character and definitely won my heart. Now and then, with cats, you find a big old whisker that’s fallen out and I’ve always wondered if they ever grow a new one back?

7. Lace. Mum swears I was only about two or so when I expressed my opinions about all things lacey, pink or girly. I’ve hated lace all my life. I think that’s why I was miserable in all the photos of my Uncle’s wedding because I had to wear a lace trimmed bonnet and a dress (Shudder). Well it was the seventies. I don’t usually go for crochet with holes in much because it does remind me of lace but this piece became a crochet top and about as lacey as it gets round here!

8. Bridge. I’m always drawn to lovely old bridges, especially the stone type with little features that tell you how old it might be. There have been so many significant bridges in my life I could write for hours and not cover them and that’s something I’ve only just realised today. I wish I had a photo of the kids when they were small and we took them to the real Pooh Bridge in Sussex and played Pooh Sticks. Harvey was a young dog back then and we also had our big black Labrador cross, Jake. We had to hold them back of course otherwise they’d have been straight in the water and retrieving the sticks before they’d travelled under the bridge! I’ve been over several famous bridges in America, I’ve been over the Humber Bridge more times than I care to remember, I’ve been under every bridge on the River Medway and as far along the Thames as Abingdon where the river becomes to shallow for big boats. I’ve stood on the famous Rialto Bridge in Venice. I’m sure there are hundreds more. What a thought provoking category! The photo was taken in Matlock, Derbyshire.

9. Letters. I used to be a great letter writer, it’s how I kept in touch with my grandparents before the age of iPads and FaceTime. Now I rarely write a letter unless it’s a sick note for J for school. He rarely has days off due to illness but this year was an exception when he managed to get a really nasty pneumococcal chest infection that went on for months. Thankfully he’s fully recovered and back to his slightly annoying sixteen year old self. So, letters carved into this big old tree at the hidden lake where my parents live. I walked my dogs there twenty odd years ago so I know that some of these letters have been there that long!

10. Own choice. Riley guarding his patch, or maybe just wondering whether the little Eriba Puck owners across the way have a dog he can play with! They didn’t and we wouldn’t have let him play anyway, we are mean like that. We take them for long walks and swims instead, and try and wear them out. I’ve chosen this photo because on our last visit to the caravan over the bank holiday M and I both agreed that pitching the caravan for twelve weeks in one place was one of the best decisions we’ve made this year. It’s been a great bolt hole to allow us some relaxation time and space from the teenage stuff. The dogs have enjoyed all the new places to explore too. The site is changing owners unfortunately but the deal will remain the same so we will probably do the same next year. In the meantime, where shall we tow it next? There’s still time for autumnal camping.

Recovery

The weather has been great since we got back from 37 degree sweltering hot days in Madrid. It’s been a gentle transition over the bank holiday weekend through to today, a measly 17 degrees. I don’t mind a bit. Nothing lasts forever. It was enough to take the dogs on some lovely walks last week and do a spot of cloud gazing. Apparently there was an air show not far away on the day I snapped that aeroplane flying low, one of many flying over my head.

We don’t use our secret nature reserve so much in the summer because we are usually away or watching J or E play cricket. I often miss out on all the wonderful planting that volunteers did years ago that produce so many different wild flowers. I just caught the end of some of the varieties on these recent walks. Harvey seems to be doing ok after his two month stint on painkillers. It’s some kind of arthritis and he’s grumpy about it and probably always will be now so we will just have to keep them apart at times. I’m sure lake swimming helps keep Harvey in fit condition. It’ll be cooling down gradually but they’ve plunged in that lake in all seasons so they must love it that much.

H and R were left in the capable hands of J while we nipped to the caravan for the bank holiday weekend. If truth be told M and I needed a few days to recover from the heat, the walking and all the swimming that we did in Madrid. I have calves like Usain Bolt! I would have been quite happy to do some, gentle hiking with water and picnics but M has slipped easily back into his U.K. routine which involves moving about a lot less. He looked pretty shocked when I suggested a walk round the lake in Ashbourne which is no distance to speak of.

Unless it’s a one off event I never really see the point of joining hundreds of people on the road, having great trouble parking the car and then seeing or doing something with crowds of people on a bank holiday when you could just as easily do it or see it on another day. So I mentioned this to M and said we could try and think outside the box and go somewhere nice but not popular, bit of a tricky brief. We did indeed manage to pull this off quite by mistake on the way back from a small town I’d dragged M to just so that I could get a copy of Inside Crochet. It’s hard not to notice that you’re driving by the world headquarters of JCB with a twenty foot high water fountain, manicured lawns, huge lake, sculptures and a big white helicopter parked on a raised helipad just outside. It was quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and reminded me much more of those huge companies in America that you see on Secret Boss or whatever that programme is called.

I suggested that we stop there on the way back because I’d spotted a lay by with an ice cream van and even if M didn’t fancy another walk around a lake we could at least sit and watch people doing just that. Turns out that if you have fishermen miles round the lake then it suddenly becomes a lot easier to move in that direction! On the way round to speak to them I was told all about the different carp species M could see near the surface of the water. It did strike me as not much of a challenge to catch them when there were so many but I didn’t say anything along these lines. M used to fish before he met me and I’m extremely glad he’s more interested in watching cricket these days.

We eventually made it round to the fishermen and gosh, I must have spent some considerable time organising the photos on my phone, taking pictures of the sumo sculpture I had been sitting on, daydreaming about my next crochet project, wishing I had my book with me, contemplating downloading a free book to kindle for iPhone, making a mental list of things to do after this caravan break and about fifty other mental lists and finally M finished chatting to these guys about fish.

There was a little fuss about how the lake seemed bigger now that we were walking round it and he hadn’t wanted to walk that far. This was after I suggested it was shorter to continue walking than to turn back. We then witnessed a public row between a husband and wife who were presumably taking it in turns to push their mother or mother in law in a wheelchair that ended in the husband leaving them and stropping off back to the car. At this point M uttered the most fantastic line, ‘well I don’t know what he’s making a fuss about, it’s a lovely day for a walk!’ Um, yeah, I think you were complaining about that yourself thirty seconds ago.

By the time we made it back round to the car the stroppy husband was leaning against his car licking a big 99 ice cream! Nice guy. I didn’t get any pictures of all the brightly coloured ducks they have there but from behind M’s shoulder I did take the photo of the black swans. I haven’t seen any of these for years and they gave me something of the shivers. They are the reason I didn’t like anything with a beak after one attacked me when I was small. He probably just wanted bread but it was enough to put me off for life. They are stunning looking creatures though and they must be quite rare.

M decided it was probably an amazing place to work given that you could take your lunch and sit by the lake every day. There were obvious JCB employees doing just that as well as those taking advantage of the flat paths for cycling. We later learnt that you could take a 2.5 hour tour round the whole factory which M would have loved to do but I’m fairly certain I’d have been bored ****less.

It did remind me of the time Ella spotted a little pair of yellow wellies in a farm shop somewhere and announced they were the nicest she had ever seen and she really needed some. She actually said ‘I really meed wellies’ which was the last of her sweet mispronunciations. They were displayed alongside toy JCB diggers and they had the JCB logo on them which did not put her off at all. They were yellow for heavens sake! She wore them until her feet would no longer squeeze into them and then reluctantly passed them on to Jake who wore them with a yellow fireman’s helmet wherever he went.

Goodies

The best laid plans and all that… I didn’t actually make it to the one wool shop in Madrid I researched and liked the look of. There was some kind of mishap when I copied the address into a message for M to navigate to the following day and we ended up somewhere entirely different. It wasn’t all bad, we walked up the equivalent of Fifth Avenue past Champagne Shops, Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors, Chanel, Gucci… it was quite jaw dropping.

There was a more central yarn store which seemed to have less than enthusiastic reviews on Trip Advisor but I always take those with a pinch of salt anyway so we bravely entered even though I felt quite intimated by the floor to ceiling arrangement of yarn and two enormous weighing scales at the far end. ‘No tocar’ signs were everywhere, which means don’t touch! Kind of tricky when you’re considering buying yarn! In the end, after watching several Spanish people purchase yarn by the weight we stepped forward and asked for their dk cotton in five colours, 100gms of each. Our Spanish is rubbish but we googled a few handy phrases just to get started and then resorted to gestures. The woman was quite patient and polite. Messy hanks were pulled off each pile and slapped onto the big brass trays and then popped into paper bags with a ticket. At this point I really wished I was local because you’d just pop in, buy your exact requirements and leave. The customer before us came in with two bag handles, said a whole load of Spanish we couldn’t follow at all and then, with a lot of arm waving from her and the server, with example crochet bags held up to talk about sizing, weighed out what she recommended she’d need for the bag size she wanted. At this point I was extremely impressed.

We had a similar experience in the indoor market type shop which has slightly creepy looking models in the window and bizarre displays of neon zips tacked to the display boards. Once inside there is one of everything you can buy tacked to the walls or displays and you tell them what you want and they retrieve it from a wooden drawer. You then get a ticket and take it to a cashier and they give you your goods. It’s absolutely bloody amazing. At the start I chose a raffia bag base, got the ticket, paid for it, received the goods wrapped in brown paper. After that I was feeling quite confident so I chose some buttons, some silver charms, a couple of embroidered patches (cacti). Everything got wrapped in paper.

I came out of there in quite a daze, for a start there must have been every button ever manufactured in there on rolling drums, organised by colour and/or material. I suddenly couldn’t think what I needed buttons for and then remembered a little person project that requires the type of fastening shown above in red. Two little leather triangles, loops and a toggle button, the perfect finishing touch. I can punch some small holes with my leather tools to sew it on. The natural leather version I thought would make a nice clasp for a crochet bag with a flap.

Along with buttons, silver charms and a huge selection of embroidered patches there was every type of trim imaginable, parts to make your own bras or underwear, paper mache blanks, polystyrene shapes, string, rope, wool, embroidery thread, knitting needles, crochet hooks, embroidery tools, embroidery hoops, tapestry frames, bag handles, rug making supplies, lace and much more. Everything you could possibly need. It made our haberdashery departments and Hobbycraft look extremely lame.

Some of the products on sale at Almacen de Pontejos were available in the U.K but mostly the prices were cheaper than the U.K. T shirt yarn for instance, in a shop round the corner from this haberdashery place was โ‚ฌ4 or โ‚ฌ5 depending in whether it was plain or patterned, for a big fat roll of it. There was about a hundred different designs to choose from. Choice is very good in Spain!

I always buy crochet magazines whenever I travel to another country. I’ve never come across a French, Italian or Spanish crochet magazine that hasn’t got diagrams in it. I love the ones with just crochet fabric patterns in them or crochet edgings. These two Spanish ones have a lot of fine crochet in them but one is mainly garments and they are quite different to anything in British magazines which is always interesting.

I’m not big on shopping so there wasn’t much else that I planned to buy. I did buy the grey star bag with leather straps that I posted on Instagram last week from the huge El Rastro market on Sunday. To be honest it was a nervy experience because they stepped up security with police barracades at the end of every street and there were armed police everywhere. It was too hot and too busy and we were all glad to leave and get back to the apartment for our swimming gear. I also invested in a couple of Turkish towels to keep the sun off in between swims. They were in the sale at El Corte Inglis which is a very handy chain out there with branches everywhere.

I now need a week to get over the week we had away. I’m absolutely shattered. So much walking and swimming. Ironically I think it’s actually helped my sore back so I might keep up with the swimming now that we’re home. I haven’t minded the rain and patchy sun since we got home either. Seven days of thirty degrees plus is quite enough for me. We all look as brown as berries and I’ve even got sore shoulders which is highly unusual for me. I don’t burn very often.

Holidays always feel slightly surreal and then it’s back to reality with laundry, housework, dog walking. J gets his GCSE results tomorrow and starts in the sixth form in a week or so. He spent all of his holiday money on clothing and will probably be the best dressed sixth former they’ve ever seen, he has been meticulous in his choices and has bought all sorts of items he knows are much more expensive in the uk. He couldn’t get his coat jacket thing in his case so he had to wear it on the way to the airport and through to the plane. He was very warm but very glad of it once we picked up the car at Gatwick!

Madrid

It’s early in the morning. I’m sure the only noise is the hum of the air conditioning and gentle snoring from three different bedrooms. I’m never an early riser at home but on holiday I guess I sleep more soundly. There’s something mildly fascinating about waking up and seeing sunshine and feeling warmth, and if I’m honest I do like casually observing the permanent residents here tend their balcony plants and in turn casually observe their neighbour’s doing the same.

We are staying in an air bnb apartment which is in an old building with ornate balconies to the front, several very elaborate cast iron elevators, huge wooden doors with decorative iron reinforcements. The whole thing is very fancy but pretty much the norm. There are some modern apartments scattered around and even those have a certain charm.

One of the things we’ve had this time but didn’t have in Barcelona is a washing machine. This has been very handy after swimming several days in a row. Washing lines are on a pulley system between our kitchen window and an apartment window about fifteen feet away. The drop is at least thirty feet to the ground floor patio which is home to two terrapins in shallow crates. It takes a steady hand to peg out the washing without dropping anything. My greatest fear is not losing the laundry but suffocating the terrapins with a large bath towel!

It’s been ridiculously hot all week so for the first half we stayed permanently in the shade which was not difficult to achieve. A lot of the side streets have sails or trees which provide a bit of shade and just the height of the buildings provide the rest. Outdoor cafe areas have misting parasols which is heavenly when you are having a glass of Sangria and a break from walking.

Public transport has been the biggest surprise. We hired bikes for a week in Barcelona which was ideal because it meant M could move almost as fast as us. Madrid has bike hire stations everywhere but it’s not such a good deal as Barcelona nor as safe. You must cycle on the road and not on the path and there’s not as many cycle paths. So we sussed out the buses on day one and the metro soon after. Any single journey anywhere seems to be โ‚ฌ1.50 by bus or metro. It’s an impressive set up, buses are clean, metro trains are clean and I’m no train expert but I think they are wider than London tubes. Staff are really helpful and friendly. One bus driver even got off to point the way to the area we were looking for. The metro does get busy in popular places but nothing like London in August, we’ve always managed to get a seat.

We are a little wary after the Barcelona attack. We came close to returning to Barcelona since we enjoyed it so much last October and the only two things that changed our minds were the anti tourist protests and the fact that we like seeing new things. E was particularly upset about La Rambla attack because we spent so much time there and it really felt close to home. By this point we had visited most of the tourist hotspots in central Madrid so we found a swimming pool slightly out of town. Another good value for money place (โ‚ฌ4.50 for adults and โ‚ฌ4 for under 25s) and clean set up. I mention clean again because I really struggled to cope with the bathroom facilities when we spent two weeks touring round Italy. Call me fussy but a hole in the floor or a toilet without a seat (let alone toilet paper) is not my idea of sufficient.

The kids aren’t really enjoying the food if I’m honest. We’ve succumbed to marguerita pizza a couple of times. They weren’t impressed when we had seafood paella even though J quite likes the supermarket versions at home. I’ve never really enjoyed the typical tapas menu but there are one or two safe bets like patatas bravas. We’ve ordered the Parma ham by mistake a few times. M and I love the smoked meats but the Parma ham just doesn’t seem to dissolve no matter how much you chew it. Naturally the kids find it hilarious when it arrives as a complimentary tapas and M does his fake thank you smile.

I can’t get over how many people tuck into churro’s and chocolate for breakfast. People of all ages, shapes and sizes. We thought J was mad when this was his staple start to the day in Barcelona. Personally I couldn’t face chocolate in the morning and I’m something of a chocolate addict! I’ve had them once this holiday and felt pretty queasy straight after.

Whilst we had a fairly long list of things to see in Barcelona, here we’ve shamefully not visited any of the museums, so far anyway. It’s been more a case of taking it easy, a little shopping, a lot of stopping for cold drinks or coffee, a bit of swimming. I’ve had plenty of time to crochet in the evenings when everyone is flat out on their beds recovering from the day’s heat and walking.

We’ve got a simple filter coffee machine here. I put it on around about a quarter of an hour before everyone starts to stir, I swear it’s the smell that brings E out of her room. They all wake puffy eyed with the heat and two of the three walk in a straight line to the coffee. I don’t bother with small talk until the first coffee has been served. Judging by the smells wafting up between apartments I think it’s a universal way to start the day.

Ready

I blame my mother for this recent blitz on the house. I swear it must have been her influence that has made me dash round like a mad thing doing all kinds of trivial diy and cleaning this week. I know we had ‘the Queen is coming to tea’ level cleaning whenever we had visitors (not that it was ever messy in between) but I’m pretty sure we also left everything spotless whenever we went away. I have no idea what the logic is behind this except that it will be nice to come home to. No doubt the dogs will undo a lot of it since they are spending the week here with ‘babysitters’ who will spoil them rotten.

I’ve just managed to stop short of grouting the kitchen tiles. That was just a bit too messy to contemplate. Thanks to a bit of a back problem (that I really don’t want to make worse for next week) M was encouraged to get the lawn mower out this morning and take over my mowing duties. J concocted a make shift ironing board (we don’t have one because life is too short to iron) by placing a large bath sheet sized towel on our kitchen island and clamping it in place with M’s DIY clamps. I’ve learnt never to question J’s logic because I’m just wasting my breath so I let him get on with ironing everything he’s taking on holiday. I can only assume he’s decided that life is not too short to iron by following my Dad’s example (since he retired he’s done all the ironing, including underwear and tea towels!)

My little crochet radial bag has turned out to be just what I needed to hold my new coin purse and mobile phone for evenings out when I won’t be needing my Kanken bag. Although it was 63% wool it didn’t felt very much but its round about the size I wanted. I used dk rather than the Aran suggested. I’ve used 2mm thick pure wool felt sheets that I bought in Barcelona last year and cut two circles and a gusset, sewed them together with strong cotton and then just tacked the top edges to the bag itself. I used one of those magnetic clasps since I had somewhere to hide the backs; between the felt and the bag. It’s made just the right level of firmness for a bag but without being too boxy. Apart from still having the stitch definition that I was hoping to lose with the felting I’m quite pleased with it. It wasn’t the most exciting make but it will be useful.

Over the weekend I’ve been spending the evenings sitting upright in a chair that doesn’t aggravate my back which led to the beaded bracelet session. I gathered a few jars of wooden and felt beads, elastic, big needles, chose an iPlayer film and had a couple of happy hours just threading beads. I made a few smaller ones for E who has tiny wrists compared to mine. Since I don’t wear patterned clothing or bright colours it’s a nice way of having just a small splash of something colourful.

I ordered yarn on Wednesday (for my previously mentioned holiday crochet project) and paid for Express Delivery. I’ve always received goods this way with two or three days at the most so I’m quite concerned that it hasn’t arrived yet. There’s just one more business day left so in case something has gone wrong I’ve quickly decided that I’ll make another Sunday Shawl as a plan b. In fact I started this one last year and I’ve no idea why it wasn’t finished. It’s a really enjoyable pattern and the double trebles and bigger hook guarantee good drape no matter what dk yarn you throw at it. I’ve made two as gifts and one for myself, the latter in a grey alpaca mix yarn for the main body which is ridiculously warm. I think this yellow version was an attempt to make one not quite as suitable for minus temperatures! I was obviously also contemplating a less colourful border. I can’t remember whether I was going to do the whole border in grey or alternate them or make it up as I go along and since I’ve long forgotten it will have to be the latter! I’m trying to leave it alone but I keep doing a row here and there and it’s growing and I’m in danger of finishing it before we’ve even left the country!

One of the best things I decided to do when we started having holidays abroad was to have everyone name just one thing that they wanted to see or do. The conditions were that we all had to cooperate politely and patiently with each other’s request no matter what it was. This guarantees at least four visits, events or whatever with everyone being nice to one another. So in Italy M wanted to visit a big food market, J wanted to visit a water park, E wanted to go to a general market and I wanted to try the outdoor thermal springs. When it came to the clothes market shopping for example the men were forced to be polite and patient and all went well. The kids and I don’t find food markets in the slightest bit interesting unless we are actually buying to eat so we suffered in polite silence while M looked at dead fish and smoked meats. The water park was slightly more family friendly but I have to be honest M and I are amazed that we survived some of the slides… and the thermal springs? Maybe next time.

This year the requests have been pretty similar. Food markets for M, swimming of any kind for J, art and craft markets for E and mine is of course, a visit to a yarn store, just to add to my collection of ‘bored family whilst waiting for Mum to choose yarn’ photo’s!

Productiveย 

I feel bad that Harvey doesn’t feature here as much as Riley. Just for the record he is as cuddly and entertaining but it’s not easy to capture him in photographs. We love him just as much as Riley. This morning I thought I’d try and at least get a sneaky pic whilst he was snoozing, no chance! He was up in two nanoseconds and retrieving a ball for me to throw. He’s obsessed with the game of fetch and thinks that any interest coming his way might involve a tennis ball if he drops big hints.

Three individual pieces of footwear have now made their way surreptitiously into the farmers field and so all outings to the lovely nature reserve are postponed until we’ve covered as much of the wheat field as is possible with actually damaging the crop in the hunt for them. We have a dry, partially sunny day here at long last and I can tell you, the bugs are loving it. I was picking off greenfly and thunderbugs for hours after that little trek. Harvey is, or used to be extremely talented at fetching but unfortunately ‘fetch the bloody footwear that you’ve taken into the field’ isn’t working.

I’m not sure whether it was the first sunshine for days or the run up to our holiday, but today turned into one of those extremely productive days. You know the sort, you wake up and suddenly feel like painting the kitchen window sill that actually needed painting four years ago? Check, that’s done. It prompted a complete Spring clean of the whole kitchen including two dusty dog beds. When the kids went over to double beds the dogs inherited both single duvet covers and single duvets. They’ve never been so cosy. It’s also easy to wash the covers from time to time, although it’s probably not that good for the washing machine filter ๐Ÿ˜‰

I also seized the moment, with only J home and otherwise occupied with computer games, to have one of those extended clothes trying on sessions to see whether I could create a mix and match wardrobe for our holiday. When I was in my twenties I used to think those magazine articles about capsule wardrobes were quite fascinating. These days I just don’t care very much about clothes but I do care for travelling light. Turns out my black linen skirt which was brand new but from a charity shop in Bexhill, for ยฃ3 goes with bloomin’ everything! So I’ve got four daytime vest tops to go with it and an evening top if I feel the need to look smarter. My new dress is packed along with one pair of black linen shorts and then just a comfy outfit for travelling which consists of loose baggy trousers, a grey marl t shirt, a grey fat face cardigan (at least ten years old!) and my Birkenstocks. My suitcase looks suspiciously empty. All the more room for woolly souvenirs right?

Riley has been glued to the side of my suitcase for most of the day. He’s got a similar understanding of luggage as the black Cocker Spaniel we had when I was a child. Susie used to plant herself firmly by the side of any bag, coolbox or suitcase that was placed in the hall and make a sneaky dash for the car when they were taken out. She was lovely but had a bit of an evil streak if she had successfully got into the car and wasn’t actually coming along. Mum and Dad used to use to warn us that we’d lose an arm if we tried to reach in and move her and they weren’t wrong! Dad sometimes had to load the car with the bags, drive down to the village and back home again where she’d hop out happily thinking the outing had taken place. My memories are mainly of her coming along on every kind of outing so it can’t have been very often when she got left behind.

Along with painting window sills, laundry, spring cleaning, shoe hunting and capsule wardrobe creating I’ve also been tending to our various house plants. I’m slightly baffled as to why most plants don’t survive despite me paying close attention to them. I didn’t use to have so much trouble keeping plants alive. A decorative cactus came my way from E’s room. The mushroom style red top had died but I could see that the stem was ok. I have no cacti knowledge at all but I cut the dead bit off and lo and behold, months later, a tiny little shoot has sprung from the side. It’s not a looker but it’s alive! Things with tiny leaves do not like living here. Two such plants are definitely close to being added to the compost heap. Spider plants however, are thriving. Remember those little shoots I planted in April? Well that big spider plant pictured is the result. It’s even got flowers. It obviously loves the front window sill and I’m sure it will love it even more now that I’ve painted it!

Still on the subject of a distinct lack of green fingers, I recently said to M that one of us needed to take up the hobby that is gardening and since I’m a bit busy with my hobby of crochet it would have to be him! He did see the funny side and said that he did once enjoy gardening and would try and do a bit more. In the meantime we are in the middle of the wild phase again. The back lawn is too soggy to mow, the last storm brought all kinds of branch debris down, the bonfire is too wet to light and everything seems to be over six feet tall. Though, being non gardeners has some benefits, not least of all a long wild hedge full of blackberries!

I’ve been agonising over what kind of crochet to take on holiday. I know, it sounds dramatic, but it’s become my number one way of relaxing. There are weeks when I tell myself I will just read this week but it rarely happens. Books take so much longer to get through than they used to with that little background voice saying, just one more row. Finally I explained the whole dilemma to M; that a travel crochet project needs to be simple enough to do whilst other stuff is going on, yet not too boring. It must not involve too many colours in order not to take more yarn than necessary. Ideally the finished item could be worn or used on the way home. His reply, after some thought, was, ‘so a one colour garment or accessory, with a pattern that is slightly challenging but not too challenging and not too much yarn’. He then suggested a quick drive out to a yarn store! I protested that I had yarn already and that it was just a question of matching it up to a pattern or use with the help of the World Wide Web but he twisted my arm and off we went. So that’s how I came to buy the pattern for the DMC Natura Denim Genius Pullover; http://www.purplelindacrafts.co.uk/dmc-natura-denim-genius-pullover-crochet-pattern-26873-p.asp although I’ve chosen a darker colour to make it in. I’m hoping that it will see more use than the completed shawls I’ve made in the past; http://simplenaturalhandmade.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/off-hooksunday-shawl.html and http://simplenaturalhandmade.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/off-hookone-big-cosy-wrap.html They are cosy but I only wear them around the house in the depths of winter.

The yarn for the ‘pullover’ should arrive just in time and I plan to get it started so that the initial rows are completed without too many distractions. There’s been talk of long delays at some of the European airports and as I told M, my worst nightmare would be to have to spend three hours waiting in an airport queue without a crochet project!

My recycled cotton top finally got finished last night and I’ve been wearing it today. Its kind of substantial in that it used 400g of cotton but it’s been cool to wear on account of the holey design. It’s not going to make the cut for holiday wear though because it takes up as much room as a woolly jumper.

Even one evening without an interesting wip is a no go so I’ve been browsing patterns with my stash of pure wool in mind and came across this circular bag pattern which ends up being felted, though that is optional. I’m still mulling over whether to source a similar strap to the one shown or repurpose a leather belt. I have a stash of thrifted leather belts which I’ve been turning into bracelets and the punching tools that would make it possible to transform a belt into a bag strap. There’s also the crochet strap option of course.

It’s a beautiful sunny evening here. I have Harvey sitting by my feet on one side and Riley on the other. I can smell three distinct scents, a slight whiff of satinwood paint, freshly laundered sheets and newly cut grass. It’s a shame I’ve got to go and trade them for the smell of Pedigree Chum!