Swatching


I’m swatching! Woohoo! I usually just jump straight in and hope for the best. This yarn and this project deserve a few trial runs. So, top strip is htr’s with a 4mm hook. Nope, I don’t like it. The row ridges are too prominent. It makes a nice fabric though, nice and squishy for a scarf (that’s technical jargon btw).

Middle sample is dc’s with a 4mm hook. Love the look but it’s a little stiff, it would probably be fine for a scarf but I’m aiming for maximum snuggle factor here so third sample is dc with a 5mm hook. A few more rows to do before I decide but my gut feeling is that it will end up being dc’s in a 4.5mm hook. Yep, I’m that fussy.

The samples in dc really curl up but I’m hoping that with long tassels on each end of the scarf it won’t be too much of a problem. The htr sample lies perfectly flat, very puzzling.

I’ve started to browse for Christmas presents. The danger of course is spotting nice things for myself or the home. I don’t do that very often so I didn’t feel too guilty when I treated myself to this gorgeous new hand painted cake/biscuit tin. Neither did I feel too guilty when I mentioned to M that it now needed a homemade cake to go in it. He loves to bake!

The scarf project has not gone unnoticed by a certain member of the family. She casually walked past the yarn, raised an eyebrow, walked back again and said, ‘I’m really looking forward to my Hufflepuff scarf!’ Ahem, whose?

Delivery


I’ve never known a dog so fond of plump cushions! Goodness only knows what he slept in or on in the four years he lived before joining us and our plentiful supply of squishy softness. On his first day here he scooped all the sofa cushions into a mound and then climbed on top of them and let out a rather contented sigh, he’s never looked back. Today he’s created a narrow ledge of cushion and blanket and he’s perched there rather like a sea bird on a cliff face. He tucks his nose inside his paws and then dreams of chasing rabbits presumably.

I’ve been cautious about letting the dogs out this morning. The large hawk is back. From what I can tell through the binoculars it’s only a sparrowhawk but rather well fed. He was feasting on another white dove and I must admit I now feel a bit sorry for our neighbour who may or may not know about these events. There’s a whole big wide field at the end of the garden and who knows how many he has killed out there?

Meanwhile my two little doorbells, Harvey and Riley, alerted me to a delivery this afternoon! Woohoo! It does look like a lot of yarn for a scarf but they are only 50g balls. Fingers crossed it is enough. I will need to devise a pattern that enables me to just crochet until it runs out. At the moment I’m thinking of faux knit stitch or a loose waistcoat stitch. Both would give a vaguely stocking stitch kind of look. Aran weight would have been so much better but I saw this yarn and liked the texture so dk it is.

I treated myself to the latest Scheepjes book-a-zine too, having enjoyed the coastal themed first edition. Anything that makes crochet and knitting look as cool as this is a winner! (There are a few magazines who do the opposite). Well worth the Β£6 cover price. Between the yarn and the magazine it was like Christmas had come early! I’ve spent a rather pleasant few hours untangling strings of fairy lights today. I don’t put them up into the attic anymore. I tuck them in a drawer here or a box there and then totally forget about them. This is not a plan I am going to repeat for next year. No, I have a new plan; a box labelled ‘fairy lights’, so darn clever eh?

Hufflepuff


Eagerly awaiting yarn for a new scarf! Where has that owl got to?

Talking of fantastic beasts… there’s a huge hawk on our back lawn as I write, ripping the guts out of one of our neighbour’s white doves! I got the binoculars for a closer look, it was truly gross, but mesmerising. If truth be told we are not fans of the doves, they s**t on everything. One down. Plenty more lunches where that one came from.

Just need to decide whether to challenge my wrists to yards of stocking stitch or do my own take on Newt’s scarf and create a pain free crochet one. It’s a no brainer. Crochet it is. Sorry Newt.

Oxford


Two days of non stop rain followed by three days of cold, crisp, sunny weather. I didn’t mind the rain at all. It was the perfect excuse to cafe crawl, both old favourites and a few new ones too. Nothing like being warm and cosy in The Jericho Cafe with a large coffee, a good book and a view of cyclists getting wet!

I used to go and watch art house movies in The Phoenix Picture House simply because they were usually foreign and had subtitles. It’s where I fell in love with French films. Nonetheless I was quite happy to see that they now do the popular films of the moment because I was able to go and see an evening subtitled performance of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. So stuff you Odeon, and your day time, week day offerings. Being able to go in the evening means being able to go with family. Oh and while I’m at it, tell your spotty little youth not to try and justify the lack of ‘accessible’ films because ‘people find the subtitles distracting’. Clearly empathy is not a word he knows the definition of yet.

Having time to myself without the usual distractions of home made for quite a reflective week. It seems a huge amount of time has passed since I lived in Oxford. It’s quite difficult to deal with that. They were happy times but things change and I’m now used to quieter roads and fairly quiet cities. Oxford is the tourist trap it always was. One thing I feel sure about though, is that I’d be extremely unhappy if I had to stay in this part of the country forever. A wise man once said I was a fish out of water here. He was right.

So what did I come home with? A whole load of books and a few Beast goodies for Christmas stockings!

Dungarees


These are so dinky! They have been pretty quick to work up. It’s a straightforward pattern and the main stitch used is half trebles. The yarn is Vision by Stylecraft which I had two balls of, it’s very soft and lovely to work with. The ‘brief’ given was for very colourful or multi coloured dungarees for twin boys and knowing the mum-to-be I feel confident that she will love them.

Rather annoyingly I spotted a better way to do the straps after I’d finished the first pair of dungarees and sewn the straps on. For the second pair I’ve created a three row strap with a half treble row in the centre which is ideal for slipping the button through wherever it fits best in the shoulders. I tried a front pocket just for extra detail but it didn’t look right against the random striping. Less is more.

I’m hoping there’ll be enough for two tiny beanies with the remaining yarn but failing that I will probably make a Pom Pom garland. The babies are due in December. Such a bad month to have a birthday so my two never fail to keep reminding me!

Fifth


Another pair of cosy cables done and dusted. The fifth pair made from this pattern. I’m finally pleased with the sizing on this pair. I’ve made a note on my pattern sheet to use the recommended size for large, one size down for medium and two sizes down for small. That’s still on the generous side fit-wise but I guess they aren’t meant to be too closely fitted.

Next on my to make list is a pair in a black grey mix yarn to see if they’d be suitable for a certain tall, thin boy of mine. If they still look girly I will find another fingerless glove pattern. The mornings here are now well and truly chilly. We’ve had a spectacular wind and rain session this morning which seems to have relieved the trees of their remaining leaves. I blinked and autumn was over and winter is here.

Lights


Our Buckinghamshire trip morphed into one that included a brief London adventure. One day in London was more than enough for me. I was glad to get back to our cosy pub/hotel in Aylesbury for an evening by the fire and a large glass of wine. We wandered along Oxford Street wth no particular shopping plan in mind. The lights were far more interesting. How many lights on the House of Fraser building? John Lewis next door was similarly lit up. It all seemed ridiculously big and bright.

Slightly overwhelmed we ducked into a side street which just happened to be an ideal escape for a quiet lunch and a spot of shirt buying for M. I would totally hate the personal shopper approach but M likes to buy shirts that way. They kept running ties by me as though I was the colour expert all of a sudden. Five double cuff shirts and a selection of coordinating ties later and that’s M’s business clothes sorted for another year or so.

Of course M insisted on dragging me into John Lewis afterwards for some wool therapy even though I insisted that there was nothing I needed or wanted! Funny how a pattern and some yarn caught my eye whilst M was perched on a stool in the shape of a giant cotton reel, waiting patiently and looking like something out of Alice in Wonderland. In fact there were plenty of men studying knitting patterns and holding up yarn for consideration. I suggested M should try a basic garter stitch scarf in manly colours but he politely declined.

After that rather predictable shopping outcome (always shirts and yarn) we headed off to Covent Garden, by bus so as to see more of the lights. We had a pleasant stroll round there including far too long watching some opera (my ears really can’t cope with opera but unfortunately M loves it). Delicious Italian food in another quiet little side street and then a long and boring tube journey clutching our yarn and shirts on our laps on an overcrowded train.

Our cosy pub hotel for three nights proved ideal for relaxing evenings. I managed to finish Ella’s oatmeal wristwarmers. The last few rows of which were done by candle and fire light since we had a power cut in the village. It was noticeable how conversation was so much more plentiful after the power cut and fewer people were using the free wifi.

Travel


A small window of opportunity to travel has come up. I recently found a Β£3 vintage vanity case in plain black which is ideal for me as they are mostly a bit girly. Quite why these fell out of fashion I don’t know. I’ve chucked everything in there including a hair dryer and a novel and there is still plenty of room leftover. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the Β£3 vintage suitcase which has been with me since my student days.

Of course, packing those two pieces of luggage is nowhere near as important as packing the right crochet or knitting! I’ve managed to squidge the wrist warmers project and a new project into my sunshine bag. I probably won’t get as far as the new project but that will depend on the weather. I’m secretly hoping for biting cold wind and rain so that I have the perfect excuse to settle in front of the inglenook fireplace and knit! Gotta love last minute booking online for a cheap hotel deal!

I’ve introduced M to the latest buzz word; Hygge. It took him a while to marry the spelling to the pronunciation but he got there in the end. As for the meaning, well we are still working on that. For instance, I’ve explained that lighting a candle in a freezing cold room and watching repeats of ‘How it’s Made’ is not hygge! A cosy log fire, a good book and a glass of wine might just be getting there!

The wristwarmers finally look as though they will be a better fit for E. I love the flecked oatmeal yarn and lighter colour means being able to knit in poor evening light for longer! The new project will be a gift for a second set of twins being born early next year. The first set is on M’s side of the family, due in December, boys. The second set are on my side of the family, due in February, one of each. How exciting! We probably won’t see much of either set but I will still enjoy the knitting or crochet. Everyone has different tastes but I really loved the hand knits E and J received when they were babies, long before I could knit myself. Anything hand made was carefully stored away for future grandchildren!

It looks like I could be a representative for Erika Knight patterns for John Lewis doesn’t it? We don’t live close to a branch so I ordered this little lot online along with a few Christmas gifts and had it delivered to my local Waitrose. It was incredibly quick, 48 hours. I love the colour ways of these hat and leg warmer sets on the pattern leaflet but decided to go traditional with pinks and blues knowing that the Grandma-to-be has knitted cardigans in pink and blue. I just hope they are as simple to make as they look. I’d rather be crocheting!

Fun


It looks like there will be a handmade touch for Christmas after all. I was all for giving myself the year off aft last year’s frenzy with hats! These mitts are fun and useful and there’s just enough time, despite the fact that I will have to pace myself because it’s knitting and not crochet. As much as I love crochet, and yes you can achieve cables in crochet, I really like these chunky cables in knitted form.

The two pairs to the left of the group photo were made in super chunky. The variegated pair were made in chunky as per the pattern. Let’s not get too boring or technical here but the first pair in super chunky were a happy accident. I made several more in super chunky after that and the sizing for medium to large adult hands came out just fine with no need for smaller needles. I prefer these wrist warmers in superchunky for a thicker, warmer mitt even though they don’t tuck well underneath coat sleeves!

The green/blue pair are a whole needle size down but still far too big for Ella’s smaller hands. Her loss is my gain, I might keep this pair for myself! So, the dilemma of trying to produce a really small pair… I couldn’t see size 4.5mm needles working with superchunky wool so I’ve cast on with a generous chunky yarn instead. The pattern calls for 6.5mm for the ribbing and 7mm for the rest so I’m using two sizes down from those. Fingers crossed again, I hope this is closer to the right size because I know she will like this yarn.

Oh and just in case you think it’s all fun and games here… this is my twice daily task… not fun!

Knit


Have you ever lost a whole morning surfing for your next crochet project? I had a burning desire to use my lovely alpaca mix yarn from our Shepherd’s Hut break in Yorkshire earlier this year but it takes a while to fit the yarn to a pattern. It’s much easier to find the pattern and buy the yarn, but who doesn’t like a challenge?

Whilst looking for a certain loose leaf pattern I came across my small collection of Erika Knight for John Lewis patterns and a half finished pair of cable and rib mitts. I know I’ve mentioned these patterns several times before and I don’t even consider myself a knitter anymore. Crochet is so much easier on the wrists. I just seem drawn to knitting every now and then and these are my ‘go to’ patterns, as they say in the States. Simple, reliable and effective designs. Easily substituted yarn. I started with the slouchy hat patterns and made several of these for the children and myself. I’ve made only one striped cowl to date but it’s a definite contender for my Yorkshire wool. I’ve lost count of the number of chunky wrist warmers I’ve made. I couldn’t resist adding the slouchy cardigan to my collection but the yarn will have to be a sale bargain. It requires 8-10 balls of super chunky and the yarn substitution will have to be carefully worked out.

So, the half finished pair of mitts I know were intended for E. She’s got such tiny hands compared to mine. I’m pretty sure I went down a whole needle size to make the first mitt. How blooming stupid not to leave the needles with the project or at least a note! It’s not the first time I’ve done this. Fingers crossed.

I’m really proud of the way she held out and insisted she didn’t want to go off to university this year for the simple reason that she didn’t know what she wanted to do. It’s been hard knowing all her friends are at uni and she perceives that they are having a great time. I’m not so sure they all are. She had a number of options lined up for her ‘gap year’ including an Art course, charity volunteer work, going full time at her current part time place of work and a teaching assistant apprenticeship. As luck would have it she chose the latter and says that not only does she look forward to going every single morning, she’s actually sad when she has to leave. One of her pupils was absolutely aghast that she wasn’t going to see Ella for a whole week due to half term. Another little boy, whose Mum was late picking him up one day, said he didn’t really mind and that he would quite like to go home and live with Ella. She told me later that would have been absolutely fine with her!

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had major woes over the ucas application that will take her from this course to qualified primary school teacher but as a Mother I’m stuck with having to overlook all that! In the meantime she’s even enjoying standing out in the playground in sub zero temperatures with an arctic wind chill factor and supervising play times. So I’m going to rattle off these mitts asap, even if they do turn out to be slightly different sizes!