Nature

We are in the middle of a mini heatwave here in the U.K. Despite our bedroom blackout blinds the small chinks of sunlight that peep round the sides are bright enough to wake me up far too early most mornings. I’ve never been an early riser but there’s something nice about staggering into the kitchen in the early hours and making a lazy coffee machine coffee and seeing if there’s anyone out and about walking dogs round the village or cycling to work.

Our stream has run dry and I know this must have an impact on our duck population. There are numerous duck families all over the village but because I tend not to walk H and R on leads locally I don’t know where they’ve relocated to or found less dried out parts.

The weather has been absolutely perfect for dog walking. We’ve been to our usual places and we’ve been back to our favourite lake. I made occasional visits and kept finding that it was too thick with weeds for the dogs to swim safely but at the moment the edges are clearer. Luckily they both know what, ‘this way’ means so when they head towards the weedy parts I just tell them, this way, and they come back towards me. I know how Riley’s mind works though and he’s determined to swim to the island and check out the nesting birds. He’s just curious but not to worry, I won’t be letting him anywhere near them.

A few days ago Harvey completely overdid things by scrambling down steep banks and hurling himself into the river. There are a few video clips of him doing this on Instagram in the smaller rivers. The day after he was a sorry sight and hobbled about all day, still getting excited at the prospect of another walk despite being barely able to move about. I had to be cruel to be kind and snuck out with only Riley that afternoon. The day after his enforced rest he seemed so much better so it’s not clear what exactly is wrong except perhaps old age.

There are so many wild flowers out in bloom on our walks at the moment. I keep meaning to dig out one of my small guide books and take it with me. Strangely I haven’t seen the resident heron for quite a while and the usual birds of prey seem thin on the ground too. Each time I go I seem to spot yet more varieties of butterfly or damselfly. At our main swimming spot by a small concrete farm bridge there are hundreds of damselflies. I had to look them up and these particular ones are called Beautiful Demoiselles. When the dogs launch themselves into the water they all fly up from their resting places in the reeds which creates quite a sight but sadly doesn’t show up on my attempts to photograph them with just my phone.

I’ve got several crochet projects on the go at the moment but I’ve also managed to finish a few. The nice thing about Instagram now that I’ve found some nice crochet accounts to follow is that it is finally the place for ideas that I had imagined it would be when I started using it a year ago. The cotton hair bands were made from a free pattern I spotted one morning whilst having a quick browse. I made one for myself first using a denim effect yarn that was left over from making the catherine wheel stitch bag last year. It’s a generous dk and very soft with a fair amount of give. I’ve tried fixed bands before but they never seem to fit well and through use they stretch a bit more until they end up pretty useless. So this knotted version is a much better design (on the makeandocrew website). I can’t stand hair blowing in my face in the garden crocheting or on dog walks so mine has been in almost constant use since I made it.

I adjusted the stitch counts and length to make a smaller version for my niece who is three. I used a child head size chart as a rough guide. A day or two after I posted my brother messaged a photo and I was really chuffed that it fitted and looked lovely too. I remember my two were polar opposites with headwear. E refused to wear hats for years even in cold weather and she liked the idea of but in practice didn’t keep hair bands on for long either. J wouldn’t go anywhere without a fireman’s helmet for three whole years. He only stopped wearing it when his head grew too big for it.

I started making the Spun Gold Shawl by Kat Goldin when we arrived in Wales. I carefully packed half a dozen projects so that I’d be set for whatever I was in the mood for and ironically it was this caked ball of a random dye lot 4 ply purchased at the Leeds Wool Festival that I threw in at the last minute that ended up being the chosen one! M gets quite involved in crochet discussions mainly because I don’t have anyone else to talk to about such things, at least not in person. I wondered aloud what colour this yarn could be called if it wasn’t called ‘Sun of Jupiter’ and that started the great moss versus lichen debate. In the end I found an amazing photograph of lichen that matched the yarn almost perfectly. I probably could have found a moss one too but I always associate moss with a much darker green.

The yarn was really enjoyable to work with, I know it sounds completely bonkers but there’s something quite special about sitting in amongst fields of sheep, working with pure wool on your hook and marvelling at how amazing these creatures and their coats are. I wished I’d packed my sheep breed book because there were some strange looking sheep with short legs, a very short neck and quite a large head. I still haven’t found out what they might be.

I kept well out of the sun on the day I worked the final half of the spun gold shawl in the garden. I just had a feeling the dye, being natural, would fade easily. I pinned it out on my foam mats, sprayed it lightly with Febreze and left it overnight. The next morning when I unpinned it I could see straight away that the top was much lighter than it had been but the underside was the same. I can only assume it didn’t like Febreze or just moisture. I’m not too worried because I chose this particular yarn rather than a very bright sunny yellow that I had in 4 ply too because I like the faded rustic look. Obviously it has been folded carefully and packed away in a dark cotton bag until the weather turns cooler.

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Turmeric

The weeks are certainly whizzing by again. M has been away this week and as usual something to do with the house went wrong. Sometimes it’s the boiler, sometimes it’s a major appliance and this time it was the internet hub. It’s frustrating not being able to make phone calls myself at times like these but eventually J made the call to BT and fully confessed he was not the house owner. I was surprised they even spoke to him, we’ve had years of phone calls for various reasons and they go something like…

I’d like to renew my wife’s car insurance please.

We need to speak to your wife then.

You can’t, she’s deaf.

She’s dead, oh I’m so sorry to hear that.

No she’s not dead, she’s deaf, and she would like her car to be insured.

Well can she speak?

Yes she can.

Well can we speak to her?

No you can’t because she can’t hear you.

This is a very familiar scenario and unbelievably demeaning when M has to pass the phone over and I have to say that yes, I am alive and no I can’t hear you, but yes I give permission for my husband to arrange my car insurance. Things have improved but only in the sense that I do most things online these days. The stuff that can’t be dealt with online causes friction because M gets quite cross at blatant discrimination, while I would just rather get the matter over and done with.

I once needed to cancel a car insurance policy, I can’t remember why. M made the phone call and there was a refund due. He did the usual explanation for why I couldn’t take the call and a few days later we received a cheque made out to ‘the estate of…’ There’s a man at my local bank that still finds it funny to say, oh you’re the dead one! Come to think of it there’s a poor chap who works for a call centre in India who thinks I’m dead too. He was most upset at the time when he spoke to my Mother.

J handled the BT call extremely well and a new hub arrived today. It hasn’t fixed the problem totally but we have managed to get a stable connection at the main socket which is unfortunately in the kitchen. Cables will need to be examined. That’ll have to be a man job. I’m otherwise engaged as a landscape gardener.

Our garden is still a shambles but today I hacked back the wild and encroaching honeysuckle and ivy that had grown completely over our side path. In a nutshell you had to be two foot high to be able to walk under it. I pushed the mower through it all the day before and vowed that the honeysuckle would be next for the chop. I know it seems criminal to cut something back that is in flower and smells wonderful but believe me there is a very long six foot high wall of it left. I put a few stems in water in the kitchen and it was quite overpowering.

It’s such a novelty walking down that path now without being attacked by climbers. I wonder what the dogs think too because on wet mornings they got quite wet just walking down this path on their way to the garden. Not to mention that underneath it all I found a discarded watering can, a pickaxe (don’t even ask) and a completely unwound and tangled hosepipe. I don’t know who was responsible for all of that but I could hazard a guess.

Before M went away on Sunday he gave me a hand with the turmeric dyeing. I think he thought, kitchen, saucepans, Juanita, not a good combination. Anyway, it was helpful because two heads are usually better than one. I had two balls of white cotton in my supplies, neither had a ball band. I made them into hanks and tied them with acrylic yarn. For the first one we just dipped one half in and simmered for ten minutes, then left it to soak for a further half an hour but with the heat off. I’d read that turmeric has a sort of reverse psychology in that the longer you leave it the paler your result. This didn’t happen with the second hank. We dipped a third as before and then a third with five minutes simmering and five minutes soaking with the heat off. The latter third produced a slightly paler yellow but not hugely different.

Rinsing took a while. I got them to the run clear stage, let them hang over the sink, went for a dog walk and came back and rinsed then again, yet more yellow come out. I rinsed a third and final time and then I was able to hang them outside.

As soon as they were dry I made the granny cluster plant hanger pictured. I wasn’t sure this showed off the pattern in the yarn well enough so I started to make circular placemats but the first one morphed into a bowl because I like bowls. It’s fairly stiff but I could have gone down a hook size to make it stiffer. I’m not sure what it will house yet but it’s a cheerful thing to see on my seventies sideboard for now. When I messaged M a photo to show him how the turmeric cotton worked up he asked me if I was going to weave all the ends in and he wasn’t joking! At least he knew enough about crochet to know that it was a possibility! I said it was a design thing. It took bloody ages!

I’ve really been enjoying my dog walks lately. Dogs have this wonderful ability to cheer you up just by bouncing through long grass and looking so grateful to be alive. We even went out quite late one evening when the sun was so warm it would have been a waste not to. It was pretty quiet and remote but too good to pass up. When the sun has been hot all day and lasts well into the evening you get the most amazing smell of the countryside. I may not be a good wine taster (most of it tastes ok to me) but I can really pick out individual contributors to that warm meadow smell. I think I’ve said before that I used to cycle a lot growing up in Sussex and I’d always end up lying on my back in a quiet field or meadow with my bike chucked down in the hedge, watching clouds roll by or reading a good book. That warm meadow smell takes me right back to those days.

Other crochet projects have been happening too. Plenty in fact. A mystery crochet along (mcal) started this week and I’m having to get to grips with Facebook which I’ve always disliked. Thankfully there are a lot of participants on Instagram too and it’s been fascinating seeing all the colour choices and mistakes too. I certainly couldn’t have taken part a couple of years ago. There’s an awful lot of small tips that you need to know. This is the useful thing about it being a cal, anyone who needs help is getting it. I may well need help too but part one has gone smoothly so far. I don’t make very much in four ply if I can help it but lately I’ve made the fern shawl for Mum, I have the Spun Gold shawl on the go with four ply and now this cal shawl. I must say, I’m finally understanding what all the fuss is about and why the wool festival was so full of sock yarn. A hank goes a long way and for crochet items it’s excellent for drape. My cal yarn is merino sock yarn and it’s extremely nice to work with.

I think my weekend may well bring more of the same mixture of dog walking, garden taming, crochet and getting away with as little cooking as possible. Rather out of the blue one day this week J offered to cook dinner. Eventually it became clear that he’d been thinking about university (over a year away yet) and didn’t want to look like an idiot who couldn’t boil an egg. Well the egg lesson hasn’t happened yet but the pasta lesson has. We were a bit low on tasty supplies on this particular day so I thought it best to teach him about store cupboard ingredients, isn’t that what Nigella calls them? Only for us, and students, it’s much more basic. Store cupboard pasta and sauces and how to pad them out a bit; basically he chopped up his first green pepper and extra tomatoes and we softened them in a separate pan while the pasta was simmering before adding the sauce. A bit of grated cheese and Bob’s your uncle. It tasted pretty good. If I remember rightly he’s already way ahead of the level of chef I was at his age!

Kawung

I’m not sure how the idea for a cushion came about. I know that this crochet Kawung motif caught my eye because it wasn’t floral (seems to be a rare thing). I resisted buying the pattern until I knew I had a useful application and once I’d made that ‘useful application’ I knew I’d be using it again for something else. It was a bit tricky to start with and I’d suggest looking at the photo’s for joining before you have a go and get it all twisted!

My first attempts were made using four ply tweed and a 3mm hook. I don’t know what I was thinking, that was extremely fiddly. I next scaled up and used dk and a 4mm hook which was still a bit fiddly. That’s when I raided my chunky supplies and found my level with a 6mm hook. Now that I’m more familiar with it I could probably go back to the 4 ply but no, life’s too short. The cushion cover worked up surprisingly quickly and used only one ball of the leaf colour. I used about one and a half balls of the main colour for the front panel and a further one and a half for the back which I made using the envelope construction. The whole cushion worked out at just under £10 because I bought the chunky tweedy yarn in a sale at John Lewis, for £2.49 per ball. I think it’s usually nearer £6 per ball. There may well be a few more balls of this chunky in different colours stashed away for a rainy day. I do like tweedy yarn.

As you can see from where Riley has his nose nestled into the duvet cover, the yarn colours were a good match for this cover, not that we like everything matching. I’m just on safer ground when I’m working with neutrals.

So the bedroom feature wall has gone from slightly pared back to ‘let’s see how much crochet we can throw at this thing’. Well, it’s gotta go somewhere hasn’t it? Our other rooms are very much works in progress. I didn’t set out to adorn the bedroom with crochet bunting, it was more a case of making it and then figuring out where to put it afterwards.

It’s taken years to get round to finishing the kitchen after we knocked it through. The painting only got finished this year, after bare plaster walls for quite a long time. The room really needs two blinds but along with cooking we also seem to get more dust in there than anywhere due to the dogs going in and out of the back door in all weathers. They even have a drying off corner with towels but it does nothing to minimise the problem. I know that blinds would get wrecked in no time and I’m not a net curtain sort so I’ve been mulling over various crochet ideas that could be thrown in the washing machine now and then. It sounds horrendously seventies but there are some modern ideas out there, it’s just a question of how eccentric can we go? Probably no more than having pallet wood on our bedroom wall and rusty science lab stools in the kitchen I guess.

It’s Father’s Day here in the UK. I wasn’t original this year and bought my Dad a book I know he will like and an M&S scent and shower gel boxed set. It was subtly endorsed by Dermot O’Leary which I really hoped he wouldn’t notice but it did not escape his eagle eye and the thank you was, ‘Thank you for my presents, I’ve always wanted to smell like Dermot O’Leary…’ You probably have to know him to know how funny that was.

Unfortunately today is also the day that M has to travel the day before his next assignment. J made one of his funny cards by superimposing M’s head on to a group shot of The Beatles, Ringo’s body as it happens. Very funny. We compiled a simple brown paper coloured photo album with funny and family photo’s which M hadn’t seen in a while. The last of which was a group shot of us that we took by balancing my old camera on a wooden post during a woodland walk with what would have been Harvey and Jake the dog back then. The album brought a tear to M’s eye by this stage. He was really touched.

Overnight we seem to have become the parents of two perfectly grown up children. It’s impossible for me to treat J like a child anymore. University prospectuses are dropping on the doormat daily and we’re in the process of acquiring a car for him. The latter will involve smashing open my camper van fund but I plan to tell him that he owes me the camper van when he becomes a wealthy barrister. Yes that was news to us too. Out of the blue he casually mentioned that he wanted to do a law degree because he’d been thinking it over for a while and it seemed like a good idea. Knowing how his rather unique mind works, I think it might just be a good one.

It’s a few days away from the start of a mystery crochet along which should be fun. Instead of clearing the decks I seem to have added further wips to the pile. After I’d finished the bunting and the cushion I started a shawlette thinking that it would be fairly speedy. I may indeed get it finished by the middle of next week due to M being away. I’ve also been experimenting with turmeric dyeing on cotton yarn. I’ve yet to see the final finished dried colour that it has produced. I’ve no idea what to make with it but it’s been a fun thing to do and less messy than chemical dyes or food colouring. Our large saucepan, a pasta pot from Ikea has survived and will next be subjected to nettles or red cabbage. I’m reading up and plan to dye cotton then put it through its paces with the washing machine and direct sunlight and so on, to test for durability. M is wondering why but it’s purely curiosity. I don’t need too much bright colour in my life but it would be nice to achieve subtle tones that will last a while using natural ingredients. I particularly like the idea of using nettles for green dye because after cow parsley that’s our next best crop!

Hut

I often use the term ‘shoe horn’ when I’m referring to a few days away. With M’s job we can’t really look too far ahead so we shoe horn our short breaks into pockets of time when we can. Even this time it was touch and go whether he’d actually be free once it was booked and he had a morning assignment on the very day we were due to travel. It worked out just fine and gave me plenty of time to make sure I’d remembered everything. Let’s be honest now, that was all yarn related.

I had to dedicate a small suitcase to yarn related activities this time. I seem to be in the middle of lots of smaller projects as well as having a few more smaller ones I’d like to make. Amongst other projects I took the cotton and beads with me so that I could finish the other half of our bedroom string of bunting. In fact it was my choice of car crochet because I know the pattern off by heart. I crocheted the grand sum of one flag and then managed to fall sleep for approximately 75% of the journey. M usually really hates this on the basis that if he can’t sleep then why should I, but not this time. Recently I’ve started to throw in random conversations a few days in advance, along the lines of… I’m sure my Dad used to prefer it if Mum fell asleep on long journeys, you know, peace and quiet and all that. This was mentioned over coffee a few days before our trip and he still hasn’t twigged it was intentional.

On our journey home we could have chosen a route that was 125 miles or one that was 155 miles. The latter involved more motorway so that was M’s choice. It was also his choice to ignore the Satnav when it looked like it was going to take us North of Manchester and he didn’t think that was a sensible route. I kept strategically quiet while the Satnav recalculated the route and announced that the new one would be an additional twenty miles long. ‘Bugger’ was M’s choice of word at this point as indeed it was mine, but silently in thought only. Why drive 130 miles when you can drive 180 instead? It wasn’t too much of a hardship because I managed to make an envelope back in crochet trebles for a cushion (which I’ll post next time).

We have been to this particular hut before. It was slightly strange finding our previous entry in the guest book from three years ago. We tried a couple of other huts in different locations on the basis that we wanted to see other areas. One was an ok experience in that the hut was nice but all the cooking and bathroom facilities were in an adjoining barn and the hut was close to the owner’s cottage. The other one was in a beautiful setting, again, quite close to the owner’s house but she was not a people person and that was verified by the trip advisor reviews which we only read after our stay.

So, it seems this one has everything we would choose from a tick list. The owner’s live further up a small track and we never see them. The bathroom is within the hut which is amazing and ideal. Everything is basic but you have everything you need. We chose to cook once on the provided bbq outside and once inside using the two ring hob. We walked down to the local pub on the third evening which was also nice. M and I aren’t big drinkers at all but it did mean we could have a drink without a designated driver. I don’t think huts like this are everyone’s cup of tea but for me it’s absolute paradise. It’s a totally pared down break. No television, no Wi-fi, absolutely rubbish phone reception, absolutely wonderful views!

So much for just chilling out at the hut all day though. We both wanted to repeat the scenic drive that we’d taken last time. I don’t know how long it is but it involves climbing a very big hill then holding tight to the car door handle whilst pretending that the sheer drop isn’t making your knees turn to jelly. It’s funny because after you’ve done it a few times it’s only a few patches that seem dangerous.

We also revisited a couple of other places we’d enjoyed last time but the pace seemed slow and relaxed and there was no pressure to find anything new. We were back at the hut by late afternoon and the evenings were fairly mild and dry. M lit the small chiminea and read his book or did crosswords while I preferred to stay in the hut with the doors wide open and my crochet to hand.

On our last morning, with just a hint of protest M agreed to visit the Ruthin Craft Centre. Its always hit and miss with exhibitions. Anything with wood is sure to go down well with M, in fact sometimes a little too well because he loves to read every single placard and pause and ponder for ages over some pieces. This is entirely my fault for introducing him to the whole art and craft scene in the first place. He still talks about the various exhibitions that have stayed in his memory including one where the ‘viewer’ was encouraged to hug a tree trunk. He did and we all just casually wandered off and left him to it. Don’t get me wrong, I love wood, I love trees, I’m just not the sort to hug a cut down tree trunk in the middle of an exhibition. I did love him for engaging with the current artist’s work at Ruthin though. He could so easily have said rubbish and spent half an hour on a bench with his phone for company. It wasn’t immediately captivating (for me) but it was thought provoking. He even sounded like an art critic whilst chatting to one of the staff. He didn’t look like one though, he was sporting three day stubble and worn for four days shorts (including to light fires and bbq’s) because he forgot to pack jeans too. Three bottles of body spray and deodorant though. He’s consistent, I’ll give him that.

On one fine morning we didn’t want to travel too far for coffee and a bite to eat so we bought garage coffee (Costa), fresh croissants and bananas and drove up to the highest point of the scenic drive. With curious sheep all around and eventually a curious farmer too (he rode up on his quad bike and seemed satisfied that we weren’t going to unload a load of household rubbish like some other idiots had done not far from there) it rated as one of the more surreal breakfast moments I’ve had in my life.

I usually have a million ideas rattling around in my head when I’m inspired by this kind of break. A lot of them involve going home and chucking out huge amounts of our belongings. I’ve had these thoughts so many times and I do indeed go home and have massive sort outs and offload yet more to charity but this time I feel satisfied that if I just keep plodding on I will get there eventually. The important thing is that despite seeing lovely welsh blankets, handmade willow baskets and several other things I could easily have ‘acquired’ we actually bought nothing. M was happy to buy one of the lovely baskets but I said I had more than enough and that’s true.

Talking of considered purchases, the men have been at cricket today so Mum and I met up at the local junk/antique place. It’s perfectly located exactly half way between us. I had long given up my search for what I call science lab stools for our kitchen or anything metal that came in a set of four at the correct height really. Today we found just what I’ve been looking for since we first knocked the kitchen through and made a bigger space three years ago! M made some roughly knocked together wooden ones which have lasted this long but are pretty good for giving you splinters. I kept seeing them for silly money and couldn’t justify a big outlay on them when the house needs more urgent things, so today’s find was all the better for being an absolute snip at £8.50 per stool. Good things come to those who wait. I’ll take some photo’s when I’ve swept the dog mud and leaves up and post next time!

Next week M is back in court on an away trip followed by training days and a second week in court, I think I’m about to get some serious DIY and crochet done! It means I can paint chairs at ten o’clock at night if I feel like it and I probably will. I’m a night owl and that’s when I do my best work!

Festival

It was lovely to attend a wool festival with my daughter this year. We did the usual arts and crafts when she and her brother were smaller and she did take to knitting for a while but I was taken by surprise when she wanted to buy a simple shawl kit on our visit to Loop, she’s had the bug ever since. I think it probably helps that she has a bit of a passion for woolly jumpers.

I’m back home after my three day visit to Leeds and she has an inset day; every now and then I receive a messaged photo of her progress with her first knitted jumper. She’s following a simple pattern from the book I bought her when we visited Baa Ram Ewe. Whilst she’s keen to try new stitches and new techniques for now she can see the benefits of just having a simple project on the go for those snatches of time in between her paperwork and placement teaching.

We both went to the wool festival with yarn requirements for specific patterns in mind. I had just signed up for the mystery crochet along by The Crochet Project and the yarn requirements were released on the morning of the festival. I sent the screenshot to my phone which proved handy because I’d forgotten the yardage’s by the time we got there! I also wanted to look out for a skein of something suitable for one of their other simple shawls, the Spun Gold Shawl which I’d purchased a while back but hadn’t come across any arty skeins since. I also had a hankering for something that reminded me of jeans and something speckled, I found both of those features in the skein I bought from Beehive Yarns and I’m just hoping it’ll look ok for the mcal. Although there was a lot of sock yarn and mini skeins to choose from I also found what I was looking for from the same seller with the four minis I needed too. It was an unusually quick and decisive purchase for me, not least because it was so busy and yarn was selling very fast indeed!

The golden mustard skein is by Phileas Yarns and although it’s an obvious choice for the Spun Gold Shawl I love the colour and will enjoy working with it. I’ve wound all my purchases into cakes. The mystery cal yarn is ready and waiting in that lovely little project bag I found at the festival, made with various indigo dyed, batik, cotton print etc patches and lined with calico which makes it sit nicely without flopping. It’s an ideal size for a shawl project.

I did buy some inexpensive merino tops so that I can try spinning with something a little more processed. I’ve been advised to pre draft it which I will do my best with but I’m still feeling like a complete novice so I’ll be amazed if I manage to turn them into yarn.

The day before and the day after the festival were nice dry days and typically the actual day was pretty wet. It wasn’t heavy rain though so we didn’t mind too much. It was so humid and the building, which was an old textiles mill didn’t seem to have enough windows to let air flow through so I found myself wondering about those poor young mill girls who would have worked long hours for little pay in hot and noisy conditions. You can see the size of the pane that actually opens in one of the photo’s I took. The lighting was all a bit Victorian in places too, not ideal for the traders who were of course all selling products whose colours needed to be shown off properly.

We worked our way through the narrow spaces where the stallholders were set up and by midday or so we had found the travelling gin bar. It was early but boy did we ever need refreshments after doing battle in those confined spaces! I’m not sure whether to be proud or shy about the fact that we were the gin van’s first customers. E wasn’t wrong when she told the chap not to worry because we were going back in and when they saw her glass of cool bubbling prosecco and my colourful pimms they’d be out like a shot! We got stopped by a gaggle of husbands who were most animated when they realised there was a bar! To be honest I’m a cheap date these days so everything seemed much more fun on our second round!

M is hopeful that his latest case will wrap up by the end of this week. With that in mind and before the next assignment starts we have booked a few days away. It’s somewhere we’ve been before but the beauty in that is that we don’t feel we have to rush around sightseeing and wasting time trying to find where to buy food or eat out. M enjoys reading so hopefully he will be able to switch off and enjoy the views, while I’m hoping the weather will be warm enough to sit outside and crochet. Naturally an agreement about the journey and the number of times he is allowed to complain about other drivers (zero) needs to be in place before we set off!

Family

I’ve come to realise that the nature versus nurture debate is a never ending one. I think about it often since I had my two children. I read brief Instagram posts by people who struggle to balance the challenge of bringing up small children along with everything else in their lives and I want to say (but I don’t) that you can only do your best and that’s usually more than enough. Sometimes your best involves just taking all the good stuff from your own childhood and passing it on. I’ve been one of the lucky ones, I have lots of good stuff to pass on. I’m also lucky in that the kids have excellent role models in their grandparents and their great grandparent.

Having said all that though they have some traits that they get from within. I have no idea why but when I got to a certain age I decided that cuddles were for small children and did my best to wriggle free of most of them thereafter. There are only a handful of people I feel less awkward with on this matter these days but my children, I’m glad to say, cuddle their relatives for hellos and goodbyes quite willingly.

Sometimes my lack of giving out cuddles lands me in trouble, though just lately I don’t think all the cuddles in China could ease M’s recent moodiness. A lot of men have work related stress but he swears he hasn’t. It’s tempting to blame his cocktail of diabetes medication but when a lot of the moods occur in the car I think it’s unlikely to be related to glucose levels. After a particularly challenging week he had a light bulb moment and admitted he’d been at fault. I quietly listened, as I seem to do a lot in recent years and felt extremely hopeful that it would mean things would be back on an even keel. Duh, wrong! It lasted until the next morning and then he found something new to be grumpy about. I mentioned the light bulb moment but that didn’t go down well. I don’t know where I’m finding the strength from but I use wise advice at times like this. I can’t change this behaviour but I can change the way I handle it, so I carry on as if everything is perfectly ok and this really works but sometimes I just want to climb a mountain and shout from the top.

Which brings me to gardening and the power of family time. In amongst these random moods we’ve had some really successful days. E has been home for half term because she’s in the middle of a school placement block. We had to finally get around to replacing our extremely temperamental printer so that she could print reams of paperwork off for uni. Both M and J also use our home printer daily so everyone is on cloud nine now that we don’t have to spend hours waiting for the printer to be in the mood for printing. I even printed out a crochet pattern just because I could!

Over the bank holiday weekend we decided to tackle the worst of the gardening jobs and plough the petrol mower through four foot high cow parsley. It spluttered and protested but it made it. Many dog toys were uncovered and windfall branches provided Harvey with entertainment all day long. Riley stole a squeaky dolphin that had fallen out of the shed whilst extracting the lawn mower and although at first he wasn’t at all sure about the squeak he trotted around with it for hours.

At the side of our property we have a small stream, known up here as a beck. It has a high sided bank on both our side and our neighbours. Theirs is neatly mown with a flymo that is lowered down by its cable and is probably as immaculate as any flat lawn you’d ever see. Ours is a wild flower bank of buttercups, cow parsley, nettles, brambles, campion and the odd dandelion. Needless to say this isn’t an intentional design feature. With much moaning and groaning M donned his waders and fired up the ridiculously big and heavy strimmer and made a cautious start on the job of hacking it all down. I stood nearby with his requested glass of iced water (honestly!) and when he seemed to have it under control I went round the back to tend to other jobs. Obviously there’s no point in shouting for help when you’re married to someone who is profoundly deaf so when I returned I discovered M soaked from head to toe and sitting on the caravan step looking both sorry for himself and slightly cheesed off. Stating the obvious he said, ‘I slipped and fell in.’ I managed to look suitably sympathetic and kept a straight face when I later asked J if he would have a go instead. I take back everything I said about J not being motivated to help without food bribes… after establishing that we did not have a welders face mask for him to wear he agreed to use sunglasses to stop anything flying in to his eyes and he got well and truly stuck in. E even filmed him on her phone with the caption, filming this in case he falls in and I can get £250. Sisterly love eh?

With both the bank strimmed and the cow parsley mown we finished the day with sausages cooked on our simple bucket bbq and a game of oversized foam ball tennis on the ‘lawn’. It felt pretty good just to have that quality family time with phones out of the way for most of the day.

We’ve since followed it up with a trip down to the garden centre, a big splurge on a new watering can, gardening gloves, bedding plants and some of those spreading type alpine plants. M loves his bedding plants but I chose the alpines for our tubs because they spread fantastically, suffocating any weeds that were thinking of growing and are pretty low maintenance. They even flower. Win win. Our random collection of pots are now positively RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Well almost.

With crochet time being snatched here and there the only logical thing to make next was another string of crochet flags for bunting, this time for my three year old niece. I can’t tell you how much I hate pink but I’ve got to admit that this bunting looks suitably cheerful. Some of the flags were made whilst sitting in extremely slow moving traffic in Leeds last Friday. Let’s just say that I was sitting there as miserable as sin whilst M was doing his usual illogical rants and then I suddenly remembered I had a small pouch with the pink yarn and a hook. It made listening to the same old rubbish quite bearable. I may even have imagined flamingoes and bubblegum.

There is a reason for Harvey being wrapped up in several charity shop crochet blankets and that is because every game of tennis, badminton or cricket we have ever played in the back garden involves the ball being knocked into the stream at some stage. Harvey is a fielder’s dream, it doesn’t matter how much hedge he has to push through or how boggy some parts are he will get that ball no matter what! He’s guaranteed to turn completely black with sludge though and on this occasion that meant a shower even after a play in the cleaner part. He won’t settle down and dry off unless he’s nice and warm hence the blankets. He slept like a baby for hours.

The beach bag was a pattern testing exercise for Marta who is @mrsdaftspaniel on Instagram. I love star stitch, there’s something so satisfying about drawing the yarn through seven loops on the hook! I used black cotton purchased in Madrid alongside Sublime Luxury Tweed found in a charity shop in Buxton last year. There were three balls of the latter for £1.50, it has some gorgeous flecks of colour throughout including blue. I don’t think that shows up well in the photo’s. I guess you could add nice bamboo handles or leather straps but I decided to go with the pattern suggestion in the end on the basis that it can be rolled up and taken along as an extra bag for shopping (now that we are all getting the hang of eliminating plastic bags!)

Today I am packing for a couple of nights away. Riley is just inches away from my suitcase. He’d pack himself if he could, he knows what this means. He will have full time company whilst I’m gone so I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I do. It’s those puppy dog eyes. Harvey is just wondering who will take over the important job of walking them and can he take Riley’s dolphin along? I guess we will be squeezing in a quick walk along the riverbank shortly then!

Cotton

The balance of work and play is slightly askew for M at the moment. His current assignment involves quite a drive, followed by an intense day and then another rush hour commute. Weekends are now spent umpiring cricket matches which he enjoys but obviously involve standing for long periods of time and he’s having to admit that his leg just isn’t up to it. I’m sure the leg will improve over time but for now he’s definitely in need of some time that isn’t spent working or umpiring. We have a small pocket of four days in the diary but I’m not holding my breath. Court cases have a habit of either ending abruptly or running over the allotted time.

The only sensible thing we can do with four days is to stay at home and rest which is always quite difficult when there is so much that needs our attention this year. I’m feeling the burden myself since M has absolutely no energy for any DIY at the moment. I’ve been spending a couple of hours a day just hacking hedges back to their boundary and sawing off the odd big branch with a handsaw. I figure it’s like a patchwork blanket, one patch at a time and the item gets finished. The garden will never be finished but at the end of the summer I’m hoping it will at least be slightly more under control. It was a combination of having a knee injury and pulling a muscle in my back last year, not to mention having the caravan on a long term pitch two hours away all summer, that led to this level of overgrowth.

Thank goodness for google, yesterday I had to resort to finding a YouTube video on how to attach the beast of a strimmer that we own. I can only recall M using it once so far and I can’t for the life of me remember which bit goes where. It has belts and pads and all sorts and that’s before you’ve figured out how to get it running. Naturally M told me not to touch it which is as good as encouraging me to get stuck in. I’ve always done the opposite of what I’m told! I swear I was mowing lawns with our petrol mower from the age of ten so big gardens don’t phase me, it would just be nice to have a bit of help with it.

Turns out J has inherited a lot of my ways but being good with tools and having motivation to help out and improve your surroundings is not amongst them (yet). He will mow occasionally but an edible bribe is usually necessary. Yesterday I found myself trying to do a DIY job that’s been on M’s list for months. It involved unscrewing a large bolt in a very difficult to get to spot, one of those spaces where you need to be left handed to get at it. I’m not left handed but M is. After sweating buckets, swearing a bit too and having my face licked by Riley a few times just for good measure, I decided to wait until my strapping teenage boy came home from school. He couldn’t undo the bolt either. Normally at this point I’d locate a very large lump hammer and apply some brute force but unfortunately on this occasion it involved a ceramic toilet base so my only option was to apologise to M when he came home from work, for half dismantling the old seat and asking him to fit the new one straightaway while I cooked an amazing 😉 Nigella style dinner. (Thank you Marks and Spencer’s, I love you!) I can safely say that husbands do sometimes mellow because I didn’t get the ‘do you know how hard I’ve been working today and I’ve been up since 6am…’ speech. Instead he laughed about how it had only taken him three months from the date of purchasing the seat, to fit it. A record short time. Usually things take much longer.

I’m making more of an effort to encourage m to sit at our cable drum table with the French doors wide open and the lovely light and warmth of the evening sun spilling indoors. I set the table, poor a glass of wine and instead of gravitating towards the tv he will sit and chat about his day instead. It’s been lovely, I swear if we lived in a climate that had evenings like this more often we’d never watch tv at all.

The evenings have been perfect for crochet too. Since I finished the latest gin o’clock cardigan I’ve been working in cotton mainly. Though I have to say that it soon turns chilly enough to wear the cardigan even though E and I haven’t yet established who is going to own this one. I’ve tried to persuade her that it’s turned out too big for her because secretly I’d really like to keep it! I made a small modification of my own this time round. On my denim blue version the cuffs have gone a little baggy, this could be the yarn of course but I decided to go down two hook sizes for just the sleeve cuffs on the natural coloured tweed version and it has worked well.

My Arrows Down shawl is growing daily. The width is already quite big so I can tell it’s going to be huge by the time I’ve reached the darker shades. I think this will be ok since I’ll be wearing it like a scarf. At some stage I will need to count the number of complete arrow repeats in order to stop and start cutting lengths for the final two tassels. I doubt my large blocking mats are going to be big enough but I guess I can always block it in two sittings.

Mandalas are still pretty popular in the crochet world, I really admire the multi coloured ones but I wouldn’t find them cheerful for the house. I can’t cope with too much colour. I’ve taken a pattern that looks absolutely brilliant in five or six colours and made it into a one colour version for my taste, the sunny yellow cotton was one of the purchases I made in Madrid last year. I think I might locate a hoop for this, it’ll brighten up a wall somewhere I’m sure. The free pattern would make excellent place mats too, it’s by crochetmillan.com and it’s actually called the Winter Mandala!

The crochet bunting caught my eye as soon as I received my Mollie Makes issue in the post. It’s a gift subscription and I’ve been loving it but I may have to drop hints in the crochet mag direction because I’m so hooked on crochet it would be daft not to! I always check out the crochet projects first and they are always pretty good, it did help with this one that it was made up using neutral yarn for a change, so often I find I have to look behind the pastels and the neons! Ironically, having made a length of bunting for the house I’m now contemplating making a soft pink version for my niece. The pattern is by Emma Escott of Lululoves fame. I’ve used ‘rustic’ dishcloth cotton for mine and a slightly larger hook because it’s a tad more than dk. I had natural and dark beads and not enough of either so I’ve alternated them. It’s a great stash busting pattern. I’ve got a small(ish) basket of cotton which I dip into throughout the summer and could really go to town on a multi coloured version (as long as it wasn’t for me!)

I recently treated myself to a 4mm Furl crochet hook in Camwood (sandalwood). There are darker hardwoods and they cost a little more but I liked the colour of this one. I was seeing them so often in my Instagram feed I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about. I half wish I hadn’t because I am really getting on well with it. At first it seemed awfully long but once I’d positioned it more comfortably I realised that it’s actually ideal for my slightly larger than average hands. The head is just right too, I find the knit pro wooden hook heads are long and pointy and ideal for splitty stuff but conversely tend to split the non splitty stuff. I’ll treasure my 4mm, they are a bit of an investment (this one was £15 but they go upwards from there) and having lost a few bamboo hooks to cheeky dogs I think I’ll need to be very careful with it indeed. It rolls so easily and when you don’t hear things drop…fatal!

(Red Campion on a recent dog walk)

Shawls

Despite feeling as though I hardly sit down to crochet just lately I do seem to be getting a few projects finished. More accurately though, I probably start two projects for every one that I complete. For example, I’ve just finished the Fern Shawl and started the Arrows Down Shawl as well as another Gin O’Clock Cardigan.

I came across the free Fern Shawl pattern (by Jan Power) whilst trying to find something suitable for one or two balls of Louisa Harding Pittura yarn. This was the yarn I picked up in Jersey after deliberating over colours for a while. It’s four ply and has a suggested hook size of 3.75mm. I worked this Shawl with a 4mm as per the pattern and it works out absolutely spot on for just one 100g ball with just a few metres left over. Blocking made a huge difference. I did my best with pins but ideally for the long side edge I could have done with blocking wires.

The Shawl was intended for Mother’s Day but when I missed that deadline I put it to one side for a while, only picking it up again because the weather turned warm and it seemed a better idea to work with something fine. I’m glad I did because it looks absolutely perfect on Mum and she can pull off scarf, shawl type things all year round. The colours really suit her.

I treated myself to the Scheepjes whirl in Blueberry Bambam when we first discovered our cool local yarn store. I say cool because there are definitely several types of yarn store. I’ve been in plenty where the main stock is aimed at women wanting to make baby items only. It’s such a shame because there’s so much more to be made with yarn! We used to have a yarn shop that was probably the other end of this spectrum and only stocked the most expensive stuff. Sarah at Number Four has something for everyone and keeps up with the latest trends. It’s absolute heaven in there after relying on mail order or visits to other cities for so long.

The Arrows Down Shawl is by Atty and available on LoveCrochet.com. It caught my eye because it is wonderfully geometric, without flowers or frills! I thought it might be a bit of a challenge too but it is actually quite easy once you get going. It does require a bit of concentration, I’ve frogged half a row when I’ve missed a treble but I could probably have left it and got away with it. There have been quite a few slubby cotton fluffy bits that I’ve had to just trim off as neatly as possible and work into the stitches. I had heard about this but even on this fine gauge it isn’t too much of a problem. I’m hoping the scarf will go well with jeans, it ends with a navy colour. I’m in no hurry with this one. The journey will be a leisurely one!

We had a gloriously sunny start to the week and I took the opportunity to start Harvey off with phase one of the sheering sessions. He will sit or lie down patiently in the kitchen on a big towel for quite a good length of time but his brain doesn’t quite work the same for a towel on the decking in the garden. He was somewhat distracted by pigeons, Riley casually strolling by with a large stick in his mouth (little devil) and neighbourly noises. Once or twice I managed to grab him mid escape and encourage him to sit a while longer. He’s lop sided with his hair cut for now but I’ll even it up on our next sunny day.

The day after Harvey’s hair cut and Riley’s mini trim just so that he didn’t feel left out, I was sitting in our sunlounge with a morning coffee when a little sparrow hopped down onto the deck and started gathering dog hair. I wish I’d had my phone nearby but I knew that if I moved he would fly away so I could only watch and marvel at how much he could carry in one little beak. Imagine a tiny Harvey fur lined bird nest somewhere, probably not too far away in one of our big trees or unruly hedges.

J is due to start driving lessons very soon. He was actually old enough at the end of last December but he’s laid back and chilled and didn’t apply for his provisional licence straight away. When he finally did mention driving lessons and M made some calls for him we found all the decent ones were booked up. M could quite easily teach him to drive but just hasn’t got the time and we haven’t got a suitable small car. My jeep is getting on in age now but it has a powerful engine so it’s not an ideal vehicle to learn to drive in. Although E leaves her car here when she’s at uni she’s made it clear she hasn’t purchased it so that her little brother can learn to drive in it and I can’t say I blame her really, besides he’s extremely tall and the car in question is extremely small.

This driving thing comes under the banner of things I really never thought would roll round and b****y terrifies me. I keep saying daft things like, well it wasn’t so dangerous when I was your age and therefore you need to be much more vigilant about other drivers. I feel this is true because I was able to drive from Sussex to Cornwall the day after I passed my test and no one thought anything of it.

M had a birthday this week. It came right in the middle of an intense court case. He’s been travelling a lot and is pretty tired and in need of a holiday. I donned my rarely worn apron and put together a special salad which involved pasta and pesto sauce and various other amazing concoctions using random salad ingredients. OK so it wasn’t Nigella but it’s been tricky trying to cater for kids who are hungry at 5 and a husband who arrives home at random times according to the whim of a judge, particularly as M is the head chef in this household. Last week I managed to burn sweet potato fries. I may have slightly over cooked a few other things too. All I can say is, man this oven cooks so much faster than suggested times (and perhaps I need to stop doing twenty other things while I’m cooking too). There was birthday cake too but I know my limitations and that came from good old M&S.

Since E had an unexpected pocket of time in which to study without lectures she came home again and we’ve been out and about every single day. It starts with a ‘shall we pop out for coffee’ and ends with a few other little visits. On the one hand it’s been nice to get out and on the other, just interacting with people in shops with E beside me just serves to remind me how many times they ask a question and I’m completely unaware they’ve even spoken. Pretty much every time E will say, do you have a loyalty card, do you want a bag, did you find everything you wanted today? (oh please!)

I know that when she goes back to uni today I will be returning to my hermitic ways. My only ventures out of the house will most definitely be in the direction of the single track country lane that takes us through two small hamlets and comes out in the middle of nowhere and not even many of the locals here seem to use it much despite the footpaths being on the ordnance survey maps, and despite it being a nature lover’s paradise actually. There’s nothing like sharing the joy of two bouncy dogs leaping out of the boot and charging down to the water on a hot day. I’ve never owned a Springer that doesn’t charge miles ahead but always keeps coming back to check you’re still there, these two are no exception. Harvey goes the furthest, completely out of sight for most of the time. Riley always seems to have one eye permanently on me and comes back more frequently with a ‘god isn’t this wonderful and I’m so glad you’re still here’ kind of expression on his face.

In fact I’ve just taken a break and been out with them. It was cool but sunny and absolutely deserted except for one friendly farmer in a truck who did his best to avoid a dizzy dog who has no car sense whatsoever. Harvey was doing laps in the river at the time, looking intently for a pebble I threw in. They are now very grumpy with each other for no apparent reason so it’ll be one on the deck in his bed in the sun and one in the kitchen in the sunny patch while they both dry off and cool off. There’s also a sunny patch with my name on so it’s a toss up between laundry, food shopping, housework or crochet. Tricky one!

Cobwebs

I’ve started to write this post three times, each time not quite finishing and then losing the momentum and starting again. If a day goes by my writing is suddenly out of date. I wouldn’t say my life is fascinating right now but we seem to be keeping busy and that’s always a good thing.

Breaking news: I have at long last painted the hall radiator and the wall behind it. It’s a tad darker than I expected, more of a slate grey, but I like it. The general idea was to hide the mud when the dogs rush through after our long muddy walks that end with a river swim. They would usually be sent round the side of the house to the back door but it’s a danger zone for me at the moment with adult blackbirds flying up the side path at great speed to and from their nest. I’ve never been fond of birds so I’m staying well away. I do have an occasional peek from the safety of the back door and I think there’s at least three fledglings who seem quite strong now and reluctant to leave their home comforts and daily meals from Dad.

I should mention here that whilst I can crochet for long periods at a time I cannot paint for very long at all. Sounds like a convenient excuse doesn’t it? Well it isn’t, it’s a massive pain in the neck and arms. There is so much that needs a fresh coat of paint here not to mention chairs that are desperate for paint, a big cupboard and a chest of drawers. The rest of the hall below the dado rail will have to be done as and when my arms allow, gradually over the next few weeks and after that I can start the skirting boards. How exciting.

I haven’t blogged since my impromptu visit to Leeds which simply came about one Friday when M had a brief job there and I went along for a quick browse in the city. E was disappointed we were twenty minutes away but couldn’t see her because she was stuck in lectures all day so M suggested I stay over. I figured that I only needed pants and a toothbrush so I ran it by E who was over the moon with the idea. While she was finishing lectures I dashed to M&S for underwear and Boots for a toothbrush. I love spontaneous!

E has been living in halls this year and due to students slightly nocturnal hours I managed to come and go without seeing any of her flat mates. In fact on Saturday morning we were up and getting ready by nine and she said it would be ok if I wanted to make coffee in the kitchen because everyone would be asleep for hours yet. Student life eh? I ended up doing a bit of washing up and wiping surfaces down whilst waiting for the kettle to boil. I really wanted to mop the floor and clean the ovens too but there’s a limit to what I can tackle without protective gloves!

Leeds has quite a lot to offer, we visited vintage shops and the art gallery, ate in small trendy cafes, drank probably far too much coffee, browsed the charity shops in Headingley and the highlight of our weekend was taking a short bus ride out to Chapel Allerton where Baa Ram Ewe has a shop. The shop and staff were lovely and the wool was scrumptious. I treated E to their book for absolute beginner knitters which had plenty of simple patterns with a timeless appeal. We bought some yarn for a couple of the projects too. She made the wristwarmers which had the challenge of saving stitches and a thumbhole. She’s learning fast.

I love the vintage shops in Leeds, the choice is huge and even being the wrong side of forty five I always seem to find something I can get away with. It’s usually chunky cardigans but this time I found a vintage camera bag amongst the women’s handbags. Since I just don’t do feminine handbags I knew this would suit me as a project bag that would also hold essentials like purse, keys and phone. I’ve been using it a lot and it’s ideal for a small crochet project such as a shawl, socks or a hat. It may well come with me on one of my long treks down to the lake with the dogs where they have a bench. I tried to crochet there last year because it’s a beautiful spot, there’s never anyone there and the dogs can potentially run around or swim and have a good time. Unfortunately Riley thought that me sitting down was a good time to sit in my lap. Picture an extremely wet, far too big for a lap dog, Springer drenching me in stinky lake water and me holding my yarn, hook and ball well above my head to keep it dry. I’ve learnt that there is no limit to this dog’s clinginess but I still love him to bits.

He’s looking slightly subdued in that first picture at the top there. I think that was taken last Monday when it absolutely hammered down with rain all day long. He didn’t really mind our slow start to the day. A big mug of coffee, music to drown out anything that sounds remotely stormy because he gets quite worried about windy weather and even more distressed when it thunders. I had a relaxing hour with crochet and crochet magazines, it’s a great way to start the day before I tackle the usual household stuff.

More often though I always save my crochet time for evenings. Last week I started another gin o’clock cardigan but this time for myself. I bought the yarn in Leeds and it’s an inexpensive denim yarn with a little bit of merino which makes it incredibly soft. It’s such a quick make with a 9mm hook and probably takes only four or five evenings. I added a little detail in yellow to break up all that denim yarn and whilst it’s not everyone’s taste I really love those pocket edgings. The cardigan got a proper outing in Cambridge yesterday while M was at a meeting. It was sunny but with a cool breeze so the cardigan was perfect.

I usually find myself in Cambridge out of season and much the same as Oxford in the summer it was packed with tourists pointing cameras and phone cameras at everything. Hence I only snapped a couple of quieter spots including this amazing wisteria. As lovely as it is to have a change of scene I’m always happier away from big crowds and all that commercialism.

Along with the hall painting I have also had a spring clean in our conservatory. It’s that time of year when spiders seem to do their worst. The sunny weather is perfect for opening all the blinds and windows and quite literally blowing the cobwebs away. I feel a bit like that with decluttering at the moment. Bags are being filled behind the scenes and the dining room, which is wall to wall books needs a massive sort out. With M umpiring every weekend now until the end of cricket season I will have plenty of time to myself to tackle such things.

My yarn stash does at least feel decluttered and a bit organised since the long awaited shelf was put up. M fussed over the fact that the wood had curled slightly in the year it spent standing up next to those wool cages (hardly surprising). I’m just overjoyed it is finally up and in use, it’s surprising how much difference one shelf can make! The woven baskets are a little more full since this photo was taken, ahem, but I’ve also completed at least one of the wips from one of them too. I’ll share that one next time.

I treated myself to a Scheepjes Whirl when I discovered our fantastic local yarn store (on Instagram; numberfour_fortheloveofwool). I’ve been wanting to try those for a while and since there’s a big cotton content the season seems right for it. I did also buy one of the Scheepjes shawl patterns but then decided I wanted something a tad more challenging. I ended up choosing the Arrows Down pattern by Atty. You can have a peek at that on my Instagram account but I will post some pics here next time too. It’s really not that challenging but it does take some concentration and I haven’t a clue how to block it when it’s done!

Busy

I’m not sure what happened to March but it’s been and gone and most of April has too. It’s been a blur. I really need to start eating more walnuts and blueberries if I’m to keep my memory in check. It’s a good job I blog. I forget so much.

E came home for the maximum amount of time she could for Easter and beyond. The novelty of living independently has probably worn off a bit. I think she misses the freedom of having her own car, so things like the weekly shop by bus are a bit of a pain in the neck. We took some lovely trips out to small market towns, antique (junk) centres, our local town, our country park and so on. We even managed a couple of picnics, although sitting on a blanket on the edge of a field with a very attentive Springer drooling over our sandwiches was probably not our most successful one.

The biggest surprise of the visit though was both E getting the knitting bug and also finding a fantastic local yarn store that’s been there for a year undiscovered! We’ve had to source beginner patterns that move on from simple shapes to something a bit more challenging, her latest project is a jacket type cardigan in a kimono style. It’s in something similar to moss stitch which I think is a brave choice. I used to get totally lost with that stitch. We made sure she went back to uni with a big basket of wool and a few patterns.

With all the knitting research going on I didn’t think I made very much in crochet just lately but the photos say otherwise. I made Murray the Sea Otter as a thank you gift for a friend who gave me a much needed kick start in the spinning direction. Not only did she manage to secure the donation of a wheel for me, she gave me a one day demo that got me over the fear of starting to use it! I will definitely take some photo’s soon. It’s an exciting new direction to my woolly life right now.

It’s the raw and the rustic that has always really appealed to me. I was trying to explain to M recently where that might have come from and I think it’s a lot to do with the Sussex county shows and fairs I used to visit on School trips. Those trips always brought things alive and two demos stayed with me forever, one was spinning in the raw from a pile of fleece that quite frankly looked like it was fresh off the sheep, and the second was a pole lathe demo. Thankfully, there was no such thing as the internet when I saw the latter otherwise I’d have been tempted to cut a few boughs down in our back garden and try and build one! Yes I was that weird kid whose priorities were not with the junk that you could buy at these events but with the actual crafts.

I was in the middle of making an ‘easy everywhere’ cardigan for E when the opportunity to test the ‘gin o’clock cardi’ came up on Instagram. The former is the oatmeal work in progress above, worked in crochet x stitch and made entirely in one piece with a few seams to sew up afterwards. The latter is the finished olive green garment which I hastily took a photo of before popping it in the post to E. I think she will wear this one quite a bit, it’s granny clusters but in chunky yarn so it has a real cosy factor. I did the short version because E likes her tops to be boxy. She chose the colour which was great because I’m hopeless at making those decisions.

There was a deadline for the testing which I needn’t have worried about at all. I think with three or four clear evenings most crocheters could have this done and dusted. Initially I groaned inwardly about sewing up but it really was quick and painless. It’s a great pattern and well presented. I highly recommend it.

One of the plus points of this garment is actually cost; garments are often a bit of an investment. I can remember my Nan telling me that everyone used to knit because it was so much more cost effective than buying a jumper for instance. These days I think it’s often more of a challenge to achieve that. For the short version in the size we needed and using the suggested yarn brand we had two choices, a cardigan that came in at about £21 or one that came in at just under £14. We went for the Stylecraft Life Chunky which has a bit of wool in it and therefore costs a little bit more but is still a great price for such a wearable result. I can’t decide what colour to choose for mine!

I learnt a new trick this week, one I can’t believe I hadn’t come across before. It was the magic knot. The magic circle was a revelation but the magic knot really does work too. You just simply tie each end of two pieces of yarn onto each other and pull, then snip any ends and voila! There are probably YouTube videos or at least photo how to’s. I learnt from an Instagram photo and I wish I’d used it for E’s scrap granny notions pouch; I could have made a magic ball (so much magic in the crochet world eh?!) and crocheted away without having to keep tying in a new colour. As Owen Wilson says in that sofa ad, ‘mind, blown’.

As usual crochet is keeping me firmly in the land of the happy. Behind the scenes there is plenty of not so happy health stuff. By that I mean things like dentists and routine check ups that you’d rather not have but cannot avoid. I had been avoiding the dentist for a while because I had a whole run of bad luck with post treatment infections. The sort you need two or three courses of antibiotics to sort out. By the time I plucked up the courage to go again I had been unceremoniously dumped off the client list. It proved quite tricky to find another. Eventually we managed to find out that our usual one was moving to a village close by and managed to re register with her which cut out a whole load of stress for me because she’s actually one of the nicest dentists I’ve ever had. Not only that but we no longer have to negotiate city centre traffic. Bonus.

I needed a few fillings and an extraction. My first appointment was for the hygienist and I wasn’t at all concerned or worried that morning. When I got in the chair though she said, do you just want me to take that troublesome one out today? I said yes go for it. I was pretty happy to be taken completely by surprise because it meant not having to totally dread that one for another week or so and be nervous as hell on the day. I would have had good reason to be nervous, it wasn’t nice. It’s taken a week to settle down and of course I’m now only glad to see the back of it. Fillings I can cope with.

M starts an intense court case tomorrow. It will mean weeks of actually cooking meals myself. I loathe cooking with a passion. We stocked up today on easy to cook meals for J and I. He’s fairly easily pleased and always appreciates my efforts. I do often wish I was that sort of Mother who finds herself in the mood for whipping up a cake or biscuits though, he’d appreciate that a lot more. Nearly 6’4, a bottomless stomach and skinny as a rake. Hardly fair!

Today was a bonus free day and we didn’t waste a second of it. Well unless you call waiting nearly two hours for a walk in appointment at our gp surgery a waste of time. M has a terrible habit of mouthing to me, ‘nothing wrong with half of them!’ and frowning at the mothers of howling babies. I just sit quietly and thank my lucky stars I don’t have to go through this very often.

After essential coffee intake I managed to persuade M to get the lawn mower out for the first cut of the season. I always start with… ‘if you could just bring it down from the the garden shed for me’ whilst secretly hoping he will start it up and mow the lawns himself. Today that actually worked, he mowed the 14 by 8 foot crescent at the front of the house! That’ll be me doing the 120 foot back garden tomorrow then!

To be fair he did a great job of putting up a shelf above my wool cupboards. I think I only had to wait one year for that particular job to be done. We’ve also finally got a metal wall mounted postbox. The old one was on a wooden post at the end of the drive and when the post rotted we decided it would be better to have the mail through the front door. This hasn’t been working well with Harvey pouncing on everything that comes through as though it were a rodent that needed to be well and truly killed. Sorting out problems like this make life seem suddenly quite civilised!

After this flurry of activity I’m ready for a quiet week with everyone finally at work/schoool/uni. I have paint for the hall at the ready but apart from that I’m looking forward to restoring our normal dog walking hours and routes. I just need to ignore all reports of cold wet weather with a chance of snow!