Dyeing

Last month we travelled down to my native Sussex so that I could attend a natural dyeing workshop. Once upon a time I’d have happily driven myself but these days long periods of driving just aren’t feasible. I caught M in a good mood and he was happy to make a short break of it by having lunch on the way, staying overnight and travelling back after the workshop. He had plenty of work to do to kill the time and installed himself in the lobby of the hotel with WiFi, lunch, newspapers, coffee, his laptop.

Attending a group event of any sort is completely out of my comfort zone. A short time is not enough time to be able to tune into each persons distinct lip patterns, so the best I can hope for is to just get by without making myself look stupid. I chose my home county because I don’t have to work quite so hard to figure out the many regional accents I come across living in Lincolnshire. I’m always very optimistic when I do something like this but the reality is that it’s a massive pain in the neck not being aware of when people speak let alone what they are saying. I used to hide the problem and bluff but that is tiring, soul destroying and slightly pointless. It is what it is, in general life goes on and I don’t give it a second thought.

Anyway, problems aside, I had a great day. It was relaxed and easy to keep up by the very visual nature of it all. I knew this would become a passion the minute we set off with a basket and snips to collect some hedgerow plants for our dye baths. Even though I did every sport imaginable when I was younger, walking is the one thing that creates that feeling you get when you’re deeply immersed in a good book. Dogs bouncing around and diving into anything vaguely resembling a stream just adds to the joy.

The workshops are run by Mother/Daughter enterprise Deborah and Gala, both equally lovely, interesting and inspiring (details on my Instagram posts) or have a look at plawhatchfarm.co.uk. If I hadn’t already studied my one and only natural dyeing book over and over I think I’d have struggled to keep up. I had all the basic facts at my disposal but it seemed too overwhelming to contemplate doing at home. At the end of the day, as I got in the car, I said to M, it was like suddenly being able to understand Egyptian hieroglyphics!

We made four dye baths; nettle, bracken, madder and silver birch leaf. With mini skeins dyed in each we also had a chance to experiment with modifiers to produce a further range of colours. The workshop yarns are above in the first photo. I made them up into a small drawstring bag to remember the day by. I also attached the leftover scraps to a couple of postcards. One postcard has been placed out of daylight and the other taped to a sunny window. Several weeks on only the madder exhaust has faded from pink to beige which was expected.

I wasted no time in rearranging the bookshelf in our kitchen to hold jars, pans, sieves, bowls etc. By day I’ve been brewing readily available dye matter from our wild and unmanaged garden hedgerows (I knew all that ‘ungardening’ would pay off one day!) and by night trying to read up on plants. I’m lucky enough to know someone who totally gets natural dyeing and she kindly popped a couple of books in the post the same day I mentioned I was interested. I must photograph some of the beautiful illustrations in one of them for my next post. I’ve been so obsessed I’ve been carrying them with me everywhere. Ideal for coffee dates with M and his phone.

That same week in May had less fortunate events but I’ll also save that for another post. Jake has a few more exams to go before he is finally a school leaver. A Levels have been hard work and he’s done well to keep his cool and get on with it, despite everything. E had a bit of a dramatic end to her academic year too but she’s home for summer now and I’m really looking forward to some sunshine so that we can sit outside, have the odd barbecue, take the dogs to the lake and most importantly move my natural dyeing operation outside! Both E and J enter the kitchen with t shirts pulled up over their noses complaining loudly but laughing too. I won’t repeat what they think some of it smells like.

In between the rainy days we’ve had some good weather. Summer evenings in the twenties are the best. Who could possibly watch tv on an evening like that? Not me. Riley is probably only midway through his six month advised knee rest period, but try telling a Springer Spaniel that. We tried to stick to a short walk but he rolled in fox poo within minutes of setting off which meant walking much further to a deeper stream to wash it off. I quickly discovered that bending down to collect a few nettle tops would be an open invitation to them both to gather round and stick their wet faces in mine to ask what was going on.

I’ve also been planting anything from seed that wasn’t too late in the season to start. Madder was probably a little late but I’m keeping my fingers crossed, it takes a few years before they will be usable. With J’s help I dragged four unused railway sleepers from behind the kids treehouse all the way down to where the lawn starts for a raised bed. It won’t be very raised at all but the sleepers are handy to sit on whilst tending plants at least. I did the same for where I grow gooseberries, raspberries and a few herbs but with shorter sleepers. M had to build small picket fence panels to keep the dogs from digging everything back up so he will have to do the same for my woad and madder. It won’t be pretty but it’ll be functional and that’s fine by me. With reclaimed wood and containers we’ve started off a million Marigolds and some Coreopsis. I’ve given Mum some indigo seeds to look after in her greenhouse.

One of the first plants I tried after the workshop was Weld. We had seeds lined up but I’m not sure I need to bother with such a plentiful supply at local building sites. They like disturbed ground and our garden is very undisturbed! I gathered only enough to make one dye bath. A week later when more of the flowers were out and ideal for the dye bath the builders decided to get a huge hacking tractor thing and mow the whole lot down! They even collected the hacked down weeds and grass! Luckily I have a husband who doesn’t mind sweet talking builders into allowing him inside the fenced off site to access a big untouched patch and fill a basket with enough to dry for the winter! Since I took that photo of the drying Weld I’ve bundled up some much larger pieces with the flower heads intact.

I’ve started a dyer’s journal to record my dyeing sessions and recipes. I get carried away with the process of it all and with skeins drying here and there I completely forget which dye baths created which. Eventually I think I might get organised enough to take photos as I go and record some of the sessions here. For now though I’m actually concentrating far too much on what I’m doing!

When I can tear myself away from the dye pots I’m going to find some suitable crochet patterns to try these plant dyed yarns out. One of the bases I’ve been trying out should cope with a thirty degree wash cycle although normally I would still wash woollens by hand. So it’ll be a few simple makes only while I see how they perform. I previously said that slow living wasn’t something you could achieve overnight but rather a journey to the level that suits you. A few years ago I couldn’t have imagined ever being able to take a sheep fleece, process it, spin it, dye it naturally with plants and make it into something useful. Admittedly my spinning needs more practice but I’m finally where I want to be, close to nature, creating something from natural materials.

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Spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dublin

A few weeks ago M was asked to cover a job for Facebook in Dublin. We discussed arrangements for me tagging along but I never get too excited until flights are booked. I’ve learnt from previous experience that it isn’t happening until it’s actually happening! A few days after accepting the booking it fell through. Neither of us are were too disappointed, the timing could have been better. Then fast forward a few more days and Dublin was back on!

We booked flights on Friday and flew out on Sunday. I barely had time to pack, it usually takes me three days just to decide on a suitable travel crochet project! I love spontaneous and over the years I think this has rubbed off a little on M who has always been a bit more of a routine guy. Of course, he is slightly more motivated when a pay check is involved but even so, this was a quick turnaround.

I’ve never been to Ireland and had no idea what to expect. I once had a good friend from Cork but that’s about as far as my dealings with Ireland go. Dublin was a very pleasant surprise. We had all of Monday to explore. M did well despite mobility problems. Our plan was to walk a little and have coffee often and somehow this worked for us both on this occasion. I’m usually frustrated that we can’t walk at a normal pace for a decent length of time but cities are quite overwhelming with things to see and do and there’s not much point in covering a lot of ground in a short space of time. Also on the plus side we found several nice places to eat or have coffee that I logged for future reference, knowing that I’d have two more days to myself in the city.

Bewley’s coffee and hot chocolate seemed to be everywhere and we sampled a lot of the former and just one of the latter. M wanted to catch some live music in a pub so we visited the famous Temple Bar and he listened to some live music. I can’t tell you very much about it because I can only really hear and make sense of music I already know and is stored in my memory bank. M enjoyed it briefly and then decided we should leave on account of a group of men having one too many pints of Guinness.

We were lucky to have stayed in a lovely hotel which was walking distance to the city centre. It also had an adjoining restaurant which was extremely good. Beef stew with Guinness was very tasty indeed. I clocked up a lot of walking miles over the three days and everything was beginning to ache. I walk much more with the dogs but somehow pounding concrete rather than mud seemed to make a difference. I was rather weary when we had to go through all the airport checks on the way back and they decided to choose us to scan everything from the palms of my hands to the soles of M’s feet. Every single orifice of our cases and bags were opened and checked too. I was half asleep which probably helped get through that mini ordeal. We have nothing to hide and I’m glad they are thorough but I don’t think we’ve ever been through an airport without one of us having this level of check. Neither of us have a criminal record.

I happened to mention to M that it was just a tad stressful with the added bonus of not being able to hear what they were asking me, to which he replied, well we won’t fly anymore then. Turned out he was over tired too! Ultimately we both agreed that in future we should travel with twenty family members, get thoroughly hammered with any alcohol we could lay our hands on, make a lot of noise by shouting and laughing our heads off and get through airport checks without any bother. It worked for others on that flight.

I think we got home at two in the morning and I vaguely remember arriving but I don’t remember how I got into bed. The joys of getting older I guess. We clearly need to plan our flight times more carefully next time!

This is Knit was a highlight. I went once with M on the first day and then went back again after receiving a request from a certain someone. I decided not to be tempted by any of the hand dyed special skeins on this occasion. I wanted a jumper quantity of something, preferably aran and preferably locally produced. That turned out to be incredibly easy. Above the grey yarn pic you can see all of the Studio Donegal range which covers these requirements. It took a while to choose a colour but the sample in grey was calling my name and I knew it would be a safe bet. I did buy the jumper pattern thinking it was a basic knit (that I could do a little bit of each day despite wrist issues with knitting). On closer inspection there’s some knitting terms I’m not sure about, so many ways to cast on! I’ll either YouTube the special cast on and learn something new or wing it with part crochet and part knit!

In other shopping news I couldn’t buy too much for fear of not having enough room for my yarn purchases! The aran cardigans were hugely tempting but not difficult to order online and have shipped over if I’m ever short of cardigans, which probably won’t happen for quite a while! I did buy a couple of gifts of a textile nature that I can’t mention yet. These items were also everywhere and we both wished we hadn’t done previous Christmas shopping because we could have just bought everyone one of these!

I usually feel quite inspired and energised after a trip like this. I think it was the combination of tiredness and not quite feeling the love for Christmas this year that hit me when I got home. I used to like decorating the house and doing Christmas crafty stuff so I’m not sure why that isn’t holding any appeal this year. We’ve got some stressful stuff to sort out in the New Year that is preying on my mind but it could well be because the kids are grown up now. J will turn 18 a couple of days after Christmas and E will be 21 this week. I think that finally feels like the last days of their childhood are well and truly over. It’s a weird feeling.

Not that I’m redundant at all (even if I wanted to be)… E came home from University with a large bag of washing. We packed her off on a first class train carriage to stay in Edinburgh for four days as a 21st birthday treat. It looks and sounds like it’s going very well so far.

J came home from football on Sunday looking like he’d been beaten to within an inch of his life, his shirt was covered in blood and he informed me that the ball had made contact with his face, caused a massive nosebleed and that he’d decided to play on for the last twenty minutes anyway. Cue a Mother’s speech about how much blood and how dangerous that was. What were the coaches thinking? Thankfully his nose is fine and so is the shirt, it’s amazing what a cold soak can do.

Just to make this last week even more joyful Riley spent most of yesterday bringing up his stomach contents in random locations. Luckily we have a lot of tiled areas but even so it was pretty grim for 24 hours. Going for our usual ramble backfired by giving him chance to ingest grass which later came back up in three different piles. Today we went for another walk and he rolled in three piles of fox poo so that thing about ‘three’s’ is spot on at the moment! Harvey managed to wound his knee a week ago . A little gash that was too small for stitches or anything but has needed a dressing whilst it heals. He’s been a master at getting the dressings off and chewing the wound so that’s not healing as it should yet. The taste of TCP hasn’t deterred him at all! Little bugger.

In amongst all this excitement I’ve finally managed to make some soy wax candles using the old tins we purchased a while ago. I’ve yet to take some final pictures so I’ll save that for next time. I usually use wax pellets but I went for eco soy flakes this time and whilst a little harder to clean up spills I think they’ve turned out ok. The essential oil I used was called ‘Christmas in a Bottle’ so here’s hoping that when I burn them it smells as good as the kitchen did today while I was making them!

October

I seem to be another year older since I last blogged. I had brief thoughts of doing 49 things before the next birthday but let’s be realistic, could I think of that many? I’m mainly content with my little lot. I have no burning desire to jump out of a plane, go white water rafting or anything like that. My thoughts are mainly wool related these days, along with simplifying things so that we have less stress in our future.

There is an overwhelming amount of house maintenance on my mind at the moment. I’ve mentioned that cycle before. We have something that needs urgent attention and M insists on seeing to it himself but then works all hours but refuses to pay someone to do it quicker (and better). At least we tackled the all important workshop this summer and several torrential downpours have proven it to be watertight at last. My own workshop also has an extra layer of felt on the roof too but neither have their trims back in place, that may well be another year.

We had plans to pop over to France for a brief holiday but cases that are assigned six weeks have a nasty habit of lasting ten weeks. I have been sorely tempted to book a shepherds hut or barn or something and just get away on my own. I am terrible at routine monotony and this is probably the most extreme case of it for a very long time. I pretty much do the weekly shop every Sunday, for Jake and I. He knows what he likes and inevitably some of the same things end up in the trolley, he loves M&S pancakes/crepes and whilst I feel guilty buying them ready made I too have succumbed to the simple lunch or breakfast of pancakes with a tiny bit of sugar and lemon. It’s the closest we’ll get to anything genuinely French at the moment.

Our weekdays jog along nicely with football training on a Tuesday which involves him driving, for practice and me dashing home for all of 50 minutes before going back to get him. Driving with a learner is even more fun in the dark, everyone should try it. Apart from brief chats about football, driving and studies we are like ships passing in the night. He still manages to walk past the bin on bin day. I look forward to the day when all this responsibility is his and his alone, he will have to wake up a little. I think it was the second week Ella was away at university when I received a message saying, ‘I don’t think I want to be grown up anymore’. Of course she’s doing it extremely well now. We are down to only one crisis per week.

There was a lovely brief autumn kind of month and then all of a sudden it feels a lot like winter. It’s absolutely freezing today and I’ve been wearing the same old aran cardigan every day. The house is plenty warm enough but if I sit for a little while I soon begin to feel the draughty spots. This particular aran cardigan was a vintage find and it’s perfect in a lot of ways, I like the fact the sleeves are quite narrow, this is ideal for crocheting without anything getting in the way! It’s also a good length. It looks stupid buttoned up to be honest but I think that was last an acceptable look back in the seventies. It’s this last point that made me wonder about a crocheted aran jumper. I’ve got two old books that have hideously complicated crochet aran sweaters in them. I think one is American which doesn’t help either but both are just so darn vague! One of them even says, ‘pattern the next section’ without giving any pattern! I’ve studied and studied them and I think the only way I’d ever make a garment with these books is by just winging it from the picture!

I eventually found a modern pattern online called the Meara Fisherman Sweater, it’s in U.S. terms and written very clearly. I still had doubts about tackling it but unlike other things in life I jumped straight in and was relieved to find it was actually quite simple. I had a blip with gauge even after doing an entire gauge square but that’s forgotten now and I finally have a front and a back loosely tacked together and thrown over Hilda just to see how it’s coming along. I’ve made it nice and roomy with dog walks in mind, it just needs sleeves, hem and neckline and it’ll be put to the test out there on those freezing cold muddy walks.

Although I’d already started the leaf stitch cowl before the jumper it has taken a bit of a back seat whilst I crack on with something I know I’ll be wearing a lot. The burnt orange cowl yarn is part alpaca and is incredibly soft. I bought four lovely wooden buttons for it but when E made a visit home I ended up sewing them on to her mustard cardigan. She will probably never button it up but we both agreed it was a nice finishing touch!

As of last month I am now the proud owner of one of the most expensive crochet hooks you can buy! Mum and I had a few funny text message conversations that started out with ‘I want to buy you something you’d never treat yourself to and wondered…’ Then me worrying that it might cost all that money and be terrible, and then finally throwing caution to the wind and ending up relieved that it is actually a beautifully crafted piece of kit! It’s called a Furls Odyssey and it absolutely glides through yarn and feels beautifully weighted and comfortable in the hand. I had some problems after making socks with a 2.5mm hook and it made me release that my crochet does have limitations, though not as much as knitting. 4mm is my most used hook size but typically I didn’t have a 4mm project on the go so I’ve started a textured hat for E and I made a purple pom pom keyhole scarf for little E. The latter used yarn I’ve had in my stash for a very long time, it was originally purchased for wrist warmers when Ella was ten! Yikes. I’m just glad it finally got used up! A little leftover ball has been added to the pure wool scraps bowl, she might even get a striped hat at some stage, before she too goes to university!

Socks

Social media does get a bad press sometimes but I do believe that anyone with common sense can take it or leave it. I never really got on with Facebook but I’m finding that Instagram is nudging me in directions that are good for creativity. October is Socktober over there and at first I didn’t think I’d bother joining in. My sock history involved several pairs of hard wearing aran wool trainer socks made for both M and myself to pad around the house or caravan on chillier nights. They’ve been excellent but they are fairly crude, worked up from the toe in the round, then back and forth on about half of the stitches and seemed at the back of the heel, then finally as many rows in the round to finish off, I hate wearing socks so I left those at trainer sock height.

The last photo above shows (on the left) the first attempt at a proper crochet sock but I really didn’t fancy a fitted pair made with a 3mm hook so I sized it up and used a 4mm which worked out as intended, a sort of bed sock fit. Thanks to the nudge I finally finished the second sock and I’ve even worn them a few times.

The sock on the right, with Riley who just can’t bear to miss out on anything, is my finished Beruna Sock. Without seeing any of the patterns in the book apart from the cover photo I took a gamble and ordered it. It’s called ‘Everyday Wearables’ and it’s by The Crochet Project. I’ve made quite a few things from their patterns and really appreciate the way they do things. Clear and well set out patterns make a huge difference to the pleasure of making something. They are particularly good at sizing which is also something that is not always tackled with much care.

I’ve since finished the Beruna pair and I’ve started a purple pair for E. This time I decided to make two cuffs, then work both down to the ankle and so on… to beat that second sock ugh feeling. Only this time I hadn’t anticipated how much strain the first pair had been on my wrists. I’m usually absolutely fine with crochet despite carpal tunnel. I wear wrists supports at night and that usually means no issues the next day. A 2.5mm hook is obviously my lower limit. I’m going to have to ration out the work on those purple socks to get them done.

Whilst having a break from tiddly hooks I decided to make the Brenn hat from the same book. I wanted a very soft brim so I used my special merino by The Uncommon Thread purchased in Loop earlier this year. I don’t have a lot of merino in dk so I paired it with some grey yarn I bought in Barcelona a couple of years ago. The combination has worked nicely in the squishy stakes, its obviously far too warm to wear at all right now but it’ll be serious insulation when it is!

It’s been like the middle of summer here lately. I don’t think I’ve bothered with a jumper for our daily dog walks for weeks. I even dug the shorts out again this week and it felt very strange walking miles with shorts on and yet autumn leaves on the ground.

Despite the unseasonably warm weather I have been trying to cosy up indoors. Crochet blankets are draped (or thrown) on the furniture ready for chilly evenings. We aren’t tight with our heating at all but it’s always a challenge to keep the conservatory warm over winter which is where our main tv happens to be. It’s a shame we can’t easily relocate it to our comfy and roasting warm bedroom. We had plans to install a wood burner this year but true to form (ie. not doing anything we decide within a five year timeframe) we haven’t got round to it. M is a bit reluctant to make a hole through the conservatory roof. I’m not reluctant at all. It’ll happen, just not anytime soon.

We’ve agreed that I should stop trying to find a style of woolly hat that will suit M’s head shape. If truth be told we call him pineapple head and he won’t thank me for sharing that. I think if I force him to wear a daft looking crochet beanie all winter in our draughty conservatory it might just bring the wood burner plans to the front of his mind. Cunning eh? Not a chance in hell of it working though.

At least there are still some good candidates for woolly hats this Christmas even though they all have a few from previous years. In my defence though I’m getting a bit better at making them. Getting the right size always used to bother me greatly but since I found a chart which gives all sorts of useful measurements I don’t worry so much.

It’s gone a bit stormy here with rain and strong wind and it is quite a challenge to write a blog post with a fully grown Springer Spaniel on my lap. This breed has many attributes, being brave is not one of them!

Autumn

God I love Autumn! I blame my lovely village primary school in part at least. Summer holidays were great but getting back to school was also pretty good. The Autumn term meant wellies in the cloakroom and a nature table in the classroom, which in turn meant getting out of the classroom to tramp around woodlands collecting pocketfuls of glorious treasure. Conkers were of course the most highly treasured finds. Thankfully not so much health and safety when it came to conkers back then. Apparently they give off a chemical whilst drying that repels moths which is why I have bowls of them everywhere at the moment. I’m not sure if it’s working but where there’s wool, there’s conkers. I just have to make sure they are above dog height. They keep expressing an interest and I don’t want to find out what happens if dogs eat conkers. I’m sure it wouldn’t be good.

I couldn’t resist choosing an autumnal shade from Baa Ram Ewe in Leeds when we dropped Ella back at university. She was supposed to be doing a workshop that very day but there was a mix up with email addresses and she didn’t get the cancellation email. It was a good excuse to try out a skein of their new Winterburn range. This particular shade is called Viking and has pretty swiftly become a hat! I really enjoy working with pure wool and the slight sheepy smell.

The hat pattern is by The Crochet Project, available in one of their book collections. It was also printed in issue 100 of Inside Crochet Magazine. I really love their designs and have one of the books of shawls but I must remember to add another to my Christmas list. The hat is called the Sitka Spruce hat which is not to be confused with a knitted hat pattern with the same name. This one is most definitely crochet! I made one of these back in April in an undyed yarn and I’ve been wearing it out on dog walks recently. The post trebles make a good thickness of fabric whilst being nice and stretchy too. I’ve got another on the hook for Ella, you’ll never guess what colour? Yep, yellow.

The mustard cardigan turned out ok after a dodgy start. We wanted an oversized comfy one and I found a free pattern that went up to the measurements we were looking for, did a gauge swatch and made a start. It turned out that the gauge was a pointless exercise. When I did the maths it was only ever going to make a chest measurement of 40″ for the 2XL which they described as a 50″ chest. Pretty frustrating. I decided I had enough experience to wing it but without any fancy construction methods. I just made the pieces traditionally and sewed it up. For the sleeves I measured Ella’s arms and looked up a sensible arm hole depth (I was surprised to find charts for these on the internet!) then took the cuff size and the armhole depth, worked out how many stitches I needed to increase based on my swatch which happened to be roughly double. It worked out that I needed to increase very other row which was easy to remember, especially whilst watching a good series on Netflix called Ozark! I’m going to add wooden buttons when I’ve found the right ones. I have a Jacob’s Cream Cracker tin full of buttons and none of them are right!

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’ll fit the way E wanted it to. We’ll be visiting soon, along with a few things she left behind by mistake and a few of her houseplants. It’s a slightly mad itinerary for M. He will return home from London on Friday, have one night in his own bed, drive to Leeds and back on Saturday and then return to London on Sunday afternoon. Crazy. I wish I could at least drive to Leeds but I’ve been having trouble with double vision. At least he will have company when he returns to London and also only for a short week. J will be travelling with him and sitting in the public gallery for two days by way of some ‘work experience’ so that he can see how the courts operate. I think the first day will be exciting for him at least. Two days might be a bit dull.

We’ve had a few days in a row of glorious heat and sunshine. The dogs have cooled down in the various streams we walk next to. I’ve thoroughly aired the house by throwing all the windows open. It’s been very mood enhancing, I’m kind of dreading winter with all its grey, cold and wet weather. For now though Autumn is fantastic!

September

I seem to have chosen a record number of images for this post and that’s most likely to do with being a bit behind on the blogging front. Lots seems to have happened. Whether or not I can recall everything is another matter.

We took Ella back to university yesterday. She’s a funny blend of intelligent, confident, witty, funny, talented and then bam, just emotional about leaving the comfort and protection of home. Although she’s been working hard as a Barista all summer to pay for her student lodgings she’s only been over there a handful of times. A couple of weeks ago she went over by train and stayed for a few days and was paid a visit by a policewoman who was doing the rounds of student houses to encourage them to be more vigilant with locking doors and shutting windows when they are out. Far from reassuring E that they are patrolling and there if needed I think it only served to worry her more. She wants to enjoy all that cities have to offer but she’s happier in the countryside.

We had a very ‘Lincolnshire’ day as we later described it, one day this week. I think I’d made a plea for a quiet day at home after so much activity and so many tasks completed. It wasn’t to be. E woke up with a throbbing hand having managed to get a shard of glass in it two days prior when an espresso glass was broken at work and not cleared away properly. I swear A&E departments display signs telling you that your GP can handle minor injuries and GP’s tell you they can’t, but we at least tried and then spent nearly four hours at the hospital waiting, having an x Ray, waiting some more.. all got sorted, antibiotics were given, the waiting room was highly entertaining. We’ve never seen a patient come in whilst handcuffed to a prison guard before despite the prison being opposite the hospital. E watches all the prison series she can find on Netflix so she was particularly amazed that his injuries seemed to be consistent with your average American prison goings on. ie. he’d been ‘shanked’.

Anyway, that really wasn’t the reason it turned out to be a Lincolnshire kind of day. Cows running up a busy main road and being chased by two farmers, now that’s a scene we have witnessed a few times before round here! Not only that but much later, on the way home a whole truck load of sheep being transported had broken down on one of the busiest roundabouts at rush hour. I say rush hour but we really don’t have much of one. Nevertheless there were police at either side of the vehicle and a huge tailback and quite frankly, this is proper news in this county.

One of E’s uni friends hasn’t ventured out of his home city much by the sounds of things. When she once described getting stuck behind a tractor on a road (every day of the week) he was amazed that tractors actually used roads at all, he thought they just drove across fields. I know! This is either staggeringly stupid or just tragic. I’ve heard of city schools being taken to city farms but I think it should be compulsory to take kids out of cities to see how the country gets its milk and meat and where crops actually grow!

We had one finally purge on the pruning side of things. The apples and plums seemed to be well over so we took some dead or wildly out of control boughs off both of these trees. Without a huge ladder the work is low sided and will probably stay like that but there is another massive bonfire to burn and two more piles the same size waiting to be fed on to the main bonfire. We’ve had a fair bit of rain recently so we’re waiting for a week of crisp dry autumn days before we light it. Harvey really understands bonfires and takes branches up the garden and deposits them near to the bonfire then follows me back for some more. At all other times he would never ever dream of giving up a stick without expecting it to be thrown for him. We didn’t specifically train him to do this but we did have an awful lot of bonfires when he was a younger dog so he seems to have just observed this is what you do. It’s pretty handy because I drop a lot of smaller pieces on the way and he tidies them all up for me. Riley is not so keen on the whole bonfire area in general and is wary even when it’s not alight. When it is lit he goes indoors, whereas Harvey still carries on supplying branches for the fire.

Crochet has been happening, in varying degrees of skill and happiness. I started the History of Trees shawl at the beginning of September and fell slightly out of love with the whole thing when there were gauge issues. Sticking to what met the gauge has been the right decision for me because I didn’t want to order more yarn. I’m seeing plenty on the Facebook group who didn’t understand this concept wondering why they’ve run out. If you look closely at my trees you’ll see that there’s an extra branch on one of them. Did I rip back five rows and fix it? I did not. The yarn is hairy and a nightmare to frog. Trees have random branches in real life. So do my crocheted trees. Get over it. One Facebook member said they would always fix errors so as not to make any future ones. Well good luck with that. I’m ok with imperfection on this occasion.

I tested a simple pattern for a child’s crochet top. It attracted my attention because it struck me as a nice basic top that could be made in any yarn and any colour combination. This one is cotton and came up a bit large so I’ll be putting it by for my niece until next Spring at least.

I’ve been thinking a bit more about making it up as I go, when it comes to crochet I’ve always preferred the safety net of a pattern but it gets a bit tedious counting stitches after a while. I used one of my crochet stitch books and some leftover rubbish oatmeal yarn and started doing a sampler of stitches. Some are only subtly different from each other but there are eight different ones including fur stitch which I’d never tried before, popular in the seventies! I ended up looping it on a piece of pruned Cherry tree and it now hangs in a window which shows the stitches up much better. It was an accidental project and now I’d like to do a more planned version.

I tagged along with M to Newmarket recently and the pottery mug was my most exciting purchase! It perfectly matches a blue enamel coffee pot I already had which we use for camping. The mug isn’t enamel but the blue is as vibrant. It’s been ideal for a small bed time tea which has been our routine since we got married. The rule is that M has to make the last tea of the day, otherwise its divorce lawyers. He’s away for two weeks so I’m thinking ‘irretrievable breakdown’ quite frankly!

I’ve just finished a basic cardigan for E using a gorgeous mustard tweed yarn, it was totally made up as I went along stuff and it worked! Photos next time. I’ve also purchased a pure wool skein in an autumnal shade with a hat in mind. We’ve just had two days of warm, over twenty degree heat so by the time I’ve finished the hat I’m hoping for a slight nip in the air at least!

Seasons

I seem to remember, way back in Spring, looking forward to leisurely summer days on the deck with my crochet and just keeping the laundry ticking over and the dogs and myself exercised but not much else. That just hasn’t happened!

Once the mammoth task of stripping the rotten workshop roof was done and three huge bonfires later it was burnt, M fitted a new roof and felted it. I thought he’d enjoy the task of moving his benches around and dusting off all his machinery and tools and restocking the space… and he did but so slowly he’d have been there until 2025 dusting off individual screws and pencils if I hadn’t intervened. It’s always a race against time with British weather and we had two huge piles of workshop contents on the grass under tarpaulins. I was keen not kill it off any longer not to mention the eyesore of such a thing.

I ‘project managed’ a day of putting stuff back including feng shui on the layout. Originally the main work bench was in the darkest corner, it’s now under the long window. Machinery he uses a lot are now in much easier to get to places. Tools he will never use are now on top shelves. The lack of protest and moaning suggest he was quite grateful for female logic for once. My motive is twofold, one is having my own shed back and two, I have a long list of things for M to make and I know he will enjoy making them. First up is a reclaimed wood fence panel for the side of our deck and between us and the new ‘lake’. We saw an idea in an outdoor seating area in a Brighton cafe and we both liked it. It should work well next to our outside cable drum table.

The rest of our time has been spent reclaiming garden from all the wildly out of control hedges and trees. We invested in some new tools, a pruning saw and some long loppers. The latter is absolutely brilliant and we’ve been able to completely clear all the overhanging branches above our conservatory. Having sunlight coming over that roof and onto our new table on the deck was a very nice discovery the next morning! We’ve done our best with the two fruit trees which have produced very poor fruit this year. Now we are stuck with all the bits we can’t reach so we may still need professional help.

Whilst hacking back an overgrown laurel hedge down one side I found a fallen pigeon nest and two dead baby pigeons. It was a bit grim. I really dislike pigeons and gave up hanging washing on a line a long time ago, I have to use an airer and keep it close to where we sit in order not to get my washing splattered with stuff! Even so, I still don’t like to see dead animals. Thankfully not as many now that we no longer have a cat.

I tagged along on a couple of business trips recently. Not overnight ones but a nice day out nonetheless. Ipswich was nice, it was a warm day and to be honest it’s mainly good for charity shops. I bought the soap nuts in a fair trade shop and have been trying them out with cricket kit to see if they are up to the job. So far so good, though it’s fair to say that as a seventeen year old J doesn’t seem to be sliding along grass to stop fast moving balls as much as he did when he was ten! He is still plagued with back problems despite several consultations with a private physio and mainly keeping up with the exercises he’s been given. It’s partly sport related but I’m sure that growing at the speed of knots and reaching 6’4 is also to blame.

Yesterday I accompanied M on a trip to Newmarket. We both thought it would be a lovely little town and it probably once was. It’s the heart of horse racing country and the Jockey Club is right in the centre of town. I’m not sure what the odds of seeing a famous jockey are but I did see Bob Champion who seemed to be a very friendly sort, saying hello to everyone. I must confess I would not have known who he was but for watching The Real Marigold Hotel just recently. I’ve never been a fan of horse racing.

I found a couple of pieces of pottery; a hand thrown mug for my collection and a small bowl which I might use for a plant or perhaps just for nuts. I also found a lovely leather dice cup, such a random purchase but proves the rule that you can find anything if you look long enough. M and I often play backgammon when we stay in a hotel or shepherds hut. We aren’t very good at it and I need reminding of the rules every time we play but last time we got our board out we both agreed that a leather dice cup would be good. When we found them new we didn’t think it was worth paying silly sums for one (they were £20 and up!) so I was pleased to find one yesterday for just £2 including six dice! I used to love Yahtzee when I was a child so we might revisit that too.

I’ve started a new ‘crochet along’. This time with A Spoonful of Yarn and it’s another shawl. It’s called The History of Trees Shawl and is inspired by the book Barkskins by Annie Proulx. I’m not loving the book, it’s ok and it’s readable but the story doesn’t seem to pull you along. I quite like the historical context but it’s laborious in places. The crochet itself has lost a bit of appeal too. There’s a Facebook group and it was quickly apparent that the gauge was a bit off and most were having to go down a hook size or two to achieve the gauge. On this occasion it has produced a much denser fabric and I did agonise over this to start with, knowing that to use a bigger hook would mean needing more yarn. Since I couldn’t get extra yarn from the same batch number and seeing how batches vary hugely from Facebook photo’s I decided to go with the denser fabric. Not knowing whether this will work as a garment is killing the enjoyment somewhat.

At least the shawl is reminding me of autumnal colours. I’ve chosen the brown because I wear my Fly boots all winter and they happen to be brown. I have a feeling that E might just borrow this shawl when it’s done and accidentally keep it. This happens from time to time! Hazards of having a daughter I guess. I’ve just finished making her a set of crochet bunting exactly the same as the set I made for our bedroom. She has a hygge, boho, neutrals vibe going on in her uni room this year, I’ve also made her a crochet sampler wall hanging and although it wasn’t the greatest piece of work it has sparked a few ideas for rather more planned versions.

I know I’m not alone in looking forward to the school rhythm now that August is over. J goes back 5th and E goes back to uni about 13th, although she is going back to Leeds for a few days from 5th so the latter half of this week will be ‘back to normal’ for me. Normal meaning housework, laundry, dog walking, diy, probably more gardening of the hacking back variety and then finally a bit of quiet crochet before the annoying tall kid arrives home and needs feeding.

I’m already noticing all the changes of the seasons on our dog walks. There are big fat sloe berries in the hedgerows and crab apples to be found if you know where to look (slightly off the footpath!) we haven’t made crab apple jelly jam for years and M is keen to make it again so next time I walk that way I’ll be swinging a deep round egg basket on my arm and the dogs will be ‘helping’ (eating anything that drops). They eat cooking apples from our garden every year and I’m amazed that it doesn’t make them ill.

M and I are looking at dates for a short break somewhere. He’s pretty booked up with work until Christmas and he’s doing training some weekends but fingers crossed. We always start with a wish list of places we’d like to go but it doesn’t always work out if time is short and we don’t want to lose a day either end just travelling. so who knows where we will go, just the thought of being able to go somewhere new is exciting enough, even if we don’t leave the U.K.

I’m still working on the camper van plan. I think M is struggling with the idea of swapping a luxury caravan for more primitive accommodation. I’m hopeful something will prove to be a good happy medium. With all the music festivals the kids have attended I do wish we’d bought an old banger of a van some years ago so they could at least have camped in relative style! E had such bad weather to contend with one year that we had to drive for two hours at nearly midnight and rescue them from torrential downpours and mud up to their knees. They’d done their absolute best to see it through but that night was extreme and they were among hundreds getting rescued by parents with black sacks across their back seats! J was luckier with his first festival although just an ordinary shower of rain proved too much for his cheap tent and he ended up sending a few nights in a damp sleeping bag. He came home with a raging temperature and no voice which hasn’t put him off doing the same next year, unfortunately. Hopefully M will have more free time next Spring and be able to finish the teardrop trailer. It’s so close now, just cladding and doors.

It’s cooler and overcast here today. I’ve spent an hour sorting all my projects out, putting books away, clearing the clutter. I’m getting ready for a calmer second half to my week. I need a quiet afternoon to start the trees on my shawl cal, they’ll be done using raised trebles on a background of two colour stripes so I don’t want any requests for baked croissants or clean socks while I’m concentrating! My hands and arms are scratched from brambles, lumpy with stinging nettle stings and brown from the sun, I’d say that was a very productive summer wouldn’t you? I’m so ready for Autumn!