Finished

I seem to have lost all cohesive thinking what with the heat and the hectic schedule we’ve been keeping. I love spontaneous and loathe routine and repetition but at the moment there’s so much spontaneous I’m not getting a day in between to recharge!

I suddenly realised that I hadn’t posted my finished projects and this is mainly because they are all over on Instagram. I try not to post too many words over there and it is sometimes difficult. I love a good waffle. Does anyone remember having to do lots of summaries in English lessons? I loved those exercises; you get given 1000 words and have to reduce it to 250 or something like that. It’s strange I know but those were a highlight of English lessons with a teacher who was just bloody horrible.

The shawl was part of a mystery crochet along, mcal for short. The designer is Joanne Scrace, one half of The Crochet Project. I really love their designs and bought one of the print books when I was in Brighton, these come with a code to download the pdf version which is handy for travel because it means I can take along lots of patterns on my iPad and look up yarn requirements if I happen upon a good yarn store.

This cal was spread over five weeks and I must admit that by week three life was considerably busier than at the start. We were packing up E’s halls room at uni and moving her to a shared house, bringing another portion home for the summer holidays and then decorating her room here. I fell behind but then managed to catch up in between stripping the old shed roof. I shouldn’t moan but man, those ends. Ugh. The merino sock yarn has magnificent drape and when it comes to ends in that stuff I wasn’t entirely convinced they’d behave but they are sewn in and seem to be staying put for now.

The shawl yarn was purchased in haste at the Leeds Wool Festival. In haste because it was so hot and so crowded. We’d seen quite a bit of merino sock by this time and when I saw the off white with denim speckles hank I knew this dyer was for me. Luckily there were mini skeins in the other four shades that seemed to go with the main yarn. I really didn’t ponder for too long and this is probably how I should choose yarn in the future. I’m a shocker for taking hours and then not being entirely happy!

The crochet dress edging has been a bigger success than I thought it would. I’ve not done anything like it before and my sewing skills are minimal. I wish I’d ironed the relevant part before I took the photograph but oh well. I’d only worn the dress twice before I added the trim and now I wear it much more. It just wasn’t the right length for me and now it has a bit of added interest too. I still only wear it with Birkenstocks but quite frankly it’s a miracle I own any dresses at all. I decided I didn’t like pink, frills or dresses from a very early age and that hasn’t really changed much, but shapeless linen dresses are quite close to dungarees and just as comfortable now that I no longer feel the need to climb trees!

Just for the record. I made the trim separately from the dress and attached it but I did wonder whether it might have been better to have started the piece attached to the dress in the first place. This would obviously require an edging done in rounds horizontally and you could stop when you reach the required depth. With my trim I specifically chose a sideways design that meant I needed to stop at the required length. Either way should work. It’s tempting to edge some plain t shirts but that might be an experiment for next summer.

We’ve gone all environmentally aware here lately. I’ve been doing my bit since I was E’s age I think it must have been. I went to a big exhibition in London that showcased amazing art, sculpture and practical furniture all made using upcycled materials. It blew my mind and I can remember most of it quite clearly all these years on. I still have a four page magazine article about it somewhere. With the kids it’s a struggle to get them to use our two compartment bin correctly but it seems when there are cool bottles and stainless steel straws to be had they are up for it.

String bags seemed like the next step to employ crochet in a useful way. We’ve already got the hang of taking extra bags with us wherever we go but I liked the idea of string bags because I was always quite fascinated by one owned by my Nan. It scrunched up so small and yet held so much. It also amused me that on our walk back through her lovely village across the green where we’d often stop to talk to a random aunt also on her daily grocery shop, that all of our purchases could be seen. Not only that but it would be remarked upon! ‘Oh I see you’re having tinned apricots for tea Alice?’ I’d be lurking behind Nan’s skirt making faces because I really hate apricots. Somewhere in amongst the shopping would be a paper bag with my macaroon in it. I absolutely love macaroons (not to be confused with the tiddly macarons!) It was only with my Grandparents that I ever went into a bakery and chose my own cake. It still feels like a huge treat to do so.

I made a rookie error with my string bag and translated the category four, worsted yarn into aran weight. At least I thought it was a mistake, some comments on Instagram lead me to believe that aran is often in this category. On this occasion though the Lionbrand 24/7 cotton comes up as DK on a yarn substitute website and that is what I should have used. Anyway, the bag is extra strong in aran and worked up just fine so I’m happy with it. I’ve since started a dk version and it remains to be seen whether I can chuck in as much as I have been with my denim blue version.

Jake has started driving lessons with a driving school and we finally had to address the issue of not having a suitable small car for him to practice in. We are now a four car family and with a large caravan and half finished teardrop trailer we’ve got a bit of a driveway issue. J and I worked hard to clear some of M’s toolboxes and scrap wood, earth from our front garden grassing over project and a huge tub with a shrub in it. We have gained five feet of drive and that’s enough to squeeze E’s little Fiat into but obviously it’s been one long game of moving cars every time someone wants to go somewhere. Oh well, come September and the logistics all change again. I’m still working on persuading M to change the large caravan for a small campervan but each has pros and cons and we’ve been too busy to think about it.

It’s not been a peaceful summer at all. The pink sunset above is the view from the end of our garden. To the side we had a similar field and half of that was sold off to a developer who is now building 31 houses on it. I feel pretty annoyed with the farmers in this village because this isn’t the only farm land being developed. It could be worse, at least a very large pond/lake has been made first and mature trees will be planted along its edge. This will be between us and the houses so it should provide some screening in a few years time when the trees mature further. The dogs have never shown any interest in this side field, preferring to hop over our end fence and have a quick sniff around the edges of the top field. Now that there’s a body of water there it might suddenly become more attractive to them. I really hope not. If we suddenly need dog proof fencing we might need a second mortgage to pay for it! In the meantime it’s incredibly noisy and invasive to have large diggers with drivers who can see right into our garden.

It’s been cooler these last two days and although I’m sure the hot weather hasn’t entirely come to an end I found myself craving a chunky jumper project yesterday! I’ve been following the hashtag #summerofbasics on Instagram and I’m not entirely sure what the rules are but it seems to tap into my desire to have a minimalist wardrobe of clothing that I’ve made. It’s mainly sewn but with knitted and crocheted pieces too so it’s given me some food for thought for winter. I’ve got a little stash of Jacob’s undyed in DK and although not soft enough for some, I have found I can wear this next to my skin so I’m thinking of doing some trials in any old yarn before making up a final jumper in it.

For now though it’s back to my little pile of dishcloth cotton. I really will have to compile a post purely on things I’ve made with this stuff, it’s so versatile. I have yet to make bunting the same as before, for E’s new room in Leeds. I’m half way through making her string bag in this cotton and we might dip dye hers if we ever get round to having the tie dye session we have t shirts, dye and buckets on stand by for!

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Crochet Cotton Face Pads

A couple of factors prompted me to finally get round to making some of these cotton face pads. One was clearing out E’s various drawers and boxes and finding no less than five half used packets of cotton face wipe pads, decanting them into one storage basket and throwing away five plastic bags. The second was a tip from a helpful girl at Lush who said that it’s better to spray your toner straight onto your face and then gently wipe it off, that way you get more of the product on your face and less of it on the cotton pad. I’ve been doing it the other way round all these years!

So I grabbed my favourite unbleached dishcloth cotton and made some of these reusable pads, and since it generated a bit of interest on Instagram I thought I’d share how I did it here. There’s not much to it really and you could easily just make a dc circle which would end up thinner and use less cotton, it might even work better but we like the puff stitch version for now.

You will need: one ball of dk weight unbleached dishcloth cotton

6mm hook

Wool needle for sewing in ends

In U.K. terms…

[Special instructions: puff stitches (yarn round hook and pull up a loop) three times. Pull yarn through all seven loops on the hook. Secure with one dc stitch.]

Start here: Make a magic circle and dc once, work 8 puff stitches into the circle and join with a slip stitch to the top of the first puff stitch made. Pull your magic circle tightly closed and sew end in later.

Slip stitch into the next space, dc once and work pairs of puff stitches into each space. (Secure puff stitches with a dc stitch as before but no extra dc’s are needed as you move from one space to the next). (8 pairs of puff stitches)

Join with a slip stitch to the top of the first puff stitch, slip stitch into the next space and work one dc into each dc around, slip stitch to finish. Break yarn and weave in ends.

Making this final one for the photo’s above bought the tally to 14 from one 100g ball. They use about 6 or 7g each. I’d suggest popping them in a small laundry mesh bag for the washing machine to prevent them getting stuck in the door seal or somewhere unhelpful!

Next on my list are simple crochet sleeves for our stainless steel straws. I’m just pleased the family are finally adopting more environmentally aware ways. They really didn’t appreciate me replacing kitchen roll a few years back with squares of cut up old shirts, despite the fact that it’s absolutely no bother at all and there’s always plenty of them to hand. Light use rags get washed and anything else (lets be honest here, the dogs will insist on puking grass up from time to time!) gets thrown away.

Decorating

My blog posts are like buses at the moment. Nothing for ages and then three at once! My time never quite seems my own during summer holidays despite the kids being old enough to amuse themselves now. Although J’s room needs a good sort out and declutter for his final year of A Levels and what will also be his final year at home before university we managed to get railroaded into completely repainting and reinventing E’s room first.

E’s room used to be a garage but was converted long before we lived here. It’s a pretty good conversion though with windows at both ends and a slightly lower ceiling than is standard but that makes it quite cosy. We’d never convert it back to a garage despite really needing one because the driveway to it is extremely narrow and there is a steep bank and stream to one side. I can only assume that cars were much narrower in the seventies when the house was built.

E chose white brick effect wallpaper this time and we decided to paste straight over the red brick wallpaper that was torn and tired. We wouldn’t normally do that but it worked perfectly well and saved time. We have five more layers to apply if we want to beat the record that existed in that room ten years ago when we started stripping wallpaper off, it was all seventies plastic coated stuff too! It was a team effort to get the paint and paper done. E and I did the yellow walls at one end of the room, M did most of the white including the ceiling and Mum came over and did the papering in record time. The great new layout was all down to Mum’s genius with furniture shuffling!

It hardly seems worth investing in new furniture now that E will be starting her second year at uni. We are under strict instructions not to do anything with the room until she buys her first house. So we agreed that the current temporary wardrobe (a quick replacement when the proper one decided to give up one day) would have to stay. It was a canvas covered one and we liked it better without the canvas. It doesn’t hold much but is suitable for visits and summer holidays. Winter jumpers and coats are currently in boxes under the bed.

It’s hard to photograph the layout properly and I still haven’t got round to taking photos of the bed end of the room but in a nutshell we have used the two big bookcases back to back as a room divider which is to your right as you go in. The desk/dressing table arrangement is to the left under the small window. The wardrobe is the only thing against the ‘brick’ wall so that we can actually see most of the wallpaper this time. An old doorway between rooms that was no longer needed has a fitted bookcase inside it that E is using for shoe storage. I’m secretly hoping that having shoes on display like this will highlight the fact that she doesn’t need anymore footwear.

One request was for lots of plants so we’ve gathered some from the rest of the house and bought a couple of new ones. It looks considerably more grown up than the previous look and I think the layout will work for the foreseeable future too. E is over the moon with it all. In the interests of keeping it real though, she has one heck of a lot of clothes sorting out to do before I can reclaim the dining room table. She’s pretty good at sorting and donating so it’s just a question of doing a box each day. She loves charity shop bargains so that does make it easier to part with clothes that she no longer wears.

I’m hoping that when the shed roof project is finally finished I will have some energy left for tackling J’s bedroom. He’s not so ruthless when it comes to letting go of things but he could really do with shelves being cleared for books and his own growing collection of footwear. What is it with these two? I’m happy with my Birkenstocks in summer and Fly boots in winter!

I’ve finished E’s granny square bag at long last. She came to me with a blurry image of a similar bag and we worked out that it was a roomy tote with a drawstring top and long strap. I did a thorough job on this project with a lining and a proper strap salvaged from an old bag and covered with a tube of tightly worked stitches (that took forever!) The bag is pretty sturdy and I think it will cope with quite a heavy load. It’s certainly got me thinking about making a crochet bag for myself. I was also glad to use up some stash yarn that was going to waste when I abandoned another colourful project that had a million ends to deal with!

E is persevering with her knitting. In the middle of moving from halls to a house and then back home for summer we managed to leave her half finished knitted jumper behind. I say we, but it was my fault because we dug it out from amongst the boxes and I somehow managed to leave it behind. After much deliberation and a few false starts on other projects E has settled on the Coffee House Wrap by Two of Wands. We ordered the cotton while the Drops sale was on and it cost so little it was daft. Although it’s got stitch markers, colour changes and yarn overs it looking hopeful as a next level project.

E isn’t the only student who has come home to work a summer job to pay for rent on a house she’s had to secure for September. Student loans don’t seem to cover this period and yet rental agreements need to be signed at the beginning of July when the previous students move out to secure a property. E has bravely gone through the whole process of trying something new and training to be a proper barista and is working as many shifts as are available at the moment, which isn’t enough to cover the rent but with our help she’s managing to have a bit of a summer break too. We haven’t planned any kind of a proper holiday this year but it’s been nice to have the odd family meal out and no doubt we will fit in the odd day out too.

J has had a whole year away from cricket. It was partly the travelling to and from a club 45 minutes away but mainly due to his back playing up. He joined our local club this year and has been in pain again so we made a private appointment for him to see a sports physiotherapist and he’s now got a regime of daily exercises to do to strengthen the muscles in the back of his legs which should compensate for the muscles that are over developed through fast bowling. Something like that anyway! Although he’s been mainly reinventing himself as a batsman this year it is still a bending and twisting movement. The physio was hopeful that the problem can be rectified. I think I said before that it’s no longer cool for Mums to come along in their fold up chairs with their crochet basket and watch. He doesn’t know it but I’ve been casually walking the dogs up at the far end of the ground and having a little peek.

We’ve had three days of wet and windy weather. The stream has a trickle of water in it and the flowers we planted in tubs are having a whole new lease of life. The downside has been the state of the shed. J and I wrestled with the huge tarpaulin last Friday when the hail and wind were starting to kick up. The shed is five meters long by four metres and that takes a lot of tarpaulin. It needed a lot more than just the two of us to get it into place and weight it down even without the stormy weather so we had to abandon it and make a run for cover. Currently it’s all looking rather wet. It’s times like these I wish M’s three sisters were actually three brothers!

I did a photo collage of things I’d made in July for an Instagram post and it was surprising considering how much has been going on. I finished the midnight Mexican top, a shawl and E’s granny square bag. The latter took quite a bit of time that I managed to grab here and there, mainly in the evenings. The colours were cheerful to work with at the time but I really couldn’t work with that much colour on a regular basis. It’s a bit psychedelic on my eyes after a while! I used a basic cotton tote to line the bag with to save me having to sew anything. Likewise I used an old bag strap and covered it in a long tube of tight dc stitches. I sewed D rings on to the bag because the strap came with clips. All in all it became a very sturdy bag that should stand up to lots of use.

E is doing a degree in primary school teaching and has to undertake a number of placements in schools. She had already taken a year out after A Levels to do a teaching assistant apprenticeship which was perfect for her to decide whether or not to pursue teaching itself. She formed quite a bond with her then year two kids and still pops back to visit when she’s home. She has found that having colourful jewellery, clothing, bags, hats or scarves are always a good icebreaker for when she meets new children. Their curiosity gets the better of them and they flock to ask questions. It’s not just the girls who move in for a closer look either. Boys of six or seven have commented that she’s ‘always so interesting and bright and cheerful’. So I have a feeling that the new bag will be taken in some school visits and placements in the future.

My favourite story though, from a placement at the beginning of the year was the little boy who asked if E’s Nanna had made her hat. When she told him that it was her Mum who had made the hat he said, ‘your Mummy and my Nanna are very clever to make nice things with just a stick and some string’. It kind of sums up why I like my chosen craft so much. I was forever keeping things simple with my creativity when I was a child, mostly because we just didn’t go shopping that often (too busy doing far more interesting things!) we didn’t have online shopping and so I had to be creative with what I had and could find. I bore my children with this information at times; how we didn’t go out and buy clay for instance, we dug down a few feet in the garden and made all sorts of unfired art with it. There may come a time when it has some relevance to them. Keep it simple, use what you have. Doesn’t apply to yarn stash of course! Well only some of the time.

South

It’s that age old thing, needing a holiday to get over a holiday! M and I have just been away for four days. It was all a bit last minute as usual and not really a holiday at all for M. We kicked off by leaving in the small hours for London. I was praying for a cancellation or a booking cock up because Balham didn’t seem the likeliest place to kill five hours comfortably. As it turns out there is quite a sewing industry there and apart from gazing in to old fashioned steam pressing workshops I also managed to kill some time in a large haberdashery type of shop. It wasn’t the most well kept emporium but it was a trove of interesting supplies nonetheless. I managed to find some vintage crochet patterns in a sale folder which I’ll add to my box file in the hope one day I’ll get round to using them as design inspiration.

Coffee and air conditioning was my salvation for the rest of the time. I bought a Virago classic from a charity shop and devoured it in almost one sitting. I really only read these days when I forget to take my crochet. The crochet was safely tucked up in my suitcase in the back of the car outside the local court house but even if I had it with me I’m not always keen to whip it out in a cafe. Typically there was a knitter there who looked very confused with her knitting in the round project after just two rows. It was only stocking stitch so I’m guessing she was fairly new to it. Had it been crochet of course I’d have definitely volunteered some help!

From London we travelled down to Canterbury and I was persuaded to try a Japanese restaurant for the first time. I’m always up for new things and it turns out I did actually recognise a few things on the menu anyway. Sadly my sitting cross legged on wooden floor days are over but if it wasn’t for my dodgy knee and M’s dodgy hip we absolutely would have loved that. We stayed in a hotel right next to the cathedral and even with a huge sash window open and large chrome fan it was ridiculously hot all night. I ended up getting up several times in the small hours just to optimise the position of the fan.

I had a bit longer than expected in Canterbury the next day. After a quick browse through the town I bought some fresh cherries, stocked up with plenty of water and headed for a sign I’d spotted for a riverside walk. I found a shady spot under a tree and did some crochet and a bit of reading. I’d have happily fallen asleep like one of the women across the way but I’d never feel safe doing that in public. When I close my eyes I effectively close all sound off too. Small rowing boat tours went by and even some punts. It all felt rather civilised and a little Victorian, well apart from my lack of ladylike ways with a pound of cherries on my lap, that were very soon in my tummy.

M was very hot, tired and hungry when it was finally time to leave Canterbury. Later analysis of his boring monologues every time this happens only revealed that he believes it is part and parcel of being a wife, that it’s my duty to listen to this tosh and deliver sympathy! I quietly but firmly informed him that I did not agree with that at all and that I’d be more sympathetic if he didn’t go on and on. That there is indeed another way and that is to stoically cope in silence and make arrangements to seek food and drink to revive himself. I hold onto the advice that I can’t change this about him even if I do offer alternative ways but I can change the way I react, so I’m probably just working my way through various options. Silence is always a good one.

I’m sure some would rather have accommodation booked in advance and know exactly where they are going and when. We have a more casual approach and ironically this never actually causes any tension or stress. On arrival in my neck of the woods we found the hotel I thought would have vacancies did not. We pulled up in a lay-by and both googled for alternatives and found a reasonable option in nearby Battle. The room was perfectly ok but the bathroom had seen better days. I was secretly glad that our best option for a meal was Italian and it was superb despite the fact it was so quiet on a weekday in the middle of what should have been peak tourist trade. Another hot night meant little sleep for either of us which didn’t help matters the following morning when M needed to catch up on laptop work while I was keen to get going to see my Grandfather. We had a lovely pub lunch with Grandad away from the touristy spots by the sea and went back to his place for a cup of tea and more chat. It was a flying visit but always so good to see him for real rather than via FaceTime. He loved his crochet medal birthday card I made him for his birthday by the way.

The work schedule meant we had to dash over to Brighton next. M had secretly booked this next hotel and I’m pretty sure it was his way of admitting that maybe he’d been a bit of a twit since Canterbury. For the same as our usual budget he’d managed to get a huge room with a triple aspect sea facing window and a large corner whirlpool jacuzzi bath. The fact that we were too tired to move was beside the point. After some more work stuff we were free to stroll along the seafront, eat and take in the many walks of life this place was buzzing with. It was slightly surreal sipping cold cans of coke on the seafront at midnight (and still in the high twenties) watching a floodlit basketball game, something you wouldn’t expect in Old Blighty.

Brighton is pretty cool if you know where to go. With just a short time left I was able to show M a few of my favourite streets that are often mistaken for the Lanes but are in my humble opinion, much more interesting. I mean where else can you see a shop just for Vegetarian shoes, alongside one just for belly button piercings, a window full of the brightest leather brogues just for men, Moroccan leather goods, the most fantastic plant shop (I could have spent a while there)… it’s full of whacky graffiti and huge 3D shop signs mounted on the walls too. So much to take in. M loved it.

We paid a little visit to Yak and treated E to some yarn and a suitable pattern. I may have lined up my next project with yarn and a pattern booklet too! M was chatty and patient despite the heat. He will confidently walk into any yarn store and ask for the man table. Occasionally I run ideas by him, he’s surprisingly helpful and gets more knowledgeable by the day. I could put a hank of something special in front of him and ask him if he liked the colours and he’ll look at the label and say, mmh, 210 yards, what could you make with that, a hat maybe? I know, it’s uncanny, it’s partly bluff and partly stuff he’s picked up and remembered.

J is always tricky to treat to little things when I’ve bought something for E. This time though it was easy. So many people in Brighton had stainless steel water flasks with most cafes supplying iced water to help yourself to. We found a great midnight blue one for J and driving home wish we had bought two more. Our bottled water was warm in no time despite the air conditioning in the car.

The journey home took considerably longer than it should have due to the volume of traffic on the roads and a torrential downpour through Cambridgeshire slowed things up a bit too. I don’t mind admitting I gulped a few times when we were saying goodbye to Sussex, ok sobbed actually but I blame hormones, it just felt so easy to go back to everything I knew and loved and so bloody hard to come back here every time to this flat and uninspiring county. I focussed hard on all the positive things here but I never quite get that, phew, so glad to be home feeling that I think you’re supposed to feel when you’ve been away for a little while. I think that’s why I throw myself into cleaning and laundry and random jobs when I get home and it stays that way for a good few days, then I distract myself some more and eventually that sinking feeling gets overtaken by daily life.

So currently I am partially blocking my skimming stones shawl on the kitchen worktop while I sew in the last few ends (it’s taking a while). Alongside that I’ve pinned the crochet edging that will soon be attached to my black linen dress. I’m trying not to think about my lack of sewing skills but surely even I can tack an edging along a hem? It’s rather annoying that the kids just want to use the worktop for food prep, I mean honestly, can’t they just take a day off?

We’ve had dramatic weather here the evening with large hail stones dropping amongst torrential rain. They were the size of marbles and cold as ice cubes from the freezer, so surreal when it was still thirty degrees. J and I wrestled with the shed roof cover but we well and truly lost the battle and we will now just have to hope for more heatwave weather to dry it it again. The thunder and lighting has been terrifying for Riley. He wouldn’t budge from my lap for a good long time. He’s glued to my side right now and only settled down when I employed my usual trick of playing loud music to drown it all out.

More housework is on the cards for tomorrow especially if the rain has finally cooled things down a little. I have so many crochet projects on my to do list but I need to tick off the two kitchen worktop projects first before a food or drink accident happens.

[the photos from top to bottom are… the M11, Canterbury, fresh Kent cherries, Canterbury with outside pub seating (where I may have had a drink or two and announced that I could see a Flink Pamingo!) frogging crochet edging due to excessively hot weather impeding concentration, Battle Abbey in golden evening sun, crochet WWII medal, crochet edging project, hotel room overlooking Brighton seafront, finishing the skimming stones shawl with a sea view, kitchen worktop blocking station, stocks which were well and truly dead but not ditched (not on teenage radar) when we got home.]

Summer

What an excellent summer so far! It rained so much last year we hardly got any garden jobs done at all and the workshop roof deteriorated badly despite covering it with a patchwork of tarpaulins. With weeks of dry weather it was finally a safe bet that we’d get this job done and dusted.

We have spent three whole days on it so far just ripping out rotten timber, piling it high to burn and filling my car boot with rubbish for the tip. Some of it water damaged goods but mostly just junk M had accumulated over a long period of time. There’s a substantial amount of work to do yet but he’s looking forward to getting it all ship shape and having a workspace again. He enjoys woodwork and we always manage to find things for him to make. E has dropped hints for a stepladder plant stand type thing. I could do with another wooden tool trug (after giving my last one away). I’ve always had a set of tools, a hammer, pliers, the basic stuff and having my own tool box means I never have to go searching amongst tonnes of other tools.

It’s back breaking work hauling wood and furniture and scrap metal and all sorts but the bonus will be that I can reclaim my own workshop which currently houses all the equipment we salvaged when daylight first started appearing in M’s workshop roof (and precisely when he should have got up there with a few rolls of felt). My workshop has had several reincarnations in the last twelve years. At first I hoped it would be a pottery studio and it still does have my potter’s wheel in it. I may have to consider parting with that because I can’t really imagine ever finding the time to devote to a second hobby. Now that I’m pretty sure yarn is my thing it makes sense to use the space for natural dyeing, or at least mainly storing all the equipment for it.

We aren’t precious about gardening at all, although we have done quite well with pots and tubs and a few new plants this year. It looks like we’ve finally got something to ‘take’ to the conditions at the front of the house by way of a climber. I think it might have helped that Mum chose and planted it. We had three previous attempts that all died so you can imagine how I’ve been tending this new wisteria, willing it to live! In the back garden however, the lawn will never be lush with so much tree cover so I’m thinking of creating a raised bed using railway sleepers we already have and growing something useful for dyeing. Woad comes to mind, but I’m sure there are others. These are plans that may have to wait until next year.

Before the big workshop renovation started we did a big makeover in E’s room. It was long overdue like all DIY around here! It was a team effort, E and I emptied the room. I painted the two yellow walls, M painted the ceiling. Mum came for a whole day and wallpapered the white brick effect wall and finished the white wall painting. The magic took place when we started moving the furniture around and playing with the layout. It seemed daft to have nice wallpaper and then cover it up with two large bookcases so Mum came up with the idea of having them back to back as a room divider. It really worked and created a lovely private end to the room where she can relax and read. Today M has put up white floating shelves and cube shelves too.

My gooseberry bush has produced a bumper crop this year. This week they passed the taste test and we decided to pick them and turn them into jam. M likes to do all the kitchen stuff round here so I duly let him loose on my precious crop and told him to be careful, not to burn them. I sometimes wonder if I stopped speaking altogether and only communicated in sign language whether information would actually be conveyed make reliably. I did offer to stand and stir but I was shooed away. The jam is edible but not that lovely green colour I was expecting.

Well I fell a little behind finishing this post, time seems to be moving very fast these last few weeks. It’s chaotic but I can live with that. I fully subscribe to the view that everything will get done eventually. Ironically I think M has taught me that. He has no inkling that slow living is actually a thing, he’s been that way for years. I come from a family that get things done and fast, work hard, play hard. I’m learning to slow down. I don’t look too far ahead but I am definitely shelving anything that I think might be best undertaken in the winter months. Now is the time to soak up all the sun, or perhaps just stay in the shade and relax!

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.

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!