Busy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eventful

We are certainly cramming in lots of ‘adventure’ this year. Only recently we all managed to get snowed in separately in four different locations. I was in Bexhill with just enough snow to cause a little disruption. E was in Leeds with quite a lot of snow and nearly a week of snow days. J was in Lincoln with nearly a whole week off school too. M was in Jersey with three days of cancelled flights. I felt quite uneasy about it all, but mainly because I was worried that ‘someone’ might leave the dogs outside by mistake. A photo of them drying off with towels over them reassured me that everything was under control.

I’d barely got the house sorted after leaving it in the hands of M and J for a week, then J for a further week and was beginning to look forward to getting back into my own dog walking routine (you can see that Harvey was enjoying it too!) as well as fixing a few DIY jobs that were long overdue. M travelled to London last Monday and ended up having to go to A&E on Tuesday. It was a classic case of thinking it would be an in and out visit, then maybe just an overnight stay just to be safe, then he had a few more tests and so it went on, each time telling me not to come down to London that he’d probably be out the next day. By Friday I started to ignore those messages and booked train tickets for E and myself.

I find London quite overwhelming these days. Small doses are preferable and 48 hours was more than enough. On the plus side we were able to spend time with my lovely little niece. I do struggle to hear small female voices but E filled me in some of the time and it was lovely when she was able to read E’s bedtime story. At some stage E decided we were going to play hide and seek. Quite an interesting concept in an open plan flat with a safety gate to the lower floor. I did wonder how many places she might think of. Silly me for not finding her with her head inside an orange stool with her legs sticking out! J used to do exactly the same sort of thing!

With visiting hours from 2pm and Islington pretty much on the route from where my Brother lives to the hospital I persuaded E that Camden Passage might be of interest other than Loop London! Crafty eh? We had planned for her to leave me there for a while but she ended up coming in. Having seen that the majority of shoppers there at the time were closer to her age than mine (lots of selfies were being taken!) she was quite drawn to one of the simple garter stitch projects. The sample was out but the kit wasn’t in stock so I will treat her to that when they have more. I think knitting would be very therapeutic as an antidote to all her studying.

In all my years of knitting first and now crochet I’ve never really spent silly sums on a hank of yarn but as E said, it’s not every day you come to London. (When I last tried to visit Loop three years ago it was closed). I ended up buying two hanks at what I call silly prices but they are luxurious; the one I’ve photographed is merino with cashmere and the other is a variegated mustard in the same weight. They work quite well together. I will be thinking long and hard before deciding what to make with them! I must admit E is a very good shopping partner. I’m such a boring nerd when I go shopping on my own and always manage to talk myself out of any adventurous purchases. I then travel home kind of wishing I had bought whatever it was.

M was very pleased to see us, we had two long visits over the two days and the long expensive journey was well worth it to see how much he cheered up. It was hard leaving him there and travelling home so fingers crossed he won’t be there for too much longer.

Meanwhile I’m finding that the only thing I can really focus on for any length of time is cupboard sorting! What a turn up for the books! I thought I was done with all of that post Christmas. It’s mainly the food cupboard I’ve turned my attention too because it’s an absolute shambles. If you did through the keyhole you’d deduce that someone who loves to cook lives here but with no home organisational skills. I guess that cupboard has always been more M’s domain. I’ve previously sorted his many herbs and spices but this last week I’ve also thrown out pastes and tins and bottles, often with duplicates.

J and I have been having the kind of meals that I consider to be a proportionate amount of cooking to eating time. Ten minutes cooking to 5 minutes eating is perfect in my world. OK so some things take longer but don’t necessarily need watching too much. I wouldn’t say I’m enjoying being in charge of the kitchen but I’m certainly taking pleasure from having simplified our meals. J has even been quite complimentary about my efforts.

I’ve also been cutting down the major food shopping trips. The weather has been poor, the potholes are diabolical and the possibility of having to go to London at short notice has meant that I’ve been shopping close to home for just a few days at a time. It’s working nicely. With less choice decisions are made much quicker and it’s easier to keep it simple.

Once I receive some more positive news from London I think I will be back with my crochet. I’ve got too many things on the go and need to get some finished.

I was lucky enough to be given an Ashford Traditional spinning wheel by a friend of a friend. I admired it for a few months but didn’t know where to start at all. Whilst in Bexhill I accepted the very kind offer of a crash course in spinning. The wheel we used was slightly different and I was expert at setting it in motion backwards to begin with but soon got the hang of it. Once home I spent two hours trying to remember what went where to set mine up. A YouTube videos alerted me to the fact that I’d forgotten to put the bobbin on the spindle and after that it was just a question of getting the tension adjusted. The joy when it started taking up the spun yarn! It was probably late by then but I still wanted to let someone, anyone, know that I had spun my first yarn on a wheel!

I spun two very dodgy bobbins worth of yarn and then decided in for a penny in for a pound, I might as well try plying them. That seemed to work ok and the end product was indeed usable albeit with lumps and bump, bits of grass and a fair bit of lanolin too. I fashioned a bowl using a 6mm hook to accommodate the varying thicknesses of my yarn and it is extremely sturdy. I’m hoping that my next bowl will demonstrate an improvement in my yarn making journey!

I once thought that it was a branch of my wool addiction that I didn’t need to explore but now of course it’s too late and I’ve got the bug. I’ve dug out all the relevant books I’ve owned for years which just shows that it was always on the cards. One of the books is about natural dying and I’m definitely going to give that a go, perhaps when the weather improves and I can slosh stuff about outside on our old garden table.

I haven’t been keeping up with my photographing lately. I use my phone for ease of use and because it transfers to my iPad much quicker than downloading from a camera. The phone is playing up so I’m hoping it will just hang on until June when M upgrades his and I can have his old one. It’s how we do phones here, I never need or want the latest thing so when I get a hand me down it feels like the latest thing to me! It all takes time to learn new things related to technology. Only recently I discovered that a setting on my iPad was preventing me from adding stories to my Instagram account. Duh! I’m so behind! I’ve since done a couple and they are quite fun so I guess I might be doing more. Life just needs to settle down and go back to normal first!

January

I’m not going to lie, I’m so glad another Christmas is over. I focus on positive thoughts from early December and I try very hard to get into the spirit on Christmas Eve but I just can’t seem to enjoy this particular time of year. It’s not down to one thing, rather a combination of factors I suppose.

I do remember more excitement when my brother and I were really small, particularly in what I think of as our first home (it was for my brother). I can recall feeling very excited on his behalf despite the pressure to say the right thing if either of us were to receive a gift we already had or didn’t like. I’m sure this didn’t happen too often but it must have been a possibility, the range of toys for small children would have been significantly less in the seventies than it is now. My parents coached my brother to say, ‘thank you, that’s just what I wanted’ if either of these scenarios arose. In those days he couldn’t pronounce the letter ‘s’ which was very amusing the year we had snow, I’m guilty of pointing out into our garden through the French windows and asking him repeatedly, ‘what’s that?’ Just to hear him say the word with the s replaced with a sort of nasal puffing sound. So on this Christmas Day not only did he remember to say the practiced line he said, ‘oo, ju’ what I wanted!’ for every single gift much to the amusement and slight embarrassment of my parents I’m sure.

We have smaller family get togethers at Christmas now. Just my parents, my brother and I and our families. The family occasion is lovely in itself but ugh, Christmas. For me it’s how someone once described golf, like a good walk spoiled! There’s the whole commercialism of it which has bothered me for as long as I can remember. There’s the gathering of too many voices in one place for me to be an active participant. There’s the slight chance that tensions will rise over something trivial. On the plus side though my Mother does an amazing Christmas dinner.

The quietest moments occur when everyone goes to the cinema for J’s birthday. Mum, Dad and I stay behind to babysit my niece. She was as good as gold last year although she must have wondered where everyone was. This year with the benefit of language she was even happier to have the three of us as her captive audience. After her nap we decided it was time we became familiar with her favourite film, Frozen. I’m really not a fan of Disney films in general but at least these days they have subtitles and I could see why she likes it. We bought her the Queen Elsa outfit which was extremely well received. At the time of unwrapping it she was wearing a hat and scarf set which she began to frantically pull at whilst gruffly saying, ‘geddit off, geddit off’. She was Queen Elsa in a flash and wouldn’t entertain the idea of her real name thereafter!

I have been slowly sorting out cupboards since Christmas was over. I think it’s an annual routine now whereby every January I throw away all the out of date packets, sauces and spice jars of things M has used once and abandoned. We then discuss the economy of this and he vaguely agrees to only buy the ones he really needs. I have no hope at all that this will ever be the case because he has already made a list of the spices he would like to replace. In his defence though he did make an amazing meal last night that involved marinated chicken, homemade flatbreads and some Greek salad type dishes. I believe they have proper names but they’ve whistled into one ear and out of the other.

We have slowed down on chocolate and biscuits and have talked about making that a more permanent thing. We seem to end up throwing biscuits away unless they are homemade so it makes sense to agree not to buy anymore biscuits. I may have agreed to bake the odd batch now and then. I’m not sure how often that will happen. For me that’s potential crochet, reading or dog walking time.

Talking of which, we have had some lovely frosty walks with the dogs lately. M has been coming along much more often which is lovely but quite painful. If I walk at a normal, fairly brisk pace I don’t have any issues but if I walk as slow as he does I tend to ache a lot more. I have no idea why this is. It’s less than strolling pace for me but it is nice to have company for a change. I do so much solo dog walking. Singing has become a permanent part of our solo expeditions. Harvey runs around like an idiot, jumps over small streams, runs up and down boggy ditches, swims in ice cold rivers and then gets back to the car and suddenly remembers his painful shoulder. He growls. Riley growls back and there’s lots of snarling until I start singing. I make sure the windows are well and truly closed for this. It should be uplifting but it’s quite hard work singing when you’ve just hiked through miles of boggy fields and are a little puffed out. If I happen to pass a car or more likely a farm vehicle I switch to singing in a ventriloquist kind of way lest the farmer think I have lost my marbles.

I’ve been keeping a few random balls of thin unidentified yarn by my side of the sofa and managing to crochet a few snowflakes here and there. Productivity goes up when M has chosen yet another food related programme to watch. I’m blocking them as I go which totally transforms them from a blob into a lovely snowflake. I intend to stop at about twenty which will give me the right number for cards or tags whichever I decide to use them for. Stashing them away and actually being able to find them for next Christmas is another matter. Despite intentions it may well be the only thing I get ahead with when it comes to festive makes.

I read a lovely quote recently and it was too long to remember exactly but in essence it was about not adding things to your mental list but taking away the things you do that are not entirely ‘you’. I love this. The older I get the more I realise just how much life can be devoured by trying to be all things to all people. For me I think the balance isn’t too bad now but when the children reached certain ages and milestones and no longer needed me quite so much I did actually need time to find myself again.

One thing is true though, crochet does keep me sane. My head is all over the place with plans and projects. This sorting mood means I’ve been through the boxes and reacquainted myself with old projects that need to be dealt with before I can justify starting new ones. They are mainly knitting related so I need to frog some and wind the yarn up into neat cakes that will hopefully become crochet projects! I have discovered one and a half socks made in clever self striping yarn and plan to knit a few rows a day to complete the pair. All other knitting will be frogged or given away.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about online time and read a great book recently that inspired me to reduce it a little. I’ll talk about that more in my next post. Right now I have two pairs of amber eyes imploring me to down my iPad, don my wellies and tramp through boggy grass for what they seem to think of as a joyous thing to do. Mad dogs and an English woman.

Splendid

There are certain words that M really enjoys hearing me pronounce, they include, ‘Sussex’ ‘Disgusting’ and ‘Splendid’. You’d expect them to be words such as bath, path, grass and castle given that those are examples of words we pronounce very differently. I do say Sussex and disgusting quite often (not usually in the same sentence) but I tend only to use the word splendid in jest. It’s seems such a pretentious word. He laughed a lot when I said today had been a splendid day.

Although E has been driving for a while now it’s still quite a novelty when she comes and goes freely. It’s even more of a novelty when she takes her brother along too. At first I thought I’d never allow this but I can’t ban everything I worry about, besides it’s valuable bonding time. It’s all too easy for them to start leading their own lives and not spending quality time with each other. J is quite charitable about being seen in a Fiat 500 even if he does quite literally have to fold his 6’3, nearly 6’4 frame into this tiny car. Today was even more heartwarming because they set off to visit their grandparents half an hour away. J and Dad go and watch the local football team and E and Mum go shopping.

Upon their departure this morning I said to M, this feels so strange, we’ve got a child free day and we didn’t have to take either of them anywhere! Of course we used our time in the most exciting way possible. Yep, B&Q. Wood trim, hinges and a bolt today. All for the teardrop project. Indoor DIY is temporarily on hold until it next rains all day, which probably won’t be too long. Our next door neighbour finally gave in to his curiosity and appeared by the stream that separates our properties. He admitted that they’ve been trying to get a better view from their upstairs windows to try and work out what M is building. It turns out he is an engineer and knows all about aluminium trim so M was in his element talking metal specs with Mr E from next door.

So whilst all that riveting chat was going on I had the back garden all to myself, or should I say the newly jetwashed to within an inch of its life decking? Along with sparkling clean stone frog for company. Even that old table got blasted and I swear only the dirt was holding it together. I must confess though I did not make that crochet blanket. I don’t think I could bring myself to be that random, or use pink, but I still like it. It was a charity shop buy for a few pounds. It’s got a few holes here and there that could be repaired but I haven’t got round to it. In fact I picked up two crochet blankets for very little some time ago and thought that if nothing else, they could be dog blankets, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to subject them to that. Small clean dogs perhaps but these two run round a ploughed field every morning, have a good swim in a slightly stinky lake nearly every day and are most happy when they are filthy. Dog blankets don’t last that long.

I did make that knitted cloud cushion though. It was a kind of practice run, using existing stash, for whether or not I wanted to buy yarn especially for grey cloud cushions for our bed. I’m not obsessed with feng shui but I’m thinking that grey clouds are probably not going to be a good thing for bedrooms and I’m not sure I want white fluffy clouds either. So this beige cloud is just a comfy back rest and nothing more. I was very glad of the cloud today. The viral thing is on its way out thank goodness but I’ve somehow managed to pull a muscle in my lower back. If things come in threes then I’m all done!

We took the dogs to the next village today where there are a few shops and a long shallow beck running behind them. At one end there were children with rolled up jeans and fishing nets so we drive to the other end and hoped the ducks would move up a bit. They did with a bit of encouragement from Riley. He doesn’t go tearing after them, it’s more of a cautious approach. One stern word from us and he headed back as if to say, oh ok then, I’ll leave them for now. I’ve seen him catch up with birds on the lake and he just wants to sniff which of course they aren’t that happy about.

I’d spent some chunk of the morning crocheting a white ribbed square for the Last Dance blanket and then realised that I’d already made the last white square the night before. I was pretty cross with myself! So I laid the whole blanket out again and made a note of all the missing squares which is now only four. Two bobbles and two honeycomb. All four of these are in the last two rows so I was able to do some more joining leaving just those two rows to do. I’m trying not to think about all the ends accumulating underneath.

Mid afternoon saw a delivery from a company I call Dippy D since they managed to mess up the first two or three things we had the misfortune of having delivered by them. They’ve definitely improved and if that continues I might have to start calling them by their real name, DPD. Another whopping box for a tiny phone case. I was so late to catch on to the whole smart phone thing. In fact before I was persuaded to have one I was quite happy with a small mobile that I’d had for eight years and was still going strong. Then along came teenage years and a whole succession of hand me downs. Teens to Mum that is. I’ve now finally caught up with everyone and have an iPhone. It’s an old model and doesn’t have the phone and text service activated which is ideal for me because I can’t hear to make calls anyway and we don’t need texts when we all have messaging instead. The phone therefore costs a fiver a month added on to M’s business phone contract. I’ve never had more than a bog standard phone case either until I saw this one. It’s telling that the three things I’ve bought for myself this year so far have all been wool related. Wool felt. Birkenstocks. A yarn swift. Harris Tweed woven phone case. I should have been a sheep farmer.

Chilling

So, what is the technical term for when you attack your wips and actually get a few finished? I’m sure there must be one. Suggestions on a postcard… 

I woke this morning and announced to M that I was going to do a spot of wip shaming today. He’s long suffering when it comes to knitting and crocheting talk but to be fair he’s also supportive. Way back when I was learning how to cast on for knitting he surprised me by showing me that, not only could he cast on, he could knit too. He’s quite vague about how or why he learned to knit though. I’ve told him that if Russel Crowe knits then it must be cool but he says he’s never felt the need to be that cool!

What on earth is wip shaming was M’s reaction to my plans for today. I had the fabulous idea of gathering all my wips and photographing them for a visual ‘to do’ reference; a printed out reminder not to start anything new! A list of shame! Several projects in and I’m beginning to think it’s time that would be better spent actually getting on with one of them!

The pram or newborn sized ripple blanket only needed twenty more rows to make it a useful size. If I’d worked that out and ploughed on regardless of the blue yarn issue I’d have finished this, ahem, a while ago! The intended recipient is coming up to her second birthday. This may have to go in the future grandchildren box, which might be never according to E who is spending a year with a class of six year olds, loves them all to bits but is very glad she doesn’t have to take any of them home.

I only needed to do one stripe (two rows) in the new blue and it’s really not noticeably different to the other blue after all that procrastinating! I kept the border simple with four rounds of dc stitches. I’m definitely improving when it comes to borders, I can remember feeling puzzled when I did my first one and it ruffled up a bit. I now know that was due to introducing too many stitches. This blanket could do with a light pressing but the border is staying flat fairly well. Along with the blue yarn running out I think I was also worried about messing up the border. I need to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ more often!

Let’s not talk about how many knitting wips there are in my two wip boxes. In my defence I switched to crochet because it doesn’t cause any wrist pain. I can get those wips finished but it will take a lot of short sessions. I may decide to frog a few and use the yarn for crochet.

I’ve photographed three crochet wips so far, I think there might be three or four more! The Aran jumper is just waiting to be sewn up now and edged. This will no doubt be quick and easy and I will wonder why I put it off. The socks are from yonks ago. I think I just got bored and lost confidence in the sizing of the part I’d reached. It’s a 5mm hook but thin sock yarn which I find a bit tricky to work with. I must have been carting this project around to various cricket matches when I last worked on it because I’ve photocopied the pattern I was using and also left an old aluminium hook in with the project to remind myself of the size I was using. I don’t use these hooks anymore but they are a quick way of leaving the size info with a wip.

Finally, the Newt Scamander inspired scarf for E. I think this one has finally taught me not to start very long very repetitive projects! It is lovely yarn and I reckon there will be some leftover, even after adding tassels, for something like short wristwarmers so I’ve got that to spur me on I guess. I’ll enjoy making the wristwarmers more than the scarf.

Harvey and Riley are enjoying our chilled Sunday morning. J is finally feeling fit enough to play football again even though he still has a lingering cough which doesn’t seem to want to go. M is watching the match and sending me frustrated texts about how useless the rest of the team are (he might be a bit biased!). E is in Leeds this weekend. So it’s the perfect Sunday morning with just my four legged boys at home.

I never stage any of the photographs of Riley. I simply wait for him to do his thing and rearrange the blankets or cushions and then make himself comfortable. He spent some time digging and tugging this blanket into a suitable nest and yes, I must admit, it looks pretty cosy. I wouldn’t mind adopting a similar position myself, instead of tackling laundry, hoovering and dog walking.

In a few hours when we’ve braved the gale force winds here today they will no doubt be needing a long drying off session or even a quick shower before they go anywhere near crochet blankets and sofa cushions! I do sometimes wonder what I would do with all the time I spend on hoovering up dog hair and mud, bathing dogs, washing dog towels and bedding… and then Riley comes and lies down, puts his head on my lap and sighs a big sigh of contentment and I figure it’s time well spent.

Scarf

It’s absolute heaven with J back at school and M and E at work. That’s not to say the four legged family members aren’t demanding. I only trimmed Harvey a matter of weeks ago and he looks like a shaggy sheepdog again. He needs a regular trim unlike Riley whose coat seems to be made of slow growing silk. Their tails in particular are a constant source of work. They both bring home enough twig foliage to run a small woodburner. I sometimes have to snip it out if it’s mainly thistle. I didn’t have this problem with my previous Springers because it was the norm for them to have docked tails.

It turns out that having a low coffee table and two dogs with long swishy tails is not a great combination. Riley has snuffed out a number of candles simply by wagging his tail nearby. (The candles are now on a higher surface.) Last night Harvey swished a ball of yarn onto the floor and figured it had therefore become a dog toy. It was unravelled in seconds. It took considerably longer to untangle and rewind it. The photo above is Harvey’s, ‘it wasn’t me!’ pose.

I decided to try both crochet and knitted approaches to a double thickness (worked as a tube) scarf for M using the Bluefaced Leicester in the pheasant colour way that he liked. It’s a dk yarn with a suggested hook/needle size of 4mm but I used a 6mm hook and linen stitch to create a fabric with some drape but without losing the warmth. Next I tried used the 4mm cubic circulars and after goodness knows how long I eventually got a tiny little bit of stocking stitch. I couldn’t see me having the wrist power or patience to stick with it. So crochet linen stitch it is, the majority of which has been worked up whilst watching a cheesy channel five movie. If you take notice of channel five movies you’d be forgiven for thinking that one in two women will, at some stage in their lives, awake from a coma to some traumatic situation.

M initially eyed the crochet scarf with suspicion. The stocking stitch example in the yarn shop produced much more definite stripes. Once the project got a bit longer and he could see that it still has stripes he was much happier. Who knew men could be so fussy over a handmade scarf? He’s also stipulated tassels, but not multi coloured ones, just grey ones. He doesn’t want much does he?

I’m pleasantly surprised by the feel of this yarn. You can never really tell how a yarn will behave until it’s worked up. It’s not splitty at all and not so smooth it’s tricky to handle but it is soft and warm. I don’t usually like to use overly excited expressions like ‘a joy to work with’ but in this case it really is. M added this yarn to the pile so I don’t actually know how much it cost per ball but whatever it was it was worth every penny.

Trove

With no rhyme or reason I chose yarn that I liked the look and credentials of. It is all British, some Welsh and some from West Yorkshire Spinners. It’s hard to pick a favourite.

The Wensleydale sheep yarn is extremely soft and slightly silky. If you google that breed you can see why. Secretly I think they have a lot in common with the afghan hound! There seems to have been lots of babies born to both sides of the family lately. I can’t imagine there will be many more but who knows? If there is I may well be making some of this gorgeous organic Wensleydale sheep yarn into simple crochet boat neck tops with wooden buttons. Or perhaps little striped knitted pixie hats like I did for the girl/boy twins recently.

The yarn in my rustic wooden box (made by M) is also Welsh. It’s a little coarse which is ideal for a hard wearing cushion cover, bag, place mats, iPad pouch. It’s going to be touch deciding which. In fact some of it may well end up being made into a coffee cup sleeves. M and I covered over four hundred miles between Thursday and Saturday mainly running on take out coffee! I guess some of the places that sell coffee don’t want to be seen to be providing excess packaging so it seems harder to find the extra cardboard sleeves that help when it’s too hot to hold.

I was sold on the West Yorkshire Spinners ‘Illustrious’ partly because it is British but also because I love that colour! I’ve got a grey hat that I crocheted and wear all the time. It’s time I made an identical one in a different colour.

The Bluefaced Leicester patterned yarn will become a knitted in the round scarf for M since he was kindly paying for all this yarn. He has an expression at times like this, ‘what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is yours too’! There was a scarf made up with this yarn in the shop that he was rather taken with and if I try and push to one side the memories of him losing several scarves, both handmade and purchased, on trains then I will no doubt enjoy making him something so lovely and thick and warm. M is the more colourful of the two of us and if orange is involved then all the better.

I swore I’d leave the knitting well alone after struggling to finish the baby items recently but before I do that I might as well give the knit pro cubics a go. I’ve heard good things about these from several sources lately and even if I still have to work on this scarf in short sessions it won’t be difficult to cart around with me because they are also circulars.

I’m feeling inspired and raring to go with new crochet projects. There’s going to be a fair bit of wool winding before I can start anything. If today’s rather tedious non stop rain continues that’s an activity I won’t mind staying indoors for. We had leisurely Sunday dog walking in mind but we adopted plan B instead which was a quick run round the field for the dogs, home to dry off and then a slow coffee with the Sunday newspapers.

Yarn from: Snowdonia Wool, Abergele, North Wales (snowdoniawool.co.uk)

Tweed

These Saturday photo’s should be of big bonfires, raked leaves, snowdrops and crocuses. That’s much more reflective of the day I’ve had so far. There’s no hard and fast rule about lighting bonfires after a certain time of day. I checked to see if anyone had washing out or windows open and didn’t see either so much to M’s horror I lit the biggest bonfire we’ve ever had! It licked the tallest trees at one point but that would only improve the light for what little grass we have so it’s all good! Parts of the old wardrobes got burnt, a lot of fallen branches from the trees, leaves, left over split wood from our various recycled wood projects. It’s still burning steadily now and less smokey thank goodness. This year we seem to have more snowdrops and crocuses than ever, at least the ones that haven’t been trampled to death by the dogs.

We have an old neighbour who has a collection of ‘shanty sheds’ and burns wood all day every day in one of them and quite often stuff that gives off a rather toxic smell. We’ve often joked that he’s burning body parts but of course that joke isn’t very funny. We are relieved when we see his wife gardening. They were both ‘gardening’ today (patching up their shanty sheds) and I do believe I may have seen out of the corner of my eye a beckoning arm. I confess to playing the deaf card and pretending I didn’t see or hear them. Believe me, whole afternoons have been spent trying desperately to end a chat with ‘well I must get on but it was lovely to chat’. If it was summer and I was pottering I wouldn’t mind so much, but it’s winter and I need to keep moving out there, get things done and get back inside for hot coffee.

I recently had a FaceTime chat with someone very special. In the course of conversation I was asked if I crocheted mittens. Yes I certainly do, would you like a pair Grandad? It’s great when there is a genuine need for a woolly project. I googled, browsed my books, looked on ravelry and then decided to rely on my trusty sideways constructed rib stitch; the method I often use for hats. For this particular requirement I didn’t want to make the cuff too long because they’d be worn with a shirt and jumper. We agreed on open fingerless gloves, so no finger holes as such. I decided to use a five stitch taper at the finger end and a ten stitch narrower rib for the cuff with fifteen stitches in between. Thirty stitches altogether using chunky yarn and a 5mm hook for a nice thick fabric.

So the pattern, in loose terms requires a 31 st starting chain using one stitch to turn and working tbl at all times, working 10 stitches of dc, 15 stitches of htr and 5 stitches of dc. Chain one to turn and the next row will involve dc’s into all previous dc’s and htr’s into all previous htr’s. If you have the hand it needs to fit, to hand, haha, you can check for sizing. I used my own hand as a guide even though the recipient is a man, because I have quite big hands and I just added a bit extra and took note of how much ‘give’ the fabric had. Here’s hoping I can take them down to the South Coast in person! It’s been far too long since I was on home turf.

There’s something about tweedy yarns that really make me tick. It reminds me of an Aran jumper my Nan knitted when I was a child. I used to spend most of my time climbing trees and literally doing what I was always accused of, ‘you look like you’ve been through a hedge backwards’. I was always careful not to catch my hand knitted masterpiece on thorns but I did eventually go home with moss, bits of twig, grass, straw, all interwoven in my jumper. That’s what tweedy yarns remind me of, little bits of caught plant material.

The yarn I used for the fingerless mitts is Harrap Tweed by Sirdar. It’s a chunky yarn and I’ve just noticed that the label suggests a 6.5mm hook size which is surprising because it doesn’t seem to be a very bulky chunky yarn. It worked up fine with a 5mm hook using tbl rib. I absolutely love the deep orange and mustard flecks and I’ve got enough of it left over to make myself a slightly longer, slightly smaller pair since all the fingerless mitts in the entire house have vanished into thin air. I suspect there are a few pairs in a certain little car. E has a habit of leaving hats, gloves and scarves in her car when she’s become warm enough to shed them and then gathers a new set on her way to the car the next morning. It’s nice to know that when she takes her class on a nature walk and they don’t have hats or mittens she will often retrieve one of my crocheted items from her car to make sure they are warm. I’d love to be a fly on the wall so to speak. I can only imagine a walking line of little six year olds all with assorted hats I’ve crocheted!

As for the finishing line with the baby knits… the end is finally in sight! I’ll be glad to get it in the post at last. Four leg warmers is rather repetitive, and knitting is never going to be as much fun since I got so addicted to crochet! Riley has quite spindly legs for a Springer and I know that these leg warmers would fit him quite nicely but obviously I can’t try them on him just for a laugh because they need to stay hygienic for little babies. As a rule I don’t go in for dressing up dogs but this would have been extremely funny, just for a minute or two, and that precisely how long it would take him to chew them up too!

Harmony

M and I are working in complete harmony with this bedroom project. He miraculously needs to go to B&Q every single morning that he’s not working an early assignment. I need coffee every single morning. See? Harmony. The only down side is that I’m seriously sick of B&Q.

Today we picked up the final bucket of white paint needed to finish the ceiling. I can’t be doing with paint charts, tester pots and difficult decisions so I’ve kept it simple and we are sticking to white. I’m never sure whether M is joking when he suggests buttermilk or magnolia. I have after all, been trying to eradicate every single last trace of his dubious taste from the building over the last ten years and that includes an awful lot of magnolia paint and mahogany wood stain! Yesterday I painted over the last of the mahogany windowsills, a major milestone!

We made a quick coffee stop in the Bailgate area of Lincoln and kept it local by choosing Stokes coffee. This cathedral area is absolutely teaming with tourists in the summer so it’s always nice when it’s deserted. There are some nice, small, independent shops in the Bailgate area but (in my humble opinion) it could really do with a small yarn shop!

Harvey added a bit of charcoal to his diet today. He chose his stick of the day from a burnt out campfire and got a nice black tongue for his troubles. It can’t have tasted all that great because he drank half a puddle on the way back to the car. The main river was dangerously high and fast flowing but the dogs seemed to understand that. One of the smaller ditches that is usually dry had nice clear water flowing through and wasn’t too deep so they had a bit of a rinse off in there. Riley wasn’t sure about rivers and streams when we first had him but now he loves water. If it’s a small narrow stream he will just run up and down like a mad thing. Harvey prefers a bit more purpose; a ball or a stick to retrieve, and if it’s in or over water, all the better.

Yarn wise I’ve picked up the knitting again. I’d like to get these baby items in the post soon so I’m doing ten minutes here and there. The leg warmers are so small they fit in the palm of my hand. As I’m knitting I’m wondering whether it’s possible to achieve a similarly nice look and drape with a crochet version. It might be worth trying because they make a lovely gift set with the hat in simple stripes.

Weekending


When I was a student, many moons ago, I remember learning a great deal from a German flat mate. She was everything I wasn’t; world wise, political, a city girl. Our third flat mate was an Irish chap who was great fun and could charm anyone to do anything for him. However, we did manage to drag him along to a supermarket one day to buy some joint household provisions. We had a pale blue bathroom and as he reached for the pale blue toilet roll our German flat mate launched into a soap box rant about recycling. It took me a minute to catch on that this tinted toilet roll was a BAD thing and we were both completely educated on this matter and a host of other recycling matters. I’ve been a dutiful recycler ever since.

This all came back to me this morning as I was wondering how long it would take to learn to make a pretty leaf pattern in the milk froth of my coffee! My flat mate would most definitely have disapproved and told me that there are more important things in life. Goodness only knows what she’d make of the courgettii E and I had last night! While E is rubbing shoulders with a number of female teachers she’s coming home with all sorts of random health food ideas to try. Courgettii gets the thumbs up from us, we had it with a tomato based pasta sauce and shredded chicken. It was great.

It’s a good job I have made some progress with the pixie hats and leg warmers. The twins were born yesterday! They were due in February but they decided to come early. Quite impressive birth weights all things considered. No worrying early baby problems. I think it might be a while before these newborn hats actually fit. I’ve cast on for the first set of leg warmers. Does anyone want to confess to having a pair in the eighties? OK then, I will. I certainly didn’t wear them whilst doing a Jane Fonda style work out. I don’t recall ever wearing them in public but I did want to be part of the fad and wore them around the house trying to feel like one of the Fame students! I absolutely loathe dancing so goodness knows what I was thinking! They were cosy and warm though!