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!

Pixie


This dog sleeps in such style, anywhere, anyhow but especially well on a lap or a pile of cushions. He likes to tuck his nose in and right now I know how he feels. I went for a bracing walk today wrapped up for a polar expedition but still my nose was frozen.

It took a while to fully defrost enough to hold knitting needles but once I did I made good progress and finished one little pixie hat. It looks quite big here because the needles are shorter than usual but trust me, it’s dinky, I made the newborn size. Since there was nothing too tricky knitting wise I cast on for the second one and with all kinds of weather warnings in place I’m all set for a day of hibernation and knitting/crochet either tomorrow or the next day.

I will definitely be making the leg warmers too. These twins are due in February and it’ll still be cold I’m sure. 50g of each colour is enough to do both hat and leg warmers. It’s surprising how far dk yarn goes when it comes to baby items. E gave the royal nod of approval when she passed by and said, ‘cute’. Praise indeed. I’m also really pleased she’s wearing her oatmeal cable wristwarmers every day.

I’m really going to have to stop being seduced by these lovely knitting patterns this year. I get frustrated that knitting has to be done in short sessions whereas I can crochet for however long I want to. The recent bedroom clear out tells me that 2017 has to be the year of finishing off too. Once the knitting is done and dusted I’ve vowed to get the Scheepjes blanket sewn up, just as long as the gorgeous crochet cabled hats in one of my new Christmas books don’t distract me!

Trees

I can highly recommend knitting little trees 🌲 in the run up to Christmas when there’s still far more important things to be done (like writing out the Christmas cards). Each one is like a small breather from all the madness. I can’t say this garland went exactly to plan. The mystery yarn, that might or might not be Noro, I bought from a charity shop for 50p, started off with the most scrumptious shade of tweedy red but quickly changed into more autumnal shades, and ending up purple! I was rather hoping I’d get to the green at least but I’m going with the flow and settling for these. I could of course carry on knitting small trees until I get to the green but that’s a project for another time. For now it’s ready to hang, I just need to decide where!

Thank you to loritimesfive on Instagram for the inspiration. The tree pattern is in the December issue of Knitting magazine. Even these small sessions of knitting aren’t compatible with my wrists so it’s back to crochet now. I have my eye on the coasters in the Sheepjes magazine as a quick and easy and stash busting project. Something to squeeze in between wrapping gifts and writing cards… and eating mince pies!

Trim


I can’t tell you how nice it is to have central heating once more! It’s been three weeks of intermittent hot water and heating and then a week of no heating at all. It’s shorts and t shirt weather indoors while we warm the whole place through again! In fact now that we’ve had a whole system power flush and a new boiler with eco credentials we’ve realised just how poor the old system was.

M and I had an enforced two days at home whilst the work was being done and that meant actually getting some of the household jobs on our to do list crossed off. M repaired the shower seal which had been leaking for a while before we noticed and had therefore caused some damage. I managed to get the dogs hairy paws and ears trimmed. Harvey has a thicker coat so he had to have that trimmed a little too. They are both incredibly patient and love the fuss (unlike my last pair of Springers). We’ve got a car boot’s worth of bags sorted for charity too, always a good feeling!

I must confess that I did also retreat to the warmth and cosiness of the caravan in between jobs, and worked a few crafty stripes of the hufflepuff scarf whilst warming up. M thought it would be funny to message me in there to ask if I wanted a cup of tea, adding ‘your place or mine?’. I replied that my place was warmer so we made tea in our tin mugs and defrosted our noses. It got even sillier after that because M then received a call from the plumber who was just a few feet away on the drive to ask him where the water stop cock was. I think he was too shy to knock on the caravan door! Honestly, the world has gone phone crazy!

Having offered the caravan, during the big chill, to everyone and finding no takers I decided I might as well spend a couple of nights in there myself. The heating has always been very effective and the bed is extremely comfortable. The peace and quiet was pretty amazing too. It’s often quite hard work to have to look up every time someone speaks to me, and believe me, that is very frequently in this household. People forget that I can’t just carry on doing whatever I’m doing and hear at the same time. I think they’d be surprised at how much of a pain this is if they tried it for just a few hours. I’ve tried explaining but still the same level of chat persists which is why it was just lovely to spend two evenings in the caravan alone with just my books and my crochet. I’ve started a knitted Christmas tree motif garland having seen the idea on Instagram (loritimesfive). I made six little tree motifs each evening; something that I’d never have managed during an evening of family tv time in the house. After Christmas we’ll be sorting out a new fireplace and mantel (something I’ve been waiting a decade for!) but for now I will have to find an alternative home for the new garland.

Progress


There has been very little focus here lately. The hufflepuff scarf is getting most attention. I haven’t had chance to photograph it in progress yet. It has been tucked in bags and whipped out at opportune moments. M and I have had a couple of days of Christmas shopping/browsing and despite the need for some time off he still has to take on future work via his phone. I’m happy to wait patiently while he does this even if it means sitting in a stationary car just as long as I have my crochet to hand.

I do sometimes wonder at the wisdom of people who can actually hear someone at the end of a phone line choosing to convey information via message, text or email… a company email him with an assignment which is mainly suitable for his area of expertise. He replies with his availability. They ask for his fees. He then replies with his usual figures. They then email to say he can go ahead with the job. He then replies with a request for an official booking form… and so on, you get the idea? From my point of view this is utter madness. Just pick up the phone and speak to each other! Leave the messages, texts and emails for people like me, who can’t use the telephone! On the other hand I got a whole twenty row stripe done whilst sitting in the car during negotiations for his next booking!

After Christmas a small miracle must take place in the shape of a reduced yarn stash that can be discretely accommodated in a much smaller cupboard. Yes, I did say miracle. We are finally, after ten years of making do, giving the main bedroom a makeover. I can’t tell you what an awful state it is in. Disgusting wallpaper from the previous owners, hotel style carpet that is a devil to hoover. A redundant fire place. M’s wardrobes from his former life which he has been dying to burn for the last decade. Major work to be done! It’s a chance to declutter. Yarn will be given away, donated or used up quickly! I’ve had a quick look and I pulled out the large cone of chunky coarse off white wool you can see in the photo. It works up quite stiffly with the rug sized hook I found earlier this year. Any ideas what on earth I could make with it? It seems only suitable for the tiniest of rugs. I think it might have to be wool bowls or baskets.

We have started to burn down the advent candle. Along with the advent calendars these are traditions that the kids are not ready to part ways with just yet. E’s birthday is just before Christmas and J’s birthday is just after. E complains the most but both agree that it’s not great having a birthday so close to Christmas. I can only apologise and secretly look back to those Christmas’s and remember how special they were. Certainly knitting baby hats and leg warmers, and crocheting baby dungarees and more hats makes me wish I was a knitter/crocheted back then, not that I would have had the luxury of sitting still for very long!

Time flies and here we are today. E had her first university interview which lasted a rather gruelling three and a half hours (they don’t make it easy to get into teaching these days). Meanwhile we took J to do his annual clothing top up. Instead of taking him to various shops and approving his choices and then paying for them he preferred to have the cash and go and shop by himself. This was a shopping place we call ‘Meadowhell’. Inside I was wondering whether fifteen was actually old enough to do this but he managed perfectly well. Bought the smart shirt in the first fifteen minutes. Chose the trendy hoodie next and found the coat he wanted all within an hour. They were great choices and he budgeted well. My boy is all grown up.