Birthday

It’s been a bit of a happy sad kind of weekend. E was sounding a bit homesick on Friday evening just as M and I were settling down to watch a film. Eventually the big softie that M is said he’d go and pick her up (a three hour round trip). It’s my birthday weekend so although a visit home wasn’t on the cards it was good timing. E has never been the sort to be comfortable away from home so she’s finding this first semester quite tricky. Judging by how often the rest of her flat mates go home she’s not alone in this. From a Mum point of view it’s a bit unsettling.

After E had a very long sleep we went into town on Saturday afternoon to gather a few things she needed. We ended up having an afternoon tea which was fun. We were chatting away about life in a flat and the lack of sound proofing when all of a sudden the woman at the next table decided to join in the conversation. A few minutes later the older couple on the other side of us decided they’d join in too. It was obviously a contentious subject!

So, the nameless doll is finished. Due to lack of light this evening and the fact that E has taken the little character back to uni I haven’t got a photo of her in the cute stripey dress I also made for her. The plan is to make a few more items of clothing and pop them in the post as and when. Sandals are definitely on the cards, a t-shirt to go under the dungarees and perhaps the yellow rain mac because E has always owned one of these for every age of her life!

Whilst the 3.5mm hook with dk wasn’t totally impossible for my big hands it was definitely fiddly at times. When I find the right shade of body colour I’m looking forward to having a go at scaling the pattern up to Aran weight to make a doll for my niece. There’s scope for a lot of fun with outfits that might appeal to a little one.

I’ve been well and truly spoiled this year. Lots of lovely presents and treats but also, the now much rarer chance to have a family meal, the four of us. I chose Nando’s this year because you really can’t beat chicken and chips. I’m now having a crafty gin and tonic while M does the uni round trip again; after all I need to live up to the birthday card E designed for me (which I shared on Instagram) which has a sizeable chunk of the pie chart devoted to gin. I fear the chocolate section might be larger than depicted by the time the day is over.

Harvey is either losing his hearing now or turning into a stubborn old thing. I tried to coax him off the sofa so that I could lay down the newly washed blanket but he decided he was quite comfortable where he was. I thought he’d wriggle out when I plonked it on top of him but he seemed quite cosy in his blanket cave and stayed like that for at least half an hour. He was pretty warm when he emerged. Riley walked by a few times, clearly puzzled, looking at me as much to say, what is that dog doing?

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Kingston Upon Thames

My faith in cities has been restored a little! I’m in Kingston Upon Thames which is technically Surrey but feels pretty much like London. There are red double decker buses everywhere. The traffic seems to be constant night and day. It was too warm last night and I had to get up in the small hours and get some air from the window. We are three floors up so there is a good view of the city below and beyond. I was really surprised to see people, buses and cars at this hour.

We arrived yesterday and M had a little time to show me a few places he already knew, mainly of the food and coffee variety but I wasn’t complaining, I had the best flat white I’ve ever tasted just round the corner so I’ll be making another visit there today. M has headed into central London for an all day job. I could have gone too but Kingston seems like a much better option.

Outdoor food markets seem to be a given for most cities now and there’s a nicely built one here with wooden stalls and smart gazebos. I don’t want to offend anyone from Bristol because I may have been unaware of a refuse collection strike of some sort but here the rubbish gets bagged up properly at the end of the day and taken away. In Bristol there seems to be a collection of two or three industrial sized bins on every street corner. During the three days we were there they weren’t emptied and the amount of food waste overflowing on to the paths was quite disgusting. Great for vermin I would have thought too.

The city photo was taken at about 3pm yesterday and shortly after it got quite eerie and dark. The sky was already a strange yellow brown colour and then it went very sepia for a while. It seemed to blow over because there was no rain or anything that you’d expect with sudden darkness. A lot of people were taking photos of the sky with their phones.

M and I settled in the window seats of the coffee bar he’d been to before and watched people going by. It was really fascinating because life here is so different to the sleepy town we live close to. I mentioned where we were to Mum and was surprised to learn that my Dad played in a band in a pub here on Friday nights. Of course I had to share this amazing fact with E and J who may or may not have had vague knowledge of Grandad once being a drummer. They were pretty impressed and once again, my parents are so much cooler than I ever was!

Naturally I’ve brought along some crochet. The doll is now looking much more human with two arms and two legs. She’s even got an item of clothing, two hats and a scarf in progress. I’ll be looking out for a box or something to keep her and all the bits together. I’ve found that for some of the clothes it comes up rather stiff and tight if you use the same hook as for the body. I’ve scaled up half or a whole size in hooks and then adjusted trouser lengths as I go. It would probably make life easier just sticking to the guidelines but in my case I particularly wanted baggy dungarees. I’ll do some photos when I’m back at home to explain this better. Using merino instead of wool is a good tip if you want a bit of extra give. I made one hat in wool and it was a bit stiff and heavy. I made a second in merino and it’s much softer and stretchier.

I posted the above hat to E at uni. We had discussed a stripey hat and then got sidetracked with a nice post treble design that I made in tweed green. I’m a sucker for a well written pattern or a nicely styled photo and then often find it doesn’t make what I had in mind. With this chunky scrap yarn hat I closed the books and my iPad and just started making the hat and it ended up being what I wanted in the first place. I’ve got enough chunky bits and bobs to make another for myself and several for the clothing drop box they put next to one of the churches in our town for homeless people to help themselves to when it starts to get cold. I put some thick, warm hand knitted hats in there last year. Stash busting and a good cause, a win win.

Herringbone

With a heavy heart we packed up the ‘van and towed it home. It is looking a little worse for wear with green stuff streaking down from the roof. I’ll have to get a ladder and the brush/hose and sort it out. I’ve really enjoyed this seasonal pitch idea which we had considered before but hadn’t found anywhere nice enough to tempt us. This place was absolutely hassle free and with everything we needed nearby including fantastic walks and scenery. I will miss being able to open the roof shutter and bedroom blind in the morning and sit and watch birds, squirrels and pheasants going about their business as well as the trees gently swaying overhead. I think Riley enjoyed watching the squirrels mainly.

It was a great exercise in whittling down belongings and distractions. Each time I went to stay there I purposely only took a bare minimum of yarn and wips, the most being three projects at any one time (which is much less than the tally at home!). It meant that I made progress on various projects that were taking longer or were less interesting than my concentration span. I also limited the amount of spare yarn I stored in the van which is how the wristwarmers and socks came to be in the same black tweed yarn I guess. Not having my crochet books and magazines or even reliable internet resulted in making it up as I went along for more items. I’ve always liked this ‘try it on as you go’ method for gloves, mitts, socks and hats. It’s ideal for socks in particular. I was really glad of those black chunky socks when the weather outside was making itself known across the floor level in the van. The last pair of these I made were only Aran weight but they’ve also had lots of use.

I started reading so much more during this time away too. I think at home I find it much harder to relax with my head in a book because there’s always something going on. If I read my eyes are not available for seeing what sounds and activity are going on. I still find it totally amazing that M or E can read a book, be asked a question, answer it and all without looking up from the book! It’s mind blowing! When the kids were small I used to watch them interact with each other purely for the way they didn’t have to look at each other to converse. In fact I still do love to observe them having a conversation with each other because they both appear to mumble under their breath (J especially), hardly look at one another and and yet they are chatting.

M and I found an out of town book shop some miles out from the caravan site. I think I previously mentioned (maybe on Instagram) that it was dog friendly and we had Riley with us at the time. He sat like an angel in the cafe after being given a dog treat by one of the women who worked there. Anyway, we both liked the art on the walls and when we got home I found the two posters online and ordered them. The one above is the only one I’ve managed to find a frame for so far. It has livened up our bedroom wall for now. It may end up on the bare brick wall in our conservatory which we use as a living room. I’m trying to collect enough art to make a feature wall of prints. It’s slow going, I’m obviously quite fussy these days.

Three weeks is obviously how long the average student lasts before feeling homesick. E reported that she’d like to come home this weekend because most of her flat were going home, so M dutifully sent funds for a train ticket and picked her up on Friday evening. We had only been home a few hours after bringing the caravan home so I very hastily had to put her half sorted room into order so that she could actually sleep in the bed! There were no less than seven coats on our hall pegs all belonging to E so when she left three weeks ago I moved them to her room with a view to sorting out some space in her wardrobe for them. I quickly realised that was a bigger job than I bargained for.

M and I also had to confess to a small incident involving her car. I’m insured to drive it and we agreed that I’d use it maybe once a week to keep it ticking over nicely and because it’s fun to nip out in a Fiat 500 when your usual car is a big old jeep. I used it once to meet M for a coffee after a local job he’d done and as we were walking back to the cars he heard a bit of a bang and scrape and witnessed a very small woman in a very big car swipe the front bumper of E’s car. In a nutshell she admitted liability and we sorted out the repairs pronto, hoping very much to have it back on our drive way before E even thought about coming home for a visit. It’ll be another few days so we had to explain everything. Luckily E saw the funny side and said, ‘so in the three weeks I’ve been away you’ve trashed my bedroom and trashed my car?’ Um, yep.

All that had nothing to do with me readily agreeing to making her an autumn type hat! It’s not quite arctic enough for the double thick and fleece lined crochet hat I made her last winter when she was having to do playground supervising. I’m sure we discussed stripes and multi colours but then E spotted a design called the Chunky Herringbone Slouch hat from the book Crochet Style by Jennifer Dougherty. We found some tweedy green chunky yarn from my stash and agreed on a different colour for the Pom Pom. As luck would have it I already had the perfect colour and size Pom Pom in a drawer full of leftover random Pom Poms. It doesn’t look like it but the hat has just the right amount of slouch and it was easy to get a good fit for the final band by switching to a smaller hook. Without E’s head nearby I think I would have had to do a ribbed band just to be sure there was enough give for a flexible fit. I used half trebles for this band rather than the dc’s suggested because I wanted a bit more band depth. The pattern seem really well written and the gauge guidelines are really useful. I’m definitely going to make one of these for myself. I feel a whole lot of hat making coming on!

Bristol

It’s always a treat to leave this county I’ve ended up in. When I return I often appreciate the relative lack of traffic and the way everything is nicely spread out, with lots of green between villages and towns. A whirlwind tour of London and Bristol has definitely had that effect.

In fact we started off by travelling to Worcester, somewhere I’ve never been but I had a pleasant few hours wandering round and another hour sitting at a window seat in a lovely coffee place. I could easily have used their wifi and read the news, blogged, wasted time on Instagram but instead I just watched the world go by and very relaxing it was too.

After Worcester we had to head right into London to stay overnight so that M could be in Camberwell Green the next morning. We booked a hotel in Richmond, just eleven miles from where he had to be and allowed two hours the following morning to travel that distance. We made it with ten minutes to spare and we didn’t take any detours or get lost. That’s London rush hour for you. Camberwell Green looked a bit scary and horrible. I’m not keen on London at all. My first mission was to find a good take out coffee and deliver it to M at the court, he has a lot of waiting around to do and they don’t very often have coffee machines let alone good coffee. After delivering his coffee I took mine and sat in a small leafy park. Little green spaces like this must be well used within these London boroughs.

My morning got a whole lot better when I discovered there was a really good art shop down one of the side streets. It took me back to my design days, just the smell of paper. I’ve been thinking of having a dabble with some hand drawn lettering lately so I treated myself to a pack of water colour brush pens. They’ve actually got some kind of ink based colour in them but produce a water colour type mark, so that should be interesting to try out. It’s been a long time since I did anything hand drawn.

Traffic was hell from London to Bristol and we ended up calling it the hamster wheel effect. The satnav started off by telling us we would be there in two and a half hours. After driving for over an hour it was still telling us we had two and a half hours to go! I first visited Bristol about twenty years ago and distinctly remember seeing models of the improvements they were going to spend Β£20million on. It seems they haven’t stopped spending money on ‘regeneration’ because it was full of roadworks, which is always a pain when you don’t know where you’re going anyway. Satnavs don’t cope well with road closures. In fact on Saturday there was a demonstration of sorts by a large group of motorcyclists who rode slowly through the town en masse to protest about all the disruption. Good for them I say! I was negotiating orange barriers, potholes, pedestrian re route signs and large piles of concrete rubble as they drove by.

Highlights of my two days wandering round Bristol included the Grayson Perry exhibition at the Arnolfini, and a quiet hour or so on the second floor of the M Shed watching the boats go by. In between these two events I did find some quirky coffee shops, a vintage street market and the tree lined harbourside area that I recognised from my previous visit.

I have no idea what the story behind the portakabin in the sky is but I would be quite happy to live up there! Neither can I tell you anything about Grayson Perry that isn’t already out there on the internet. It was packed with people, a blend of families, tourists and pretentious art critic wannabes, no actually the latter was just one Father boring the pants off his fourteen year old son. I felt like stepping in and telling him to just let the poor boy form his own opinions. I must confess I liked a lot of the work and I wish I had taken more photographs.

From Bristol I was dropped off in Derbyshire for one last week at the caravan. It was heavenly arriving back amongst the pine trees. It wasn’t so good being without Riley. I’ve come to realise that it is actually quite handy having someone or something that can hear. The fire alarm and carbon monoxide alarm for instance are rendered completely useless without Riley in residence. I often leave a tap running, intending to fill a bowl while I quickly do something else and then because I can’t hear the water running I completely forget about it. My sense of smell often makes up for things though, I can actually smell things like water running in a smaller space like the caravan and I’d definitely know very quickly if something was starting to burn.

Walking round Bristol really stuffed my back up again. I needed the five day break from constant laundry, dog walking and general household stuff to rest it. Before I left for this trip I hoovered the whole house and vowed never to hoover again after it set things off. M and J proved they can cope with both laundry and hoovering. They made a deal, J would hoover throughout if M did all the laundry. Both parties were happy. Now that I’m home I need to bribe J into keeping up with the hoovering part of the deal until my back is better.

Apart from a brief trip down to the nearby town for charity shop browsing, coffee and a walk round the lake, I mainly stuck to reading and crochet all week. I managed to finish three novels! I read three books, started a fourth and that’s when I decided to replenish my stock. I wish things were as organised at home i.e. Buy a few, read a few and then buy a few more and so on. The reality is that I buy them faster than I can read them.

In between reading I managed to finish the ribbed crochet wristwarmers that I started yonks ago. They are sized to fit my wrists and hands perfectly. That’s what I love about the side to side and ribbed construction method. I love the tweed yarn and managed to buy up quite a few balls in the chunky weight in various colours at sale prices recently. In order not to get too bored with ribbed wristwarmers, honeycomb hats and anything else I’ve made more than a few times I need to source some new patterns. E has requested a stripey ‘studenty’ hat (whatever that is?) so she’s going to find a picture of something she likes.

On one day in the caravan it was particularly blowy outside. We have small vents at floor level which I’m sure are totally necessary but I’m not sure why. They let in a certain amount of cool air regardless of how cosy the rest of the place is. At some point in the afternoon I decided to see if the rest of the chunky black tweedy yarn would be enough for a pair of thick socks. I absolutely hate wearing socks usually and I particularly dislike anything that goes up past my ankle. I’ve no idea why, strangely J seems to have inherited this from me. In just an hour or so I had a pair of tailor made ankle socks with about ten centimetres of yarn leftover! I smugly sent a photo to our family message chat thing which E set up and titled ‘Fam’ (it’s a new word apparently) and they were all seriously unimpressed. I reminded them that being able to whip up a pair of socks with yarn and a hook was something akin to a post apocalyptic life skill! One day they will realise what a cool person I really am πŸ˜‰

Photographs

Well it looks like I’m just about in time for another of Hawthorn’s photo scavenge hunts (albeit using sketchy hotel wifi). I’m in Bristol for a couple of days making the most of M’s job and tagging along for a change of scene. I watched a whole load of the series Who Do You Think You Are on iPlayer recently because it’s not something M likes to watch, and I reckon there are nomads in my past. I’m happy when I’m out seeing new things, I can’t stand being tied down to one place. Anyway, I’ve been back through my archives for some of these photographs, just for fun.

1. Shut. When M gets a random day off in the week I drag him out of Lincoln to see something new. He’s very obliging despite clocking up plenty of miles for work. This photo is of Oakham Castle in Rutland which we saw on a TV programme and thought would be a nice place to visit. It was just our luck that on the day we decided to go it was shut for refurbishment! Something that google hadn’t mentioned! We had a lovely day anyway, ending with a dog walk round one of the big lakes in the area.

2. Copper. Before tackling our kitchen knock through we collected lots of pictures like this one of a cafe in Wales with the modern rustic look that we like. In addition to the copper chairs they also had light fittings and exposed copper pipes. So far we’ve only managed to include the latter, but I’ve been on the look out for copper stools.

3. Wrist. One of many pairs of wrist warmers I’ve made over the years. This particular pair was gifted, as were all the rest so it seems because when I sorted out the winter hats and scarves recently I couldn’t find a single pair! That can soon be rectified with crochet!

4. Quarter. The Gothic Quarter in Barcelona last October. My son looking rather bored as I slowly examined every single type of yarn for sale in this wonderful yarn shop! I have a collection of similar photos!

5. Beginning with C. Colosseum, Rome. A few years ago now. Temperature in the forties and far too hot for us Brits! J must have been about 14 in this photo, long before the stubborn teenage thing kicked in.

6. Foam. The very same holiday actually. We spent two weeks travelling round Italy. Each day J would use booking.com to book a family room within budget and he did that brilliantly. We stayed in all sorts of places including a converted railway station apartment which was excellent. The foam was part of the fun at the Rome Water Park, that’s J on the left!

7. Scarf. One I made earlier this year for M which incorporates his favourite colour; orange! Beautiful WYS yarn, and a simple crochet linen stitch.

8. Line. Sometimes only a washing line is suitable for photographing big shawls! It would help a great deal if we had a nicely pruned hedge behind it!

9. Nostalgic. That’s my Nan in the middle, between two of her sisters. I’m biased of course but I think she’s definitely the most beautiful of them all. I think there were six altogether but to be honest I still get muddled up. I have very precious memories of spending time with Nan (and of course my Grandad) when I was a child and it often seems as though I’ve taken on their ways and values in the same way that my daughter has taken on her Grandparents’ ways. I miss Nan a lot.

10. Own choice. Cloud gazing. Big cities are all very well (I’ve also been in London before this trip to Bristol) but I will always be glad to get home to my fields, even if they are not exactly Sussex fields, and breathe good clean country air once more!

Thank you Hawthorn!

http://livelovecraftme.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/septembers-link-up-party.html

Simple

It was a beautiful day last Tuesday. I loaded the dogs into the boot (they now only seem to argue on the way home but never on the way there) and we set off for our nature reserve trek. It was shorts and t shirt weather and yet we didn’t come across a single soul. This is the way I like it. Harvey is always focussed and rarely takes any notice of other dogs but Riley can get verbal if a dog is on a lead which some owners take the wrong way. I reassure them he’s all mouth and no trousers and a quick ‘this way’ will make him run on.

We finished with the usual dunk in the stream to rinse off any unpleasant fox substances and on the drive home I thought it would be a good day to throw a few things in a bag and head off to the caravan. I must confess I don’t particularly enjoy this drive. I’ve said before it’s got many turn offs and in counties I’m just not familiar with but it’s worth the effort. I managed it without satnav too but there were a couple of roundabouts I went round twice just to make sure I was going to take the right exit.

Somewhere between 3 and 4 some kind of lorry veered from one side of a dual carriageway through the central reservation and over to the other side, hitting some cars on the way. This was within the time frame I travelled down this stretch of road and I counted myself extremely lucky to have missed it. The direction I was travelling was clear and the other side had tailbacks miles and miles long where they’d closed the road. When I was much younger I remember leaving my grandparents house after a visit and getting stuck on the M25 for over three hours with my Springer at the time, Algie. I was in the middle lane and we were all stationary. I took the dog out for a wee and then got back in the car and unwrapped the huge bread pudding Nan had made me and washed it down with the cans of Lilt she’d also packed. To my knowledge I never left their house for a journey without provisions for unforeseen events like this one and on this particular day I was extremely grateful despite the fact I’ve never really liked bread pudding! Algie had quite a good portion too.

It was good to get away from all things manly this week. M and J seem to think they can get away with shouting from one side of the house to the other about football scores now that E has moved out. It also seems to be the only thing discussed round here lately too. I downloaded a couple of documentaries and films that I knew M would never watch with me before I left but between dog walking, crochet a couple of good books I didn’t get round to watching them.

The simple week, cooking for one, walking with one dog, deciding for myself how to carve up my day, watching wildlife, sleeping when tired, waking naturally, achieving so much more on projects that I can barely concentrate on when home did eventually make me start to evaluate the the role of social media, blogging and having a phone with me at all times. I’ve always read other bloggers wobbles with the task of blogging and secretly thought that as long as you blog for yourself and don’t try to be anything that you’re not then there would be no reason to get disillusioned with the process. I think this is why I’ve never wanted to blog in a commercial way and why I’ve been happy for this long, just tapping away and recording events and thoughts.

M and I have agreed that our seasonal pitch worked well for us this year. I’ve put in a request that we try and find a site that is no more than an hour away from home next year. At this distance I can nip home if J needs me, not that he has, he’s like me, he values time alone. We’ve got a few weeks left before we bring our caravan home and therefore only a few more windows when we can make use of it. On this trip I made sure I revisited some of the scenic places we’d enjoyed most so on Friday and Saturday when M had time off we took Riley to the Tissington Trail section where we can park, walk as far as M can manage and then have tea and a snack before returning to the car. With light coats on it was warm enough to sit outside for the tea and watch walkers and cyclists go by. I’d really like M to consider an all terrain motibility vehicle of some kind so that we can take proper walks together. It’s so frustrating knowing that I could be walking miles and seeing more of the beautiful scenery but have to turn back after such a short distance because M can’t manage it. I’m sympathetic but not when he refuses to be flexible. I know he doesn’t want to look old before his time but I do honestly think that in his shoes I would totally embrace this solution if it meant getting some fresh air and enjoying the dogs more. I will keep working on him!

On Saturday my suggestion to do the short walk from car park to the Stepping Stones at Dovedale went down like a lead balloon so I came up with the idea of finding the book store that we’d stumbled across on the way back from Buxton previously. It was a little bit further out than we remembered but well worth the scenic drive out there. It’s called the High Peak Book Store and it’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It’s dog friendly which was nice because Riley doesn’t like being left alone and he made quite a few friends amongst the staff and customers. He looked very well behaved when in fact he was just subdued and less bouncy than usual because it was a new place. He was also allowed into the cafe area and was given dog treats by one of the lovely ladies that worked there. It’s an excellent cafe, decorated in that rustic, eclectic, vintage type of look we like. I only took the one photo because people were eating in the other angles. Although we have quite a lot of books at home we bought a modest pile of paperbacks and I found a great book about rustic approaches to jewellery making to give myself a bit of a nudge with that once more. M liked the sprinkling of comfy leather chairs throughout the shop so that he could take a selection, sit down and study the blurb. He takes an awfully long time to decide whether he will enjoy a book or not which I don’t mind so much when I’m sitting comfortably too! We both agreed that if it was local to us we would probably have coffee there every Saturday morning and leave with a few books.

Talking of which, I’ve read a few good ones lately. The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain was very enjoyable. I’ve read quite a few by her and loved them all. I’ve just started ‘This Must be the Place’ by Maggie O’Farrell which seems good so far. I’ve enjoyed other books by her too. I’ve had a big long spell of not reading so much because I’ve preferred to use my down time to crochet but lately I’m consciously trying to accommodate both.

With E now firmly settled in at university I thought I would be a bit of an emotional wreck. On the day of the move I got as far as the car park and when she hopped out to go and get the keys with that mixture of fear and excitement on her face only a mother could recognise I just temporarily lost it and had a bit of a gulping sob whilst telling M to talk about something that would make me recover and quickly! Poor chap didn’t know what to talk about but I did eventually compose myself in good time for her return. I haven’t blubbed since. She has an excellent room, her own bathroom, a big kitchen and she’s a student at one of the most impressively organised and efficient universities I’ve ever come across. Across the city she has a friend who moved in the day before and messaged E to ask her what number she should put her thermostat on. We suggested twenty one and she was astounded, having set it at ten and wondered why she was cold. It seems not all 18 year olds have been encouraged to learn how to feed themselves before leaving home. Although E is branching out and making mashed potato from real potatoes (imagine!) she is making proper meals with meat, vegetables and potato. Previously she was more of a scrambled eggs on toast or bacon sandwich kind of chef. One of her flat mates destroyed four eggs before successfully managing to boil one for his main evening meal. I fear these Mums have done too much for their sons. J is three years younger and if it goes in the oven or microwave he’s happy to cook it. He’s not so keen on saucepan items for some reason but we will be working in that before he goes to uni. I will never worry that he’s not getting his five a day because he’s always eaten mountains of fruit and lately he chops everything and puts it in a blender to make fruit smoothies. He’s probably already ahead of another of E’s flat mates who thought dried pasta had to be kept in the fridge!

Cape

This week has been E’s last week at home before moving to uni halls. It’s been a funny old week. Boxes have been piling up, last minute purchases made, bits and bobs retrieved from the back of the kitchen cupboards that might come in handy. Although I was happy enough to care for her Roborovski hamsters, Scout and Jem and a Russian hamster named Badger she has an animal loving friend who offered and we came to the conclusion they’d be enjoyed more by the friend. I love little furry creatures but not when they die. I’m still getting over Lorelie, the little white Roborovski hamster that was set free from its cage via a loose tube by Mollie the cat. That didn’t end well.

Today though seemed like a good day for one final outing with the dogs. As Riley was making himself at home on E’s bed last night, grabbing the duvet in his mouth and tugging it into a nest shape, I think she finally realised that he wasn’t going to be sleeping on her bed for the next three years at least. We took them to Whisby Nature Reserve which is not far from where we live and has a lovely lake and wooded walk. The sun even made a brief appearance but it definitely looked like Autumn with fallen leaves everywhere after the recent stormy weather. The dogs wasted no time finding the water’s edge and plunging in. They later settled on a generous pile of blankets and towels in the boot while we had a nice lunch overlooking the lake.

They are still a bit grumbly with each other in the boot but more so when the vehicle is moving. I recently discovered that they growl less when I sing on the way home from my usual walk which was a fact I wished I hadn’t shared wth M and E on the way back from Whisby. M insisted I start singing because he said he was getting stressed about them whilst driving. I was on my third Glen Campbell song when I stopped to ask if they’d settled down yet. M and E said they had stopped growling ten minutes ago but could they have Wichita Lineman now please!

Everyone seems to be slightly hyper and the banter is in full swing. J stood at E’s bedroom door and asked when he could move in. It’s a long running joke that her room will become a craft room, a guest room, or J’s room. The truth is that we aren’t allowed to touch it for three years but I’m still mulling that one over.

I can’t seem to concentrate on crochet this week. My mind is definitely elsewhere. I have added tassels to the Sunday blanket albeit using unravelled squares from a project I’ve abandoned. It’s given them a curly look which is ok with me. It’s been tested, one chilly evening in front of the tv and it’s very cosy. I’ve started another using up a large ball of Aran for the main body and whatever I have to hand in that yarn weight for the border rows. This one will be for my niece so there is pink involved but I’ve sworn I’ll never buy pink yarn again after this project. I really dislike pink that much I don’t enjoy crocheting with it.

Tweedy yarn however, I do enjoy using, so the Little Red Riding Hood outfit was a quick, fun make. It was extremely simple, even a complete beginner could make this though I find it’s never really clear when a pattern includes a rejoin instruction. On this occasion it really didn’t matter too much because both sides work as right sides. Ribbon would work equally well for a cape fastening. I need to crochet a red apple or two for the basket now and although I initially worried that children these days might not know about the story of LRRH, E assured me that her class of year two children did, so I figured she’s still relevant.

The cape pattern is from the book Crochet Dress Up by Emma Friedlander-Collins. I like the fact that these aren’t impractical lighter weight yarn projects that take forever to make. Most seem to require chunky yarn with occasional dk. Perhaps my favourite pattern is the fairy wings made with the help of two coat hangers. Definitely one to try in the future.

Adapted

It’s been a bit of a challenge to take photo’s this morning. It’s been dark, wet and windy. I’ve had fairy lights on to light the darkest corners. It barely lunch time and I’m on my third mug of hot tea. Candles have been lit and I had to nudge the heating on to low just to take the chill off the air. It’s no wonder I’ve been focussing on blankets these last few evenings.

I keep promising myself that I will write down all my ‘go to’ crochet patterns in a nice note book. I don’t trust iPads for future reference. I’ve lost too much data on computers along the way, with updates to technology happening so fast and not being able to keep up with transferring files to the latest format each time. I know that Mum has family recipes jotted down in the margins of old cookery books which is a lovely thing to be able to revisit if you have a keen interest in cooking (which I personally don’t, but Mum has).

These go to patterns are simply the most reliable when it comes to results, whether garments or toys or blankets. This latest blanket would definitely be a contender. I’ve taken the Sunday Shawl pattern by thelittlebeenz and adapted it to make one big square rather than a triangular shawl. If you’ve already made one or two of the shawls using the pattern this adaptation is quite easy to do. You just need to create four of the corners rather than just the one. I used the corner to join each row and it’s virtually invisible joining. For this blanket I did leave out a few of the final border rows. I felt I had enough of a border but I am thinking of adding a grey woolly tassel to each corner now, it feels like it needs that last finishing touch!

One tip if you have a go at this; don’t get too hung up on stitch counts. It’s really only the wavy shell row that needs a bit of close attention. I had to adjust the stitch count by doing the last few shells before the corner by skipping one stitch instead of two so that the anchoring dc finished in the right place before the corner trebles. It’s not a noticeable adjustment but it kept the corner correct which is the important part.

I had a good stash of Aran weight yarn when I started this so I didn’t exactly choose the colour scheme from scratch. Now that I know it works out I quite fancy making another in more neutral tones. The size has turned out to be approximately 110cm or 43″ square which is plenty for what we call a tv blanket used in our draughty conservatory.

The original shawl pattern uses a hook size bigger than you’d usually use with dk yarn so I followed suit and used an 8mm hook for Aran yarn. This seems to be about right for a nice drape and with the added bonus that it works up quite quickly. I don’t crochet particularly fast and I have a lot of interruptions and I still finished this blanket in about four evenings.

I have some pink yarn in my stash that most definitely needs using up whilst a certain little person still likes all things pink and unlike clothing I don’t have to worry about whether it will fit! I’m sure this size blanket would be useful for car journeys, afternoon naps, falling asleep in front of the tv… everyone should have one! 

Blankets

Mud has returned to my daily life with a bang. Riley’s chest front is usually a beautiful fluffy white colour. This is how it will look on most days from now on I’m sure. What the photo cannot convey is how strong the smell of fox poo was. He’s had two shampoos since and it’s still hanging around. Over the course of four miles I think he must have found every single one. It probably didn’t help that we took an accidental new route and skirted a field that technically wasn’t a public footpath. I try not to do this but I was otherwise preoccupied (woolgathering) and drifted down a mown path that eventually ran out in the corner of a field leaving no clue as to where to walk next. I stuck to the edge and rejoined the footpath further on. No sign of any farmers thank goodness.

If Harvey was a fox poo roller too I think I would have to take them to the local playing field or round the village on leads which would be no fun at all. My poor car is permanently tainted with this horrible stench. They’ve also been brushing up against the edges of this latest crop which is everywhere on our walk and makes the fields look very black indeed. I wasn’t sure what it was but I know a man who knows about these things so I asked my Grandad of course! He says it is a bean which they grind up and use for cattle feed. I must admit the crops round here are all a bit unexciting. When I lived in Banbury for a while I used to take my Springer, Algie, through lovely fields of ripe corn on the cob. Even on a mild day I’d wear my big old coat with four large pockets, two on the inside, out of sight and perfect for bringing home a few. Occasionally there were peas, but these are so tasty raw and fresh from the pods that not many actually made it home.

We’ve had more rain than dry spells over the last few days so my thoughts have turned to blankets. I’ve been doing a few rows of the blanket shown in my header here and there. It’s all kept in a basket and to hand so although it’s repetitive and unchallenging I am hopeful it will be a full size blanket one day soon!

Since I completed the last Sunday shawl I’ve been meaning to try and turn the pattern into a blanket or throw. I thought I’d seen this idea on Instagram but it turns out that was a poncho which must have given me the idea to adapt the pattern for other things. There is something very enjoyable about this particular pattern. The main body in one colour isn’t too dull and it keeps you motivated knowing that there’s some interesting border work to look forward to. I know it’s only crochet, yes I know.

In just two evenings I’ve crocheted the main body of the blanket/throw in a mid grey aran weight yarn with an 8mm hook. I’m holding a bit back from the 400g ball for some of the border rows. The challenge will be making sure I don’t add in any extra stitches by mistake because it’ll start to ruffle if I do. Ruffling annoys me greatly.

I have other blanket news too but that’ll be a separate post. For now, I’m going to brew a large mug of Rooibos and make a start on the border rows of what will have to be called my Sunday blanket. It’s the bit I’ve been looking forward to and dreading in equal measures. Could all go pear shaped quite easily. Riley seems to know when I’m making a blanket because he keeps trying to shuffle just a bit further on to it. There’s no such thing as too close as far as he’s concerned.

Balance

I really hope September goes nice and slowly. Just look at these blue skies, the late summer sun, refreshing lake. I don’t want to be trading this in for wind, rain and cold just yet. Harvey and Riley look so happy don’t they? Harvey is forgetting his pain and just enjoying the moment. I’m trying to do the same with my sore back. We walked an extra long route this morning while M was umpiring a few villages away. E was packing a few boxes for uni. J was doing last minute A Level reading which was puzzling as I could have sworn he said he didn’t have any prep or work to do for A Levels back in June after he’d finished his exams.

J did really well with his GCSEs. I’m not sure if he was serious or not but he did say his aim was to beat his big sis with the number of A’s. I think he got the same but she just pipped him with the number of A*. It was O Levels in my day so just when I’ve got used to the A and A* business they’ve now introduced numbers for heavens sake! J will be back at school soon and E will be moving into halls round about the third week of September. M is quite miserable about it, whereas I’ve probably gone through all the emotions and feel prepared myself and just happy that she’s going to do something she loves. I can’t say I totally loved every minute of my Graphic Design career but it did have its moments.

These days I’m happier without that level of stress. I worked mostly in advertising and the responsibility of making sure that the huge amounts clients spent on it produced favourable and accountable results weighed on my shoulders. Lighter work included working with a few famous musicians whose manager worked in offices not far from ours. It helped that I was young and not particularly aware of who they were when they came to me for CD cover artwork and publicity material.

I sometimes feel very old and I haven’t reached the big five o yet. It’s probably because everyone around me keeps harping on about that time of life and am I getting symptoms yet? Jeez, bugger off, I’m fine! Then I think, heck, does that mean I’m moody? I’m much more concerned with other things going wrong like tearing the cartilage in my knee last year. It’s taken a long time to get it back to normal and just when I’ve been able to walk miles again my back starts playing up. I’m sticking with walking as my cure all though, it really is uplifting to be out there just breathing in good country air.

I’ve missed being able to reach the big lake comfortably with my dodgy knee but trekking round Madrid made me realise that it was time to have another go and sure enough we did the whole big loop without a single twinge. It was rather disappointing to discover that the lake has been taken over by a plant or weed that makes swimming a bit dangerous. Harvey took a dip and realised that things weren’t favourable but Riley carried on swimming regardless and then had a bit of trouble on the way back to me. Needless to say we won’t be walking that way unless it dies off over the winter months. There are plenty of safer streams to swim in on a slightly different route, although some of them only consist of black sludge at the moment as you can see from the colour of Riley’s legs in the photo!

Life is a good balance when you enjoy the big outdoors in reasonable weather and something like crochet for instance πŸ˜‰ when it’s bucketing down. I wound those messy cotton hanks from Spain one rainy afternoon recently. With both winders spinning at the same time one of E’s friends was so curious she asked politely what I was actually doing. I suppose to the average person this would have looked quite confusing! Just wait until I have lots of dye bubbling on the hob!

Another rainy day provided the chance to finish the shawl that I started on the way to Madrid. I know I was going to take the slightly variegated deep yellow one with me but somehow that just started growing quickly in those last few days before we actually left and I wanted to make sure I had plenty of crochet to last a whole week. There was a muddle with my yarn order for the pullover that I had planned to take and somehow the express delivery got overridden by the free postage offer and so the order took over five days to process. I rummaged through my dk shelf and found the variegated purple/green/goodness knows what else coloured yarn right at the back, wound into cakes already. Then I just chose seven random balls of leftover yarn all under 50gms. I shoved it all in a fabric drawstring washbag so that it was extra squishy for packing. Although I have the pattern on my iPad I also printed it out and tucked that in with the yarn. That proved quite handy when we ended up spending most days at one of the public pools.

Every time I make one of these I wish I’d done the shell row with right side the other way up. It’s easy enough to do by cutting the yarn at the row end and starting at the other edge. In the grand scheme of things though it doesn’t really matter that much. The edging doesn’t use much yarn so I still have plenty of the lovely malabrigo purple left. It’s so nice to work with it nearly got chosen for every other border row!

I’ve now gone back to my yellow version of this shawl. It’s a nice easy relaxing make. I going to make the body of this one slightly bigger. I’ve also got to work out how to do the border with just two colours including the main body colour. I might even leave some of the border rows out, especially if I decide to just alternate the colours. I’m doing more of the make it up as you go along kind of thing these days.

I also saw a great idea on the Instagram hashtag for this shawl that I tried to find a second time and couldn’t, but in a nutshell someone had cleverly used the pattern and made a square instead of a triangle. I really fancy having a go at this using my supplies of Aran weight yarn to produce a good size lap blanket. I’m sure M will be very pleased about this plan because our heating bill last winter was quite a bit more than usual!
The Sunday Shawl pattern is by TheLittleBeeNZ and is available on etsy.