Autumn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s not every day that I tiptoe down the drive with my pyjamas on hoping to slide the bin into position before the garbage truck actually comes round. M usually does this job and I was cursing J for not doing it instead. He literally walks past a whole village of bright blue wheelie bins on the way to get the bus to school and despite that and my repeated requests it just doesn’t occur to him to drag it out for me or even back up the drive. My mother would blame the teenage brain. Well I’m certainly looking forward to the adult one.

Anyway, not only did I not have my best pyjamas on I was also startled by a delivery man who decided to come up the drive to the far side of my car which is indeed a strange route which ends with the teardrop trailer blocking the way. However, when I saw the logo’s on the box I smiled rather warmly at him which confused him totally.

I was a bit emotional and overwhelmed with this prize I won very recently. I hope it’s not the start of crying at Andrex adverts involving Golden Labrador puppies again because I thought I was done with all that when I was done with pregnancy’s.

There’s a blog post about the competition here http://kelbournewoolens.com/blog/2018/9/announcing-the-winners-of-crochet-summer-crochet-something-2018

It was an Instagram contest run by Kelbourne Woolens who are based in Philadelphia and I entered on the recommendation of a new insta pal, right at the last minute. I tagged my ‘leaf’ cushion for the home decor section and the prize was this wonderful Station Wagon blanket kit and set of Mason Dixon Knitting Guides. I only hope I can make a blanket as beautiful as this yarn deserves. The colours are right up my street, I can’t wait to make a start. Perfectly timed for winter too! I can see this being my ‘go everywhere’ blanket. Home, road trips, holidays in barns and shepherds huts etc! My Nan always told me to carry a blanket and a shovel in my car and I’ve never forgotten this advice! Incidentally, the lovely insta pal, Karen, who suggested I entered also won a category for best garment. I was completely blown away with her patchwork jumper and she definitely deserved to win, not only was it very clever it was also hugely inspiring. It’s made me really think about doing a bit more freestyle work!

The project bag was a very generous extra popped in by Courtney of KW. We exchanged some emails regarding shipping and so on and I was curious as to how the design of these came about. There is a story to those and it was heartwarming to hear about it. I did reveal that I was profoundly deaf but that BSL had never been my first language but I did learn some as an adult and that’s how I met my husband. In fact just after Christmas last year when I tend to think about learning new things I decided to try and memorise the ASL fingerspelling alphabet purely because it’s pretty cool compared to the two handed British one! So convenient too, you can finger spell anything you like whilst still holding a coffee with the other hand! I mention this, only half joking, because that’s where we practiced, whilst out having coffee.

On a serious note though, talking to Courtney and then today getting emotional about that project bag was really to do with the realisation that as a nation we still have some way to go before there is a similar level of acceptance here. I don’t want a pity party but I’ve had some pretty negative reactions to what is essentially a hidden disability. It’s taken me a very long time to actually tell people straight off that I can’t hear. I’m sure things are getting better. I hope they are. As Courtney said, ‘it was a small thing to celebrate a culture she’d lived adjacent to for so long.’ Isn’t that just so positive? In the old days when I’d retreat from anything ‘tricky’ or have to deal with blatant prejudice my Mother used to tell me that perhaps it was down to me to educate people. I used to groan loudly every time she said that (Kevin style) but of course she was right. If I don’t speak up I am letting the ignorance continue.

OK so back to the happy stuff and that is yarn! Armed with my new project bag I might just overcome that final hurdle and join a knit and natter group! Yikes! Goals for 2019 I think. I’ve got so much crochet planned for autumn/winter and they definitely include starting this blanket kit!

September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seasons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crochet Cotton Face Pads

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

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

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

6mm hook

Wool needle for sewing in ends

In U.K. terms…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decorating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nature

We are in the middle of a mini heatwave here in the U.K. Despite our bedroom blackout blinds the small chinks of sunlight that peep round the sides are bright enough to wake me up far too early most mornings. I’ve never been an early riser but there’s something nice about staggering into the kitchen in the early hours and making a lazy coffee machine coffee and seeing if there’s anyone out and about walking dogs round the village or cycling to work.

Our stream has run dry and I know this must have an impact on our duck population. There are numerous duck families all over the village but because I tend not to walk H and R on leads locally I don’t know where they’ve relocated to or found less dried out parts.

The weather has been absolutely perfect for dog walking. We’ve been to our usual places and we’ve been back to our favourite lake. I made occasional visits and kept finding that it was too thick with weeds for the dogs to swim safely but at the moment the edges are clearer. Luckily they both know what, ‘this way’ means so when they head towards the weedy parts I just tell them, this way, and they come back towards me. I know how Riley’s mind works though and he’s determined to swim to the island and check out the nesting birds. He’s just curious but not to worry, I won’t be letting him anywhere near them.

A few days ago Harvey completely overdid things by scrambling down steep banks and hurling himself into the river. There are a few video clips of him doing this on Instagram in the smaller rivers. The day after he was a sorry sight and hobbled about all day, still getting excited at the prospect of another walk despite being barely able to move about. I had to be cruel to be kind and snuck out with only Riley that afternoon. The day after his enforced rest he seemed so much better so it’s not clear what exactly is wrong except perhaps old age.

There are so many wild flowers out in bloom on our walks at the moment. I keep meaning to dig out one of my small guide books and take it with me. Strangely I haven’t seen the resident heron for quite a while and the usual birds of prey seem thin on the ground too. Each time I go I seem to spot yet more varieties of butterfly or damselfly. At our main swimming spot by a small concrete farm bridge there are hundreds of damselflies. I had to look them up and these particular ones are called Beautiful Demoiselles. When the dogs launch themselves into the water they all fly up from their resting places in the reeds which creates quite a sight but sadly doesn’t show up on my attempts to photograph them with just my phone.

I’ve got several crochet projects on the go at the moment but I’ve also managed to finish a few. The nice thing about Instagram now that I’ve found some nice crochet accounts to follow is that it is finally the place for ideas that I had imagined it would be when I started using it a year ago. The cotton hair bands were made from a free pattern I spotted one morning whilst having a quick browse. I made one for myself first using a denim effect yarn that was left over from making the catherine wheel stitch bag last year. It’s a generous dk and very soft with a fair amount of give. I’ve tried fixed bands before but they never seem to fit well and through use they stretch a bit more until they end up pretty useless. So this knotted version is a much better design (on the makeandocrew website). I can’t stand hair blowing in my face in the garden crocheting or on dog walks so mine has been in almost constant use since I made it.

I adjusted the stitch counts and length to make a smaller version for my niece who is three. I used a child head size chart as a rough guide. A day or two after I posted my brother messaged a photo and I was really chuffed that it fitted and looked lovely too. I remember my two were polar opposites with headwear. E refused to wear hats for years even in cold weather and she liked the idea of but in practice didn’t keep hair bands on for long either. J wouldn’t go anywhere without a fireman’s helmet for three whole years. He only stopped wearing it when his head grew too big for it.

I started making the Spun Gold Shawl by Kat Goldin when we arrived in Wales. I carefully packed half a dozen projects so that I’d be set for whatever I was in the mood for and ironically it was this caked ball of a random dye lot 4 ply purchased at the Leeds Wool Festival that I threw in at the last minute that ended up being the chosen one! M gets quite involved in crochet discussions mainly because I don’t have anyone else to talk to about such things, at least not in person. I wondered aloud what colour this yarn could be called if it wasn’t called ‘Sun of Jupiter’ and that started the great moss versus lichen debate. In the end I found an amazing photograph of lichen that matched the yarn almost perfectly. I probably could have found a moss one too but I always associate moss with a much darker green.

The yarn was really enjoyable to work with, I know it sounds completely bonkers but there’s something quite special about sitting in amongst fields of sheep, working with pure wool on your hook and marvelling at how amazing these creatures and their coats are. I wished I’d packed my sheep breed book because there were some strange looking sheep with short legs, a very short neck and quite a large head. I still haven’t found out what they might be.

I kept well out of the sun on the day I worked the final half of the spun gold shawl in the garden. I just had a feeling the dye, being natural, would fade easily. I pinned it out on my foam mats, sprayed it lightly with Febreze and left it overnight. The next morning when I unpinned it I could see straight away that the top was much lighter than it had been but the underside was the same. I can only assume it didn’t like Febreze or just moisture. I’m not too worried because I chose this particular yarn rather than a very bright sunny yellow that I had in 4 ply too because I like the faded rustic look. Obviously it has been folded carefully and packed away in a dark cotton bag until the weather turns cooler.

Turmeric

The weeks are certainly whizzing by again. M has been away this week and as usual something to do with the house went wrong. Sometimes it’s the boiler, sometimes it’s a major appliance and this time it was the internet hub. It’s frustrating not being able to make phone calls myself at times like these but eventually J made the call to BT and fully confessed he was not the house owner. I was surprised they even spoke to him, we’ve had years of phone calls for various reasons and they go something like…

I’d like to renew my wife’s car insurance please.

We need to speak to your wife then.

You can’t, she’s deaf.

She’s dead, oh I’m so sorry to hear that.

No she’s not dead, she’s deaf, and she would like her car to be insured.

Well can she speak?

Yes she can.

Well can we speak to her?

No you can’t because she can’t hear you.

This is a very familiar scenario and unbelievably demeaning when M has to pass the phone over and I have to say that yes, I am alive and no I can’t hear you, but yes I give permission for my husband to arrange my car insurance. Things have improved but only in the sense that I do most things online these days. The stuff that can’t be dealt with online causes friction because M gets quite cross at blatant discrimination, while I would just rather get the matter over and done with.

I once needed to cancel a car insurance policy, I can’t remember why. M made the phone call and there was a refund due. He did the usual explanation for why I couldn’t take the call and a few days later we received a cheque made out to ‘the estate of…’ There’s a man at my local bank that still finds it funny to say, oh you’re the dead one! Come to think of it there’s a poor chap who works for a call centre in India who thinks I’m dead too. He was most upset at the time when he spoke to my Mother.

J handled the BT call extremely well and a new hub arrived today. It hasn’t fixed the problem totally but we have managed to get a stable connection at the main socket which is unfortunately in the kitchen. Cables will need to be examined. That’ll have to be a man job. I’m otherwise engaged as a landscape gardener.

Our garden is still a shambles but today I hacked back the wild and encroaching honeysuckle and ivy that had grown completely over our side path. In a nutshell you had to be two foot high to be able to walk under it. I pushed the mower through it all the day before and vowed that the honeysuckle would be next for the chop. I know it seems criminal to cut something back that is in flower and smells wonderful but believe me there is a very long six foot high wall of it left. I put a few stems in water in the kitchen and it was quite overpowering.

It’s such a novelty walking down that path now without being attacked by climbers. I wonder what the dogs think too because on wet mornings they got quite wet just walking down this path on their way to the garden. Not to mention that underneath it all I found a discarded watering can, a pickaxe (don’t even ask) and a completely unwound and tangled hosepipe. I don’t know who was responsible for all of that but I could hazard a guess.

Before M went away on Sunday he gave me a hand with the turmeric dyeing. I think he thought, kitchen, saucepans, Juanita, not a good combination. Anyway, it was helpful because two heads are usually better than one. I had two balls of white cotton in my supplies, neither had a ball band. I made them into hanks and tied them with acrylic yarn. For the first one we just dipped one half in and simmered for ten minutes, then left it to soak for a further half an hour but with the heat off. I’d read that turmeric has a sort of reverse psychology in that the longer you leave it the paler your result. This didn’t happen with the second hank. We dipped a third as before and then a third with five minutes simmering and five minutes soaking with the heat off. The latter third produced a slightly paler yellow but not hugely different.

Rinsing took a while. I got them to the run clear stage, let them hang over the sink, went for a dog walk and came back and rinsed then again, yet more yellow come out. I rinsed a third and final time and then I was able to hang them outside.

As soon as they were dry I made the granny cluster plant hanger pictured. I wasn’t sure this showed off the pattern in the yarn well enough so I started to make circular placemats but the first one morphed into a bowl because I like bowls. It’s fairly stiff but I could have gone down a hook size to make it stiffer. I’m not sure what it will house yet but it’s a cheerful thing to see on my seventies sideboard for now. When I messaged M a photo to show him how the turmeric cotton worked up he asked me if I was going to weave all the ends in and he wasn’t joking! At least he knew enough about crochet to know that it was a possibility! I said it was a design thing. It took bloody ages!

I’ve really been enjoying my dog walks lately. Dogs have this wonderful ability to cheer you up just by bouncing through long grass and looking so grateful to be alive. We even went out quite late one evening when the sun was so warm it would have been a waste not to. It was pretty quiet and remote but too good to pass up. When the sun has been hot all day and lasts well into the evening you get the most amazing smell of the countryside. I may not be a good wine taster (most of it tastes ok to me) but I can really pick out individual contributors to that warm meadow smell. I think I’ve said before that I used to cycle a lot growing up in Sussex and I’d always end up lying on my back in a quiet field or meadow with my bike chucked down in the hedge, watching clouds roll by or reading a good book. That warm meadow smell takes me right back to those days.

Other crochet projects have been happening too. Plenty in fact. A mystery crochet along (mcal) started this week and I’m having to get to grips with Facebook which I’ve always disliked. Thankfully there are a lot of participants on Instagram too and it’s been fascinating seeing all the colour choices and mistakes too. I certainly couldn’t have taken part a couple of years ago. There’s an awful lot of small tips that you need to know. This is the useful thing about it being a cal, anyone who needs help is getting it. I may well need help too but part one has gone smoothly so far. I don’t make very much in four ply if I can help it but lately I’ve made the fern shawl for Mum, I have the Spun Gold shawl on the go with four ply and now this cal shawl. I must say, I’m finally understanding what all the fuss is about and why the wool festival was so full of sock yarn. A hank goes a long way and for crochet items it’s excellent for drape. My cal yarn is merino sock yarn and it’s extremely nice to work with.

I think my weekend may well bring more of the same mixture of dog walking, garden taming, crochet and getting away with as little cooking as possible. Rather out of the blue one day this week J offered to cook dinner. Eventually it became clear that he’d been thinking about university (over a year away yet) and didn’t want to look like an idiot who couldn’t boil an egg. Well the egg lesson hasn’t happened yet but the pasta lesson has. We were a bit low on tasty supplies on this particular day so I thought it best to teach him about store cupboard ingredients, isn’t that what Nigella calls them? Only for us, and students, it’s much more basic. Store cupboard pasta and sauces and how to pad them out a bit; basically he chopped up his first green pepper and extra tomatoes and we softened them in a separate pan while the pasta was simmering before adding the sauce. A bit of grated cheese and Bob’s your uncle. It tasted pretty good. If I remember rightly he’s already way ahead of the level of chef I was at his age!

Festival

It was lovely to attend a wool festival with my daughter this year. We did the usual arts and crafts when she and her brother were smaller and she did take to knitting for a while but I was taken by surprise when she wanted to buy a simple shawl kit on our visit to Loop, she’s had the bug ever since. I think it probably helps that she has a bit of a passion for woolly jumpers.

I’m back home after my three day visit to Leeds and she has an inset day; every now and then I receive a messaged photo of her progress with her first knitted jumper. She’s following a simple pattern from the book I bought her when we visited Baa Ram Ewe. Whilst she’s keen to try new stitches and new techniques for now she can see the benefits of just having a simple project on the go for those snatches of time in between her paperwork and placement teaching.

We both went to the wool festival with yarn requirements for specific patterns in mind. I had just signed up for the mystery crochet along by The Crochet Project and the yarn requirements were released on the morning of the festival. I sent the screenshot to my phone which proved handy because I’d forgotten the yardage’s by the time we got there! I also wanted to look out for a skein of something suitable for one of their other simple shawls, the Spun Gold Shawl which I’d purchased a while back but hadn’t come across any arty skeins since. I also had a hankering for something that reminded me of jeans and something speckled, I found both of those features in the skein I bought from Beehive Yarns and I’m just hoping it’ll look ok for the mcal. Although there was a lot of sock yarn and mini skeins to choose from I also found what I was looking for from the same seller with the four minis I needed too. It was an unusually quick and decisive purchase for me, not least because it was so busy and yarn was selling very fast indeed!

The golden mustard skein is by Phileas Yarns and although it’s an obvious choice for the Spun Gold Shawl I love the colour and will enjoy working with it. I’ve wound all my purchases into cakes. The mystery cal yarn is ready and waiting in that lovely little project bag I found at the festival, made with various indigo dyed, batik, cotton print etc patches and lined with calico which makes it sit nicely without flopping. It’s an ideal size for a shawl project.

I did buy some inexpensive merino tops so that I can try spinning with something a little more processed. I’ve been advised to pre draft it which I will do my best with but I’m still feeling like a complete novice so I’ll be amazed if I manage to turn them into yarn.

The day before and the day after the festival were nice dry days and typically the actual day was pretty wet. It wasn’t heavy rain though so we didn’t mind too much. It was so humid and the building, which was an old textiles mill didn’t seem to have enough windows to let air flow through so I found myself wondering about those poor young mill girls who would have worked long hours for little pay in hot and noisy conditions. You can see the size of the pane that actually opens in one of the photo’s I took. The lighting was all a bit Victorian in places too, not ideal for the traders who were of course all selling products whose colours needed to be shown off properly.

We worked our way through the narrow spaces where the stallholders were set up and by midday or so we had found the travelling gin bar. It was early but boy did we ever need refreshments after doing battle in those confined spaces! I’m not sure whether to be proud or shy about the fact that we were the gin van’s first customers. E wasn’t wrong when she told the chap not to worry because we were going back in and when they saw her glass of cool bubbling prosecco and my colourful pimms they’d be out like a shot! We got stopped by a gaggle of husbands who were most animated when they realised there was a bar! To be honest I’m a cheap date these days so everything seemed much more fun on our second round!

M is hopeful that his latest case will wrap up by the end of this week. With that in mind and before the next assignment starts we have booked a few days away. It’s somewhere we’ve been before but the beauty in that is that we don’t feel we have to rush around sightseeing and wasting time trying to find where to buy food or eat out. M enjoys reading so hopefully he will be able to switch off and enjoy the views, while I’m hoping the weather will be warm enough to sit outside and crochet. Naturally an agreement about the journey and the number of times he is allowed to complain about other drivers (zero) needs to be in place before we set off!