Dyeing

Last month we travelled down to my native Sussex so that I could attend a natural dyeing workshop. Once upon a time I’d have happily driven myself but these days long periods of driving just aren’t feasible. I caught M in a good mood and he was happy to make a short break of it by having lunch on the way, staying overnight and travelling back after the workshop. He had plenty of work to do to kill the time and installed himself in the lobby of the hotel with WiFi, lunch, newspapers, coffee, his laptop.

Attending a group event of any sort is completely out of my comfort zone. A short time is not enough time to be able to tune into each persons distinct lip patterns, so the best I can hope for is to just get by without making myself look stupid. I chose my home county because I don’t have to work quite so hard to figure out the many regional accents I come across living in Lincolnshire. I’m always very optimistic when I do something like this but the reality is that it’s a massive pain in the neck not being aware of when people speak let alone what they are saying. I used to hide the problem and bluff but that is tiring, soul destroying and slightly pointless. It is what it is, in general life goes on and I don’t give it a second thought.

Anyway, problems aside, I had a great day. It was relaxed and easy to keep up by the very visual nature of it all. I knew this would become a passion the minute we set off with a basket and snips to collect some hedgerow plants for our dye baths. Even though I did every sport imaginable when I was younger, walking is the one thing that creates that feeling you get when you’re deeply immersed in a good book. Dogs bouncing around and diving into anything vaguely resembling a stream just adds to the joy.

The workshops are run by Mother/Daughter enterprise Deborah and Gala, both equally lovely, interesting and inspiring (details on my Instagram posts) or have a look at plawhatchfarm.co.uk. If I hadn’t already studied my one and only natural dyeing book over and over I think I’d have struggled to keep up. I had all the basic facts at my disposal but it seemed too overwhelming to contemplate doing at home. At the end of the day, as I got in the car, I said to M, it was like suddenly being able to understand Egyptian hieroglyphics!

We made four dye baths; nettle, bracken, madder and silver birch leaf. With mini skeins dyed in each we also had a chance to experiment with modifiers to produce a further range of colours. The workshop yarns are above in the first photo. I made them up into a small drawstring bag to remember the day by. I also attached the leftover scraps to a couple of postcards. One postcard has been placed out of daylight and the other taped to a sunny window. Several weeks on only the madder exhaust has faded from pink to beige which was expected.

I wasted no time in rearranging the bookshelf in our kitchen to hold jars, pans, sieves, bowls etc. By day I’ve been brewing readily available dye matter from our wild and unmanaged garden hedgerows (I knew all that ‘ungardening’ would pay off one day!) and by night trying to read up on plants. I’m lucky enough to know someone who totally gets natural dyeing and she kindly popped a couple of books in the post the same day I mentioned I was interested. I must photograph some of the beautiful illustrations in one of them for my next post. I’ve been so obsessed I’ve been carrying them with me everywhere. Ideal for coffee dates with M and his phone.

That same week in May had less fortunate events but I’ll also save that for another post. Jake has a few more exams to go before he is finally a school leaver. A Levels have been hard work and he’s done well to keep his cool and get on with it, despite everything. E had a bit of a dramatic end to her academic year too but she’s home for summer now and I’m really looking forward to some sunshine so that we can sit outside, have the odd barbecue, take the dogs to the lake and most importantly move my natural dyeing operation outside! Both E and J enter the kitchen with t shirts pulled up over their noses complaining loudly but laughing too. I won’t repeat what they think some of it smells like.

In between the rainy days we’ve had some good weather. Summer evenings in the twenties are the best. Who could possibly watch tv on an evening like that? Not me. Riley is probably only midway through his six month advised knee rest period, but try telling a Springer Spaniel that. We tried to stick to a short walk but he rolled in fox poo within minutes of setting off which meant walking much further to a deeper stream to wash it off. I quickly discovered that bending down to collect a few nettle tops would be an open invitation to them both to gather round and stick their wet faces in mine to ask what was going on.

I’ve also been planting anything from seed that wasn’t too late in the season to start. Madder was probably a little late but I’m keeping my fingers crossed, it takes a few years before they will be usable. With J’s help I dragged four unused railway sleepers from behind the kids treehouse all the way down to where the lawn starts for a raised bed. It won’t be very raised at all but the sleepers are handy to sit on whilst tending plants at least. I did the same for where I grow gooseberries, raspberries and a few herbs but with shorter sleepers. M had to build small picket fence panels to keep the dogs from digging everything back up so he will have to do the same for my woad and madder. It won’t be pretty but it’ll be functional and that’s fine by me. With reclaimed wood and containers we’ve started off a million Marigolds and some Coreopsis. I’ve given Mum some indigo seeds to look after in her greenhouse.

One of the first plants I tried after the workshop was Weld. We had seeds lined up but I’m not sure I need to bother with such a plentiful supply at local building sites. They like disturbed ground and our garden is very undisturbed! I gathered only enough to make one dye bath. A week later when more of the flowers were out and ideal for the dye bath the builders decided to get a huge hacking tractor thing and mow the whole lot down! They even collected the hacked down weeds and grass! Luckily I have a husband who doesn’t mind sweet talking builders into allowing him inside the fenced off site to access a big untouched patch and fill a basket with enough to dry for the winter! Since I took that photo of the drying Weld I’ve bundled up some much larger pieces with the flower heads intact.

I’ve started a dyer’s journal to record my dyeing sessions and recipes. I get carried away with the process of it all and with skeins drying here and there I completely forget which dye baths created which. Eventually I think I might get organised enough to take photos as I go and record some of the sessions here. For now though I’m actually concentrating far too much on what I’m doing!

When I can tear myself away from the dye pots I’m going to find some suitable crochet patterns to try these plant dyed yarns out. One of the bases I’ve been trying out should cope with a thirty degree wash cycle although normally I would still wash woollens by hand. So it’ll be a few simple makes only while I see how they perform. I previously said that slow living wasn’t something you could achieve overnight but rather a journey to the level that suits you. A few years ago I couldn’t have imagined ever being able to take a sheep fleece, process it, spin it, dye it naturally with plants and make it into something useful. Admittedly my spinning needs more practice but I’m finally where I want to be, close to nature, creating something from natural materials.

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Spring

Putting all the evidence together I am convinced that we are born with most of our tastes and ways already in place. According to family observations I have never liked pink, frills and dresses and that goes right back to the beginning. Lately though I wonder whether an inbuilt need for solitary time was also in place from the very beginning or whether that’s just something you crave when life has been busy for a while. Today is the first such moment for what seems like a very long time. E is back at uni, J is out with friends and M is working somewhere roughly 125 miles away.

We’ve had a busy month or two. House selling has been a priority. Fingers crossed all is going ok so far. E has been home from uni and we’ve done all sorts including buying a second hand bike from an RAF base using a secret password to get in and visiting the moon. The latter was a six metre wide affair at the local museum. I wasn’t that excited to be dragged along but found it quite mesmerising once in this darkened room trying to figure out where the ‘invisible’ wires suspending it in mid air were.

Somewhere amongst of all this excitement E decided she would like a pink and slightly fluffy cardigan. Leader of the pac yarn was chosen from Hobbycraft and the Bobble Heart Cardigan pattern from a previous issue of Mollie Makes. I’m not going to lie, this much pink has been a challenge to see through. It will look amazing on her but I will be glad not to be working on pink once it’s finished.

Meanwhile I’m having a crisis of confidence with another crochet cardigan. I’ve got the pattern size guide and the intended four year old recipient’s measurements but I think I’ve worked it up a bit too close to the latter. It’s only a matter of days now until they travel North for a visit so I’ll be able to try the one sleeve garment on her and see how it’s working out size wise. I’ve only been using dk from stash so if it’s no good it’s no big deal, we’ll call it a useful practice run. The pattern is from The Crochet Project’s latest book called Pick and Mix. I love the concept of choosing a colour work stitch and a main body stitch in order to customise a garment to your taste. I chose the ‘getting Ziggy’ colour work option for the yoke and a simple offset half treble for the main body. I would definitely choose the main body stitch for an adult version in the future, it works into spaces which means it is pretty quick.

The last month has been a blur so I’m not quite sure how I managed to whip up a modified version of the Fronds Shawl for my niece and start a full size one too. I think I started the adult one first to see if I could finally use up that annoying cake of yarn that just didn’t seem to feel nice for anything else. It’s got four fine threads that all have a mind of their own and ugh, I’d never buy it again. I dug out the first Fronds I made and wore it out and about for a few days and eventually conceded that I would never be the asymmetrical shawl type of person. I frogged the new version and started again using the same adjustments I used to make little E’s colourful one. In a nutshell it increases more gradually to give a shallower depth. When I’ve got roughly half of the cake left I plan to start decreasing in the same way for a symmetrical result. It worked nicely for little E’s so fingers crossed it works out for the ‘grown up’ version too!

At some stage before E came home from uni we had a few days that were mild and sunny from early in the morning. M had been leaving at six a.m. and if he turns lights on and jogs the bed it is as good as alarm clocks going off for me. He can make as much noise as he likes without lights and jogging the bed and I will sleep on happily undisturbed for hours. So, I had a spell of being up and about a bit earlier than usual and on one of those mornings I put my crochet fisherman Aran jumper on over my red tartan flannelette pj trousers, made a large mug of coffee and decided to go for a walk up the garden and into the field in my wellies. We still have a building site for 31 houses in the side field but what you can’t hear can’t hurt you so I decided to ignore their very existence. Harvey’s shoulder injury is playing up in his old age and Riley seems prone to sprains most probably because he’s not as well built and sturdy as he should be for a Springer. So they were both limping that week and not up to our usual 3, 4 or 5 mile hikes. If we didn’t have builders to one side and a grumpy, nosey old man who hates the dogs to the other I think I would take my coffee up the garden more often. The field was full of fresh smells, dew, birds, insects, buds everywhere. The sky was an incredible blue. Definitely worth being up at 7am for.

I’m still longing to get back into our usual walking routine but events seem to be conspiring against us. I had an ordinary cold that was into its second week before suddenly turning into something much worse and knocking me right off my feet. I very rarely stop and rest for a cold. In fact there is something nice about wrapping up and taking the dogs out regardless, as if I’m beating it. This time though it was some kind of viral chest infection thing and with just a hoarse whisper I said to M, ‘I don’t think I’ll be getting up today’. He said, ‘God no, it doesn’t bloody sound like it!’ and went out to get cough mixture, flu capsules and Lucozade! Unfortunately it didn’t stop anyone leaving me to sleep all day and I can only assume I didn’t have the necessary strength to shout go away when I was asked where the salt was, where’s my blue shirt… do I look like I give a —- where they are!? The annoying thing about the salt was that not only was I finally in a deep sleep, the damn salt was eye level in the food cupboard! Not to mention that we have seven different types of course.

I’ve been slowly recovering but it’s taken a lot longer than I’d like. My rib cage has been incredibly sore and I’m absolutely wiped out by 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I know better than to do too much too soon so I’m still pacing myself. There’s so much to be getting on with. I have a tin of dark grey chalk paint ready and waiting to transform an old chest of drawers. I may well finally get round to painting our four dining room chairs the same colour if it’s a nice shade. I think it’s called charcoal. We have plans to completely gut the dining room and replace the bulky cupboards down one side with just rustic open shelving. There’s already bookcases either side of the double entrance into the conservatory but it seems we can never have enough book shelf space. Open shelves force you to be organised and tidy whereas cupboards, here, seem to be for shoving it all in never to be seen again. There’s the added bonus that our shower leak may have ruined the wall behind these cupboards so that’s our main reason for tackling the whole room. We need a new shower too. I see all these jobs as potential camper van funds being spent but that’s life I guess.

We’ve started to discuss ideas for a short break in October on the basis that it would be nice to have something booked ahead for once. It’s a round number birthday for me and although that’s depressing in itself it’s also an excuse to choose something I really would enjoy. I need to do battle with M’s love of creating surprises. I absolutely do not like surprises, they are never really what you’d choose yourself. I’ve already mentioned that I’d like somewhere completely off the beaten track and he’s already asked me why on earth I’d want that. This chat happened on a car journey and naturally a little voice piped up in the back, God Dad, you really don’t know Mum after all these years! So let’s just say I may have to convince him accordingly. Barn, cottage, hut, I’m not fussy as long as it has a fire, scenery and no human neighbours for miles. Sheep neighbours are fine!

Pace

No I haven’t suddenly had carpal tunnel surgery and whipped up a little hand knit Icelandic number! I wish I could say it was all my own work but I did move pretty quickly when I spotted it on a vintage rail in Brighton! I’ve been watching the second series of Trapped set in Iceland and there are quite a few of these in various patterns, both cardigan and jumper. They seem to be quite expensive to buy new so I think this one was a bit of a steal for £10. I’ve given it to E on account of her feeling the cold quite easily. She’s in her second year at uni and having moved from halls to a house with a fixed bill deal was quite surprised to find they’d used nearly all their annual allowance in just a few months. The radiators have been turned down and appliances unplugged. There was talk of candlelight but with three boys and three PlayStations on 24/7 I think it’s obvious where the electricity allowance is going!

Brighton wasn’t on the agenda for our five day getaway. As is usual with all our time away it was combined with jobs for M in various parts of the country. Knowing that we’d be clocking up the miles either side of his free days I suggested we just stay close to the hotel we’d chosen for the trip. M had other ideas though and I must admit it is quite nice to see him go from ‘very reluctant to be in the South at all’ to ‘let’s go to Rye again, let’s go to Brighton again, let’s sit on the balcony at the De La Warr Pavilion again…’

It was only a flying visit and we headed for the same places we enjoyed last time. A coffee place with a great atmosphere and great coffee, which just happens to be a short walk from a very cool yarn shop called Yak. I visit many yarn shops because M’s job is all over the country and they vary hugely. I think they must be a blend of stock that is mainly commercially sensible and also partly just the owner’s taste. Yak is pretty much on my wavelength so it isn’t difficult to spend a bit each time we go! They also stock things like PomPom magazine and The Crochet Project booklets. which I don’t get to see very often.

We took the scenic drive home and the meandering water pic you can see above is part of the Seven Sisters Country Park. I’d have loved to have parked up and gone for a hike but it wasn’t something M could have done so I’m hoping I can return in the summer with a dog or two and negotiate leaving M in the car with coffee.

I’ve been subconsciously working on the basis that the less you talk the more likely it is that you’ll be heard. I’m not sure it works well with M but he certainly heard the silence while I took in the sea, the views, the hills and the forests and said he understood why I might be sad when we got home. I honestly think I’m coming to terms with Lincolnshire but I can’t face the idea of living there forever.

Shortly before our trip South we tried to find a place for coffee in the car with a view. It’s surprisingly tricky. There are hills but they aren’t local. We settled for a car park overlooking a small reservoir. I found it incredibly funny that this was the best we could do for a viewpoint and even M thought it was pathetic but we got the Kelly Kettle out, boiled water in no time thanks to the wind and retreated back into the warmth of the car to drink our tea. When the fog started to clear and the sun arrived it didn’t actually matter where we were. I crocheted a coaster for E (a request) and M did some invoices and had it not been for the large amount of tea and the lack of a wc we’d have stayed a lot longer.

There has been some crochet going in but it doesn’t seem like very much or very often. I had a hankering for a proper granny square cardigan / jacket type thing and did plenty of browsing online to see if what I had in mind was already out there. It wasn’t but it did help decide what I didn’t want. I eventually settled on a square that looks vaguely like a sunflower but that wasn’t really the intention. I’m doing plenty of squares without the yellow clusters but I think in the end it will probably look like sunflowers anyway. I can live with that. I’m using my Irish yarn which was intended for something else but I think I will wear this jacket a lot once it’s made. I like big knits for wearing in the house and when a coat is too much for outside but an average jumper isn’t enough.

I’m less than half way trough the number of squares required and I’ve abandoned the end weaving in part after twelve squares but I’m sure I will find the mood strikes me one evening and I’ll have a whole weaving in session. I did say on Instagram, ‘am I even a crocheter if I don’t own a granny square cardigan?’ which some found amusing, but it’s true isn’t it? Such a classic, every crocheter should own one.

In pretty similar colours I made a granny cowl as a quick, stash using up project. I made the linen stitch border one evening whilst watching a Jason Statham film. Not my usual choice but I’m always open minded when M suggests a film and it was pretty gripping (and cheesy too). Somehow I managed to crochet the border a bit tight and it wouldn’t sit flat nicely no matter how much I tugged it into shape. If I’d checked my work as I went and in good light I think I’d have spotted the problem, as it was I had to frog rows of fluffy yarn and one colour rows and chuck all that yarn away. When I redid the border with a bigger hook it was yarn chicken all the way! It was a nice quick make but with lots of ends, well worth the hassle of weaving in though.

Behind the scenes there have been lots of trips over to my old house. There have been a million trips to B&Q (or B and bloody Q as I like to call it!). A few more trips are required and then the for sale sign will be going up. This was supposed to be the year of getting things done to the house we live in but that’s all been shelved for now, though I am itching to blitz the hall with paint again and get M to build a new shoe rack. Currently the shoes are far too accessible for the dogs who like to greet anyone who comes to the house with a random piece of stolen footwear!

The pace this year was supposed to be slow and thoughtful and funnily enough it still seems that way in between the frantic DIY sessions and travel. Prioritising has long been a favourite word. In a nutshell that means coffee first and then everything else afterwards. We found a new coffee shop in Hastings this visit. We’ve been regular visitors to Hanushka Coffee in the Old Town for a while now and we were quite pleased to see they’d opened a second one in my childhood shoe shop. Another customer remembered the stock room being down the spiral staircase where they disappeared to find whatever they had in your size…usually a choice of two styles. It wasn’t a happy experience, it was, however, always an amazing building. As with the Old Town cafe the walls are lined with books. They aren’t for sale but people seem to read and then leave them anyway. M was very happy with the Sunday newspapers and crosswords while I watched the world go by.

A little bit of that contemplative time was spent remembering how much I used to enjoy photography. I would cycle the seven miles from home to Hastings Old Town and take typical photo’s of fishing huts, groynes, seafood shacks etc. The best bit was developing my black and white films at home inside a huge wardrobe and in my bedroom sink. I can’t remember what I used as blackout material for the window but I do remember a ‘do not enter’ sign I made for the door. It was only ever a hobby but the skills were later useful for a week spent with the local paper and the one and only photographer they had at the time. He was a great guy to shadow for the week but what it really taught me is that you need an outgoing, bolshy and confident personality to get the photo’s you need for press photography; the polar opposite to what I was comfortable with. Now that E has long since finished her A Level in Photography I’ve dug out her proper cameras and I’ve been trying to familiarise myself with the DSLR format. I don’t want to get into anything too seriously but I like the idea of taking slightly better quality images than my phone is capable of.

Today I seem to have a rare day off from loading the dogs into the boot of my car, driving a few miles down single track lanes, negotiating tractors, agricultural lorries and groups of Lycra clad bottoms on bikes. Not to mention shouting at Riley every time he drops his shoulder into a fresh fox poo for a good old roll around. Shouting makes no difference whatsoever. Then traipsing round many fields never quite getting the amount of clothing right for the weather and having to put up with dodgy cartilage in my right knee. Loading the dogs back up into the boot where they growl under their breaths at each other, only on the way home, for some strange reason. Shower with Riley. Clean up the flooded bathroom (unavoidable) and collapse with a hot coffee. Yep, I’m secretly glad they are both out of action today! Harvey’s long term muscle injury has good days and bad days. Riley developed a mysterious limp on the way back from the last walk, he’s been known to fake it when I pack a suitcase so we’re never sure. Meanwhile I walked six and a half miles round a large city with castle walls and riverside walk yesterday and my knee is suggesting that crochet would be quite satisfactory today. There’s the small matter of having to perform a housework miracle first. It’s always a bit worrying when a new ‘friend’ has been invited to dinner. I told J that I can’t do miracles and that we have two permanently muddy dogs so the kitchen floor is never going to sparkle! He seemed more concerned about M being home in time to cook his special chicken and pea risotto. Typical.

Coasters

I’ve had a request for the pattern for these simple coasters and whilst it’s easy for some to knock up a simple circle, it often saves time to follow a quick guide. As always with crochet there are some little things that help make a neater join or finish.

I have used a coarse unknown brand yarn thrifted years ago, it was quite tough to work with but ideal for coasters. Most yarns would work but it might be useful to experiment first if you’re making a set for someone.

The yarn I’ve used is roughly dk weight and I wanted a tight fabric so I’ve used a 4mm hook. 4.5mm might have been a tad easier on the hands.

U.K. terms

Start with a magic circle (picture 3) and chain 2 (does not count as a stitch).

Round 1. Into the circle make 12 htr’s and join with a slip stitch to the top of the first htr (not the chain 2).

Round 2. Ch2. 2htr in each stitch around, join as before.

[check your stitch count here, you should have 24 stitches. It’s important to ignore the ch2 at the start of every round and don’t count it as a stitch. With the joining slip stitch into the first htr it should push the ch2 slightly behind your work and therefore create a neat join.]

Round 3. Ch2. *2htr in next st, 1htr in next st* repeat from *to* around, slip stitch as before. (36sts)

Round 4. Ch2. *2htr in next st, 1htr in each of the next 2sts* repeat from *to* around, slip stitch as before.

Round 5. Ch2. *2htr in next st, 1htr in each of next 3sts* repeat from *to* around, slip stitch as before.

Round 6. Ch1. Crab stitch in dc around (picture 6) and slip stitch to join.

Weave in ends. If necessary, block or press with a cool iron.

(In rounds 3-5, you are simply increasing the number of single htr’s between 2htr in the same stitch, using this formula you can make a whole place mat too!)

Although not terribly exciting, this is the ultimate simple travel project. There’s nothing worse than a traffic jam and not having your crochet with you. One random ball of yarn and a spare 4mm hook has now been tucked into my glove compartment just in case!

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!

Contest

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.