Upton House & Garden 

Well hello! I know, it’s been a while… I never really do much crochet or knitting during the summer, but this year I haven’t sewn yet either. I thought you might be interested to see somewhere I recently visited and found fascinating. I admit there are a lot of typewriter photos, I just loved them!

Upton House and Gardens in Warwickshire, is a National Trust Property with a current exhibition called: Banking for Victory. It once belonged to Lord Bearstead, whose father founded Shell Oil. (More information here.) In 1939 the family moved out of the house and the family bank relocated from London, for the duration of the Second World War. Mary Berry opened this exhibition last Autumn. I finally got around to visiting earlier this month.

This is the film tent with a little introductory film to the exhibition…      



The exhibition is superb. The great thing is that the NT do not want you to treat it as a museum, you are actively encouraged to open drawers, sit on chairs and sofas and basically be the nosy Parker that I you always want to be, but feel you can’t in most NT properties. Needless to say I sat and typed a paragraph at one of the typewriters, what no spell check? I opened some filing cabinets, rifled through the in/out trays and read some correspondence, read some Wartime newspapers and sat in the Bank Manger’s chair!

The attention to detail in the house is fantastic. For example: there are toothbrushes and hairbrushes in the dormitories, and much more, open magazines and knitting which seem to have been put down for a minute in the staff room, postcards displayed from local villages and towns and maps of cycle routes.

The bank staff left families and friends in London to live and work at Upton. It seems that they had a ‘good war’ living in the relative safety of the countryside, but lived with guilt knowing their loved ones were in danger and suffering in the war-torn city.

This doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to me, but different times perhaps?!

Knitting! I found knitting!

The project is something you can become involved in, if you fancy. See here for details. You have until 30th September deadline if you want to send some bunting. What really impressed me, while I knitted a bunt (is this the singular of bunting?!) and chatted to one of the organisers is that at the end the finished triangles will be stitched together to make blankets for charity. What a great idea and a practical use of the knitting at the end. I often wonder what becomes of things after yarn bombs and record attempts. I didn’t take a pic of my knitting. I’m not sure why, but you really didn’t miss much!

Today was a return visit to Upton as it poured after the tour around the house, so the gardens had to wait. I’m glad actually as the herbaceous border is now stunning with all the sun we’re enjoying. It was a lovely hot day. I’ll post those pictures soon.

Are you crafty during the summer, or more like me?

Yarn Along 


I’ve been enjoying picking up my ripple again, it’s been a while since it had any attention. I’ve got 3 new crochet mags (see here)  and I think they might have kick started my crojo, as I hoped.  I’ve got one of those really annoying Summer viruses where it completely knocks the stuffing out of you. You expect them in the Winter and embrace soup, duvet days and crappy tv, but not when the sun shines. But an upside is wanting to do nothing more demanding than crochet a few rows of ripple. 

One more moan then I’ll hush: I really didn’t know what I fancied for dinner last night, the only thing I could think of was soup. So I took a lot of care to make a nice spicy lentil, tomato and bacon one. I used onion, celery, carrot and courgette as I figured lots of healthy veggies might help. Should I have bothered? Could I taste it? Nope. Not one bit. No whiff of taste or smell. I really could have just eaten oats and hot water.  (Horrid porridge!) 

Crochet and Glastonbury highlights are helping. I’m listening and sort of watching  Adele as I type this, she’s good – of course she’s good, it’s Adele – but Coldplay were amazing. 

Book wise this week my custard brain just needs something easy and soothing; so I’ve been listening to A Breath of French Air, the second of the Pop Larkin series by H.E Bates. I really enjoyed listening to The Darling Buds of May recently, it has been years since I first read it. Philip Franks played Charlie in the tv series and he does a surprisingly good job of narrating, even the female characters. It’s one of several books I’ve got on the go, along with short stories and a couple of non-fiction books. 

I’m joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along once again. I really enjoy seeing what else others are reading, as much as what they’re making. Maybe even more. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t read. 

Mind Games & Lobsters

I did crochet some mini hexagons last night while sitting in the conservatory. Somehow I knew that writing about my lacking crojo, in yesterday’s blog post, would help. I made a few half hexies, counted how many more I needed – it was only 14! So did 5 more, before heading out for cheese and red wine. 

The hexies were too pretty to abandon, but I knew fairly early on that I was not going to continue with the planned hexie a day project. I reckon this was along with everyone else who started with a burst of enthusiasm around New Year’s Day 2015…! We all gradually realised that even with 365 hexagons you’d end up with a relatively tiny piece of fabric. I don’t really go for wooly cushions (apart from seeing this one on Instagram earlier. I’m loving the fishes so might be looking for the new Inside Crochet soon.)

This is my new audio book. I’m not far into it and it’s a very long one, but is already shaping up to be quite a gripping mystery. The  narrator is Robert Slade who did a superb job with Etta and Otto and Russell and James. When that was finished I actually felt bereft for a few days, it was partly the book but mostly I realised I was missing the narrator. Audible recommended Harry Q to me and when I realised it was Mr Slade, I clicked ‘buy’ immediately.

We went swimming again this morning. No more handstands, but there was lots of throwing, swimming and diving down for the locker key, then some actual diving off the pool edge into the deep end. I’d forgotten what a slap an area (technically two) can get if you don’t slide into the water like a knife going into butter…Ouch! 




St Ives was looking particularly pretty yesterday. It was good sitting on the quay watching the lobster fishing boat come into the harbour absolutely surrounded by gulls. We reckon they were throwing leftover bait overboard. My pictures didn’t come out well as I think the gulls were just flying around too fast; they look a whirly blur! The fisherman said the other day they caught a lobster weighing 3.5 kilos. I thought some of these were big, but that’s a monster.


I’m joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along but totally breaking the one photo rule today. Sorry Ginny.

Lately 


  • With a little help from my friend Trish, of Made by Patch blog, I’ve figured out how to crochet a half hexie so I can finally finish the little blanket off. Hurray! I’d worked it out apart from the beginning; where I was crocheting a chain of 4 and slip stitching them together. Ingeniously she chained 4, but then made the first stitch into the first chain made, making the other 3 into a treble – so no lumpy bumpy circle at the bottom in what should be a half. 
  • Cooking king prawn linguine – so delicious! You want to as well? Roast cherry tomatoes with a teaspoon of olive oil and a teaspoon or two of balsamic vinegar. While the linguine is cooking, gently cook the king prawns in another teaspoon of olive oil, some cloves of garlic and red chilli. Top with basil and a shaving of parmesan. What you can’t see is a hungry man with a slight frown on his face and his fork poised, while I make him wait to take a photograph of his dinner!
  • A gorgeous sunny, relaxed Friday with drinks and dinner at Samuel Jones Smoke & Ale House by the river Exe, in Exeter – thoroughly recommended 
  • A return, after about 14 years, to Lanhydrock a National Trust property, near Bodmin in Cornwall. It was just as good as we remembered and still one of the best houses; due to the sheer number of rooms to see. There’s an interesting focus on the upstairs-downstairs lives of the former inhabitants.

I’ve brought my hexies away with me, to deepest sunniest / rainiest Cornwall, but so far they’ve stayed zipped inside my Cath Kidson bag. I think it’s official: I’ve lost my crojo, or my crajo in general. I’m wondering if by putting this out there now it might mean I do some later?! But there are other things I AM doing: walking lots, as usual, visiting the gym to use some of the equipment, doing an Aqua Zumba class and rediscovering my swimming skills (used to be part of a swimming club.) As it was pouring yesterday morning we went to the local leisure centre to swim lengths, then played race and dive for the locker key and I even did a few handstands in the pool. I dread to think what the expression was on the faces of the young lifeguards! I don’t actually care. When I am old I shall wear purple…. (This poem.)

Maybe it’s a goner

A lovely online now offline friend (you know what I mean by that right?) Trish of Made by Patch blog recently won this book in a giveaway by Christine Perry aka Winwick Mum  with a bundle of other goodies, but as a newly minted sock knitter she had already bought a copy. So, she offered this one to me. What a lovely surprise!

I haven’t forgotten my 16 for 2016 list and am still keen to try knitting a pair of socks, but do have a few reservations. I’m not worried about the knitting part, since I know from all the successful pairs I’ve seen posted on Social Media that Christine’s instructions are fabulous. I think you’d have to have a brain of custard to fail. (Watch this space…) It’s whether I would actually wear handmade knitted socks. I don’t think I would out with boots and shoes; they just seem like they’d be too thick. But I can envision myself pulling them on in the chilly evenings to wear at home. Would they become very fluffy walking about on carpets? I already seem to spending quite a bit of time picking up massive bobbles of woollen sock fluff…but that’s another subject, ha! Am I going to get even more electric shocks, the sock yarns seen to have a fairly high nylon count. I already jump and squeal a lot of the time. When I’m in London some days I get a shock every time I touch a handrail. I’ll just have to knit a pair, try them and get back to you.

I was intending to make a cowl from this library bookimg_2857

but the one cable stitch forward or behind was really annoying. It’s me I know, I like knitting but only if it’s not too tedious, but either that one stitch just kept slipping off the cable needle or the whole process felt clunky. If I tried the dropping the stitch method, without using a cable needle, I worried that it was then twisted. Life’s too short and I decided that if I don’t enjoy making something, I stop. Why waste time on something that’s not fun? It’s not as if it was a vital cowl; I have a basket full of them and scarves. For the last few winters they haven’t really been worn. I really miss our heavy white frosts and icy mornings. The winters are noticeably warmer, with wetter milder weather.

If you have an alternative pattern suggestion for a 90 stitch cowl using 6mm needles with a 3-2 rib already complete, please comment below. I won’t frog the knitting for a few days, then it’s a goner!

I’m joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along again.

Taking Stock in May

The buttercups have just opened on the meadow, isn’t it glorious? I spotted a pair of swans with their signets

Making : cooked breakfast on Sunday morning

Cooking : cheese scones, not often but when I do mmmmmm

Drinking : Gin and tonic

Reading : The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin

Wanting : to try knitting socks 
soon

Looking : at all the pretty lacy cow parsley that’s appeared on verges

Lilac flower – oh the smell!

In the bluebell woods with Mum on our annual visit, no deer this time!

Playing : Words with Friends, improving

Deciding :to finish the baby hexagons this week

Wishing : for half hexagon instructions in exactly the same pattern, no brain required

Enjoying : the sunshine

Waiting : for the weekend – the seaside here I come!

Liking : cantaloupe melon

Wondering : what to sew

Windsor. The Rumworth Morris (dancers) of Bolton

Loving : the birdsong

Pondering : the benefits of gym versus no gym

Considering : buying sock knitting needles

Buying: sushi for lunch often lately

Watching : Agent Carter, it’s fun

Hoping : for good Bank Holiday weekend weather

Marvelling : at how fast the birds are emptying the seed feeders

Cringing : at nothing this moment

Needing : the pool timetable, it’s a Google away

Questioning : nothing right now, unusually

Windsor castle and The River Thames

Smelling: my tomato plants

Wearing : shorts at home

Following : BeachHutCook on Instagram

Notcing : trends in recipes

Knowing : we’ve nearly run out of bird seed

Thinking : we’re making it easy for the starlings, nesting nearby, to feed their noisy young

Admiring : some photography on IG

Sorting : things for Ebay

Getting : irritated at bone crunching

Eton Dorney Olympic rowing lake

Bookmarking : recipes and patterns

Coveting : nothing apart from: a beach house, a luxury apartment in London and a round the world first class plane ticket

Disliking : the BREXIT / staying media drama

Opening : rice/couscous/bulghar wheat/ sugar packets which explode over everything

Giggling : at Peter Kay’s Comedy Shuffle

Feeling : annoyed at my seasonal achey knees, why do they do this?!

Snacking : trying mini Babybel Light cheeses

Helping : elderly people by picking up dropped things. Sounds odd? Look out and you’ll see it happens a lot in shops

Hearing : an aeroplane high above, a dog barking, the clicking of mouse

The Taking Stock template is from the marvellous Pip.

Progress 


Well it is progress, although very very slow!

In between putting the sock down and nearly admitting defeat I darned about 3 ends of the baby hexagon piece. And that was the sum total of my crafting for the last week. Do you also sometimes find that a setback can put you off doing anything at all, until you figure out what to do?

Instead of doing a tension check, stupidly being a bit lazy to, I upped to a 4mm hook instead of 3.5mm at the start. I always find my tension comes out tighter than required when I do check it. Yesterday I realised that if the foot fits perfectly then that suggests the tension is right, but halfway through crocheting the gusset the sock was huge on my foot. So I undid what I’d crocheted to the end of the heel piece, counted my stitches three times and went with my hunch. I swopped to a 3.5mm hook and all is well. It was obviously me and not Vicki’s pattern at fault.

Rather than frog the sock and use the yarn for my first pair of knitted socks I picked it up again and I’m glad I did. It’s the first time I’ve tried crochet socks and I want to crack it, plus I feel my honour as a pattern tester is at stake. Saying that I’ve probably already failed as I didn’t check my tension, but it’s been a very good lesson. I’ve ‘helpfully’ been reminded that this is only one sock, so I’ll need to make a second unless I want to hop. Grrr! There are a few other progress photos, including the ridiculously long one on IG if you want to see them.

I’m joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along once again. This is a library book I grabbed on impulse, I had taken a friend to change her books and saw it on the Quick Choice display just inside the door. It’s one I’ve heard good things about, so I had to take it. By page 53 I’d laughed and cried so much so that I recommended it to my sister in law for her book club. It’s really funny, so far, in a gut wrenching kind of way. If you like the Irish humour of Roddy Doyle’s books you’ll enjoy The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes.

A First


I’ve never crocheted socks before, to be honest I’ve never knitted any either. When designer Vicki Brown put out a call for pattern testers for her new sock designs, I was there like a shot. I really fancy trying new things this year.

I bought a ball of King Cole Zig Zag 4 ply, it’s suitable for socks according to the label. Last night I started the Fallen Leaves design. It’s slow going because it’s crochet’s equivalent of moss stitch, with alternate htr and ss, but the toe looks good so far.

I haven’t done a tension test, but knowing my work is usually on the smaller side when I do; I just decided to increase the hook size automatically. I’m using a 4mm. It fits my toes fine so far…

Isn’t the yarn perfect for the design name? The colours are exactly how they look on the yarn ball here, but oddly my crochet looks much brighter.

I’m joining in with  Ginny’s Yarn Along again this week. The Complete Uncle Silas Stories by H.E Bates are a delight. If you’ve never come across Silas before then I thoroughly recommend him. In a nutshell: he’s an elderly gent, living in the rural countryside of Northamptionshire and is what people would call a ‘character’. Silas is aged around 95 in lots of the stories and always working in his garden, or at some other pursuit (he’s working at digging graves in Silas the Good.) He drinks a bottle of wine a day, often homemade Cowslip, eats very well and very much still likes the ladies. 

Cozy Cowl 


  img_2900-1

Happy May Day to you!

I’ve enjoyed making this cowl designed by Vickie Howell, which is featured in the book above. There’s nothing else I want to make from it but that’s the beauty of borrowing a library book; they’re free so there’s no feeling of obligation to get your money’s worth.

I feel a little as if my custard brain should have been able to figure how to make it all in one, with no sewing up, but I found making the ribbed border fiddly when slip stitching into the end of the main piece as I went. Having it dangling from the main body piece was just plain annoying too. So I went back to the instruction to make three separate pieces and sew them together. Whip stitching (we call this oversewing don’t we?) was novel as I usually choose to crochet everything together. Running out of yarn both times, halfway through the process wasn’t much fun. Isn’t there some useful tip about needing three times as much crochet yarn as you measure to the end of a row? Well, I figured sewing would take roughly double the quantity. Wrong!
To begin you crochet a fairly narrow v stitch body piece. Mine is 6″, each ribbed border piece is 2″ which adds up correctly to a  10″ cowl, though my swift tension check did not seem to correlate to the pattern at all. I’d anticipated needing to up-size my crochet hook so I’d already chosen to use a 6m, rather than 5.5mm and its worked out well, luckily. I probably need to learn to correctly check my tension, but when its 4.5 rows and 14 stitches etc it just seems far harder work to check than a pattern which states 10 x 10 = something easy like 10.

V Stitching into the front loops gives a pleasing texture when the piece is turned on its side. I like this pattern a lot, even with the slow putting together end stage and the cowl looks good on, only its not for me. I’m giving it to my friend as another birthday present, she’s going to wear in when she’s on her bike. It should keep her warm as the cowl is good and thick. I used the Red Heart Super Saver Worsted / Aran (Tea Leaf shade) which was sent to me from the USA for my Left Handed Crochet photographs for Red Heart Yarns blog. I thought this was a good use of some of the yarn. Now I’m on the look out for a really nicely coloured, soft wool blend Aran so I can make myself a Cozy Cowl too.

I’ve just had a sip of BrewDog’s ShipWreck beer which is 13.8%, matured in Speyside and Islay whisky casks, made with smoked agave. My lips and throat feel puckered from the inside out! I’m sticking with their IPA: Ace of Simcoe.


Just got this notification – 500 posts! How did that happen? That’s a lot of crochet isn’t it?!!

And here’s

what I’m not doing at the moment…
  Craft blogging is a weird thing. From time to time, basically every few years, I get a real feeling of how ridiculous it is; basically show and tell for adults. I can’t imagine my Granny photographing every new thing she crocheted, knitted, sewed or embroidered, even if Instagram had been invented back then. She would probably have shaken her head at the thought.

 I was just trying to take a pic of the ribbed border I’m crocheting for my Cozy Cowl. I was going to put it up IG, and say how satisfyingly fast it’s working up. As I was waving my iPad around I caught sight of the baby hexagons on the screen, as they’re down the side of the sofa. 
Maybe for variety we could each post one photo of something we’re not doing at the moment?! 

Spring Day and inspired by another Rachel

   
     

  
   
One walk – so many flowers, the air smells so sweet, the birds are singing their hearts out, the thwack of the cricket ball on the bat, warm 16 degree sunshine. England really does put on a beautiful Spring show.

Inspired by a talented friend who speed crocheted a cardi to wear to a wedding last Saturday, I borrowed Anna Wilkinson’s book from the library yesterday to check out the pattern. It sounds rather dodgy making part of an outfit for a wedding, but it looked so good on her; not dubiously homemade at all. She’s one stylish chick and just doesn’t seem to do naff. It must be the Art Degree, I always think people who are arty have a certain pizzazz. 

I’d forgotten how good a source of inspiration the library shelves can be, I’ve lost the habit of popping in to see what’s there. Reading The Little Shop of Happy Ever After by Jenny Colgan over the last few days has reminded me to use my local libraries. 

Want to see my haul? There’s so much I want to make now, after a bit of an uninspired time, visiting the library was a good move. 

  

  

 The question is can I crochet a cowl in an evening, tonight, to give to my friend tomorrow?  As well as drink G&T and a glass or two of white? 

 

Annabell’s

  I’m not completely sure about the wisdom of giving a newly minted 3 year old the means to garrotte her baby brother, but know that if there’s any danger her Mum will take away the crochet chain! It’s probably unnecessary, but as its included in the pattern I thought I’d better include it in case Baby Annabell’s head stretches the poncho.

You know I was surprised at not being overwhelmed with woolly patterns for Annabell? Well if you have the slightly, it has to be said, chipmunky looking American Girl doll then you’re in business. There are reams of pages of patterns for them on Pinterest and Ravelry.  Back to the baby hexagons. I’ve got to figure out how to crochet half hexagons, but how difficult can it be?

Baby Annabell’s clothes

 Yesterday I made a little tunic top and am halfway through a poncho. The poncho is so cute! The owner of the Baby Annabell will be 3 next week, and so I shall pop these into the post in the next few days. I just need to sew on a couple of buttons and darn the ends.

Doll’s clothes are fun, I’m finding. I’m not one for toy making, but clothes are satisfyingly fast and so cute. I did think Baby Annabell (36cm) clothes patterns would be leaping out at me, but it took quite a lot of searching on Pinterest and Ravelry. I didn’t want to design any myself and preferred to find freebies this time. I’ll take another photo when they’re both finished. Links to the patterns are here on my Ravelry project page.

Joining with Ginny’s Yarn Along: I finished listening to the last of the enjoyable The Kasmir Shawl last night, as I made the tunic. I’ve been alternating it with Moranthology, which had me laughing far too loudly on a plane last Friday (the bit about how Keith Richards cooks sausages. I’d had a double gin…)

The Woman in White is nearing the end. My Kindle reading speed reckons it’s another 1hr 20m but I’m determined to finish faster. I feel like I’ve been reading it for years. It is surprisingly funny and this is my favourite line of the book, so far, it’s at the end of a letter which has been delivered to our hero:

You can have no possible cause to complain of these precautions, seeing that they do not affect the information I here communicate, in consideration of the special indulgence which you have deserved at my hands. My hour for tea is half-past five, and my buttered toast waits for nobody.’ 

Good lady!

The Unnamed Ripple

 I’m picking this up every now and then, to add a row or so. It’s undemanding and relaxing crochet. I think this is why I like ripple blankets so much; they’re easy and there aren’t a crazy number of ends, like you get with multi-coloured motifs.  

To choose the colours I laid out a selection of swatches I’ve made up. I chose mainly greys, purples, blues, pinks and a couple of greens. I don’t follow rules or use a colour wheel; I just instinctively choose what I like and discard what doesn’t work. Sometimes advice about selecting colours can make it sound like a dry and humourless business, though I appreciate everyone’s approach will be different. 

The process took me about 3 minutes. I wondered about adding 2 other colours over the weekend, but have decided against them.  

Stylecraft Special DK:

1.plum

2.parma violet

3.emperor

4.grey

5.silver

6.sage

7.lavender

8.grape 

I still can’t think of the right name for this blanket. I’ve just asked for suggestions here and had “Benjamin”. Brian the V Stitch scarf was one thing, but this is not going to be called Benjamin! 

It’s not Mira’s Cowl, it’s mine!

I bought the yarn for my Mira’s Cowl at the end of September when I visited Yarndale. The other two skeins have yet to be used. But I think I have a plan for the blue 4 ply…

My wandering concentration issue was solved by buying stitch markers and from then on, magically, there were no missing sets of 2 stitches. So, they’re not simply for making knitting look pretty?!
I did decide against the ‘aggressive’ blocking advised at the end of the pattern. Although I chose to make the wider size cowl and it could be really long and loopy (see the pattern photo) I like the up, up chin warming properties of it when unstretched.

Because I knit and knit until I just had enough yarn left to cast off, it’s long enough for a giraffe. I put it on inside out and then double it over so the right side shows.

I found a stretchy decrease cast-off described here. It’s very easy and does exactly what it promises.

I just sat in the sun and single crocheted the seams together with a  3.5mm hook. As I’ve said before; if I can combine a bit of knitting with a bit of hooky then I’m very happy. Sewing up gets put off, funnily crocheting doesn’t! I’m typing this and still wearing my cowl. It’s so warm and snuggly as the yarn is 75% merino.

Next I’ve got to make myself do some more baby hexagons. It really is a bit like that, but I quite like doing them when I get going, especially if my audio book is on. I’m really into The Kashmir Shawl, I’m exactly halfway through now. I walked over 7 miles listening to it yesterday. I was so engrossed in the story that I didn’t even really mind when the ground turned into a quagmire. I ended up squelching home with completely brown trainers and socks. That must be the sign of a very good book…

 

Yarn Along

At the moment I’m on the last leg of my knitting as the Mira Cowl is almost finished. That’s really code for I’ve nearly run of yarn. But it’s good when the yarn makes the decision for you! At other times I’m enjoying picking up my new ripple to work on a row or three, though when my fingers become crampy I throw it back in the Seasalt bag, where it’s stored. I hadn’t realised until yesterday that I’d picked one which coordinates beautifully with this blanket. I’ll take a pic of it sometime. I’m still trying to think of a name for this ripple. Any suggestions?

It’s for a friend who likes purple and green. I felt a bit like a crochet desperado when I asked if she wanted one, but although I’d vowed this wasn’t going to turn into another year of blanket making, like the last, I was really missing having something easy I can do while I sort of watch TV. That reminds me: have you seen The Dressmaker? I had to put the ripple down on Sunday after I realised I was missing lots of detail, particularly the superb costumes. It’s a great film. You think it’s simply eccentric which has become rather conventional, then it turns to be quite darkly funny and goes off in an unexpected direction.

I’ve just started reading The Woman in White which I’d added on my Kindle, along with other free classics last year. Written in 1859 it’s a surprisingly good read. I’ve got to the second narrator’s account and am curious as to what will happen. I think we all trust the dog’s reaction to X though, don’t we?

I’m joining in with Ginny again.

Yarn Along

 The beginnings of a ripple are always good, at least once you’ve done the first fiddly row into the foundation chain. I like choosing the colours and enjoy the softness of the yarn when it’s used for ripples.  I did find I was a chain short at the end, so conjured one into thin air and will have to make sure the tail is darned and double darned. 

The book is one I picked up at the weekend. Very much of its time, it was published in the eighties, the stories are the perfect length for reading one every night. Last night’s featured a mirror and an antiques seller who is a Cockney and therefore must be able to easily dispose of a body…! The second story about the bus is interesting; but not at all PC.  

I’ve been trying to find a craft vlog I can regularly watch, but just can’t find one that suits. They’re simply far too long, filled with umms and ahhs and repetition. That’s not to say I could do any better, which is partly why I’m not going to try. But if there was a one like Caitlin Moran’s (two episodes so far) I’d be addicted. She was on the radio as I drove on Friday. She’s so funny and makes a lot of sense. (Water fountains! Hipsters! Trolling on social media.) I’ll be getting the book soon. Maybe even after I press ‘post’. 

I’m joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along again. 

Yarn Along 

  
Here’s the knitting I mentioned in my last post. The pattern is called Mira’s Cowl by Mira Cole. It’s free on Ravelry.

 I’m not sure I want to aggressively block it as per the instruction. By the end the most I’ll probably feel like doing is flinging it around my neck. Consistently good knitting is not my talent. For some reason I can crochet quite difficult stitch combinations and follow patterns without much of an issue, but knitting has always been another matter. This is despite being able to knit from childhood, as you know crochet came much, much later. Even this simple pattern of blocks of 2, 4, 8 or 16 stitches has been problematic. I keep finding whole sections where the stitches have mysteriously changed to knit where they should be purl, and vice versa, halfway up. I could blame it on the toenail bit of A Gathering Storm, but that wouldn’t be altogether truthful. I’m often rubbish at concentrating on my knitting. It’s a good thing that the wonderful Nicky Sutton displayed excellent graphics how to pick up, or alter stitches with a crochet hook on IG. It’s saved me undoing any rows. I quite like the opportunity to use a little 3mm hook on my knitting. I know that’s probably not the attitude, but at least it works!

I’m about to start my next audio book: The Kasmir Shawl. I like to leave a day or more between them, just to let the memory of the last fade a bit. Do you do this too? I used to read lots of Rosie Thomas’s books, but it’s years since the last. I hope this is good. It’s set in 1939 and a young woman from rural Wales is moving to India with her husband, who has been posted there as a missionary. What could possibly go wrong?!

I’ve always got both an audio book and a printed or e-book on the go. Last night I read more of After You by JoJo Moyes while listening to an owl hoot in the trees.  The torrential rain and wind then put a stop to that delightful noise. I hope it managed to stay warm and dry.

I’m joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along

Spring has sprung 

  
  
  

  

  

   

 Daffodils, snowdrops, scilas, primroses, catkins, croci, cherry blossom and much more; it’s that lovely time of year again. As we walked yesterday Mum and I had a robin following us from ground to branch, to fallen log to a spindly bush. I wished I had some crumbs in my pocket. The weather is chilly but bright, and perfect for a good brisk walk. And then home to a bowl of homemade soup, a cheese scone and a chocolate topped cappuccino. 

I’ve been knitting like fury over the weekend, but I’ve ripped it out twice and turned a circular knitting pattern into a straight piece. I don’t mind sewing or crocheting a seam; but I do mind laddering appearing all around the knit, especially when my Google search states this only typically occurs above the join. It’s ok, it’s grown exponentially as I stayed up far too late to finish A Gathering Storm by Rachel Hore. I couldn’t leave the story where it was, the last hour and a quarter had to be heard. What next?

Very handy 

I’ve never managed to find out the name for this lovely textured stitch. If you recognise it please let me know. It’s one I used for a wash cloth ages ago and I thought it would make a good thickish pot holder.

Pot Holder

You’ll need to use 100% Cotton.I used DMC Natura DK with 4mm hook, I used roughly 30g, amounts will vary depending on your tension and size of your finished pot holder.

You could also use aran weight, or thicker, cotton with the appropriate hook.

My pot holder measures 6″ x 6 3/4″ / 15cm x 17 cm

All terms are for UK crochet stitches

FR: Chain 32

R1: 1 dc, 2 tr into the 2nd ch from the hook, miss 2 ch *work 1 dc, 2tr in next ch, miss 2 ch and rep from * across the row to the last 3 chs. Miss 2 chs, 1 dc in last ch. Turn

R2: Ch 1, 1 dc, 2 tr into 1st st, mis 2 st, *work 1 dc, 2 tr into next st, miss 2 st and rep from * across until the last 3 sts. Miss 2 sts, 1 dc into last st. Turn

Repeat R2 until piece is the desired length. (I did 24 rows.) Fasten off. Darn ends.

Repeat and make another piece exactly the same size, do not fasten off. Darn in the starting tail end. Put the two pieces together (wrong sides together.) Crochet them together working through all 4 loops as follows:

Edging:

R1: Work 2 dc into the same st as the last dc of your last row, also going through the 2 loops of the other piece too. Continue working along the edges of the cloths along the four sides, making 1-2 dcs into each stitch. Be consistent and do the same for both sides. I made 1 dc into each stitch on the top edge and at the sides, but 2 into the bottom stitches where the loop of the initial chains are wider.

Work 2 dc, 1 ch, 2 dc at the corners.

R2: Ch1, 1 dc into the 1st st, then make 1 dc into each stitch, chaining 18 (or the number you choose for the length of loop that suits) at the top left or right corner. Work 2 dc, 1 ch, 2 dc at the corners (increase the ch to 2 if you feel they look better or suit your tension, try it both ways and settle on one for all corners…) Secure the last ch with a ss into the 2nd dc corner stitch, make 1 dc into the same st, continue making 1 dc into each st around. Ss into the intial dc of the round.

R3: Ch1, 1 dc into the first st, then make 1 dc each stitch as before, 1 dc into each st of the ch loop and around. Ss to the 1st dc of the round. Fasten off and darn the ends neatly.

If you make a pot holder using this pattern please leave a link in the comments, I’d love to see yours.

(Saturday: I’ve just come across the stitch in The Harmony Guide to Crochet, it’s boringly called Sedge stitch II. Sedge stitch I is basically miss 2 ch, 1 dc, 1 htr, 1 tr and rep to the last 3 sts, 1dc in the last st.  That looks worth a try sometime.)

Yarn Along

This photo looks a bit funny somehow; the pot holder looks tiny and the book huge! Actually it is a big ole heavy hardback. Reading it is proving to be a bit of a challenge. I’ve got so used to propping my Kindle against the next pillow and just poking my finger out of the duvet to turn the page. Holding this monster is making my arms ache and they get cold! But I couldn’t turn down this book from my sister-in-law as we both loved Me Before You so much. This is the sequel. I believe Jojo Moyes had so many questions from readers about what happened to Lou, that there was immense pressure to write one. Lou must have been a character who stayed with her too.

Me Before You is the only audio book I’ve finished listening to and immediately started again. Even though I obviously knew all that would happen, I still sobbed so much I had to change my pillowcase at the end of the book. That was one traumatic story.

I finished the pot holder on Monday evening. I wanted another smaller one than these two, although I use them every day I like to have a little one at hand for saucepan lids. I’ll write up the pattern for another post.

 

I’m joining in again with Ginny’s Yarn Along.

 

Yarn Along 

  I’ve just started this audio book: A Gathering Storm by Rachel Hore. It’s one of my favourite kinds of stories; a family mystery, an old English Manor House and a picturesque Cornish seaside town. As well as crocheting to audio books I also love walking while listening. This morning I strode along in the lovely bright sunshine listening to the first few chapters. It’s a very promising start. I haven’t read anything by this author before and hopefully I’ll enjoy this book. I see she’s had quite a few books published; it’s good to find someone you like and read their back catalogue. 

Can you see that this baby hexagon piece is finally beginning to look rectangular? It’s proper fiddly and slow crochet. I’d definitely like to make hexagons again, but I won’t be joining them as I go again. I want the sides to lie neatly together, the way these look are still making me feel irritated. Larger hexies would make a more drapey fabric too.

My last audio book Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (very good, I recommend it) has occupied me for lots of my crochet time recently. Near the end when the final twist was revealed I dropped yarn and hook and punched the air. I knew it! I knew. Kind of anyway…

I’m joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along again.

Left handed crochet for Red Heart Yarn

At the end of last month I was contacted by Kathryn Vercillo of Crochet Concupiscence blog, asking if I would be interested in undertaking some paid photography work. I would need to illustrate how to crochet each step of the basic stitches as a left hander. These photos would be used in an article Kathryn was writing for the American company Red Heart Yarn. The only special requirement was that I use Red Heart yarn and a Susan Bates hook, but if I didn’t have those they could be sent. I wondered how things were going to go as the work needed to be emailed by the Tuesday, but we were to be away Friday to Monday. This meant there were only two working days for them to be delivered. Plus the weather’s track record at the beginning of February meant I might be trying to get the best photographs on a very grey day. I needn’t have worried; the yarn and hook were delivered by Fed Ex when we arrived home, and on Tuesday morning I awoke to bright sun.  

   I spent an enjoyable morning taking photographs of each step of the basic crochet stitches and writing notes in repsonse to Kathryn’s draft article. The article is now here on the Red Heart Yarn Heart Strings blog. 

And do you know what? I couldn’t think of any yarn or craft materials I need so I’ve saved my earnings. I must make more woolly things; so I have a yarn deficit when I visit Heather’s new shop (so excited for her!) next month with my crafty friend Rachel aka Mrs Pip.

  
 

Rhubarb Ripple re-edged 

  

  

   
   
So that’s one of my 16 for 2016 done. It looks sooooo much better than it did. This is one of the blankets I made (all details here) when I was still newish to crochet in 2012. I’d fudged the edging, such as it was, and knew it too. These half treble, double and double crochet spike stitch rows really finish it a treat. I decided on the same Attic 24 inspired border as I crocheted for my Zesty Raspberry Ripple blanket. It’s pretty but not too elaborate.

It’s a good feeling doing a proper job! Now on to those annoying baby hexagons…

Yarn Along

  
God knows what Jeffrey Bernard would have had to say about a collection of his writing, originally  featured in the Spectator, being shown on a crochet blog, on a brightly coloured blanket with a vase of daffodils! I suppose as long as I offered a bottle of vodka and bag of oranges in apology it would have been ok.

His writing is often bitter sweet and the humour catches you unawares at times. I absolutely hoot with laughter. The anecdote about being in a hospital cubicle next to a boy who is having his ears syringed, made me think of having had mine done a week or so ago. But not because my brother had filled my ears with peanut butter while I slept.

The ripple re-edging is done. I’ll show you tomorrow.

I’m joining in with Ginny again.

Valentine’s heart patches


This is a sweet little patch. I intend to buy two blank craft cards and envelopes and attach a heart patch to each using double sided sticky tape. Do they still use that all the time on Blue Peter? I’m going to send them to two little-ish girls for a Valentine’s surprise.

Alternatively you could just knit two rectangles, swiss darn the heart (or one on both sides) and sew or crochet them together, to turn them into a little woolly pincushion or a pointless but cute woolly thing. You’ll probably have even better ideas. If you do, please share them!


Yarn: I knitted these with Stylecraft Special DK scraps, in parchment and did the swiss darning in raspberry. You can use any DK you have.

 
Needles: I used 3.5mm but use whatever you have or prefer. 4mm would work equally well and will still make a patch small enough to easily fit onto a card.

 
Pattern:
Knit a moss stitch border with stocking stitch as the main part of the patch

Cast on 20 stitches

Moss stitch for 2 rows:

Row 1: *k1, p1*and repeat * until the end

Row 2: *p1,k1* and repeat until the end

Stocking stitch with a moss stitch border for 8 rows

Row 3: k1, p1, k to last st, p1

Row 4: p1, k1, p to last stitch, k1

Repeat rows 3 & 4 6 more times.

Repeat rows 1 & 2 once

Cast off

Swiss darning/duplicate stitch: decorate the patch with a contrast yarn. See this video from Simple Stylish Knitting if you’re unsure about how to do swiss darning. It’s easy once you get into the rhythm of it. Sew in a good source of light, so you can see what you’re doing properly.

 Both of my hearts are slightly different from each other. The main thing is to start at the top, and do the middle stitches first. Make sure the bottom stitches line up with those at the top.  You can make the heart as wibbly or symmetrical as you like.

Yarn Along

  

  
Last night I was itching to start crocheting something new, but also wanted to watch last week’s Endeavour episode: Prey. I knew that re-edging my Rhubarb Ripple would be fiddly to begin with, so I sat on my hands. Actually I kept them busy with a glass of Calvados, if I’m completely honest. I’m glad I did because I would have missed quite something in the maze scenes! Did you watch it?

When I looked at the comments on my original post from 2012, linked above, I realised that I’ve now met three of the commenters (and we’re likely to meet again too) and three others are still in regular contact. That’s a really nice thing about blogging, online friendships become offline friendships too, if you’re lucky.

My current Kindle read As Good as God, as Clever as the Devil: The Impossible Life of Mary Bensen is a biography. It’s really well written by Rodney Bolt in a very readable style, with excerpts from other sources of material from the time. I’d never heard of Mary Benson, but the names of some of her offspring are definitely familiar. Read here for the blurb. It’s one of the best 99p Kindle deals I’ve bought.


Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along again.

Simple Stylish Knitting

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a PR Company to ask if I would be interested in trying the first issue of a new knitting weekly magazine series, or park-work, published by De Agostini. I’ll always be honest in my write-up if I am sent a product to try, or asked to work with a company. After a few of my very ‘real’ past write-ups I’m quite surprised whenever I’m approached again; I aim to give a balanced view but as I try to be very truthful I will say if I find something lacking.

After having a look at Simple Stylish Knitting online I decided to give it whirl. In fact I hoped it might help to improve my own knitting skills. There are so many really talented knitters on Instagram, and seeing their beautiful work makes me want to move forward with my own.

Included in the email was this information, I found it interesting and have since read the full report: As knitting fast becomes the new ‘it’ hobby for young people, DeAgostini Publishing and University of Exeter Medical School have issued a report looking at the hobby’s health benefits to understand why so many youngsters are taking up the new skill.

In brief: A study of over 3,000 members of an online knitting community found:

* 82% felt ‘a little’ to ‘very happy’ after knitting

* Almost half (47%) indicated that it helped them think problems through, while over a third (37%) said it helped forget problems

* Nearly two-thirds (65%) reported an increase in confidence, while 86% felt an increase in belonging

A study conducted in an inpatient eating disorder unit found:

* 74% of participants reported distraction from eating disorder thoughts and feelings

* Nearly one-fifth (18%) said knitting prevented eating disorder behaviours altogether

* 74 % found it relaxing

I think this some of this will ring true for both knitters and crocheters, we know it makes us feel happy, calm and productive.

Looking at this photo I’m wondering if I threw the needle away with the packaging, ummm….

Each week there are two balls of yarn with the magazine. I was surprised they are 50% wool, 50% acrylic; they’re not the usual squeaky yacky magazine yarn. I partly learnt to crochet through buying crochet mags and the yarn was absolutely shocking quality. It also came in lurid colours! (See my early crochet pics here from 2011/2012 for evidence…)

The plan is that you knit two squares a week, which gives you the chance to learn many different stitches. I had a look on IG for pics tagged #simplestylishknitting and lots of people are knitting stitches I haven’t ever tried. At the end of the (90 issue!) series (I checked the online FAQS) you will have knitted a substantial throw, or alternatively you could buy fewer and build a collection of stitch swatches.

I spent a fair amount of time using the online stitch library, watching the knitting techniques videos. The mattress stitch video is the clearest I’ve ever seen. I thought it would be good to test how clear I found the instructions for a familiar technique. Another demo has given me Fair isle confidence. People mention 3 needle bind-off / cast off a lot and I had NO idea what that was, now I do. It’s the same with tinking though I realise I’ve always done it, I just didn’t know it was called that (did you know it’s the word ‘knit’ backwards?) If you do check out the videos look at the funky lime yarn and purple nail combo! Even the crochet hook matches.

Square number one was plain garter/knit stitch and that I definitely didn’t need to practise! So I knit number two which is stocking stitch, decorated with duplicate stitch/swiss darning. This is the first time I’ve tried it. I like it! The only thing I would say is that the stitch library video assumes you’re a right hander. I really can’t hold the sewing needle in my right hand or sew from the right, but I just did what I do with some crochet charts – I started in a stitch on the left, going into the legs of the stitch above from left to right.

I liked swiss darning so much that last night I designed a little woolly decoration to make a Valentine’s card! For this I used my KnitPro wooden needles. The magazine ones are a bit like knitting with those splintery chopsticks you get in cheapie Chinese restaurants, they do the job but are not luxurious.

Apart from the two squares a week there are patterns for other makes, the first issue includes: a mug cosy, pom-pom scarf, Mr Fox ipad case (which I love but would need to size up for my regular sized ipad.) Yarn requirements vary for the other patterns; so you’d need to buy more, or use your stash.

For complete beginners there is a full knitting know-how section at the back with very clear instructions and photos. One omission is that there’s no how-to hold your yarn photo. It’s only shown looped over the index finger, so it’s unclear how you would tension your knitting. Most people would automatically use Google, YouTube, websites etc or look it up in a book, but its inclusion would be useful in the magazine and also in the video stitch library.

For improvers like myself each pattern is written in the usual pattern short-hand, as well as with more detailed instructions given for a novice knitter.

The magazines are available in Supermarkets and newsagents, or back issues can be ordered through the website. In true part-work style the first issue is 99p, the second £1.99 and thereafter it’s £3.99, the p&p is free. E-copies are also available in digitally too.

And tomorrow I plan to join in with the Yarn Alongers. Is this turning into a post a day in February?!

Spice of Life Blanket II



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are very Wintery low light levels at the moment, which means the photos are a little muted; so you need to imagine this blanket as even brighter!

It is finished! We’ve celebrated late-Christmas with my cousin and family this weekend and she loves the blanket. I’m so pleased.

So yes, the colours; you definitely won’t have seen this combination together here before, though I have used them all in other makes.

  
My cousin loves Emma Bridgewater china and these are the designs she wanted me to use as a basis for colour selection, but with the specific proviso that there be ‘Space Hopper’ orange because she loves it. Plus cream, lavender and a bright yellow. Eek! This was really out of my colour comfort zone, but actually as the blanket came together they seemed to work together more, the Mister says it’s quite Aztec-y. I’ll take his word for it.

Pattern links and details about how to make a Spice of Life blanket are here on the designer Sandra Paul’s Cherry Heart blog.

Hooks: I used 4mm, 4.5mm and 3mm again, see my first blanket post for information.

Starting chain: 195, stitch count 193

Yarn: Stylecraft Special DK

  1. Meadow 2. Emperor 3. Lavender 4. Saffron 5. Spice 6. Cream 7. Plum (used for the border too)

Weighs: 675g

Size: 3′ 6″ or 42″. This one’s smaller than my first blanket, it’s more of a lap blanket. 

I’m glad it’s done, the multi-stitch blankets are interesting to crochet and the variety of stitches make them really pretty, but oh all the ends!

And now I’m on to a little bit of knitting…more about that tomorrow.

 

Yarn Along 



I’m not even going to check my 16 for 2016 list because I feel sure I said no more buying yarn, as I need to use what I have. But I shall blame today’s lapse entirely on my friend! It was so silly of us to meet at a yarn shop where there’s a sale on, with baskets and shelves laden with really lovely, good quality yarns at great prices.  This Louisa Harding Orielle was originally £6.95 a skein, now it’s reduced to £4; well you would probably have found it difficult to resist too.

It’s lovely stuff that I used to knit my first pair of mock cable fingerless mitts. It’s such a lovely colour, with a pretty sparkle running through and is really soft and warm. They are my most favourite pair of mitts. Ok, lapse justification over..!

I’m still darning blanket ends, they’re nearly finished then I can start a new project, rather than post photos of skeins of yarn. I banned myself from starting anything new until the blanket was done. It all has be finished by tomorrow night, so I shall probably be darning the last ends and speed crocheting the border as you read! I’ve just started this audio book by J.K Rowling, it’s the third in the series. Robert Glenister is from TV’s Hustle  and does such a good job narrating these audio books that I find myself totally transported to where the story is taking place. I’m gripped by what’s happening. Let’s hope it happens again as I plod on with the remaining ends tonight…

I’m joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along once again.

Don’t they look teeny?


I’ve crocheted these mock cable mitts up as I was putting off the sewing. Mattress stitch is fiddly to do well and even worse in poor light. I used a 3mm hook into the single loops of the stitches on the edge of each side (holding the right sides together) feeling very glad I’d thought to leave a very long tail of yarn for sewing up. Crochet has made a dull task enjoyable.

Don’t they look teeny lying there on the table? But see – when they’re on my hands they’re really stretchy and warm, with the double rib edging rows and bouncy mock cable. I increased the bottom ribbing to 12 rows for this pair, rather than the 6 of my first so my wrists would be well covered and warm.

The pair of mitts weigh 40g so if you wanted to try making some with only 1 ball of Knitcol Trends by Adriafil (this is colour 061) you could probably chance it. I tend to buy yarn in twos just in case. I’m a bit scared of playing yarn chicken because I usually lose.

Using 3.75mm needles (it’s DK yarn) I cast on 47 stitches, and knit double rib for 12 rows. Then I repeated a 4 row mock cable pattern 12 times and ended with 2 rows of double rib. Easy! Don’t forget to leave a gap for your thumb when sewing or crocheting them up.

Yarn Along 

I finished my mock cable knits last night, all bar the boring sewing up. I’ve just noticed that the right mitt is the right way up in the photograph – so you can see the mock cable pattern – but the left is not. I’ll pretend I positioned them like that deliberately to show you both sides, but the truth is a repair man was here and it was all a bit of flurry. He’d just had a call and was rushing off as wife has been in a car accident (unharmed, though the other lady might be) and so I wasn’t really concentrating.

I’ve always got an audio book on the go, they’re a great distraction on long journeys or while walking. Clare Balding’s first book My Animals and Other Family was an excellent listen as she writes and narrates so well. Rather than rapsodize about Walking Home: My Family and Other Rambles I’ll link to The Telegraph review, it’s very good.

I’m joining in with  Ginny’s Yarn Along again. The linky thing’s open for a week if you want to as well.

Allowed to knit again 

   
   I had banned myself from starting anything new until the body of the blanket was finished, and as soon as I tied off the last end I grabbed some yarn and needles. Hurray!
I haven’t used Adriafil’s Knitcol Trends before, it’s 100% merino but not the softest ever, which sounds like a criticism but it really isn’t. The fabric is warm and thick. With my wooden KnitPro needles it’s really satisfying to knit. Again this might seem off-putting and critical; but it makes me think I’m knitting with string and sticks, more than anything else I’ve used. I can’t really explain why but it is very enjoyable. 

Last May I knit my first pair of Mock Cable Mitts. I used a pretty luxurious 97% baby alpaca, which I’ve really enjoyed wearing but it was definitely much more slippery to knit. Then too I was really meant to be finishing crochet blankets, not starting new knitting. There’s definitely a pattern of using knitting as a distraction from finishing crochet. 

This photo, taken just after I bought the yarn in Broadstairs, Kent, was one of my favourites of last year. Yarn, sand, sea and a stunning sunset beginning…
 Now my plan is to darn about 10 ends of the blanket a day and the border can be crocheted. We’ll be at a late Christmas family gathering at the end of the month so I’ll schedule a post, so as not to spoil the surprise for my cousin. Then you can finally see the mystery blanket. 

Yarn Along 

   I can’t tell you how much I’m loving this book. It’s so well written and casts a completely different light on Pride and Prejudice; as it’s written from the point of view of the (few) servants who work (very hard) for the family. This line on the back cover made me grin: ‘If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats,’ Sarah thought, ‘she would be more careful not to tramp through muddy fields.’ 

If you are familiar with the original you’ll see that the novels match chapter for chapter, though to her credit Jo Baker does not try to imitiate  Jane Austin’s style, she has her own voice. 

I’d seen Longbourn recommended in a number of newspapers and magazines, then came across a copy on the sale shelf of a charity shop for 50p!  I enjoy using my Kindle but there’s great pleasure in knowing I can pass this paperback on to at least five friends who I know will enjoy reading it too.

I’m on the last two inches of the body of the mystery blanket for my cousin and am now thinking about what to make next. I really fancy some knitting and am going to dig out my stash and see what I’ve got later. I’m also keen to finish this baby hexagon piece and turn it into a doll’s blanket.  

I’m joining in with Ginny again. 

16 for 2016

*~*~*Happy New Year!*~*~*

It’s 2nd January, 2016 is all brand new and shiny! I love the sense of possibility and brand-new-notebook-and-pen feeling the first few days always bring.

As I wrote my 2015 gallery post on New Year’s Eve, I realised that there were lots of planned crafty things I hadn’t done during the year. I’m going to write down a list of 16 goals for 2016. This is mainly to make sure the ideas and plans I have don’t get left aside. I’ll maybe revisit the list as the year goes on, or just sum up how it went at the end.image

1: Re-edge my Rhubarb Ripple blanket properly

2: Learn how to tat lace.

I bought a tatting shutting in the end of summer sale in John Lewis (£1!) the packet hasn’t even been opened.

3: Do something with my blocks from my 200 Blocks CAL

There are roughly 125 as we quickly realised the book’s title is slightly misleading. But 125 are plenty and I’m quite embarrassed that as the organiser of the CAL I never did get around to joining any, or all.

4: Knit socks, or have a go

5: Dye some yarn

For Christmas I received a dyeing kit and some extra undyed merino sock and DK yarns.

6: Use my sewing machine again.

7: Attend a workshop or class (any)

8: Join a Knit & Natter group for a session

9: Knit something with one or more of my new skeins of yarn

10: Finish the ‘My Designs’ link page I started a while ago

image

11: Turn the failed hexagon a day blanket project into something else

12: Make another small cotton pot-holder

New saucepans with metal handles mean pot holders are necessary, not purely decorative.

13: Embroider something again

14: Make up the finished X stitch things

15: Decide about the Yorkshire blanket….redo? Undo and recycle? Give away?

16: Use up a good chunk of my yarn stash

It’s mostly leftovers from all those blankets.

If you also fancy writing 16 for 2016 please add a link in the comments below, so we can read your list too.

Have a very happy New Year all.

 

2015

It’s that time again; the last day of another year. Are they flying past, or is it just me?

I can’t believe that today is my blog’s fourth birthday! I didn’t have a long-term plan when I started this; it was simply to record my makes as I learnt to crochet. I haven’t had to make myself carry on, or set up a blogging timetable, it’s just happened organically. Admittedly joining in more regularly with the weekly Yarn Along and Taking Stock posts, every month, has helped to keep to keep the ball rolling lately; as I’ve had little new to show, with bigger projects taking time to complete.

2015 really did turn into the Year of the Blankets, despite the fact I’m sure I’d resolved not to make many. I wanted to learn some new skills, make some small things and get my sewing machine out again. I can see a 16 for 2016 list happening…

Here are some of my favourite makes and highlights of the year:

I’ve just had a little look at my previous end of year galleries in 2012 2013 and 2014. 2012 was a busy year for the country with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics. Looking back has reminded me of my 200 Blocks CAL. I was still very much a novice crocheter and learnt much more through organising and taking part in the CAL. If you’re fairly new to crochet then I’d really recommend working through a book of crochet blocks. It gave lots of us a really good grounding in reading patterns, trying new stitches and experimenting with colour combinations.

Thank you for reading and for your comments over the last year. Have a very Happy New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, wherever you are in the world.

Yarn Along

  The light is fading fast this afternoon, so I’ve lit the candles and made mugs of hot chocolate. I spent the morning cooking and cleaning as we have guests for dinner tonight, it’s very nice to sit down and relax now. I shall crochet a little more of my blanket. See last week’s Yarn Along post if you’re curious about why I’m only showing you the ends for now.

Last night I read ‘Lost Hearts’ in this M.R James ghost stories collection before sleep. As usual I felt quite spooked out. I’m going to read another tonight and anticipate feeling pretty scared, the sweetener is that at least it’s while snuggled down warm in bed. I’ve learnt it’s best to go to the loo before reading, so I don’t have to run there afterwards dodging shadows! 

If you fancy reading some very old ghost stories (late 1800s, early 1900s)  M.R James anthologies are free on Kindle. At least they are here in England. 

I’m joining in with Ginny‘s Yarn Along again.

Perfect

   
    
   Today we pulled on some warm clothes and went out for some fresh air, after a few days of socialising, eating and drinking. A swift five mile walk was just the thing.  On Boxing Day it’s usually great fun seeing children whizz by on their shiny new bikes and scooters, with everyone nodding and smiling their hellos, but it was a rainy day and so the hibernation continued.  I’m so glad we decided to postpone a wander around the shops this morning. Walking alongside peacefully grazing sheep, while admiring the stark beauty of the trees against the rapidly darkening sky felt absolutely perfect. 

Yarn Along 


I can’t show you what I’m making, except to say that it’s a blanket; as requested by my cousin. The colours were chosen to compliment Emma Bridgewater china she collects. I think the plan is to have the blanket over the back of a church pew she has near her dresser in her cottage. When I said I was going to look for a pumpkin shade of orange, to match, she said she’d far prefer Space Hopper orange. Oh my..! Then:”How about some lavender too?” She’d noticed I’d used it in other blankets.

The out of my colour comfort zone has become a bit of a joke here, so when I took it out after a break (I’ve finished the V Stitch scarf) the Mister suddenly yelled out in mock horror. I was so startled it made me leap up out of my chair!

I have checked that it’s going to hit by the spot by showing her man, who says she’ll love it, it’s exactly what she wants colourwise. He even said how soft it looks and how warm it will be; he knows just what to say at times.The blanket design is a surprise and as I’m not sure how often she looks here it’s going to have to stay under wraps for now. We’ll do our usual late Christmas celebration sometime earlyish next year. But don’t say I didn’t warn you about the colour combo!

The third Rosie Hopkins book is turning out to be quite an entertaining read, and not so sickly as expected. 

I know you know this, but I’m joining in with Ginny’s Wednesday Yarn Along link up again. 

Taking Stock in December

Making: Crocheting the last third of the V Stitch scarf, then back to the blanket 

Cooking: Lamb daube, purple sprouting and baked potatoes  

Drinking: Red wine 

Reading: I just finished The Improbability of Love (it’s good. Funny to visit Waddeston Manor the same week. Spot the connection for 10 points?) so it’s time for a soppy Christmas book now

 
Wanting: a Happy Christmas for all my family and friends and you, of course 

Looking: Rosy 

Playing: Words with Friends. I’m about 5 years behind everyone, I know 

Deciding: Not to just plan to wrap presents earlier than Christmas Eve, but to actually DO it 

Wishing: for another glass of red wine

  Enjoying: The anticipation of getting our tree 

Waiting: For presents!

   

  
Liking: The smell of roasted chestnuts, a traditional snack still sold on London streets 

Wondering: If we’ll have any snow before year end. Considering it was a balmy 15C today it’s doubtful

Loving: Christmas programmes; looking forward to Downton, Sherlock and the Agatha Christie costume drama on Boxing Day

Pondering: Whether I’d like to go to Space

Considering: Buying some stollen, but maybe I should make it instead

   
 Buying: Glacé cherries, moisturiser and nuts 

Watching: The Breakfast Club, it’s good still

Hoping: Love Film have St Elmo’s Fire 

Marvelling: At all the Christmas lights  
 Cringing: at nothing in particular 

Needing: Some fresh air

Questioning: Why ‘Chantenay carrots have recently been revived in the UK, having not been available in this country since the 1960s.’ (Wikipedia.) Why have they not been available since then? So few varieties of fruit and vegetables are available, when there are hundreds of very old varieties

 Smelling: Fragrant! (Clinique Elixir, darling) 

Wearing: My favourite chunky red cardie 

Following: The mission to The International Space Station and our astronaut Tim Peake 

Noticing: How weirdly mild the weather is at the moment; it’s the warmest December in over 50 years 

Knowing: I’m nearly all organised for Christmas 

Thinking: About what to do when, in the coming week

Admiring: People’s knitwear 

  
 Sorting: Books and DVDs again, 2 more trips to the charity shop last week

Getting: Our tree tomorrow. Much better around 20th than having it from 1st December, too much, too soon!

Bookmarking: All sorts, but always forgetting to go back to them

Coveting: …Father Christmas knows!

Disliking: Music bleeding loudly from others’ headphones, do they not realise they’re harming their ears? And being a royal pain

Opening: A pack of salmon fillets wondering why it’s always so difficult  

 Giggling: At the Croydon Lucozade story (knowing I shouldn’t)

Feeling: Healthy, positive and energetic 

Snacking: On chantenay carrots 

Helping: A girl find her lost keys at the bus station 

Hearing: My audio book: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
The Taking Stock list is from Pip’s Meet me at Mike’s blog, you can use it too.

Yarn Along 

  I’m crocheting a second V Stitch scarf. I only started a few days ago and it’s now nearly half done; it grows so quickly.  This is a very good thing as it’s a Christmas present.  Here’s the link to my pattern. I had to find it myself to jog my memory for the initial chain and hook size! That green scarf is my favourite and I wear it more than anything else I own, or have made. 
 I loved the film ‘Brooklyn’ last week. It’s the story of a young girl from a rural area of Ireland in the 1950s, who is emigrating to America. The first thing Mum and I said as we left the cinema was “Oh, the clothes!” Although I have a few audio books ready to listen to I just knew the novel, by Colm Toibin, would be fuller than could fit into a film. It’s going to be so interesting to see what the screenwriter, author Nick Hornby, chose to include and what to leave out.  Dissecting novels (auto correct wants this to be bowels!) into screenplays must be a challenging, but fascinating process. 

I’m joining in with Ginny and co once again. Now around 100 others link to Ginny’s weekly Yarn Along posts. This is many more than when I added a few of mine several  years ago. You can find some pearls of crochet and knitting inspiration there if you want to dip into new blogs. 

Yarn Along 

 Yesterday this Araucania Botany Lace (one of  my Yarndale bargains) was a knitted piece 6′ long. I was flying along until I noticed a mistake. B—– Why didn’t I put in a lifeline? I tried and I tried but I couldn’t undo it; I was foiled by the yarn overs. I just kept ending up with the wrong amount of stitches. I want to knit something as perfect as I can get it. So in the end I gave up and just ripped the whole thing out. Can you see my thin blue thread? This time I’m being very careful.

I’m on the last 12 minutes of my audio book: ‘Reckless’ by Chrissie Hynde. Rosanna Arquette’s terrible pronunciation of many words and shocking attempts at English accents have had me shrieking with irritation, or screaming with laughter, occasionally both at the same time. This has rather spoilt a sometimes shocking, but also poignant story of music and friendship.

I’ve just started reading a new book about a painting: The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild. I’m not far into it yet, but the painting has chapters of its own. I like its voice!

I’m joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along again. Why don’t you?

Spice of Life CAL blanket finished!

   

    Two finished items in a week feels good! One more to go…

I sat and crocheted the rest of the border yesterday, darned the two ends (hurrah for a single colour border!) and did a happy dance. It’s a simple little border which I think is perfect for such a busy blanket. 

It’s not completely ruler straight, but actually the sides are not half as wiggly as I feared; the border really seems to sort it out. I expected a serious blocking session, but there’s really no need.

I’ve just realised I didn’t post my Stylecraft Special Dk colour choices for part 5, so I’ll do that now and for my repeats as I choose to make a larger blanket. Here are the pattern posts by Sandra of Cherry Heart blog in case you now fancy crocheting a Spice of Life blanket too.

Part 5 – repeating some rows

Stacked Grannies: stone, clematis, raspberry, silver

Trebles: Storm blue

Big Zipper: parchment, denim 

Trebles: Parma violet

Stacked Shells: grape, grey x2, sage x2, lavender x2, stone, silver

Fill the Gap: clematis, grey,raspberry,silver,denim,sage x2

Tulips: (I accidentally missed row 1- trebles) grape, stone, parma violet

Trebles: parchment

Waves: storm blue, raspberry

Trebles: grey

Puffs: silver, lavender, clematis, stone

Trebles: (remember no row 8 for repeats in pattern) grape, denim x2

Grannies: sage, silver and repeat

Trebles: lavender, stone, raspberry, grey, storm blue

My choice of repeats

Stacked Grannies: silver, grape and repeat 

Trebles: Parma violet x2

Big Zipper: clematis x2, parchment x2

Trebles: grape x2

Border: (design as written in the pattern) silver 

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Yarn: One of each of Stylecraft Special DK: parchment, clematis, grey, denim, silver (2 as it’s also for the border), lime, storm blue, stone, grape, sage, parma violet, lavender, raspberry 

Hook sizes: I swapped to 4.5 mm for stacked shells and the DC rows. You’ll have to experiment and see how your tension is coming out for the tighter stitches. I always used a 4mm for treble rows. For the border set up row I used a 3mm as I just found it easier to use when crocheting into the middle of the stitches. I aimed to pick up 2 strands on my hook, leaving 1 behind. It looks fair less gappy than crocheting over the end stitch, though it is a fiddle.

Starting chain: 217 (a multiple of 12 + 1) I aimed for a square 4’x4′ blanket for snuggling in on cold evenings.

Size: 4′ X 4′ before border. Border is approx an inch.

Weight: 850g approx

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 And now onwards with another blanket which is half finished. It was requested by my cousin for Christmas. That’s one never-seen-here-before colour combination, just you wait…

Yarn Along 

IMG_1907

IMG_1904I was pretty pleased with myself for finally finishing darning all those ends yesterday!

The colours look pretty muted here, but it was a moment of celebration so I broke my ‘always take photos in natural light’ rule. The sides don’t look as wiggly as I expected. It’s not going to be perfect as I swapped about from a 4mm to 4.5mm hook, but as it’s just for me to snuggle in over the winter it’s all good.

I’ve just started listening to Chrissie Hynde’s memoir, read by Rosanna Arquette. I love her descriptions of growing up in Akron, Ohio. It’s going to be a cracking listen, I can tell.

I’m joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along again. Here are my previous Yarn Along posts. I actually thought my last was fairly recent, but look how long ago it was! I’m pretty staggered. One thought I wrote about blogging makes me smirk. That feeling obviously didn’t stick around for long.