Crochet daffodil

My little contribution to a Spring Flowers yarn bomb. What a lovely little daffodil!

It was designed by Lucy of Attic 24, she’s so good at designing flowers. Here’s the pattern.

I couldn’t make another, or two, by the March 1st deadline as my hand needed some rest, but apparently there’s been a really good response so plenty of knitted (and maybe some crochet) flowers. One is better than none!

I blocked it flat as the leaves and petals were a little curly, but then realised that if it rains (when it rains) they will twirl upwards as soon as wet. So I left a green yarn tail and added a little wrap of yarn so the petals can be secured with a stitch or two.

In England in the spring there is a profusion of flowers and blossom, but actually not many daffodils are flowering around here yet. We’re not quite in springtime. The greenery is there, many buds and an occasional flowering daffodil, but not the golden array we will soon see everywhere. I can’t wait! In the meantime I’ve been buying £1 bunches for my jug. The sight of their happy faces is really cheering. Everything else has risen in price in the supermarkets, but a simple bunch of daffodils is still £1.

From January onwards there have been many winter snowdrops and croci to provide some welcome patches of colour and loveliness. These photos were taken in a mix of locations from various walks and outings over the last month, or so. I’ve got even more photos from other days, but you probably came for the crochet and might be overwhelmed…

Following my mum’s tip I sometimes gently lift a snowdrop’s bloom to see inside, being really careful not to step on others. There are so many different varieties, they are really lovely delicate little flowers.

This was taken yesterday while I paused on a walk
This beautiful bunch of croci was at the base of a tree in early February
Last Sunday. What’s that little patch of mauve in the hedgerow?
Wonderful planting
Half purple, half yellow

Have you ever made something for a yarn bomb?

What’s flowering at the moment in your part of the world?

Bobble cowl – finished!

I’ve enjoyed crocheting this bobbly cowl. It’s definitely been a slow project as rows of mostly double crochet do not grow at all fast, but there was absolutely no rush to complete it. I took my time, I have to do that these days anyway.

I saw this pattern in Simply Crochet magazine issue 128, it was one of those challenges where they give two designers the same yarn and set them to make a blanket, an accessory, or a toy. And Sue Pearson’s bobble cowl jumped out at me. I’ve long enjoyed making bobbles, as I love the texture that they give to accessories in particular. Long-term readers might remember the bobble mitts (see here) which I made years ago. Cor, they were featured in Simply Crochet issue 10. I’ve read the mag since the beginning. (Nowadays through Press Reader or Libby library apps for FREE.) It made my day that those mitts later sold in a Cats Protection charity craft sale.

I’ve never done reverse double crochet before, also known as crab stitch. Have you? It’s perfect for a firm, attractive edging. That’s definitely going on my do-again list. If you wanted a simple edging for a blanket, it would work well.

For some reason it was taking me far too long to translate the instructions into leftie crochet terms. I realised part of the problem was I couldn’t think through how I do double crochet, going in the usual direction, let alone in reverse. Without actually doing some double crochet my brain couldn’t grasp it. If you get what I mean? So, I undid a few switches of the previous row, double crocheted them again and straight away it clicked. I realised what I had to do, only of course going backwards, from right to left as a left hander.

Happily I have quite a bit of Hayfield Spirit, autumn, leftover, so I can make some more granny circles (see my last post, here.) First I need to carry on crocheting my little flowery contribution to a spring yarn bomb. I’ll show you those very soon, as they need to be with the organiser by Wednesday the first. Next I’m off to make some stamens. (It’s not everyday I find myself typing that!)

Have you just, or nearly, finished making something? Or are you surrounded by too many half started projects?

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Post could also be titled ‘Reverse double crochet for a left handed custard brain’

Rainbowy

I was merrily bobbling along the other day and paused to check everything over, because occasionally one bobble will be out of step If I’ve lost concentration at any point listening to a podcast. Then while pausing I realised that it was probably long enough. A quick measure and it was over 60 cm. Suddenly it was done! Well, nearly. I’ve crocheted one row of doubles along the top edge and then I have to do a row of reverse doubles, aka crab stitch, to finish off. And then repeat on the other edge. I’m really pleased with this, mainly because of the beautiful Hayfield Spirit autumn yarn. But also because I love bobbles. It’s been so cool to see the lovely colours appear. Works really well with the pattern doesn’t it?

I’ve also been making granny circles out of some spare yarn, just when I fancy doing a little crochet, but nothing too tricky.

Very rainbowy aren’t they?

Time to read a little more of Ian Rankin’s Rebus (#22) before I seize the day.

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What are you making, listening to and reading?

Happy New Year!

On New Year’s Day I had a good think about starting a project where you make something every day, (or plan something small that you can catch up on at the end of each week, when you invariably end up behind.) But I know better than that really, don’t I? So instead of committing to a plan, I started crocheting circles. I’lI make them whenever I want to do a little bit of crochet, or want something portable to take out and about, then I will turn them into circles in a hexagon, or rectangle, or square, or star, or… and join them together at some point. I REALLY like using variegated yarn, this obsession is not wearing off now and it’s been a couple of years. I plan to transform them with a single plain colour. Probably. That could change, as I wonder about maybe using other variegated shades for contrast, so the overall effect of the whatever it’s going to be would be mismatched and rather glorious. Glorious is a big word, but it’s a fresh shiny new year, so let’s be optimistic and enthusiastic.

After reading some one-word posts and resolutions in which people are already sounding rather desperate and negative, ready to concede defeat, I’m not making resolutions to be broken. I’m not planning to count anything (books, calories, steps, pounds etc etc…) or set big goals. I’ll make considered choices as I go. There’s enough happening in life as you go along, without beginning the year with a huge list of shoulds. No pressure, stress or things to fail. Hurray! Who’s with me?

This week there’s been a lot of wind and rain, but also a few good periods for walking. I’ve been here, there and rather busy, but have made time to walk. Look at yesterday’s sunset. Beautiful.

I stopped counting my mileage last spring, knowing after recording it for 3 years or so, that I average 1,000 miles walked a year. I did have a look at Strava and see that I walked 50 miles over Christmas. I knew I had tried to move most days, I didn’t realise it was quite so much. Those 2 mile jaunts around to look at the Christmas lights and catch glimpses of people’s trees add up!

Witney was looking really lovely on Wednesday afternoon.

It’s Epiphany today and the last day of Christmas. The lights and sparkle everywhere have been so welcome. I’m going to keep my three cosy red tea light holders out of my decs box this year and I’ve got star shaped fairy lights along the mantelpiece. January and February can be grey and grim, but there are ways to brighten up home and keep some sparkle.

I whizzed up some whole spices to top up my curry powder jar. I ground it all quite coarsely, those homegrown dried chilies are definitely still looking flaky, but it’s a perfect blend of flavours and will cook down well. If you’re feeling a bit low I recommend making a spice blend up to use in soups and curries, or as marinades. Buy a grinder and some whole spices to make your own blends. There are loads of blend recipes online. It’s cheaper in the long run than buying those titchy jars, especially if you buy larger packets of whole spices from an Asian Supermarket. You feel really productive and you get the flavours you want, adding more, or less of what you prefer. The kitchen smelt amazing afterwards, it’s very cheering.

These orchids stopped me in my tracks at the garden centre. How fresh and vibrant! Garden centres and nurseries are still managing to provide lots of colour and brightness. They’re usually warm too!

Meatless Monday’s (as I call it, most say meat- free) spicy bean & tomato soup. Fancy it? Diced onion, carrot & celery cooked slowly till softened, smoked paprika & chilli powder added and cooked for a minute, stir so it doesn’t burn, add a diced yellow pepper, a can of chopped tomatoes, 750 ml ish of veg stock, mixed herbs, can of drained black beans, can of drained kidney beans, a squeeze of tomato purée and a good simmer. Perfect!

Then a day or two later I browned 250g pork mince, cooked a little more smoked paprika and chilli powder, added the soup leftovers and threw some petit pois in at the end. Served it in bowls, with strong cheddar on top and called it Chilli!

Usually my leftovers get turned into soups/stoup (Hugh FW term for something halfway between a soup and a stew.) This was the reverse process and worked very well.

By Welsh artist Lizzie Spikes – Driftwood Designs

Too good not to share. I’ve put all the names and dates of the different moons on my calendar. So today is called Stay at Home moon. I don’t mind if I do. Sounds perfect. I’ve had a bowl of soup for lunch and my second piece of Christmas cake. (First slice of today I mean, only my second of Christmas!) I’ve started to Declutter Christmas (feels appropriate to be capitalised) as it’s time. Christmas cards are in a pile to read through and look at once more. I’ve dusted after taking away cards, Christmassy tins, a bowl of mini baubles, a wicker star and more. The Poinsettia has been watered a little, it hasn’t lost its leaves yet… Now the bauble boxes are open on the sofa, waiting to be refilled. I am feeling unusually regretful about the de-Christmassing this year; usually I’m ready to dust and put everything to rights, however this year I fancy keeping everything up until Valentine’s Day! I’ve really loved our Christmas tree. But all good things must come to an end.

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What are your plans for the weekend? Have you got any new recipes to try, new books to read or a walk planned? What about crochet and knitting; have you fallen for the make-something-everyday plan and kept it up, or failed after just a few days?!

Baby it’s cold outside!

After marvelling about the geraniums still blooming with more buds to open and roses on bushes during November and into the beginning of December, and lots of mutterings about climate change, the weather decided to move into a proper old-fashioned winter. The type we used to have. It started with a heavy frost last Saturday and then snowed on Sunday morning. It’s been very cold all week.

The grocery delivery was delayed on Tuesday morning because the driver said she helped tow someone out of a ditch, as their car had slipped off the road. What a heroine.

It’s really cold out today, it was -6 at 7 o’clock this morning, it’s now noon and is 0°. The snow still hasn’t melted in places, but it looks absolutely beautiful, it’s a winter wonderland!

I’ve loved wrapping up warmly and going for walks. As long as you keep moving briskly, it’s fine. And however cool the house is when you return it feels absolutely roasting in contrast.

I made mulled cider with a measure of Angostura rum on Sunday, which was definitely warming. It practically put me to sleep by 8 o’clock.

I’ve cooked a spicy lentil parsnip and apple soup this week, you can find the recipe here on BBC Good Food site. When I first made it last year I found it a little sweet, so I cut down the amount of apple down to half, but it’s obviously all down to personal taste. It’s worth looking out for Justine Pattison’s recipes, I think she’s really good.

When I’ve been for an icy blast of a walk, soup is what I crave to warm me up and fill the gap at lunchtime.

I’ve made a double batch of mincemeat this week. Ooh the smells in the kitchen were amazing. It’s made with dried cranberries, a mixture of raisins, sultanas, citrus peels, fresh orange zest and juice, Bramley apples, mixed spice and a quadruple of something very alcoholic! It’s a make and use now, or store in a cool place for six months recipe. But it’s so good, there’s no way there’s going to be any left in a month’s time.

I’m making my own pastry for the first time in absolutely years next week and taking mince pies to share with two special people. Wish me luck with the pastry!

I’ve been waiting for publishing day to tell you about The Secrets of Rochester Place by Iris Costello. It’s a goodie.

There are multiple characters and timelines from 1937, leading to the beginning of the Second World War and the current day.

The Secrets of Rochester Place begins with a ship of Basque children being evacuated to England, following the bombing of Guernica in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. There is also detail about the Irish famine and the fight for independence from The United Kingdom, when Mary is introduced into the story, plus there is quite a bit about Grace O’Malley, the 16th century Irish pirate Queen. In short there is a lot of history, which roots the story and characters into their times and helps to illustrate their motivations.

The story moves on to the beginning of the Second World War and the Blitz. There is a lot going on! (Lots of further reading too, with a helpful bibliography at the end of the novel, for those who are interested in learning more.)
There are a few mysteries at the heart of this book; what has happened to Theresa the young child who has been brought to England as a place of safety, who is Mary Davidson the woman who fosters Theresa and where is Theresa’s sister? And many more missing people, but I will not reveal any more for fear of plot spoilers.


I was gripped. I really liked the quality of the writing, the pace of the book, the jumping back and forth in time and the (mostly) London setting. Overall this is a really absorbing read. Let me know if you try it?

As for crafting I’m still hooked on bobbles. I’m crocheting a Christmas tree! Of course I am, aren’t we all at this time of year?! Free pattern on See Love Share blog here.

❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️

What are you doing, cooking, reading and crafting?

I hope you’re managing to stay warm and cosy, or cool and comfortable if you’re not waking up to -6° temps.

* I am editing this while balancing on my wooden 66 Fit rocker board for 5 minutes. Google if you don’t know what it is. I think you might be impressed! I’m multitasking; blogging while doing some of my physio.

Crochet! Crochet! Crochet!

Here’s the eye catching postbox topper that my friend’s WI (Women’s Institute) put together for Remembrance Sunday.

Can you spot any of the crochet poppies that I sent her?

Offering to make some poppies was the best thing for me really. We had such a hot summer. I don’t usually do much crochet when it’s warm and even less so this year, as England had some of the highest temperatures since records began. But since I made some poppies I’ve got my crojo back again, with a vengeance. It’s probably the darker evenings and the cooler weather too.

I’ve been buzzing. I’ve looked through my crochet books, read the latest issues of Simply Crochet mag on the e-library site PressReader (it’s free! Great app. Really, really good) and dived into my storage cube to see what was in my yarn stash.

Making a resolution not to start anything new, but to finish off projects I’m already halfway through this year has not been that exciting. I’ve made some headway, but felt bored, so then ended up doing little.

I checked to see what yarn I already have, but of course I didn’t actually use any of it! I mean we don’t, do we?! That’s why we build up stashes in the first place. Mine’s modest because I’ve sent a friend some and donated other bits to a charity shop, so I reckoned I could buy a little something. I chose some brand-new Hayfield Spirit DK. I really like it. When there’s even 20% wool content it’s much nicer to work with than pure acrylic, and looks better as well. It should be warmer too. I never usually make wearables with 100% acrylic, but of course it’s far more affordable for big projects, such as blankets.

I started a virus shawl. Here’s a quick snap that I sent to a friend when we were sharing what we were making one night. It’s not a great photo, but it was enough for her to see what I was doing.

This is the autumn colour way, the people at Hayfield (Sirdar) must have been thinking of autumn flowers, such as dahlias and asters, because the colours don’t say autumn leaves to me.

Then although I was happy with how it looked, I realised I would probably never wear it. I’m more a scarf or cowl wearer. I unravelled it and started a virus blanket. I bought the pattern from Jonna Martinez. Here. There are lots of You Tubers whom you can crochet along with (fun thing to do) as you start your own Virus shawl or blanket. I did that to begin.

Jonna brought the Virus pattern back to the fore and made it famous – go viral. I have read that the Virus design is actually based on an old pattern from Rumania or Russia. This wouldn’t be a surprise; I don’t think there’s really much that’s original in crochet, we’re all replicating stitches and patterns that have been done over decades, maybe centuries.

Pretty colours, aren’t they? But you see the problem? You see what’s really, really, REALLY annoying me, that means I’m going to have to unravel it?

All I will say is that I am looking into the standing stitch and checking out various ways to do it. One crocheter made a video to demonstrate one and it really made me laugh, because she can hardly get her hook through the loop. I’m not sure about doing that version. Might give it a swerve and find another!

Simply Crochet issue 128

And then when I was reading Simply Crochet, issue 128, I found a Bobble Cowl design by Sue Pearson, that I really fancied making. Pattern available here too.

I remember how much I like crocheting bobbles. I started the cowl without really checking what size I would prefer, but happily it’s exactly the height of my favourite knitted Edenvale cowl. Here it is, I wear it all the time in the winter.

And that is what I’ve been making, making and unravelling, making and measuring, then sighing with relief when it’s right.

What about you? What are you making? Any unravelling going on? Any new yarn purchases?

I’ll be back soon with a new books post.

I really need to crochet a hexagon!

I woke up really early yesterday morning, read a bit more of Hidden Depths, the third book in the Vera series by Anne Cleeves and then fell back asleep for a few hours. When I woke I scrolled a bit on Insta and found I had a burning need to crochet a hexagon!

Do you ever feel like that? You just have to grab some scraps of yarn and a hook and go for it?

I’d seen Anita’s Vintage Hexagons a while back and that was the pattern I settled on. It’s free and here on her brand new website. She’s so clever with colour and original blanket designs. We’ve followed each other for years on Insta, but now she’s really taking designing up a notch. Check out her accounts.

I’ve been on a mission for a long time to finish all the things already started, or to unravel them, but I made an allowance yesterday. A few hexies, using oddments from blanket making, wouldn’t exactly be breaking the plan. I fancied something colourful. I really like the variegated Hayfield Spirit wool acrylic mix I’m using for my Coast blanket, but it’s quite muted.

Crocheting motifs bit by bit would be an ideal project for short bursts of crochet. I’d get that feeling of completing something, without crippling pain at the end of a mammoth row of a blanket. Anyway, I’m always drawn to hexagons, they’re probably my most favourite shapes.

Larger balls and little lengths wound up and in a little zippy bag I sewed a few years ago

Do you recognise my colour combo? I’ve used it a little more more than I realised. Thank goodness for my account on Pinterest. I had a quick look through my pins to spot everything made with this colour combo. My Pinterest doesn’t feature everything, but it’s a good selection. It’s amazing how many people end up here clicking through from Pinterest.

Baby Theo’s Patchwork blanket
Winnie’s Wave blanket (and Winnie’s baby brother who inherited it last year)
Blackberry Ripple blanket
Baby Hexagons blanket

Anyway, back to yesterday…

I think I might stop here and change yarns. I’ve become used to more of a wool content, even 20%, and the plasticy look of this acrylic is not doing it for me. Or maybe I should try a different brand?

This week I may donate what I’ve made so far, and the little middles I also made, with the rest of the oddments. I could pop in a note telling the buyer where to find the free pattern online too.

What’s your go-to yarn for blanket making? I’m not about to buy a vast quantity of pure wool. I crochet and knit with wool or blends for smaller makes, as I prefer to wear it rather than 100% acrylic. It would be way too expensive and too valuable for throwing about as an everyday blanket. Another brand of acrylic, or a wool blend would be good to try. Any recommendations would be welcome. Then I can go to wool shop to have a squish…

…when I’ve completed my ‘Finish everything and do not buy any more yarn’ mission, of course!

Sleep Under the Stars blanket – finished

Started in May 2020 during Lockdown my star blanket, official show-name Sleep Under the Stars is finally complete. It’s not my first star shaped blanket, I’ve been drawn to them for a long time. I think it’s the novelty of making a non-rectangular or square thing once in a while. If you want to check out the three others you can see them here. Smaller sized star blankets make super car-seat or buggy blankets for littles. This is a snuggle on the sofa and read a book, or watch tv size for someone older.

It’s a weighty, soft and very snuggly blanket. This was my first time crocheting with Paintbox Simply Chunky yarn. I liked it so much I soon started to use it for other makes, including a couple of cowls. It’s really nice affordable acrylic yarn which both crochets and knits up well.

Here are the details in case you want to make a star blanket too:

Pattern: Free from Love Crafts site as you see I chose my own colour combo and no pom-poms! I finished emergency stop styley, brake hard and handbrake applied, when I felt it was the size I wanted. I didn’t do the back loops, or is it front loops only thing in the last round.

Yarn: Paintbox Simply Chunky

I used Misty Grey 303 / Slate Grey 305 / Mustard yellow 323

Hook: 6mm, I always use Clover Amour hooks

Size: 48 1/2” / 123cm

Weight: 816g

Tip: For self …don’t forget to write down which shade of yarns you’re using (I usually do but for some reason didn’t, let’s blame lockdown brain) so I’ve just spent about 10 minutes going to the window glasses on, glasses off to work out whether I used misty grey or stormy grey! They’re very, very similar.

For you…do start new rounds of colour by going into the pointy chain space and chaining 5, 3 of those chains equal 1 treble and 2 chains are for the 2 chain space which you do in between the treble(s) at every point. If it’s a row where you need 2 trebles in the point don’t worry, you add in the other right at the end of the round.

If you’re continuing in the same colour you simply slip stitch into the pointy chain space and carry on in the same way, with 5 chain stitches to begin. *If you don’t do this* and you slip stitch into a treble elsewhere it will look fine to begin with, but after a while you’ll find that you get a line of slip stitch joins. This spoils the look of the blanket. Believe me. I write from experience!

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And this is looking like a proper crochet blog again, at least for a moment. I shall have to try to finish something else which doesn’t have much left to do and then this will continue!

I’ve got lots of book recommendations, so I’ll be back soonish with another post. I’m having a fantastic reading year.

Hope you had a good Easter weekend? What have you been up to? Are you making anything at the moment, or having a break? TALK TO ME ;-)

And there were lambs

My Star Blanket is slowly growing as I crochet another round and then undo half because I made a mistake. My concentration isn’t always great at the moment and my hands are sore from digging up dandelions in the garden, so it is a very slow process. It’s a lovely thick and warm soft blanket, so worth the effort.

I’m having a really good reading year, so far. I recently finished this and found it a good read, there are some interesting stories. Both sides of the family were so supportive of Ed and Yvette in their busy years. I loved reading about their family gatherings, and descriptions of family life with both parents being politicians. Appetite is part memoir, part recipe book. I’ve highlighted quite a few recipes in the proof copy I read on my Kindle. There’s nothing particularly exotic, but there are dishes that I haven’t made before, or those that I fancy making again. Cajun beans and custard are two that spring to mind. Ed Balls always comes across well on tv and this book portrays him no differently. It can’t be easy to write a book about oneself which is well balanced; not too self-critical or high in praise, Ed has managed it admirably.

Friends have given this five stars on Goodreads. At first I found the opening chapters rather twee, although I love the fact that it’s set in my home city. It’s enjoyable being taken back to when I lived in an adjacent street to one described by protagonist Esme, in her twentieth century setting. I remember cycling home from work and stopping in Jericho to buy a bottle of cider on a Friday night. It’s magical when you read a book and know every single place mentioned, isn’t it? I went into town yesterday because I wanted to buy some new tops in Seasalt, but mostly because this book drew me back to the city. I’ve found it hard to get back into the swing of my usual pre-pandemic (and let’s be honest it’s not over yet) activities and city life is one of them.

Anyway, I soon became engrossed in the story and now I’m finding it hard to put down. Have you read The Dictionary of Lost Words?

The only jarring note so far is that halfway through the (Australian) author has used the term ‘blow-in’ several times and it doesn’t feel right. I’ve never heard anyone use it here and thought it American. I’ve looked it up and according to the Oxford English Dictionary on my Kindle it is ‘informal, Australian slang’. Oh the irony!

Hidcote Manor Garden was looking stunning on Sunday. The magnolia trees are absolutely wonderful. Although I’ve visited many times over the years, I don’t remember seeing them in bloom, but then it only takes one windy day or a heavy rain storm for the petals to fall. This was lucky timing. Perhaps I’ve always gravitated there more in Summertime?

And, THERE WERE LAMBS!

I have a few videos of them hop, skipperty, jumping. Ahh the baas too, I’d forgotten how loudly tiny lambs can call. It was my first sighting of lambs this year and I stood on a log watching them for ages, absolutely mesmerised.

That was a little snapshot of some of my past week, what about yours…Have you seen lambs yet? Any book recommendations you want to pass on? Or new recipes? I think most of us love book and food talk.

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I’ve been wondering again about continuing this blog, I’ve had these thoughts every now and then over the last few years, since I haven’t been able to crochet or knit so much due to my sore hand. It’s not a very dynamic craft blog anymore. When I see all the colour work and inventive crochet being done on Instagram it makes me feel like I’ve been left behind. But then I looked at the numbers of new followers on my blog’s Facebook page and caught sight of the WordPress stats for this month alone and felt really encouraged. If what I waffle here is continued to be read, then it’s my pleasure to carry on. Thank you and welcome if you’re a new reader and follower.

Lots of yellow & grey

Gah! And this is why I should never crochet while drinking cider.

I realised that the stitch count was really off in the section with the stitch marker, but in my tipsy wisdom did quite a few decrease stitches to get the it right. Then I carried on going around and around. In the morning I realised I’d have to rip it all back, in an acknowledgment that it’s not my way of doing things. I’m a perfectionist and those rogue stitches would forever bug me.

The blanket was pretty large, so it took A LOT of unraveling and winding yarn. I undid the whole yellow section. Once again…Gah!

I keep thinking I should be at expert level now, these kind of silly mistakes where I have 17 stitches in all other sections and find 22 in another should not be happening…it was definitely the cider.

The Chevron Cowl made it up to the NE coast, just in the nick of time! I offered it to friends and Safron jumped at it. Of course she’s perfect for it; she never shies away from wearing bright colours, plus always looks great in yellow. Doesn’t it match perfectly with her grey beanie too?

We’ve been battered by the weather since last week. We had Storm Dudley on Wednesday, followed by Eunice on Friday, with 75 mph winds and then Frank on Sunday with 60mph winds and very heavy rainfall. There are trees and branches down, but luckily nothing worse. I did wonder if the conservatory roof would lift off at one point. It’s still intact, thank goodness.

I think (and hope) that’s it now. The morning is calm and sunny, so far. It’s half term around here and parents are breathing a sigh of relief to be out and about again. I can hear the birds for the first time in days. They must be ravenous. How does a little robin or wren withstand 70+mph wind? They must go deep into foliage and hide?

Thursday really was the calm in between the storms, fortunately we managed to get out and do a new 6 mile circular walk. With an unplanned pub lunch in the middle. Anything more than a snack was probably a mistake. There were still steep hills to walk up, to loop back to the starting point, but I enjoyed being out for lunch very much. At least I could keep pausing to ‘take photos of the view’ while not fooling either of us.

Aren’t those aconites beautiful? The leaves are such an unusual shape, sort of rectangular. They were next to a huge clump of snowdrops near to where I parked the car.

I wonder what the aconites look like now? The garden here is full of croci and surprisingly they haven’t been flattened. The Christmas tree went over in it’s very heavy concrete pot early on when Storm Eunice arrived. A huge clonk and then bumps and bangs, as rolled back and forth whacking into the side of the house. We had to run out and rescue it, into the safety of the garage. It was wild out there. Scary, but exhilarating too. The rest of the time it’s felt like Lockdown, taking advice to stay indoors and stay safe, out of the risk of falling trees and flying debris.

I was on a FaceTime call during Storm Eunice and saw a fat pigeon being blown sideways in the wind. That was pretty funny.

The other week I swapped a novel for this Mollie Makes Crochet book at an exchange. It’s fairly basic, aimed at beginner crocheters, but it has some little things I might make.

My poinsettia lost 90% of it’s leaves, as I suspected it would, so now the cyclamen takes its place. Something red this time of year makes a darkish corner a bit brighter and cheerful.

Are you reading a good book? I’m gripped by the latest from Lisa Jewell. I’ve waited months for it from BorrowBox the library app and it’s not disappointing. I read about half in a day. Book details here on GoodReads.

If you’re in the UK did you come through the storms unscathed? Maybe you’ve got snow or floods, or are sweltering in heat?

And I finished it!

I finished the Granny Chevron Cowl last Sunday. There were lots of ends to darn, but I’ve always found the sewing bit quite relaxing. Such a nice achievement to start AND finish something in the same month.

You can just see the join-as-you-go row, where I’ve slip stitched along after each group of trebles, into the spaces. It’s a really neat and quick way to finish. Who wants to join by sewing, when you can crochet?

I hung it on a branch (or is it called a cane?) of fuchsia to photograph. It was really blowy last weekend as we had the tail end of Storm Malik, so it swung and forwards. I stood still capturing these two photos as it moved.

Details

Pattern On Ravelry from Zeens and Roger blog, by Rosina Northcott.

Yarn Paintbox chunky mustard yellow (323) & misty grey (303)

Hook 6mm

Height 24cm

Width 32cm

Circumference 64cm

Weight 135g, so used less than 2 balls of 100g chunky yarn

Tips

I did 8 pattern repeats, so 8 sections of colour, instead of the pattern’s 6 to get the required circumference. Remember you need to end on colour B rather than A; otherwise you’ll have one big one coloured section and it will ruin the pattern.

It’s worth watching Rosina’s You Tube video, linked to on the pattern’s blog post, for handy tips such as trebling around the first stitch of the previous row, instead of going into it at the end of each row. This saves a lot of fiddly stuff.

Before you do the join as you go row you could fix the beginning and end together with stitch marker rings (see below), it helped me to see how it was going to fit together. Finding the middle ensures you match it up accurately. I left the markers and took them out as I joined the two edges.

My poinsettia won’t be featured in every blog post for much longer, since it’s losing leaves quickly now

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And now I need to crack on with the finishing the Star Blanket, because I have a cunning plan for it. Except, I’ve just seen something that’s inspired me to try something else….oops!

What are you making at the moment? Are you feeling busy and productive, or are you in hibernation mode? I think either is good at this time of year. Here lately it’s mostly staying around 4° all day every day. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, what are you up to? Sunshine and warmth….lovely!

January

Making: my cosy chunky star blanket larger, still. Really it’s the perfect project on a chilly day.

Slipping: on icy roads, they have been like driving on an ice rink quite often this January. I hope for milder weather now.

Reading: another book set in London, this time during the Victorian era. It’s a proof copy. If I think it’s worth recommending I will write a bit more about the story when it nears its publication date in the spring.

Eating: Brunch! Non-stop chat with a friend a couple of weeks ago, cups of tea, full English breakfast with locally sourced everything, then creamy cappuccinos to finish. As you see it was an absolutely HUGE plateful (so glad I went without eating anything since dinner the night before…) I was in a food coma for the rest of the day! I didn’t eat until the evening, and then it was a light meal, but it was so amazing. The best EB I’ve ever had. My friend enjoyed her Egg Florentine, but I think might be going for the full English next time. She looked really envious.

Disliking: Mud! As some fields are beginning to be ploughed and planted there’s such a lot of mud on the road from the tractors. Car wash? Oh yes please. Love them. But…it was rainy the following day and my car is back to grey. Oh it’s not the only thing either; my handbag is splodged with it as I brushed past too closely.

Reading: the latest issue of Inside Crochet and trying to catch up with my Good Housekeeping mags. I’ve now got a pile of January, February and March GH to read. I got a year’s subscription from Nectar points (I think) as I always really like their recipes. But I’m finding it hard to keep up.

Finishing: something at the weekend! Ding-ding first thing of the year made. I’ll show you soon.

Snorting: with laughter at Daisy May Cooper’s audio book: Don’t laugh, it will only encourage her

Singing: along to the Richard Ashcroft and Liam Gallagher version of C’mon People (We’re Making it Now.) It’s the perfect pairing you never knew you needed. It makes me grin. Here on Spotify.

Grateful: for a year’s worth of Spotify.

Listening: to Grace Dent’s Comfort Food podcast. I choose the episodes I fancy. There’s so many; it’s the advantage of coming to a podcast later. The Rafe Spall episode is painfully honest. His comfort food though OH MY, it’s roast chicken smothered in butter, with lots of lemon AND they make homemade chips. Mmmm. My current episode is Dave Myers from The Hairy Bikers. I listen to it in chunks. Some of Dave’s was at 0400 this morning. Groan.

Rewatching: Derry Girls as they’ve just announced there’s to be a new series in March. It’s so good, so funny. (Series 1 is on Netflix so you can miss the adverts, 2 is only on All 4 at the mo.)

Missing: Schitt’s Creek. It really has been my tv programme of the Pandemic. Moira never failed to make me laugh, every single episode. If you’ve been under a rock and haven’t watched it yet, it’s on Netflix. Worth getting Netflix for IMHO.

Laughing: the day after the car wash / mud bath, I had my hair done, then walked my 5 mile loop and it started to pour with rain!

Deserving: after the rainy 5 mile walk I had a big slice of cake and a mug of English Breakfast tea. January involved lots of treats. It was the freezing cold weather…

Forgetting: your nearest and dearest reads your blog “You had cake after the walk?!”

Loving: wholegrain mustard with honey. If I could find white mustard seeds I would make some, I’ve got a good looking recipe. I don’t need a kilo thanks Amazon. I’ll try to buy some locally from an Asian shop.

Cooking: crab linguine, lots of curries and dals, poached pears in red wine and apple juice with blackberries (voted absolutely delicious.)

Drinking: a gin cocktail last night. Well ok, two. A free repeat January box was delivered here yesterday. It was an incredibly generous offer for those who decided to order February’s box, instead of skipping it. It was funny timing; I’d changed my mind anyway, decided to order it and then had the the offer email, but I wasn’t too worried. The timing was just a bit off. Then to my surprise I had an email on Friday saying my repeat January box would be with me on Monday! We never usually have a drink on a Monday, but yesterday it had to be done. I really like the Vietnamese gin. It’s floral, perfumed and really different to any I’ve had before.

Tempting: you… here’s my referral code for Craft Gin Club. If you’re in the UK you can order a half price box for £20 (with free delivery.) There’s no obligation to order any other boxes. I’ve shared this a few times and people have used it. I hope you’ve enjoyed your gin, mixers and snacks.

Spotting: the garden waking up and winter flowers appearing. Then on a walk on Saturday, we saw snowdrops in the wild. So lovely, so lovely.

How was your January? Any patterns, good reads, podcasts, tv shows or recipes you want to share?

I started something new!

The latest copy of Inside Crochet plopped onto the doormat the other day. I haven’t really read much of it yet, but did read the interview with Rosina Northcott, better known to me as Zeens and Roger on Insta. When she named her two most popular designs I wanted to check them out on Ravelry. As soon as I saw the Granny Chevron Cowl pattern I found myself reaching for my hook and chunky yarn, even without really thinking. Next a part of my brain was shouting “NO, no, no! You’re not supposed to be starting anything new! You’re meant to be finishing the stuff you’ve started. It was doable, albeit slow. What are you doing?!” Ha! Too late brain, you need to speed up next time.

Here’s the Ravelry page which will take you to the original pattern blog post.

I’ve crocheted the required 29 rows, the 30th should be the joining round but my tension must be way tighter than Rosina’s. (It does lie flat, I just threw it down without due care and attention, for a quick snap in the photo above. A girl’s got to get back to her crochet, after all.) The only thing it will go around is my leg at the mo, and a leg-warmer was not really the plan. No matter, as I’ve got lots of this Paintbox chunky yarn. But just be aware of your tension and possible need to add extra rows, in case you’ve got limited chunky yarn.

I’m listening to Daisy May Cooper’s audio book as I crochet, she’s hilarious.

I’ve been to another community book exchange, this time an official Little Free Library, as I said I would a few weeks ago. This type of box on a pole book exchange is modelled on the original Little Free Library in Wisconsin, USA. Here’s some info about that first. I love the whole thing!

If you want to see some real handmade beauties, all over the world, just Google ‘Little Free Library’. People are so creative! I’ve just seen a house shaped one, which has origami in the attic and is beautifully decorated on the outside.

Some tempting things there, but the one I immediately swapped my book for was The Guest List. I’ve read Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party and her latest: The Paris Apartment. Both are good reads, but The Hunting Party (her debut) was my favourite of the two. The Guest List is a great find. It’s one of those books where you find yourself sighing and settling down into a more comfy position halfway through the first chapter.

And further along the same road, opposite the pub and along from the church in Freeland, Oxfordshire, there is another book exchange. A not-so-small Little Free Library. I’d already swapped my book and there wasn’t really anything else I wanted, but isn’t it well stocked? Lots for children too.

I absolutely love community projects like these and apparently the first LFL (the box on the pole) in the village was a roaring success when it was set up in 2016. It’s been estimated that more than 2,000 books passed through it in the first 12 months. Woah!

St Mary the Virgin Church, Freeland

I’ve always been a huge advocate and supporter of our public libraries, but I do think there is a place for both those and community book exchanges. Especially in rural communities which are not well served by public transport, or at all. Community book and toy exchanges became lifelines and positive distractions during our months of Lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 when the libraries were closed. I remember we walked to a neighbouring village during that time, and saw numerous boxes left outside people’s garden gate. Sharing books, jigsaw puzzles and children’s games had sprung up. Did this happen where you live?

I’ve left books in book exchanges, cafés, holiday homes and telephone boxes for years and years. You never know where they’ll end up and also what you will find! Actually, for Sunday lunch tomorrow I’m making a dessert from the recipe book that I swapped for my Christmas novel. (Poached pears with blackberries.)

What are you making and reading? Or are you busy doing other stuff? Have you got book exchanges or games swaps? I’ve heard of bus shelter book and game exchanges which sprung up in Lockdown. Have you spotted one? Tell us…

6 Good Things

How’s the second week of January been for you? Here it’s been mostly very, very grey and white skies, no sunshine or brightness at all. Quite hard going. Everyone I’ve spoken to lately seems to be struggling a bit post-Christmas sparkles. But what I’ve noticed is when we do get the occasional bright day, loads of people have also swarmed outside. I’ve tried to move more. Yesterday that included half an hour of hoovering; it counts, it’s still movement!

I’ve fancied some crunchy salads. This was tinned mackerel with a homemade honey and lemon dressing and pumpkin seeds sprinkled over the top.

And I’ve made a spicy chickpea sauce, with chunky slices of red onion and leek, crushed garlic, tinned and fresh tomatoes, a little veg stock, smoked paprika and red chilli flakes to liven it up. I cooked some cod fillets on top of the first half and served it with green veg. The rest I turned into a mushroom curry, cooking off some spice paste first, then adding the chickpea sauce, some sliced chestnut mushrooms and jarred peppers snipped into strips. We ate that last night with roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts sprinkled with salt and pepper. Yum.

I’m quite into the idea of two different meals out of one. Last week I made a spaghetti Bolognese and turned the other half of the sauce into a lasagne on Saturday. Do you do this one into two thing? Shall we share some ideas which might be useful inspo for meal planning?

Yesterday I added more to my Sleep Under the Stars blanket. The pattern link can be found here.

Here’s when I started this blanket. I can’t believe it’s nearly 2 years ago…

And here’s when I (prematurely) decided it was finished. That was more about my hand pain than anything else I think. Now I’m on a mission to make it bigger, slowly slowly, and then I *think* I have a cunning plan for it. This is the year of finishing things I’ve started in the last 3 or 4 years. Sure I said that last year too, but I’ve got my determined chin on, can you tell?!

So relaxing to sit and crochet while I listened to the rest of Blackberry & Wild Rose by Sonia Velton. It was a good story and I liked the two narrators. Crochet or knitting with an audio book or podcast are such a winning combination. Deeply relaxing.

Still reading the Crawdads book, I haven’t picked up the Mudlarks this week. I’ve been reading more of Tim Spector’s The Diet Myth. It’s fascinating. What are you reading?

And some cheery blue sky and sunny pictures from my walk on Wednesday.

See the frost on the grass?
Icy along the edges

It was a bracingly cold morning, but once I got warmed up I ended up tying my jacket around my waist, because I was glowing! Others trudged past wearing all the woollies and looking quite chilled. I walked just over 5 miles and treated myself to a slice of very delicious Victoria sponge for lunch! I know, I know…!

I appreciated some small kindnesses this week: B. saving me a seat at an event we were both going to and giving me a strip of raffle tickets she’d bought me. A. messaging to say there’s a new series of Vera on TV. (She does every time and for new eps of Shetland. So kind, always needed too since I’ve usually missed the ads for them.) And there was something else, but I’ve forgotten. D’oh!

Let’s call this post 6 good things? 1. Blue skies 2. Getting outside 3. Crochet 4. Books 5. Cooking 6. Kindness

What about your week? How’s it been? Do you want to list some of the good things?

2019 – 2021

I hope you’ve had a really good Christmas, are feeling well and relaxed, or buzzy and productive. If none of these things, then I send you Feel Better Soon vibes and very best wishes for the New Year.

I always used to do a round-up gallery at the end of each year of blogging. But realised recently that the last one was in 2018. Skimming through my blog posts, I’ve realised why I paused.

In 2019 the only thing I finished was the cross-stitch 45 hoop! I started so many things that year, but could never complete them as my hand was too painful, following a hand injury in April 2018. Each thing was begun with hope. Perhaps this would be the magic project…? But there has been no magic, it’s been time and an acceptance that I cannot sit and crochet, knit or sew for hours on end anymore. But I’m so happy today’s gallery above shows a good collection of all I’ve made in the last 3 years. Things are definitely on the up. This is now a slow crafting blog.

You can see all my other roundups from 2012 onwards, if you click on the links at the bottom of that 2018 gallery post. Maybe start with the 2012 link and then come back here? Wink.

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Ahem!

Taps teaspoon on champagne glass…

DID YOU NOTICE WHAT I’D WRITTEN at the bottom of the 2012 gallery post?

So, today it’s my blog’s 10TH BIRTHDAY!

🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂

Merry & Bright

Shall we play a game? It’s called spot the sprout on the Christmas tree! And no, he hasn’t got his googly eyes yet, because I need to get some glue. I’m very reluctant to use superglue because of all the people I know, I’m most likely to end up in A&E over Christmas with my fingers stuck together…

Fortnum & Mason, London, Christmas window from 2017

And here’s the first large amigurami I’ve done in years! He’s been fun to make. I particularly like his bowtie. Thanks – heaps of thanks actually – to June of Planet June and her absolutely marvellous tips on invisible finishes and securing features. She has such a clear way of explaining things and brilliant tips.

So how are you doing? Are you feeling all prepared and calm, or is it a bit frantic and you’re frazzled? Christmas is such a weird time. Such a lot of build up and things to do, when in essence it’s a few days with family and friends. But it can easily become a juggernaut. Anyway I hope you’re well and you can spend some time with people you love, or at least whose company you enjoy.

We’ve just decorated the Christmas tree while listening to Motown and Jamie Cullum Christmas songs on Spotify. We each sipped a glass of champagne which always makes the tree prettifying into quite a lovely thing. I always, always forget about some of the special decorations and so it’s a really nice surprise to see them again.

New this year. He’s soooo cute.

On Sunday we visited Waddesdon Manor NT (Website here) for the annual light-trail, Christmas market and in my case; Bailey’s hot chocolate and a peanut butter brownie. Yum. During Lockdown people who would usually have volunteered in the property started to knit and crochet wraps for the tree trunks along the Carriage Drive. Apparently this really helped with feelings of isolation and missing normal activities. This I was really glad to know, the volunteers are always super when you visit. I took some pics to share with you, although there were many, many more yarn wrapped trees. I kept thinking no wonder we had a yarn shortage!

I liked the dangly ends and even Someone said it’s a good way to get out of the darning
Such a foggy day but it added to the atmosphere, although I wasn’t so keen when the moisture made my mascara drip down my face and onto my mask. I looked a bit alarming in the light!
And bunting too
Spectacular light show and music in front of the manor, it’s in the style of a French Château

I will be crocheting over Christmas, either more sprouts or I might allow myself to break my own rule about finishing all my WIPS. I may begin making something new. It *is* Christmas after all. I have new yarn which I’m itching to get out of its crinkly paper bag.

I shall love you and leave you now. It’s time for dinner and maybe another glass of champagne later. Maybe a slice of Stollen too. Oooh I do quite like Christmas. Have a merry one. If you aren’t feeling it this year, then stay cosy if you can.

Snow Face!

It’s been an exciting morning. It’s been really stormy here overnight, with Storm Arwen bringing very, very gusty winds but luckily no damage. I think the north of the country have had it far worse with 98 mph winds.

I kept having shouted weather updates from downstairs first thing, as we were anticipating some changes. First it was “It’s only raining at the moment” yawn, then “I think it’s starting to sleet” ok a little more interesting and then I got a WhatsApp video showing snow falling!

At the time I was sat up in bed ordering more wool for my blanket and toy eyes from Wool Warehouse. I tried to support my local yarn shops, but neither of them had the right sized toy eyes. It was enjoyable browsing online, as it’s months since I have properly looked. But when the snow video came I ended up jumping out of bed, grabbing my iPad and FaceTiming a friend to show her our blizzard of snow. I can’t help squealing, and my snow face was definitely on.

Last night I started to join two of my Coast Blanket granny squares together. Actually as well as JAYGOing I initially went all the way round the outsides too, but wasn’t happy so unravelled it all. Now they’re just joined in one line across, with a third block added to make a longish rectangle.

I can’t really do anything else now, until I’ve got some more of the yellow grey blue wool. But as I did far too much crochet my hand is really protesting today, so a break isn’t a bad thing. I want to make some chutney soon. I might have to have some help peeling and chopping the apples. Oops.

I have three more blocks to join, but I just don’t think the colours go. Although looking at the photo above they look fine. What do you reckon? During the lockdowns, last year and this, supplies of wool ran really low. Across the country people hunkered down to knit and crochet their way through the anxiety and boredom. So, I ended up with three quite different colour-ways of Hayfield Spirit DK for my Coast Blanket. Hmmm. I have a feeling that they will be turned into two smaller blankets, instead of one king-sized. No matter. If this 2° weather continues I’ll be wrapping myself in both! Brrrr!

Because you stuff the gingerbread man as you go and add his eyes, before completing the rest of his head, the poor little thing is eyeless and looks like he’s had a lobotomy. He’s by the magazine for scale. I think if I’d used the proper cotton and smaller hook he’d probably be half the size, but I love him. (The pattern’s by Victoria Kairis and was featured in Simply Crochet mag, issue 115.)

On Thursday I met Cathy for a walk in Badbury woods. We did a 40 minute circular walk, with a sit to admire the long ranging views across Wiltshire and Oxfordshire, then a wander around the Clumps. It was a chilly 3°, so I wore my Edenvale cowl I am very glad we went, because those trees will definitely not have leaves now. It was really rather beautiful as the breeze blew Copper Beech leaves down on us, as we walked underneath the trees.

Badbury is managed by The National Trust. It’s well worth going in springtime for the bluebells. That was the first trip Someone and I did when we came out of Lockdown. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the joy of being somewhere completely different after so long. I drank in the views. Cathy tells me the snowdrops are a must-see too.

Afterwards I went into Faringdon for a wander around the churchyard and then had a pot of tea and a wrap for lunch in Costa. Later I had quite a fright as I went into a shop. You remember in my last post I was talking about dogs making a beeline for me, although I’m a cat person? As I opened the shop door and walked through the doorway a head shot out to the side, coming straight at me, between bags hanging on hooks. I shot up into the air and squealed a most peculiar sound. If they’ve got CCTV I bet it would be hilarious to watch. Nothing scary after all, but what a surprise!

Isn’t he gorgeous? He’s an older cat, who lives in the shop. The guy was at the till and his partner (I assume) was running a yoga class in the back room. After a fuss and photo session I went to browse the candles and teas, the cat jumped down from the shelf and walked past me. I thought he was hinting for some more strokes, but no he obviously knows the class routine well; the yoga finished and as people came out of the back room, lots of them stopped stroke him. It was time for more fuss. Clever puss.

I bought this little decorative pot which came in a reusable bag, made from old sari silk. I thought after asking to take photos of the cat and having a chat with the owner, it was the least I could do. I gave it away as a little gift that afternoon. I will definitely go back for more, the shop is called The Lotus Retreat.

It’s opposite a bakery which has been there for years. It’s well known for their Lardy Cakes. My FiL used to drive a lot for work and seemed to navigate the country via bakeries. When I once said I was in Faringdon he immediately recommended the bakery and Lardy cake, for next time. (Oxfordshire should be on that list too Wikipedia.) But I’d already found it and bought us one! I have a good nose for cake too. So, if you’re anywhere near Faringdon, Oxfordshire, you now have a recommendation for a nice walk in the woods, a browse of independent shops and are well prepared for a cat who will shoot his head out and make you jump! Plus a source of fresh cake and breads to take home.

We have planned to go to a Christmas craft fair this afternoon and the switching on of the lights tonight. I’m not sure if I fancy 40+ mile an hour winds, we will see…

What have you got planned for the weekend?

Lost amour

We went for a walk for a couple of hours this morning. The weather was mild and still, plenty of dog walkers were out and about. Lovely dogs and really friendly owners. Nearly everybody called them back to put on the lead. Very kind and completely unprompted. I’m glad though, because you always wonder how friendly a dog will be, not so much because of fear but because of exuberantly happy helloes and muddy paw-prints all over your clothes. As a cat person that happens to me often. The dog person walking with me will usually be ignored. How do dogs just know?

Can you see the birds? They were feasting on newly turned worms I expect, and pecking holes in potatoes missed by the harvester.
One windy day and this will soon be bare. The weather is so mild and calm at the moment that the autumn colour is lingering. Loving it!
Ivy vines growing up an oak tree, with clematis circling and climbing up them. Quite a dramatic sight which stopped me in my tracks. The tree is covered with glossy ivy leaves too. It’s being taken over.
A rowan tree not far from home

The walk was carefully timed, so that we were back in plenty of time to go and buy snacks, pour some beer, then watch the rugby. Well, one of us anyway.

I’m upstairs escaping the crunching of pork scratchings and Big Hoops, comments and excited shouts at the TV. I meant to put on Spotify and listen to Tick Tick BOOM! soundtrack, but the P&Q is nice. Have you seen it yet? A brand new Netflix film. The best new musical I’ve seen in ages. Who knew Andrew Garfield could sing and dance? I liked him as Spider-Man, but this takes him into a completely new genre. It’s an impressive change of gear.

What makes a good musical? For me I want to sing along to a song after only a minute or two. Ditto dancing. I go away singing my own made up songs afterwards too. And dance a few steps on my way to bed. Tick tick BOOM!

I’ve been singing Boho Days since last night. Pretty much every hour. I hope you have Netflix and can watch it too!

I had forgotten that I knitted this dish cloth in February/March. I missed posting for a little while, so I’m pretty sure you haven’t seen it?

The Amour pattern is part of a series of a free dishcloth patterns. One a month, throughout this year by Garlene of The Kitchen Sink Shop. I’ve linked to the pattern there, if you fancy having a go at knitting one yourself? I stopped after the first two, because it now takes me so long to knit or crochet anything now with my dodgy hand. Plus I was using Rowan cotton, which frankly seems such a waste to use on a dish cloth. They’re too nice to use, so are still folded up in a little bag. I wonder about making backing for them and turning them into oven mitts. Any other ideas?

Time for a cheeky little Saturday afternoon drink for me too now! A grapefruit margarita is being made for me. I wonder if they won? And I’m going to add another round, or two, to my Coast blanket.

What have you been up to today? How are you feeling about life, the universe and everything?

Five Things on a Friday

:: CROCHET

Awww just look at him! So cute already for a headless Gingerbread man!

It’s been years and years since I did any amigurami, so I’ve forgotten things that I used to know. You’re meant use a hook smaller than the yarn band states, so that it’s tighter, but he looks okay doesn’t he? I’d forgotten how kind of fiddly it can be, plus stuffing the legs and body and then carrying on crocheting is interesting. It sort of drags the whole thing down a bit on the hook. But I love him so it doesn’t matter!

I had luckily remembered that Stacey Trock of Fresh Stitches website (sadly it’s not current anymore) used to say not to bother with the ends as they can just stay inside of the pieces. Hurray! Minimal darning!

Does anyone remember me making Mr Scrappy? Here he is in all his mischievousness. He’s very much a part of the family still. He’s a right character…Over the years he’s won the Cannes Film Festival, learnt to ride a motorbike, was at war with the frogs in our old garden, was tempted to join some very dodgy characters and still parties like it’s 1999 when we’re away. I’m not even making it up, or trying to be cute, he really does!

:: BOOK TALK

My new audio book Blackberry & Wild Rose is by Sonia Velton and was her debut novel. I’m only at the beginning of chapter three, but I like the two narrators. The story is set in London’s East End, in Spitalfields, amongst the Huguenot silk weavers of the late 18th century. I have wondered the streets of Spitalfields and can picture the area as I read about elements of its historical past.

:: DINNER

Tonight I will be making a lasagne with a rich red wine ragù and using fresh lasagna sheets. Someone has already uncorked a bottle of claret for me to pop some into the meat sauce. We’ll drink the rest with dinner. A first using fresh sheet and I suspect that I will not go back to the solid as concrete dried sort. I love Friday nights!

:: SLOW VLOG

I absolutely love Country Life Vlog on You Tube. I watched This Film thanks to Pip for sharing. You’ll need a quiet place to watch and the volume up for all the lovely sounds in this film of the filmmakers’s Grandparents living a rural life in Azerbaijan. (No music, so refreshing!) Just marvel at the egg technique cracking technique. Notice how there’s not a single piece of plastic. If you don’t also fancy making some sort of dough afterwards I’ll be amazed.

Here’s some info about who they are, where and how the account came about last year.

:: CAKE

Nigella’s Lemon & Raspberry cake

Absolutely delicious eaten warm or cold. We ate it for dessert after Sunday lunch, with spoonfuls of creamy crème fraîche. I used huge juicy fresh raspberries grown in Kent. As you see I placed them on top of all the cake mixture rather than try to mix them in. This way they didn’t sink right to the bottom, or get broken up by a spoon. I would definitely make this again.

The recipe is from Nigella’s Simply Nigella book. Message me if you can’t get hold of the recipe. It’s not on her site, but there are various blog versions.

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My wishes for the weekend are to go on a train journey and see a film at the cinema. My fingers and toes are crossed!

What are you planning?

Cosy Friday afternoon

Brrrr! It’s suddenly got properly wintry cold and I’m not jumping the gun; I know we are still in autumn, but by golly it’s all changed this week. I never say by golly. I’m not an oldie, or from an Enid Blyton or PG Wodehouse book, but it just seems to fit. (I’m grinning at myself. I’ve been teased in the past for using words like poorly and gosh, but it only makes me use them more.) When you look out of the window first thing and all the conifer hedges are white, the grass is white and the cars are white… It’s definitely an old-fashioned “By golly it’s cold !” kind of week.

I’ve just been on the phone for nearly an hour and a half and added some rounds to my granny square. I can’t remember whether this is the last one I need to do, or if it’s the penultimate square. It is such good ‘phone crochet: mindless, easy and an enjoyable rhythm. It’s really relaxing too, while the conversation meanders along.

On Monday I approached a shop assistant and said I had a really bizarre question to ask her. She looked delighted and said “Bring it on! It makes the time go faster.” Bless her.

I’d lined up three or four different shades of green, and asked her which one was most Brussels sprout like? She really threw herself into it and reckoned it was this one, but then when we checked a photo decided that it could be a couple of different shades. To keep things simple I bought this one (a bargain £1.49) and promised to go back to show her a photo of the finished sprout! She was definitely keen to see it.

This all came out of a photo that my cousin sent me of a knitted Brussels sprout you can buy from White Stuff. £8! For one Brussels sprout decoration! Of course it set us both off with a flurry of messages. She reminded me that she knitted some a few Christmases ago and gave me one. I’d forgotten because all the Christmas decs are in a box, up in the loft. I hope I forget again and then it will be a nice surprise in December. We did laugh at the time, because her knitted Brussels sprouts all looked furious… we’re wondering if my crochet version will be happier. I’ll be looking for a pattern, but not until the Gingerbread Man has at least another leg and his body. Then I will be cosy and crocheting sprouts. Don’t think I ever expected to write that.

Here’s the White Stuff sprout. And I’m not even right, he’s not £8, he’s £8.50! Blimey.

Friday night is Pizza Night this week. My sourdough starter is bubbling away by the radiator. It’s the first time the bowl has been left anywhere other than on the kitchen side, since early Spring. But it needs to be in a warm place while the yeast activates. It certainly seems happy. I can’t wait to eat a few slices of pizza while watching a film later. My no-cook pizza sauce will be spread on the dough, with toppings of red onion, peppers, salami, Kalamata olives and a good handful of mozzarella. Yum yum yum coming soon.

And WOOHOO! Friday Night is also Craft Gin Night! I cheered as I opened the door to the lovely post lady. She said she’s delivered other November gin boxes today as well.

I’ve opened the box, but won’t show you the contents yet. I don’t want to put any spoilers online, as I’d hate to think that I might ruin the surprise for any member who reads this blog. It always feels a bit like Christmas, or as if a birthday present has been delivered. I will put a photo of the contents here soon. I will say that I absolutely love the gin bottle label and am intrigued about the where it’s come from… as young woman my Granny worked there as a Nanny, a long time ago.

If you’re in the UK and want £20 off your first 2 boxes, you can use this referral code for Craft Gin Club Gin Pals. I get points, you get 2 big boxes of half price goodies. Then you can cancel and not have anymore ever. Bet you will though! If you clicked the code when I mentioned it before, I hope you enjoyed your tipples and treats.

This week we’ve had some absolutely stunning sunsets. Last night I could see something orange glowing through the frosted glass of the bathroom window, before I pulled the blind down. I went to the bedroom to have a look and WOW! As the sky got darker the orange and gold seemed to intensify. It was fantastic.

My current read. I started an advance reader copy last night (in return for an honest review) and I have found it difficult to put down. I loved Joanna’s debut The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and enjoyed Three Things about Elsie, so am delighted that I’ve got her third book. It’s out next Spring. I’ll let you know nearer the time if it’s worth buying or reserving at the library. So far, so good.

Do you also find that themes or characters seem to continue in your next book? I just read another ARC called Other People Manage by Ellen Hawley and the main (USA) character Marge was a very tall and big girl. Often she felt awkward or uncomfortable around others. Linda (British) in this story is the same. Similarities often jump out, with settings or characters. It’s completely random too, as I often do not know much at all about the books I choose. I just quickly scan the blurb, or not at all if I know the author, as they give too much away.

If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere are you staying cosy? Or are you in the Southern? Is it a warm Spring?

Most importantly: what are you planning to make, eat and are you reading anything you can’t put down?

Out-out

My first trip out-out with a friend since August! Because doctors, pharmacy and hospital don’t count, do they?

I was so excited to go back to my happy place a.k.a. Yarn Heaven on Wednesday. I can’t remember the last time I went, I think not so much because of the Pandemic but because I’ve banned myself from buying any more yarn until I finish my current makes. Not that bans ever successfully work, do they? I’m sure a few balls of something found its way into my bag a month or so ago, when I happened to pop into a yarn shop.

I was meant to meet another friend for lunch on Wednesday, but unfortunately she messaged to say it was a no-go; because her 11-year-old tested positive for Covid on Monday. So many friends have school age children who are not very well with Covid at the moment. And there so many people everywhere who are choosing not to wear a mask. We need it to be a legal requirement again! (I’m shouting.) It feels as if I’m in a minority in some shops. Lots seem to have decided enough is enough and have stopped wearing a mask.We’ve all had enough, haven’t we? However unfortunately things are far from good still, so we get on with it and try and keep other people safe, surely? Honestly, at the moment I seem to be throwing my hands up in the air a lot.

I took this snap quickly because I really liked all the colours. They’re not jazzy bright, quite muted really, but I can actually imagine wearing them. Sometimes colours in those variegated balls are very appealing, but not really anything I would actually wear. Since I came home I keep looking at this pic. I can’t see anything listed for Mondial Jazz for some reason on Ravelry or Insta. I’d like to see what people have made with it. No imbranato Name questo il MacHappy. ARGH!!!! I’ve got Italian as an alternative keyboard language and my iPhone keeps swapping languages. I dictate a lot of my messages (and blog posts) now to save my sore hand. Sometimes I look over at what I’ve said and it’s a mess of both! What did I just say there? * It’s a weird thing, but makes me laugh too.

I’m using the Duolingo app to learn some basic Italian words and phrases. I’m still very much in the ‘The men are writing in the sugar’ and ‘The cook cuts the meat’ stage of learning. Bizarre choice of phrases but it’s more than I ever knew before. So anyway dictation helps save my hand, although it’s not doing much to practice my spelling.

…What was I saying? I think I was wondering if the wool might be known by another name? Or perhaps other people don’t like it? Or, is it really new? Tell if it’s one with which you’re familiar, please. It’s 75% wool which I prefer for accessories or clothing. Can’t wear Stylecraft, unless it’s partly wool too. Ohhh! I’ve just remembered that Mondial is made by an Italian family company. Maybe my iPhone is more intelligent then I take it for?!

After a good rummage and yarny purchases, (Lynne is making hats for nephews and also bought the same brown as me) we headed to a very nice pub on the river for lunch. I held us up slightly by taking photos. Autumn is one of my favourite seasons, I can’t resist capturing the changes. Love the colours, the crisp feeling in the air, the warmer clothing and yummy warming meals. We’ve just had our first spaghetti bolognaise in months and I’m having my first homemade butternut soup for lunch today.

Just look at that half red, half yellow leaf. I have heart eyes.

Nature treats us to some really beautiful sights, swoon.

When we headed back to the car park we found masses of conkers just lying on the tarmac. “Where all the children, why aren’t they picking these conkers up?” I exclaimed. Secretly I was really pleased there are heaps just lying around still. I stuffed my bag full of them. Then stopped on the way home, to pick up a few things in a supermarket, and wondered why my bag was so, so heavy!

I can’t remember the last time I saw a pattern in a magazine that I just had to make. The gingerbread man on the cover instantly appealed. So this is partly why when my friend suggested meeting up, for coffee or lunch on Wednesday morning, I felt it had to be somewhere that had a yarn shop. I didn’t have a single one of the colours I needed, which is an absolutely cast-iron reason to buy yarn. Sì?

There are lots of newer Stylecraft shades that I’ve never seen before, apart from in photos. Some of them are really nice. Mushroom and its slight pinkiness jumped out, in a good way. I resisted buying. For now.

I wanted to make the gingerbread man from yarn, instead of the cotton as listed in the mag. Cotton is great for stitch definition, but oh so hard on the hands. I picked up several different shades of brown, until I saw one. My friend asked me what the shade was called? Gingerbread! Just the job.

The pattern is in the current Simply Crochet magazine, issue 115

Someone hungry, waiting for me to cook dinner last night, had to contend with me shouting: “He’s got one little arm!” Then later: “He’s got two little arms!”

I’ll be back with a whole gingerbread man soon, although he might not have any eyes because I didn’t think to buy any. Oops does that mean another visit to the yarn shop and another delicious lunch? I think it may.

* according to Google translate:

No goofy Name this the MacHappy.

Ha ha! Could have been FAR worse!

Taking Stock – September

Reading:

The Man Who Died Twice

Even better than the first book, which was The Thursday Murder Club (as if anyone really needs to be told; it was an instant international bestseller.) It would be best if you read the first before this one.

The Beloved Girls

A 5 star read. Twisty turny, with a slow building atmosphere of menace. I had so many thoughts and questions about what might be happening, when I wasn’t reading. Always a good sign of a compelling book. Also It jumps back and forth in time, which I always enjoy. It keeps you on your toes. Plus it is partly set in a large English, country house. Enough said?

Freckles

This was a surprise; there was a time when I always used to read new Cecilia Ahern books and then I just felt like I’d grown out of them. This is a new, more real and grittier style of writing. I couldn’t put it down.

Enjoying: all the late summer / early autumn colour in the garden.

Noticing: some beautiful bright sunny days, with magic golden light just before dusk.

Making: hexagons! Too many so now I’m on a self-imposed ban for a week, as my hand is so sore. I did enjoy it at the time though.

Instagram stories questions… Be prepared for lots of responses. Don’t ask if you don’t want honesty! I didn’t mind, as the slightly circular nature was bugging me
New and improved. Sharper corners (absolutely nothing to do with the pattern, just me cutting corners. Literally!)

Planning: to use this book. I’ve now bought the tin for *half the price* of the recommended one. It’s still really good quality. I bought a James Martin one from an online retailer who have a bricks and mortar shop in Dorset too. (Ask me if you’re in the UK, I’ll send a link.) Very happy with the look and weight of it.

One Tin Bakes

Cooking: The days were mostly been so warm at the beginning of the month that I haven’t made a single batch of soup yet. (Plus being unwell for the whole of September didn’t feel like chop, chop, chopping … ) Latterly I’ve eaten porridge with maple flavoured golden syrup and chopped apple on top. Always a sign of cooler weather. Soup making isn’t going to be far off.

Baking: Dark choc walnut brownies to eat with raspberries and creme fraiche, after roast chicken, new potatoes and salad

Rosemary & Cornish Seasalt focaccia

A Facebook friend said it looked like spiders. They were very tasty!

Cinnamon buns

Cinnamon buns! YUM!

I typed out my recipe for cinnamon buns and sent it to my 13-year-old niece. She made them the next day and sent me photos. They were perfect.

Watching: tomatoes ripen. I’ve been taking a daily photo, then sending it to my friend who loves tracking the changes while he works in his office in London!

Eating: pink omelettes! I had a phase of these, if a phase can consist of two?! One with the spoonful of rose harissa are mixed in and the other a spoonful of red pesto. They taste good. Try it?

Enjoying: my micro-greens which I left to grow to salad leaf size. Much better value for money than paying £2.99 per packet. I feed them a little so there’s enough nutrients to feed the plants. Still going strong…

Mackerel with lemon & dijon dressing & cannelini beans

Learning: Italian on Duolingo app, it’s free. So many languages to choose from, but I’ve always wanted to learn Italian.

Someone is really not impressed

Listening: to Mickey Flanagan What Chance Change? If you’re a fan this is a must listen. It’s on BBC Sounds week by week. There are two episodes so far, charting his life and aspirations in the 1970s and 1980s. I’m looking forward to the next two decades. He’s SO funny.

Watching: Upload on Prime. It’s unexpectedly good, lots of twists and surprises. Maybe not for the faint-hearted at some points. We’ve watched six episodes so far.

The IT Crowd classic British comedy from the early noughties, laugh out loud funny.

This Way Up it’s currently on C4 Catch up. I hope it’s on other international platforms soon, so you can all watch it too. You just want to hug Aisling Bea’s character so hard. I sat silently feeling all the feels, at the end of the last episode on Thursday. Stunningly written TV.

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See, I told you I had a lot to tell you! This is what happens when you’re home-based for a month.

Have a lovely weekend, enjoy a bit of reading, cooking, making, watching… Whatever floats your boat!

Hello Hexie! A book review

Hello! How are you doing? Everything ok?

This is the book I mentioned reserving at the library, in my July Taking Stock post. I saw a photo of it on Instagram and felt really excited about having a look.

Published in June ‘Hello Hexie!’ by Sarah Shrimpton, published by David and Charles, has 10 sweet hexagon designs and 20 patterns. Patterns include a mix of accessories, garments, homewares and a few toys. There are also four small makes which would be fast and portable projects: a coaster, pin cushion, Christmas decoration and earrings.

I use my crocheted pot-holders all the time, so I’d be tempted to use one of the hexie designs to create my own in thickish cotton. Once you start to think what you could make from hexagons the list grows. I loved making my Baby Hexagon Blanket back in 2016. Look out soon for pics of my new one, which is already in progress.

Most of the Hello Hexie! designs instantly appealed. I particularly like the Bohemian scarf, the Linen Lace Tee and the Patchwork Wrist warmers. The Bobble cushion would be a sweet make to gift someone. I keep picturing it in a caravan or in a beach hut. The Striped Rug is basically a huge Hexie using chunky yarn, it’s eye-catching. Might be a fun lap or baby blanket?

I love the fact these nails look like mine! Natural, unadorned. #offtopic

As with any pattern book some designs are instant personal no-nos; Cosy Poncho and African Flower Skirt I’m looking at you! But this is of course completely personal taste.

I picked my favourite six hexies and hooked them just for fun…

All crocheted with Stylecraft Special DK parchment, leftover from my Patchwork blanket, and a 4mm Clover Amour hook. Unblocked so looking a little wiggly, but they’re practice pieces.

As you see, the hexagons differ widely in size. It would be pretty straightforward to increase them by crocheting more rounds, or adding an edging. This would probably work well if you wanted to mix and match hexies, to create your own blanket or cushion cover design.

What I like is that Sarah has pointed out that all of the hexagons are interchangeable for use in her patterns; if one isn’t to your taste you can swap it with another design. The varied sizes would need to be accounted for, but this wouldn’t be too tricky unless it’s a garment.

A nice variety of textures aren’t they?
The Solid Hexie. I really like this one.
The Bobble Hexie
The Sunburst Hexie

Pretty isn’t it? I think the Sunburst is one of my favourites. It would use lots of yarn, but you’d have a heavyweight blanket to snuggle under in cold weather.

The Granny Hexie

Sort of a Granny, as it’s made up of 2 groups of trebles. This was Someone’s favourite.

The Lacy Hexie

I usually tend to gravitate towards less lacy crochet, but I do like this design.

The Textured Hexie – one of the more unusual designs. Great isn’t it?

Sarah recommends lots of affordable yarns for the projects; a mixture of natural and synthetic fibres. As yarn weights are given it would be easy to change these for your preferred yarn.

The hexagon patterns are written in standard form using UK terms (with a guide for US alternatives at the back) and there’s also a graphic pattern for quick reference, or for those who simply prefer a chart. I swap between the two formats and really appreciate both in a book. The overall design of Hello Hexie! is clean and clear, easy to follow.

I found myself looking at the back pages often to check how particular stitches should be completed. The demo photos for this section could have been enlarged for clarity, but it’s a useful section if a stitch is new, or if like me you’re rusty.

The techniques section also includes a guide to blocking motifs, joining methods, including two join as you go. These are all written and illustrated for right handers, but this is sadly so common. (If you’re a lefty and struggle with any aspect of crochet, please see my left-handed tips section at the top of the blog, or ask me!)

In summary I really like Hello Hexie! Definitely 4/5 STARS ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a completely independent review, written for the fun of it. I have no association with either the author or the publishers. (Though if they would like to send me a free copy of hello Hexie! Feel free!)

Patchwork Blanket – finished

Between Christmas and New Year, Twixmas, 2017 I idly started experimenting with moss stitch (aka linen or granite stitch) as I’d been inspired to crochet some solid blocks of colour. See blog post here I didn’t want to end up with lots of pieces to join. They don’t always end up being anything, other than piles of things, do they? So I just changed colour on the last stitch and continued the next section. It’s a great lazy way to make a blanket, scarf or whatever. It was also perfect for using up some oddments after making The Blackbery Ripple blanket for a friend and Winnie’s Wave Blanket for another friend’s baby, earlier that year. There was no plan or agenda for the strips, it was lazy Christmas crafting which I picked up over the years when I wanted something fairly mindless to crochet.

Then a friend told me she was expecting her first baby. It’s excellent to realise you’ve got all the makings of a blanket.

And here it is, all finished and ready for baby Theo. Big enough for toddler Theo too. I never make hanky sized blankets which aren’t any use in the longer term.

Patchwork Blanket Details

Stitch: The blanket’s made up of 5 strips of 7 continuous blocks of colour, crocheted in moss stitch (aka linen or granite stitch)

Weight: 557g

Length: 40” / 112cm ish

Width: 31 1/2” / 80cm wide

Border: 4 rounds of dcs and chs, with a cute little picot edging to finish it off

Hooks: 4.5mm for the blocks, this makes a nice fabric, plus you can see the chain spaces easier than using a 4mm. 4mm for joining and the border

Yarn: all oddments of Stylecraft Special DK. It’s lovely, soft and very drapey too. (Collins English dictionary confirms drapey is British English. To be honest I thought it might be Rachel English. I do use quite a few of my own words…)

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Now what to finish next?

Yahoooo!

I’m on the final row of the border!

(And hello, how are you? Tell me all your news!)

Just some little picots, or something, to finish it off. Then a few more photos and I’ll package it up to send to baby Theo.

Happy days. So so so good to have something finished to show. Maybe I will pay my WordPress bill in August to keep this blog going. It’s been touch and go, I have to say.

Would any of you like me to write up a rough guide as to how I made this patchwork style blanket? It’s a good way of using up odds and ends of yarn.

Are you yahooooing! about anything this week?

* You should be pleased we’re not standing in the same room; as I made some harissa butter bean hummus for lunch and probably used too big a clove of garlic! Even wearing a mask the fumes would knock you out!

** If you’d like to check on whether I’m still alive and kicking then you can find me (sporadically) posting on Instagram: The Little Room of Rachell

Chanting

I’m chanting “Just get on with it!” Baby Theo needs his blanket. And am stalling by writing this, instead of picking up the blinking hook. D’oh!

I only have the lengths of three blocks to join, then the border – always the fun bit. I’m hoping I can use scraps as I don’t want to buy more yarn. I was using up stash oddments without a particular purpose in mind, when I began making strips of linen stitch blocks of colour one day. Thankfully my friend had a spare ball of parchment, so I didn’t need to buy any for the joining when I ran out.

Joining method:

I’m going under the chain stitches on the edging of each strip, then crocheting them together with 1 dc, a 1 ch takes me to the next chain gap. The seamless join looked great, (see here) but was an absolute pig to do. So, of course, it wasn’t done. Better a more textured join, than a heap of strips left in a bag I’d say?

Then I’ll dig through and get another unfinished thing out. I reckon I’ll be inspired to do more knitting and crochet when I come to the end of the unfinished heap. I do not have permission to begin anything until I have….yawn!

Back to the chanting and the doing.

Tell me two things?

A very sad loss

I am so sad and shocked to read of Teresa Kasner’s passing, a heartfelt post, written by her husband Dayle flashed up my screen a little while ago.


I really loved reading Teresa’s blog; seeing her home, family, flowers, all that delicious food and hearing what she’d been up to (lately acquiring much jadeite.) Reading her words and seeing her lovely photos often cheered me up when I felt I needed an injection of colour and good cheer.

It would have been great to have met her. I hoped I could surprise her one day, turning at the visitor centre at the Falls where she volunteered. Sadly the pandemic paused all international travel plans to visit family nearby last year, and surprise a fellow blogger. I know she would have loved it and the only issue would have been fending her off wanting to take lots of photos for her latest blog post!

I will really miss reading her blog. I can’t tell you how much. Many will. She was warm and friendly, delighted in receiving comments and communications. Such a giving person to her family and local community.

My deepest condolences to Teresa’s family on their sad loss.

Joining

Why is it always that I join significant lengths of crochet, before deciding I don’t like the seam?

It’s been weeks since I picked up my patchwork strips of linen / moss stitch. A conversation with a friend, Lucy, on Friday about the advance copies of books we’re both reading and reviewing reminded me that I need to get on with the joining. Quickly. There’s a border to do too, of course.

In theory I like the texture of raised seams. In practice they’re always tilting a little to the side. It’s rustic. It’s just not right though. I’m not convinced rustic looks good or feels good. Right. Rip, rip…rip it up and start again. (Remember that song?)

I took to looking around at my books and crochet sites.

Although there is quite a caution about the slowness of crocheting the Zipper join, this is the one for me. Here’s the instructions I found on Dedri’s ‘Look at what I made’ website. Look at the neatness of the seam. It’s so flat too. It is indeed very, very slow to crochet, but I like the look and feel of it a lot.

I’ll be back with the finished blanket at some point. Lucy’s baby is due in the next fortnight or so. S/he better not be too late because the poor girl is desperate for a large bowl of cereal, having developed gestational diabetes. Poor love.

I might do a slightly retrospective Taking Stock for April in the meantime. But I may not. We’ll see. I’m sure either way you’ll cope.

Have a pic or two of some lovely bluebells in the woods I visit every spring. This was on Friday ….

What are you up to?

Yarning Along – March

Making: Yesterday I dug these strips out, last seen in 2018 when I darned all the ends. Pulling them out of their bag brought back all sorts of unexpected images from our last home and memories attached to the time. Who knew that strips of crocheted fabric could bring back a wash of memories? Suddenly I could see the patch of sunlight that used to fall on the carpet just inside the French windows, while I crocheted in the afternoon. I thought of a friend I haven’t seen since that summer. Trips to places restricted to us still.

I began these on a whim in December 2017. They’re made of moss stitch, a.k.a. granite or linen stitch. I liked the idea of doing continuous patchwork type of blocks and then stitching (crocheting) them together at the end. I used Stylecraft DK leftovers and a 4.5 mm hook as the stitches looked better with a larger hook size. it’s a really, really nice fabric; very bouncy and soft, quite thick too, so should be a warm covering.

They have been bugging me a bit recently, I don’t like things hanging around but didn’t complete them as my hand pain took over and crochet went into remission. So, yesterday I sent a quick message to a friend offering to make them into a baby blanket as her first baby’s due in May. She was delighted and said “No one has ever given me anything handmade before!” and told me it had totally made her day. She’s not having a great final stage of pregnancy, I’m so glad my offer cheered her up. As a crafter that’s 100% the reaction you want, don’t you? I’m always aware that people might shrink back in horror at the idea of something handmade, or hate the colour scheme, or perhaps they’re already awash with handmade blankets from other friends and relatives. During our year long restrictions lots are taking to crafting. We’re still under heavy restrictions here in England.

Finally having a plan and purpose for these strips nudged me to immediately start to edge one, ready for joining. I tried the preliminary stitches for a flat braid, but it wasn’t quite the right look. These need a plain, not fancy or fussy, joining method.

Reading: I seem to be dipping in and out of lots of books. I started a new library ebook via the BorrowBox app on Wednesday: The Glass House by Eve Chase.

Two chapters in and I knew it was going to be a good read. The Harrington’s are living in a remote Manor House in an idyllic setting in the woods and find a baby. They’re grieving a tragedy of their own and the discovery brings joy and hope, but then ….

There are several books I can’t mention until nearer the publication date, since they are ARC (advance reader copies) but I’ll definitely be coming back to recommend one nearer its publication on 1st April. It’s a real goodie.

Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith (J.K Rowling) was a 5* read, as was Hungry by Grace Dent. I don’t usually give many books 5/5 so hit the jackpot with these in February. 

My rating system is:

1* NOT good

2* Disappointing

3* OK, bit patchy

4* Really liked it

5* LOVED IT

I’m drawn to podcasts on and off at home right now, without train or bus journeys I’m not really listening to audio books. In the last year or so I’ve stopped listening to anything while I walk. Or rather, I’m listening to birdsong and noises around me, saying hello to people and maybe exchanging a few words with them (at a distance, blah, blah, blah.) We are isolated enough, so when I’m outside I don’t need further isolation through plugging my ears up.

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What are you making and reading?

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Although Ginny has stopped her monthly Yarn Along posts it’s something I’m carrying on with, because I enjoy writing them. I might step it up and write more regularly, as and when I’ve got new makes and books to share. Join in if you want to, add your link to the comments below so we can see what you’re making and reading.

Taking Stock – February

Making: a bit of progress on my Coast Blanket, 3 more rows and I’ve finished another block.

I’ve done another 18 row repeat of my (probably not going to be a) dishcloth too. I just have the last 4 rows of plain knitting to do and it’s done. It’s frustratingly slow. Ah well. I’m glad I can still do bits and bobs Actually I have noticed bloggers I’ve followed for years, mentioning their tendon issues, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and such. All the crochet and knitting has caught up with us! Take it easy and don’t do too much in a sitting. BE CAREFUL

Cooking: olive focaccia. Last night I tried a third recipe, another sourdough recipe. This trebled – it was absolutely huge! It didn’t even look like focaccia. My starter is super powered. We hardly made a dent in it, but it tasted great. It also had massive air holes which was quite fun, but I’ll be going back to my first recipe which uses predictable commercial yeast. And looks like focaccia!

Sipping: on Saturday before dinner – Vagabond, a pale ale made by Scottish brewing geniuses BrewDog

Reading: Hungry by Grace Dent. I heard her on this podcast and immediately borrowed the ebook from the library, using the Libby app. So good. So good. I can’t put it down.

Waiting: Yep, we are all still waiting in England. I’m waiting patiently and feeling quite chilled.

Looking: forward to a holiday. Fingers and toes crossed!

Listening: to Madonna’s ‘Dress you up’ on the radio

Wishing: just to drive out of county. As soon as we’re allowed I’ll be off in all directions! Coast, National Trust places, shopping, museums, London, cafes, theatres, cinemas, short trips, long trips…I’d better check our cars over and make sure the tyres are up to all the driving. In the meantime I’m walking every day and enjoying it.

Enjoying: sunshine streaming in the windows. I woke at 7am and the room was full of delicious golden light.

Appreciating: birdsong, winter flowers, beautiful views, friendly people

Eating: lentil dal. I made what turned out to be my best ever. Just on the spur of the moment because I fancied some for lunch. Red split lentils, coconut milk, stock, onions, ginger, garlic, spices, fresh green chillis and a few chopped tomatoes. YUM

Liking: Taskmaster on 4OD still. We’re working our way through old series on 4OD. We take it in turns to choose. It never fails to make us roar with laughter. S2 now.

Loving: Lupin on Netflix, it’s French with subtitles. Don’t let that put you off, it’s fantastic. The story, the twists and music and …. Just watch the first episode and know that I’m winking at you

Buying: new walking trainers. I’ve gone through a pair in less than a year, as I walk so many miles

Managing: fine, thanks!

Watching: birds coming to the feeders. Love the cheeky aggro of the starlings raiding the mealworms and the hyperactive nervy blue tits

Hoping: for family gatherings

Wearing: scruffs

Following: changes in nature, loving all the greenery and shoots appearing

Noticing: much lighter earlier mornings and later afternoons

Sorting: socks. Wool walking socks shrink in the wash. When they’re all different ages it means I’ve got shorts, mediums and larges.

Getting: motivated with monthly goals. I’ll be reviewing them at the end of March and I’ll be setting new in April

Bookmarking: podcast episodes by searching for favourite comedians and listening to a range of shows

Coveting: summer evenings by the river with cider and a nice meal

Feeling: calm but keen for normal life to resume …

Hearing: the kitchen clock ticking

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What were your highlights of February? Was it good for you?

Plans for March?

Reasons to be Cheerful

My wool delivery came! And it didn’t take that long either, despite many warnings that there are delays. Thanks Wool Warehouse.

I ordered lots of balls and in a few different colour-ways, so I can power on with my Coast blanket. I managed 57 minutes of crochet while on a call earlier. That’s impressive work for my dodgy hand.

Slowly, slowly I’m knitting my next dishcloth*. Choosing the design for February must have been a breeze. I really like it. I always enjoy lace knitting, though I have to concentrate.

I had a proper lightbulb moment the other day as I kept worrying that I was doing something wrong. It wasn’t looking heart-like at all. Thank goodness I didn’t undo and go back to the beginning! I probably missed a pattern note where it says the hearts appear upside down. I made someone jump by suddenly shouting “OMG, there ARE hearts after all!”

It turns out I’m not the only one who worried about this one. Always a relief.

*It’s part of a free 12 month KAL, go back to my last post for the link and description.

Winter flowers and the promise of Spring flowers. The garden is coming to life. Just look at those cheeky little croci coming up in the gap between the last two steps. We missed these last year, as we moved after they’d flowered. After the snow had gone it was a nice surprise to find a carpet of lilac all over the garden.

Look at these tulips; despite my not having cleared away some of the leaves of the grape leaf anemone, they’re coming up anyway. Top marks for doing what they’re meant to do. I felt so guilty I stopped snapping photos and did a bit of tidying to help them along.

Chicken soup in the making (much therapeutic chopping while listening to favourite artists on Spotify.) Apparently I said we were having chicken soup for dinner on Wednesday, three times on Tuesday. I don’t dispute that. My memory is fine. I was just excited! It feels so healthy and tastes great too. I added garlic, mixed herbs, homegrown dried bay leaves, red pepper, leeks, Merchant Gourmet ready cooked puy lentils, sweetcorn, chicken stock, leftover Sunday roast chicken and a spoonful of leftover double cream, a good grind of fresh black pepper and pinch of salt. So good. Sooo good.

Refreshing walks relieve head pressure and get the body moving. I score myself out of 10 some days and never failed to return feeling an 8/10.

I know many don’t have such beautiful places and views nearby. I’m really sorry if that’s you. I’m appreciative and grateful, I don’t take it for granted.

We had the Beast from the East again last week. Temperatures went down to -5° some nights and didn’t get above 0° on the whole during the day.

We walked Saturday afternoon, it was -1°. That wasn’t the coldest walk we’ve had, but might have been one of the swiftest 4.5 miles because of the bitingly cold wind.

I found a few big chunks of ice in different places on verges, where there were no puddles at all. My shoe was for scale. Aren’t they thick? I reckon they may have come off a farm vehicle as it went along the track.

Homemade cinnamon buns with a toffee sauce and clementine glaze. Nuff said!

~~~

I’m going to admit that I started this blog post with rather gritted teeth. I feel like I’ve finally hit the wall this week. We’ve been in lockdown to varying degrees coming up for a year now. It’s worn thinner than thin.

Getting out into the garden to photograph the flowers earlier was a good decision. I also had a nagging feeling that if I didn’t blog today, I might well not blog again. It’s been proactive to list reasons to be cheerful. It’s a bit like smiling when you don’t feel like smiling, but by the end of the fake smiling, you are genuinely smiling…

~~~

I really appreciate it when you read and comment here or contact me privately elsewhere. Tell me a few things. How are you feeling? What are your reasons to be cheerful right now? Have you made anything as sinful as my cinnamon buns? (Ha that’s a hard challenge to beat!)

4 WIPS

Hello there, despite the least variety, or many plans to look forward to (apart from Zoom meetings, online singing classes, FaceTime drinks with friends and family and excellent roast Sunday lunches some weekends, which all equate to the most amount of time we’ve spent inside at home) it seems to be over two weeks since I posted. I’m not quite sure how that happened; because after I wrote my Yarn Along post I was buzzing with ideas for more posts. Time and opportunity has not been an issue!

Anyway, thank you so much for your comments on my last. It was so nice to hear from so many of you. Your comments all made me smile.

I’m going to jump straight in to show you what I’ve been doing for the last few weeks. I still only do a little at a time as I can’t crochet or knit for long periods, like I used to. But I’m thankful that I can still do some, as long as I stop the moment I feel a twinge of hand or wrist pain.

What I’m making has to be quite simple. I’ve tried more intricate patterns and unfortunately it’s still a no-go, unless I crochet or knit just a little, for about 10 minutes at a time, and that’s really unsatisfying. I’m happy with all these makes though, and hope you enjoy your peep at what I’ve been up to…

I kept seeing these Vintage Flower Hexagon motifs on Insta. I haven’t seen anything quite like this before, it makes me think of Orla Kiely designs. I bought Atty van Norel’s pattern on Ravelry. Really pretty isn’t it?

I’m using chunky yarn and so my motif is 18cm across. The slightly wiggly shape will sort itself out when joined with others.

Yep, it’s back! I had stopped this Star Blanket with a view to it being a baby blanket. But I kept eyeing it, wondering about continuing. It’s really cold weather here and a chunky blanket is the nicest thing to sit underneath while you work on it. Today it’s 3° but feels like -1° according to the BBC Weather app. We had quite a good fall of snow yesterday. The Snowhare we made in the garden is starting to tilt as it melted slightly today, but there’s still plenty of white stuff around.

I unravelled a few rows because I’d spotted a stitch or two I wanted to re-do, and hooking those rows back up made me remember how deliciously tactile it is using chunky yarn and a 6 mm hook. I’ve got quite a lot of Paintbox Simply Chunky yarn as Lovecrafts.com sent some to me to try last summer, so I’ll carry on and see what size it becomes.

If you haven’t tried Paintbox Simply Chunky yarn yet, do. It’s so soft and makes a really squishy fabric. It’s 100% acrylic but has a really nice feel. This isn’t an advert or an affiliated link, it’s genuine enthusiasm for a new find.

I know that some of you are waiting for the pattern for my knitted cowl, but like an idiot I sent it to my friend before I worked out a few details for the written pattern. She sent me a picture wearing it when she’d just received it. I hadn’t told her when it was posted as I thought a surprise would be really welcome in this bleugh time. Her little face was a picture of joy, so I can hardly ask her to send it back. So, I’m starting another and this time trying to be a little bit more professional about things…!

I’m so enjoying making these large granny squares. My hand feels most comfortable using this fairly fine DK wool blend with a 4 mm hook. This is what I often crochet when I make telephone calls. I wear my hands free ear pods and we chat about all sorts while I do some hooky.

I started the blues and greys square on holiday in September, in Cornwall. I bought a couple of balls of Hayfield Spirit DK yarn, a wool blend, and a hook in Penzance. It was pure pleasure sitting up in bed in the earlyish morning, in our holiday house further west, looking at the sea views, with the sun sparkling on the water. 

Sadly I can’t get any more of the yarn at the moment. Wah! I contacted Sirdar as I’d searched on many yarn company websites for the colour shades I need next and it’s a no-go. I can get maybe one colour blend, but not all. Apparently the lack of availability is down to Covid and Brexit. The terrible twins.

Still, there’s plenty here to keep my hands busy. What about you? Tell me what you’re making and busy with, please.

Yarn Along – January

I’ve got some ends to darn on my cowl. I can send it to my friend tomorrow and then it’s officially my first make of 2021. Done. I’ll write up the pattern tomorrow.

I snuck into the Post Office yesterday to buy stamps when it was quiet in there, because the fewer the people, the better. The fewer the shops I go into at all, the better. Preferably one Grocery Delivery a week and if we haven’t got it, we’re not having it.

The News here is grim: we hear the number of deaths every day (I read this morning that we reached the total number of deaths in Australia in just one 24 hour period) that there’s a staggeringly high rate of new infections with the mutated virus which is more easily transmitted, and the NHS is close to being overwhelmed. I have had people who live abroad contact me, concerned about the news from the UK and about our third Lockdown, which came into force on Tuesday. Some are surprised. They thought we had it more under control here….

I am glad for books and reading. It’s even better than tv or films, for absorbing myself in other worlds and times. I read until 01:15 this morning. I feel very bleary today, but I got so wrapped up in Sophie Hannah’s Haven’t They Grown. Here’s a brief outline; Beth hasn’t seen her friend Flora for a dozen years, she passes her former friend’s area while taking her son to a match. Parking by her house, Beth sees the children again. Not sounding very exciting? Well the thing is that they are still precisely the same. Still three and five years old, twelve years later. What’s going on?

I’ve now read 58% of the book and really hoping the mystery isn’t going to be a massive let-down at the end. My mind is powering through all sorts of ‘explanations’ I tell you. Absorbing stuff.

I’m listening to Jess Kidd’s Things in Jars, this couldn’t be more different. Set in Victorian London it’s the tale of Bridie Devine, an unconventional lady detective who is hired to solve a very tricksy kidnapping. As with The Hoarder (Titled Mr Flood’s Last Resort in the USA) Jess Kidd writes in a very compelling way. She has such a unique style of description. The audio isn’t going fast enough, always the sign of a good book for me, so I’m listening to a chapter or two and reading a few as I go too.

Please take a few minutes to leave a comment: tell me what you’re knitting or crocheting? Tell me if you’re reading anything good, or is it bad? Is it awful? Are you just about to give up and pick something else? Maybe you’re not reading at all; you’re binge watching Netflix instead?

I know you’re still reading these posts, I see my WordPress stats and familiar names of readers on Bloglovin’ who have read for years and years. It was my NINE YEAR blog anniversary on New Year’s Eve, so WP informed me. Wheee! Can’t believe it’s been so long. I really appreciate you checking in every time I write, but it’s feeling increasingly like I’m calling into the wind. Tell me something hey? Anything. I’m winking at you.

Merry Christmas!

Good old NORAD

Merry Christmas! Are you having a good one?

With last Saturday’s sudden announcement about the change of tiers and new restrictions on numbers of households who could gather together, Christmas went from potentially being five days with three households to one day of two households together. That seemed like a very sensible decision, however we went from being guests to needing to buy all we needed for Christmas dinner. Luckily we had already ordered a turkey from the local butchers as usual, and the rest came in a grocery order I’d fortunately managed to book weeks ago for the first time ever. Everything else was found during an early morning run to the market and a dash into a supermarket on the 23rd. Despite there being only three of us for Christmas Day you still buy all the same things, albeit in smaller quantities. I made a loaf of sourdough to go with smoked salmon and champagne before lunch, made my usual marzipan fruit Christmas cake, rum butter to go with Christmas pudding and prepped some vegetables. It was all good and felt really relaxed.

I was wondering what it would be like not seeing family and felt quite sad about it. In fact, on the day it felt like a really jam-packed social Christmas Day! We had three different video calls with family groups through the day. It was really lovely to see everyone, see their Christmas trees, hold up favourite presents to show each other and waggle champagne glasses. Not the same as seeing everybody in person, but a good substitute. Thank goodness for technology!

I haven’t picked up a crochet hook or needles at all, for about a week. Today is our designated lazy day, after we walked 5 miles in the biting cold and rain yesterday. We ate a late lunch of leftover smoked salmon and cream cheese on sourdough, had a slice of Stollen, followed by a slice of Yule Log (!) along with a couple of mugs of tea in our ‘Social Bubble’. Then headed home for my favourite Boxing Day dinner of baked potatoes, home-made salads, cold turkey, apricot and chestnut sausage meat stuffing, pickles and spoonfuls of cranberry sauce and mayonnaise. I love this period now between Christmas and New Year… Crimbo Limbo! It’s going to be full of films, books, music, woolly crafting and a few strolls around to see Christmas lights, door wreaths and decorations. We’ll tackle another longer walk on Tuesday, but not a moment before!

Tell me about your Christmas?

What are you doing during Crimbo limbo?

No wonder I felt relieved!

 I’ve got something to show you, something else I’ve finished. I’m on a roll! I’ve finished two things this month.

I thought I’d started this cowl maybe last autumn, then I checked on my Ravelry account and OH MY GOODNESS… that can’t be right can it?

I started it in November 2018?!?!

Ahhhh…but my issues with my hand had started that spring, and I would imagine this second Cozy Cowl was another hoping-for-a-miracle make which I could crochet pain free. I think we both know the answer to that one!

I wonder if I blogged about it way back then? Hang on I’ll just have a look…

…there’s a little mention on a post from 5th December Yearning Along It’s actually quite a sad reminder of how adrift I felt being told not to do any craft, this turned into months and months. I notice that I optimistically still tried, then accepted the situation, and so that’s why the cowl languished for a few years.

Anyway back to feeling buzzy and happy, because here we go:

It’s my second grey make of November, suits the weather perfectly.

I really like Stylecraft Life Aran; it’s a good mix of wool (25%) and acrylic (75%), which works up well with a 6mm hook. It’s definitely cosy when turned into a cowl.

Pattern details for the cowl are on my Ravelry project page above. I had borrowed the book from the library, when I made the first cowl for a friend way back in May 2016! It was to keep her neck warm when she rode her motorbike.

This time I still didn’t make it in one piece; because I really like the way the ribbing looks. I added a row of double crochet to each edge of the body of the cowl and one side of both ribbed strips, then crocheted them together. This was far more satisfying than sewing. I have a feeling it might be a stronger join too. I single crocheted into the inside loops only which made a smooth seam.

I wonder who will end up wearing it?

The Big Issue North recently requested knit and crochet hats, scarves and gloves on Twitter, to keep their magazine vendors warm. The Big Issue North is a well respected charity, have a look at what they’re about here. There’s some interesting articles on the website.

I usually buy the The Big Issue magazine if I come across a street vendor, I have done for years. It’s not pure altruism as although you know you’re helping someone, you’re also getting a good quality read. (Big Issue North is actually a separate organisation to The Big Issue down here, the same premise but BI North have been independent since 1996. It’s all good stuff.)

If you have any spare knit or crochet accessories I know they’ll be gratefully received. It’s cold now.

Send them to:

Big Issue North,

463 Stretford Road,

Manchester,

M16 9AB

UK

Taking Stock – November

Making: I’m crocheting another ribbed band for my cowl and thinking of what to make next. Finish or start…?

Cooking: spicy fish and chickpea stew, a delicious one pot recipe

Sipping: Assam tea, without milk

Reading: Simon Mayo‘s Knife Edge, it’s a thriller. In the first chapter lots happens and the tension isn’t lessening as it goes on (don’t read if you’re feeling anxious about stuff)

Waiting: … aren’t we all? We’re in the second week of a four week lockdown here in England. It’s partial at best, as all schools and universities are open. No one really knows how effective this strategy will prove to be, but this is an unprecedented time. I do know an increasing number of friends who have the virus, or are recovering from it. I’m feeling lucky we are able to be based at home

Looking: like I’ve been pulled through a hedge backwards this morning

My version of Shakshuka, using up roasted vegetables with a good pinch of chilli flakes and cumin thrown in before I added leftover passata

Listening: to Deacon Blue’s City of Love album

Wishing: to be a superfast knitter. I see so many gorgeous makes online that I want to make them all, in a day. Probably repeating myself!

Enjoying: Listing 30 plants that we eat a week. It’s really good to get you thinking about what you buy and cook. I also love writing lists. This came as a result of a link my friend sent. This podcast. In a nutshell we need to eat a variety of at least 30 plants a week to keep our gut microbiomes healthy. These include: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes (a plant with a pod with an edible seed: beans, peas, lentils etc.) Professor Tim Spector is no quack – have a look at his Twitter profile here. His feed is very interesting, although from the UK POV it’s rather grim reading at the moment

Appreciating: good bright days for walking