Five from this week

I went for a walk with a friend on a spur of the moment thing on Wednesday. We ended up walking over 6 miles in a big circular loop. It was a completely spontaneous thing, just a “hey, do you fancy a walk today?” We arranged to meet in the car park of a gym and I expected a walk around the nearest village. Instead we went off the beaten track, onto a public footpath alongside the edges of fields, turning onto country lanes and meadows of grazing sheep. Through wooded areas of bare wintery trees and the sports ground of a private school. We ended up nipping into a farm shop for a drink, gazing at all the luxury foodstuffs that neither of us need post-Christmas, back up into the village, across the main road and to our cars. All the time we were out, which was nearly 2 hours, we didn’t stop talking. That’s a good afternoon! My trainers are basically two big blobs of mud now. I should scrape them off and put them in the washing machine.

I’ve made some more cardamom gin. The Mermaids gin is nice enough but I fancied flavouring it. I put a small handful of whole cardamom pods into the bottle for 3-4 days (3 would have been plenty, but I forgot about it!) Poured it into a jug, through a tea strainer and threw away the pods, then put it back into the bottle. If they were left in longer than that it would too bitter to drink, I imagine. The flavour is strong, so a single measure (25ml) is plenty with a 125ml can of tonic.

I’ve started a second strip of moss stitch (aka granite stitch, or linen stitch) crochet. This is the easiest thing to take up and add a section to, in fact the most complicated thing about it is making sure the sections are the same length. I didn’t want to stow away the leftover yarn from Winnie’s Wave Blanket, I thought I’d use it up for another little blanket. If you like the stitch see Moogly for a great little tutorial, it’s dead easy. You do need to do a sample to make sure you use the right hook. My square was too thick and unwieldy using my usual 4mm hook; so I swapped to a 4.5mm and produced a softer, more drapey fabric.

I popped in to see Mum with some Butternut & Sweet Potato soup yesterday. I’d made a huge pan-full, but as I’m the only one who eats BNS or SP I thought it would be good to share, or I’d never want to eat it again after litres of the stuff. Barty was savaging a ball he was given for Christmas. He is funny; as I’ve said I don’t think he was given balls to play with when he was a kitten, so he doesn’t play ping pong like other cats we’ve had. I’ve tried to model batting it back and forth with my paws hands, and yesterday he sort of did it! Hurray, Rachel the cat whisperer!

I just started reading Follow you Home all snuggled up warm and cosy in bed this morning. According to my Kindle I’ve already read a fifth of it. It’s a quick read but also I’m a scaredy cat; so want to get to the frightening bits fast. This is a psychological thriller which features a train, a dark forest and rather odd, staring uncommunicative strangers. Dot dot dot!

What are you reading and making? Have you done anything spontaneous, which turned out to be one of the best parts of your week?

Have a good weekend all.

I’m linking with Ginny’s revived (now monthly) Yarn Along.

Twixmas

I really like the week between Christmas and New Year. If approached properly it has a mixture of planned and unplanned days. You need activity and people, but also days where you can lounge around reading, crafting, eating chocolates and nibbles and catching up on Christmas films and tv. This year we’ve got it just right.

Just before Sewing Club ended for the year another sewer told me she couldn’t see the point of wasting time and energy on making bottle bags; as they wouldn’t be appreciated for the amount of effort that goes into making them. Well, happily I’m glad to report that definitely wasn’t the case. I gave them to members of my family who sew and who totally got the point. They made my (Christmas) day by saying how impressed they were with the quality of the sewing etc etc. Every year we pass around card gift bags and bottle bags, saved from previous Christmases, and last year a few lamented that they had to buy new bags. The horror! I knew that these would be used again and again. It will be quite fun seeing them reappear. Am I revealing my sad nerdiness? Ah well! They’re fully lined with contrast fabric and reversible. Now perhaps I need to make Birthday bottle bags…We all seemed to arrive at Mum’s with presents for Barty the powder puff tail. My cousin and my nieces all did and I took him a set of jingle mice. But this one was the clear winner: my friend and her dog George sent him a crocheted pillow filled with catnip (bought in Asda, it’s fab.) After I took this photo he got a bit manic. It was so funny to see this laid back ‘I can sleep for England’ young cat so excited. The pillow is already all tatty and with ends sticking out! It was so lovely to see this ornament again when we decorated the tree on 23rd. I remembered that one of my nieces bought it for me last year, with her pocket money.My Dry October turned into Dry November and Dry December (bar 3 occasions where I’d finished in November but then decided to carry on.) All I really fancied was a glass of champagne and so on Christmas Eve I had my first drink in weeks. And my second. And on Christmas morning felt so very ropey that in the middle of drying my hair had to turn off the drier, sit on the bed and take deep breaths! Oh this was not the plan! How pathetic. Seeing a line of just-filled glasses on Christmas morning I apologised to my brother and declined one. During the toast I tasted a sip from Someone’s glass, just to try, and decided it was really rather nice, that perhaps that old chestnut, the hair of the dog thing would be worth a try. My brother said it was the fastest turn around he’s ever seen! I stuck to a single glass all day and it did the trick marvellously. I had another glass on Boxing Day evening with family too. There is a champagne diet, apparently good for weight loss (perhaps not for the liver.) Maybe that will be the one for me in January?On Boxing Day morning we were so glad to see a crisp and bright morning. We headed out for some exercise. It was a great walk, albeit 7 1/2 miles, not the planned 5. I think it was a combination of a lot of chatter, passing a big group of walkers at a crucial moment and wishing them a Good Morning that meant we missed the intended turning. We ended up in open countryside surrounded by grazing sheep. I turned to my iPhone for our location and saw on a satellite map that we had walked in the opposite direction and were approaching an unexplored village in the west. Oh well, new public footpaths have been discovered and it was a great yomp. Very good for walking off some of the mince pies and Christmas pudding. We took ourselves off to the sales on Wednesday and popped into a new-to-me coffee shop, where we sat on wooden boxes and spooned our Demerara from a communal jar with a wooden spoon. How very hipster!

I started some new crochet that evening. I’m not totally sure this is going to be continued. But look at the difference going up half a hook size makes. The fabric is now beautifully drapey and soft. Plus it’s far easier to find the 1 chain spaces. I’m going to play around a bit and might undo it, or might carry on. Just don’t ask me about the Hitchhiker, I actually might cry. Disaster struck. And I can’t blame it on Barty either.

On Thursday I met a friend in Hoxton, London at The Geffrye Museum of the Home to catch their Christmas Past exhibition. This features rooms decorated (or not) for Christmas from 1700 to 1990. Did you know that the Puritans banned Christmas for around 15 years? People disobeyed and still brought greenery into the home for decoration.

It’s a good exhibition and interesting overhearing others’ memories of past Christmases when you come to the various twentieth century rooms. My friend and I liked this early 1960s room best. It’s just after the children have opened their presents, when they’ve gone off to open their chocolate selection boxes and spoil their appetites for lunch. Sounds a familiar scenario, doesn’t it?

Why the toothbrush in the cafe, the eagle eyed among you might have spotted? I text her from the train and asked if she had an old one she could bring. I reckon it’s the mark of a good friend (or one who’s used to your ways) who responds with “I’ll see if I can find one” and not a single question about why.

After five miles of walking we went for a very late lunch and obviously chose the low calorie option….

And back to a superb mixture of laziness and activity yesterday; I tried out my new dumbbells that my father in law gave me. It’s become a thing every year; I really like to add practical presents to my wish list, things I need and will use. He laughs, but is usually the one to buy them. Over the years I’ve asked for a car valet, garden shears, secateurs, loaf tins and so on. This year it was dumbbells so I can work my triceps which are a little wobbly after a mere 4 months of a power shower and no hair-washing with a jug over the bath. (I miss my jug. I could also touch my toes and the floor without a problem. Probably that’s a no-go now too.) I started my daily routine yesterday. I will begin challenging people to arm wrestle by February. Actually, I’m having a day off today as I think my left elbow feels a bit sore. Ha! I’ve broken my resolution even before New Year.

How was your Christmas? Did your homemade gifts go down well? What’s the most bizarre present you received? Are you feasting still or dining on water and crackers now?

Cotton knit and crochet, plus more vintage reading

This week I’ve sewn another little zipped bag, perfect for my knitting. I really like the lime lining. The outer fabric looks almost like it’s a vintage flower pattern, but with modern colours. I wish I knew where I got it from it, but it was when I was gathering fat quarters and that’s a few years ago.

I’m on a mission to make more washcloths after checking that my nieces still used them. Apparently they’re now using the last two, the green and the yellow ones. Which green and yellow ones you’re thinking? Well, these! I rarely look back at any posts I’ve published, but this made me go a little bit awww and oooh. They’re not wearing little silver shoes anymore, now they’re 9 and 10 ( nearly 11) and seem to be all arms and legs.

Pot holder mark II is done, must crochet around the edges…

How many ends of my wave blanket have I darned? Mmmm zero, but the intention is there. This week I’ve said: “I must do some darning, especially as Sophie’s just gone on maternity leave. I’ve just gotta start.”

“Yeah yeah, I’ve heard that before.” 

I’ve knitted some more of my garter stitch blanket but the new colour isn’t right. It’s meant to be a stash buster, so I’ve added in parchment. I have plenty after all. But it’s not fitting with the rest. But I’m using up odd balls of yarn; so I can’t buy new, can I? Actually don’t answer that, because I’m really not. It’s going to be what it’s going to be… can you sense the determination?!

I’ve gone back to the audio version of The State We’re In as I wanted to find out what was going to happen next and had a few hours to listen while I travelled one day. The narrator is ok, especially if I alternate listening to some and read some. The Little House in the Big Woods was such a trip down memory lane that I’ve gone right on to the next in the series. Poor Jack though! How upsetting. As Laura wrote these books in her later years that memory must have surely still distressed her.

Have you reread any childhood favourites? What are you making? What’s your favourite drink at the moment? I’m on a bit of a peppermint tea jag again. 


If you’d like to share what you’re making and reading every Wednesday too, leave a link in the comments. Don’t forget to link back to this post on your blog, and use #yarningalong on social media, so others can find us and join us in Yarning Along. I’m still looking out for a links tool that’s compatible with WordPress. Can you keep your eyes peeled too on your favourite WP blogs? 

Wandering around 

On Monday morning I found myself wondering around my new home with a semi-dried bunch of chillies trying to find the best place to hang them. I soon realised this if this carried on much longer nothing else was going to get done! In the end I tied them onto the light cord of a lamp and got on with the heavy work of unpacking the kitchen. I didn’t stop for a sit down all day and then had to go and do some cleaning at the other house. One of my new birthday bottles of gin was opened at the end of the day… This one. It’s a goodie. 

Yesterday I’ve never been so glad to have had a long-standing appointment at the hairdressers, as I could sit down and not move for 1 1/2 hours. It was bliss and my back and aching shoulders thanked me. 

Now I’m trying for a better pace and keep reminding myself that not every box has to be opened in the first few days. I do need to search for a vase for these lovely flowers that have been delivered. Where on earth are they?  

As you see, I’m using the same book photo as last week; I haven’t touched my crochet. In fact it’s still in the boot of my car, but I’m halfway through reading Dear Lupin and it’s made me laugh out loud, many times. It’s a lovely book. 
What about you: have you been making much? Reading much? Wondering around trying to hang up a bunch of anything?!

If you’d like to share what you’re making and reading every Wednesday too, leave a link in the comments. Don’t forget to link back to this post on your blog, and use #yarningalong on social media, so others can find us and join us in Yarning Along.

Very handy 

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

Pot Holder

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

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

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

All terms are for UK crochet stitches

FR: Chain 32

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

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

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

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

Edging:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yarn Along

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

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

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

 

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

 

Pretty pink 


  
   Last night’s IG progress pic 

 Is it ever going to stop raining? Crocheting more pot holders in the garden in the sun, on Saturday, now feels like a long time ago. It rained on Sunday, on Monday and yesterday. Last night I woke up because of the wind and the rain. Today it’s still raining heavily and steadily.

One upside of all the rain is that I am finishing off bits of crochet; mainly so I can start some more. I really do prefer decorative but practical things but I’ve completely contradicted myself by making a doily… I’ve never made a mandala and always said that they are just 21st-century versions of a doily, then I made a doily! A crafty friend says she actually prefers doilies in modern yarns and colours, as she reckons the patterns tend to be a bit more complex. It was absorbing,  I really enjoyed following the pattern. It’s from Simply Crochet magazine, issue 33 and is by Anne Egan. Like others; well to be strictly honest one other I found in my Google (but I bet there’s lots) I omitted the final round. I tried the mini-clovers and it just wasn’t joyful or relaxing. That’s an understatement…  I just couldn’t work out which way to go round and they looked a mess, so I went in to the previous round with DCs instead.  Later I need to block it. Perhaps they might be easier with finer thread, rather than DC cotton and a 4 mm hook? They’re definitely a challenge I’m going to take up in the future. Rah!!!

Pretty useful 

   
    
 I’m not really one for making decorative things for the sake of making them, I prefer to make practical things. Things that look pretty, but will actually serve a purpose are the best. Potholders seem to be my thing, potholders and washcloths. 

The pattern for the dandelion clock potholder (which looking at the pattern actually has one square in the middle of each flower a lighter shade of pink; so I imagine it’s meant to be a daisy or something. But I thought thistle or dandelion clock for mine as I really think they’re just as nice)  is from Kat Goldin’s Hook, Stitch and Give. It has been sitting waiting for me to use it again, but I had an embargo on starting any other crochet projects until that blanket was finished! 

Of course you could just crochet some squares, do some cross stitch decoration, or not, and then DC around the edges through both loops to fix them together. But the book is lovely and I wanted the relaxation of following some well written patterns, and no – I’m not being paid to promote it. 

I’ve used DMC Natura cotton as I had loads that Simply Crochet magazine sent me for designing the bag brooch. It’s so nice to work with and I’ve never been a huge fan of crocheting with cotton.  I think that it’s hard on the hands because it’s not flexible, also it’s just not as comforting to hold as wool or acrylic yarns, but I’m a fan of this cotton. One website has 50 different colours for sale. I got a voucher for my birthday too… 

The scruffy potholder is one I made a year or two ago, it’s well used because someone (naming no names) dropped our largest saucepan lid and it shattered. It’s such a good heavy based pan that I use with a baking sheet on the top, which course gets hot…

Guess what I’m making now?