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…
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.
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 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.
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.
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…
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 once 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 wandered the streets of Spitalfields and can picture the area as it is now, while I read about elements of its historical past.
Tonight I will be making a lasagne with a rich beef ragù, béchamel sauce and using fresh lasagne 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 sheets, 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 earlier, 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 filmmaker’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.
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 cake again.
The recipe is from Nigella’s Simply Nigella book. Message me if you can’t get hold of the recipe. It’s not currently on her site, but there are various versions floating about the net.
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!
Making: my first soups of the season. Roasted butternut and chilli first. I had such a lunchtime soup craving that I was chopping vegetables, with the oven preheating, before 0900 on Friday! Someone was working in London and I had the house to myself. It was such a peaceful morning
Then the second soup followed the other, quite quickly. I made cauliflower cheese soup on Sunday. It’s so simple, but far more than the sum of its parts!
Here’s how: Use your largest saucepan and sweat a diced white onion in a little oil until translucent. Add a large crushed clove of garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add an extra large cauliflower, which has been cut into small florets, and a litre of vegetable stock. Cook until the cauliflower is tender. Don’t worry that there’s far more cauli than stock, it will all work perfectly. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Whizz with a stick blender (or in a blender when it’s cooled.) Serve with Danish Blue cheese crumbled over or a good handful of extra mature cheddar cheese. I find about 25g of cheddar per bowl is plenty.
Cooking: Chicken & Leek Bake. I don’t buy ready meals, I’ve always cooked from scratch. But weirdly when I was grocery shopping online last week, the store showed me a chicken and bacon and leek gratin thing in a plastic box. Urgh, but it was one of those instant ‘I must make this!’ moments. Then I saw this on my favourite recipe website Chicken & Leek Bake. I always adapt recipes, so mine had smoked pancetta and chicken breasts, not thighs, as that’s what I had in the fridge. And there’s no way I’m ever buying ready made cheese sauce! Mine had a homegrown bay leaf and some dried thyme popped into it. The English (Colman’s of course!) mustard made the sauce absolutely delicious. Perfect autumn / winter dinner. It is going to be made again and again, I predict!
Looking: forward to seeing and walking beside the sea again
Listening: to Keith Stuart’s The Frequency of Us audio book. I had goosebumps by the end. Super twisty story
Wishing: a personal shopper would just deliver a rail of perfectly fitting lovely clothes to my bedroom. I really need to go shopping. Yawn
Enjoying: crocheting my gingerbread man. He now has a leg too
Appreciating: snuggling in bed with good books. My current is another ebook from the library, this time on the BorrowBox app. It’s The Never-Ending Summer by Emma Kennedy. I love her writing. I can recommend all her books, especially the non-fiction The Tent, the Bucket and Me. I read until gone midnight last night. This book is one of those ‘just another chapter’ page turners…
Eating: too much sweet stuff. After half term ends, next week I’ll be back to eating fewer treats
Loving: the anticipation of opening my first Inside Crochet mag in ages. I bought a 6 month subscription with some birthday money
Buying: Christmas cards. I don’t know what it is this year, but I’m getting some things done early
Watching: nature changing week by week
Managing: one of my favourite 6 mile loops (circular walks) at the weekend
Hoping: for more blue sky days
Wearing: a furry blue top, so warm and soft
Noticing: even the oak leaves are turning now. Those ferns I showed you earlier in the month have now died back
Following: Lucy’s Blogtober posts. Her visit to RHS Harlow Carr is top, top, top for autumn garden colour. I’m loving the daily diary posts and save a batch to read at one sitting
Sorting: the freezer. I defrosted it on Monday. What a good feeling. I’ve been so dizzy I couldn’t do it until now. It’s looking good now, but apparently the crunchy noise of the door closing on 2 inches of ice on the top drawer is missed!
Getting: organised for winter
Coveting: a new stick blender. Mine ground to a halt a while ago
Feeling: determined to do more garden pruning before the hedges are cut back on Tuesday
Hearing: the gentle ring of tinnitus
Remembering: making the bird and other little things when I was new to it and absolutely crochet obsessed (and I didn’t have a wooky hand which now holds me back.) I recently came across this photo of my noticeboard in the first Little Room, it made me smile
How’s your October been? Are you ok? What are you making, cooking, watching and reading?
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.
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.
As you can see from the photo below; it’s a flip book which enables you to design your own monster, choosing from 24 different head, arm and leg patterns. There is a choice of tails too. The blurb states there are “Over a million easy-to-make monsters” I wondered if this might be an exaggeration, but got the resident mathematician on the case. It’s entirely possible if you take into account different colours, patterns, tails and other features.
A flip book of patterns is such an ingenious idea, really so simple that I am surprised the concept has not been replicated by other designers. I’m sure it will be! If making all those decisions is too stressful, or you just wanted to get started without delay, there are 40 ready picked monsters in the gallery section.For added inspiration and to see others’ creations go to #edsflipbook on Instagram.
There are 3 skill levels for each selection of patterns. This book would be suitable for someone who has mastered the basics of crochet, but not a complete newbie I would say. There are instructional help videos on the TOFT website. It could also be used as a starting point for experienced crocheters; giving initial inspiration and ideas, but then you could really go to town adapting patterns and designing your own features. I could well imagine someone going on to make a whole wardrobe to dress their monster too. The possibilities are endless.
There are plenty of instruction pages including: stitch tutorials, the order of sewing up the parts, stuffing and sewing body parts (that sounds funny doesn’t it?!)
Kerry has written little bios for some of the gallery monsters. Here’s part of one: “If you’ve ever adventured into the forest alone on a summer’s day, stretching your legs and absentmindedly banging the odd tree trunk with a stick, it’s more than likely that someone very like Willow will have been watching you…..” This will really appeal to young children. You could ask a child to design a monster, perhaps drawing or painting the kind of creature they imagine, then match it to patterns.
*A copy of the book was supplied by the publisher for my review. All opinions are mine and honest. Having looked through Edward’s Imaginarium I can wholeheartedly recommend it. There is a wealth of information and inspiration.*
A free copy is available for a UK reader as part of a giveaway. Hurray! I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winner, I’ll then contact you and pass your details to Pavilion Books. For a chance to be the lucky winner please leave a comment below. The giveaway is open now untilSunday 25th at noon (GMT).
Very exciting post has just arrived! It’s a preview copy of Kate’s (from Greedy for Colour) book: Stanley and the Hot Air Balloon.
My Stanley ran around beside himself with excitement to see it. He acted out many of the parts of the story as he read all about himself. Very sweet story it is too. There are crochet patterns at the end of the book to create your own characters and the hot air balloon. It’s so clever and full of little touches like using particular colours and fonts for specific words throughout the book.
Oooh! I love being mentioned in books. Thanks Kate. Very exciting, although I have to say I only played a tiny part, testing the Stanley pattern. He’s got to be the coolest crochet I’ve done.
Stanley and the Hot Air Balloon will be available to buy from July. See Kate’s blog for more details nearer the time.
If you follow Kate Bruning’s Greedy for Colour blog then you’ll have recognised Stanley straightaway, if not then you’re really in a for a treat. If you scroll through Kate’s posts you’ll see lots more of the cheeky Stanley, his Mum and friends.
So why and how and when did Stanley appear the other side of the world playing his own brand of ‘Where’s Wally?’ Well, last November Kate asked if I would do her a favour sometime and test a pattern from her forthcoming book. What an honour! She sent the pattern recently and I loved crocheting Stanley. I just sewed him up today and what a cheeky face he has! He’s winking isn’t he? Somebody saw him and straight away said “He’s a dude.” He is indeed.
Kate tells me she’s about to send the book to the printers, I can’t wait to read the story and try some more of the patterns. Clever and exciting projects can come out of blogs which begin as chatty crafty diaries of everyday life eh? It’s inspiring.