The best flatlay background ever

Do you remember the Early Morning Cowl I made and sent to a friend last January? She has a crazy number of dogs: big dogs, huge massive furry things, middle sized ones and little happy yappy ones. She walks them very, very early in the morning in fields near her home. She often text me at that time and I always replied that I was snuggled in bed, with a cup of tea! She was the ideal friend to send a cosy knit. Not that many people suit mustard and it really suits her. I have a photo of her wearing that first cowl, it was straight out of the envelope with post dog walk crazy hair, her smile is huge as I hadn’t told her it was done and posted. It’s a really lovely pic. But I don’t think she’d appreciate it being beamed around the world!

Here’s another more sedate version in soft misty grey chunky yarn. I started it (eek!) last January when we were deep in our third Lockdown. Now I love you all, you know I do, but reading that post again, I now can’t help wondering why someone, or even a handful of you didn’t say: “BUT Rachel, that’s not the only four WIPs you have, is it?! Why have you started more?” I seem to have become scattered, starting and not completing many. If you’ve read for the last decade (and I know some of you very patient lovelies have, thank you!) you know I always used to have a couple of things at the most on the go, finished them and then thoughtfully decided on the next. Now, not so much!

Perhaps continually starting new makes reflected my lack of concentration during that stressful period? Or trying to get some variety in a very dull time. Due to the Stay at Home rule we mostly all stayed indoors, apart from tramping round the fields during daily exercise sessions and tried hard to restrict the baking-eating-baking-eating habit. That left craft and reading, along with unfulfilled intentions to learn Italian, write a book and stop biting my nails.

The bees were buzzing around in the heather flowers, such a welcome sound
Tiny tete a tetes in front of a lavender bush

This year I’m really determined to focus on one thing at a time in a bid to finally finish makes and cut them down to probably just THAT SOCK.

Green shoots on the lavender

I wanted to blog today, because it’s been a week and I felt like a chat, then I realised that you really, really don’t need, or probably want to see the Star Blanket yet again. That’s what I’ve been crocheting this week. So, I decided that it would probably be okay to have one crochet and one knitty thing on the go. It’s still keeping focus and not flitting madly about. That’s why I delved into one of the top layer of my project bags and found this cowl. I added an inch or so to it after lunch, before doing an hour’s tidying and pruning in the garden.

All the colour out there is so pretty now. I spotted lots of new growth which feels an encouraging sign of Spring. It was a real pleasure to be out in the sunshine, tidying up stray leaves, branches and twigs that blew down in the storms and to prune back some of the perennials. I cleaned the bird feeders too.

Someone spied flowers on the rosemary bush. Pretty pale mauve, aren’t they?
Anemones
Cyclamen with a cheeky anemone which has come up in the middle of the clump
Hellebores are so elegant
Many clumps of tulip leaves all around the borders, I can’t wait to see the flowers

I’ll share the Early Morning Cowl pattern shortly. It’s a little iffy timing as we’re heading into spring here, but some peeps in the Southern Hemisphere are heading into cooler temps. Plus I guess there’s plenty of time to knit one, or a stack, ready for autumn. It’s a really easy knit.

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If you’re feeling powerless and crafting helps to feel like you’re doing something to help the people of Ukraine, there are lots of ways to join in to raise funds for charity. Today I saw a gorgeous free sunflower pattern which Carol, aka Dansnan, on Insta has designed. Here’s the pattern. It’s a good use of brown and yellow oddments of yarn.

Mother Hookers are a crochet group based in Doncaster, which is in the north of England. I love following their community crochet projects. They are currently asking for sunflower brooches which they will sell in order to raise more money to send to the DEC (Disaster Emergency Committee.) They state that the Government has pledged to match donations up to 20 million pounds. All the details are on the MH page, linked above. Or perhaps you’d like to sell some within your own community?

February

I’m not sure whether to carry on with the monthly posts…

I think you should.

Why?

Because they’re fun to read, lots of little snippets.

Is it alright to do February’s on the sixth of March though?

I don’t know, I think so, but I haven’t read the rules.

Ha! Ok, so I’m taking their word for it. Here goes….

Making: my third washcloth in last year’s series from Garlene of The Kitchen Sink Shop. This is called Double Dutch. I could manage one set of repeats at a time, 10 rows, before my hand started to warn me it was really, seriously, No, I MEAN IT, it’s time to stop!

Cooking: a lot of white sauces. I made fish pie several times, a beef lasagne and a cheesy topped gratin of leeks, smoked lardons and chicken. Comforting comfort food, which went well with the wild February weather

Reading: so many good books! February included the soothing stories that are Jenny Colgan’s Mure series: An Island Christmas and Christmas at the Island Hotel, both perfect comfort reads, Free Love by Tessa Hadley and The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell. I’d waited months for the last and finally got the ebook from BorrowBox the library app. It didn’t disappoint

Sipping: Tanqueray, our first bottle in a while and a bit of a pause from Craft Gins. Although I did get February’s box which had a Berkshire London Dry Style gin. Very pretty bottle and label

Here’s my referral code for Craft Gin Club. If you’re in the UK you can order a box with £20 off (free delivery.) There’s no obligation to order any other boxes. I’ve shared this before and people have used it, so may as well again

Waiting: for more of the garden to wake up, there’s a lot of colour, even in February

The garden was absolutely carpeted with these purple croci by mid-month, lovely

Looking: at the stark beauty of the trees and bare hedgerows

Listening: to birdsong when Storm Dudley, Eunice and then Frank had gone. I really felt for the tiny garden birds and wondered how they managed to cling on in the face of 75mph winds

Wishing: for dry days so the mud dried and walks were easier

By the end of this new 6 mile circular my walking trainers were no longer pink and grey…

Enjoying: Blue skies. Cold and wind are ok if accompanied by beautiful colour like on this day’s walk

Appreciating: Traditions like Shrove Tuesday, seeing friends’ pancake pics on a WhatsApp group and popping up on Facebook

Eating: English crepe style pancakes with lemon juice & castor sugar and American style fluffy pancakes on Shrove Tuesday

Liking: The Tuckers. I appreciate Welsh humour, being a massive fan of Gavin and Stacy and enjoying Stella. The Tuckers ticks the boxes: Does it make me laugh? Do I like the characters?

Loving: Russian Doll on Netflix, only 3 episodes in so far but wow it’s good. Glad to see there’s another series in the offing soon

Fish pie, balsamic roasted plum tomatoes and steamed tenderstem broccoli

Buying: a new walking raincoat. When you take off your jacket and reveal two large circles on your t-shirt, it is fairly embarrassing. That was the only area(s) no longer waterproof, despite having a try at reproofing

Managing: to tick things off the ever expanding list of things to do. There are a few things which I do not want to do, but they WILL be tackled in March

Watching: for signs of Spring as March 1st approached

Hoping: for peace, it was not to be. I’m so sorry for the people of Ukraine. And my heart also goes out to their family and friends in other countries who are waiting anxiously to hear from them and watching the News. It’s really scary for us all. Please give to one of the many charities who are raising money to support Ukraine. Here’s a link for UNICEF, but there are many. Pick one please and donate

Wearing: scruffs and blue socks with white spots

Noticing: how naff it feels to write the above about Ukraine, then describe my socks. I’ve been astounded at the number of bloggers who are not writing anything about it, no mention at all. Then this morning (March but…) I read my friend Phil’s Blue and Yellow blog post and noticed my shoulders dropped. So relieved to read a post which doesn’t feel like the writer has their fingers in their ears, going lalalalalalala

Following: lots of cooking accounts on Instagram, more and more. I like the dinner inspo, though actually rarely follow their recipes. Love the little reels filmed over a mixing bowl or chopping board. Watching snippets as someone kneads, mixes, chops or peels is so relaxing. Alex Hollywood, Anna’s Family Kitchen and 5 O’Clock Apron are some of my faves. Anyone you want to recommend?

Sorting: egg boxes for my cousin

A few stitches out of whack on the last repeat, I see looking at the photo. I was listening to Julie Walters audio book, no cider was involved. It’s a washcloth; so no need to undo. I will fight my perfectionist tendencies

Getting: appointments booked in for March

Coveting: chocolate, the weather in February boosted sales of nutty chocolate. Bars from M&S, Cadbury and there’s a gorgeous dark or milk chunky hazelnut one by Lindt

Feeling: round, ahem, it was the above

Hearing: nothing much by the end of the stormy week, I appreciated the peace

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How are you doing?

Catching up

You know when someone’s been away from blogging for ages and they say they really don’t know what to write, but then just start and it’s okay in the end? I feel a bit like that today, although it’s only been a few weeks. I’m starting with this opening, random photos and seeing where it goes.

The lack of craft content is a big factor. It’s so frustrating that many times I’ve thought about just putting this on hold, without a big announcement or anything, but then I pop online and read a few of other peoples’ posts and enjoy just catching up with their news. Seeing what’s around in their gardens or neighbourhoods, what the weather’s like, what they’re eating, let alone what they’re making that I don’t really think it matters. It’s just natter without the knit, isn’t it?

The thing is I’m still being contacted by PR people for yarn companies and magazines. This week it was for a prominent High Street magazine who wanted me to do a How to Crochet series of pictures and instructional posts for their website. I love the compliments about my blog and that they really love the content, but it makes me wonder how recently they looked because I don’t think crochet has featured since last year. I shall look forward to seeing which blogger gets the gig!

This morning I’ve also had a dodgy looking email about some blogger awards. If I thought it was kosher I wouldn’t jump on my own chances by writing this here, but you know when the grammar is so odd and the website and email address are iffy looking that you just think ‘Ha ha, probably not?’

Do you know by the way that I always dictate my posts on my iPad now? So if there’s any very strange looking mistakes it’s Apple technology, not Rachel technology! Although I do keep being told off for not proofreading my messages. I sent the most bizarre instructions for baking sourdough this morning which included putting the sprinting on the third gravestone from the top…

I went to see the Hand Therapist last week. I’ve had to do a lot more lifting and carrying recently and it is she said: “A soup of ickyness and not anenomes.” Not quite the way I would’ve put it, although that description did make me laugh, but I get the message. I’ve got to go back to see the Hand and Wrist Consultant. I am resistant to anything invasive, but it does look probable as it’s not improving.

Beautiful Valentines Day flowers. Just gorgeous aren’t they, but unfortunately we kind of missed them, more about that later.

Snowdrops have appeared everywhere. Beautiful, but you do have to lift up the flowers to see how pretty they are on the inside, there are so many varieties, the variations are amazing.

Hyacinths from last year in one of my favourite blue pots. I know that second year bulbs don’t necessarily come back in flower very well, but I took the lazy approach and thought I would suck it and see. Probably not the best expression I use, picked up from an Australian. But I do like it!

Tulips. I have no idea what colour these were last year, maybe purple? Queen of the night variety? I could look in my notebook; but I quite like the idea that I’m going to get a surprise. Fingers crossed. What’s been nibbling them?

I think these are going to be Paperwhite narcissi.

I think I’ll never apologise, content-wise, for my sourdough pictures. If they annoy you then just imagine I’m smirking at you! Having said that I’m not sure I’m going to post anymore for quite a few weeks. Right now they’re flatter looking, because neither of us can lift up the cast-iron pot I bake them in. They tend to flatten out more when tipped out of the Banneton onto a baking sheet. Still taste good, but not so photogenic.

Have you heard that we had the hottest February on record? We had temperatures of 15° – 16°. T-shirt weather. I even saw a few people in shorts and sandals. It has been amazing, though ever so slightly bizarre for this time of year.

The spring flowers are out in force and it’s really lovely spotting croci, snowdrops, daffodils, grape hyacinths, blossom on trees and flowers on heather. I love the close-up I took of Mum’s little pink heather flowers.

And the reason we kind of missed my Valentine’s Day flowers: they drooped and dried out as the underfloor heating was still going on without us breezing in and out of the room or moving them to a cooler spot while we were away…

I’ve always fancied a ride in an ambulance; thought the flashing lights on while speeding past the traffic in a swift ride would be kind of cool. Yes I know, I’m a moron! Don’t think I’d really thought it through properly. Not so fun have to call it for a loved one at 2 AM, who is in pain, with all the worry and scary thoughts alongside that.

There were some funny moments, in retrospect. It is not a comfortable ride; it is noisy, the suspension is awful and both of us said they haven’t *even* put the lights and siren on! No need as at that time on a Monday morning there is nothing to slow down the journey. I find it interesting that having been woken from a deep sleep of only two hours that the things that I grabbed were his two phones, my iphone, my charger, my mascara (!) and I hid the whisky bottle in the cereal cupboard! We’d had a couple of drinks that evening, after a nice Sunday with family. There is no deep-seated problem or associated guilt, but for some reason I popped it behind the pack of Fruit and Fibre.

This was my view for several days and I did the thing of buying some lovely refreshing fruit (grapes are traditional, I went for melon and mango) for any time Someone felt like nibbling something. Of course those times were rare, it was all about lots of liquid morphine, codeine and paracetamol via IV. Incidentally I did ask the nurse if I could have a bit of that, because I had a cracking headache on the Tuesday after being up the previous night and the following day. She laughed and said “Absolutely not, do you realise how expensive it is given this way?!” Apparently it’s incredible, in a matter of minutes it’s taken effect.

I also was rushing about like a headless chicken and hadn’t had breakfast one day so did the classic thing of having to apologise when he did feel hungry for the first time, because I’d eaten all the melon! Oops.

There is a real club that forms when you’re part of a situation in a ward where everybody’s been rushed in without warning and are awaiting diagnosis or emergency operations. The patients are usually too unwell, sleepy and high on painkillers, but the families are really supportive of each other. I ended up chatting and waving to people all along the ward and in the lift, every time I popped out to get something. There is such a camaraderie and fast track relationships, albeit brief, are formed. I still wonder how some of them are and what happened. Maybe we’ll bump into each other in a cafe or shop one day. Fingers crossed all works out for them.

I know this is a horrendous picture of my hand but for me it sums up the black humour you can find in situations. There is a triage part of the ward and so at the end is a waiting room for about 10 people. There are clearly very unwell people waiting to be seen; they all had dark circles around their eyes, faces so pale it looked like stage make-up and nobody ever picked up a magazine. Some were there for hours and hours and I really felt for them. It’s not somewhere people chat. I think they’re just focusing on getting through so they can see a doctor. Then they get antibiotics to take home, or are admitted to the hospital.

Why a picture of a water bottle? This water machine was one of a kind. I kept on going down past the bays of beds to keep my legs moving and to keep myself hydrated. Can you see the tiny trickle going into my bottle? I’m actually sitting down to fill that water bottle. Honestly it took so long (about 10 minutes to fill 500ml) that at one point in a full waiting room I could feel 10 pairs of eyes on me and suppressed mirth. Far too much in pain and poorly to actually laugh out loud, but the atmosphere certainly lifted.

I want to give huge thanks and appreciation to the paramedics who came when I called 999 at 2 AM, the A&E team, ESU ward staff and the surgical team, anaesthetists and all the others who looked after my husband. NHS staff are AMAZING.

Home again now, taking it easy, he is well on the way to recovery.

I loved being outside for a walk again, enjoying the surprise sunshine after the trauma of the last week. I can’t leave without telling you what I’m reading. I’m listening to this audiobook and really enjoying it. Read by Juliet Stevenson it’s such a good story, the only downside is her voice is so soothing I can’t listen to it lying down; because I’m asleep in 10 minutes.

Yesterday I finished two books: The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven and Tin Man by Sarah Winman. Both very good.

If this is natter, without the knit then this definitely needs your comments! How have your last few weeks been, what have you been doing, has it been sunny where you are and what are you reading?

Badges, heather, gorse and blankets  

Yesterday I went to the fabulous V&A in London, officially: The Victoria and Albert Museum. The museum’s focus is upon decorative arts and design. The beautiful rooms are crammed full of amazing objects which you can see anytime for free, they also put on staggering good ticketed temporary exhibitions. I’m lucky enough to be a member and so can go into these anytime without booking and for free. Yesterday’s was the best I’ve been to: You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970.  There are many album covers from the period on display (I’d like a full list of these, must check the website) and many badges for sale in the shop at the end. You are forbidden from taking photographs in this exhibition, which turns out to be a good thing because you’re not distracted.

I went in at around 3:30pm, totally immersed from the start in the music and clips which automatically play on your headset as you move around the rooms, reading, looking, thinking. Near the end I led on a giant beanbag watching three walls of projected footage from the Woodstock festival, held in 1969 on a farm in Upstate New York, trying not to sing too loudly! It was a mesmerising exhibition. Noticeably no one had mobile phones out (this is rare anywhere, you’ll agree) and by the end I nearly fell on the floor with surprise when I looked at my watch and it was 6pm!

This is from West Cornwall last week. The colours of the sky, rocks, heather and gorse are stunning aren’t they? Quite a few times we saw cars left in gateways, off the tiny winding Cornish lanes, as people hopped out to take a photo of the same.
This my Yorkshire blanket, the first crochet I’d ever done, when I picked up a hook and tried making trebles. It’s pretty funny that the first crochet I ever did resulted in a full blanket! Mum made the starting ring and I carried on, with her help. It’s The Yorkshire Blanket because we’d hired a cottage there over Christmas 2008 and this is what I worked on, before going down with influenza (not “flu” which is typically a heavy cold.) I remember feeling like death warmed up for most of the time! No Christmas dinner for me, I was too unwell. That’s proper ill that is!

Anyway I’m really not sure what to do with this blanket, because we started off with the claret coloured DK single stranded. I carried on using a mixture of yarn that Mum and my Mother in Law passed on to me. Others I picked up from charity shops. It’s all acrylic and the tweedy appearance is because some yarn was thinner than others, so I ended up holding it double two strands at one time. Of all the blankets I’ve subsequently made this is still my favourite in terms of colours; it’s more ‘me’ I suppose. Of course there is a real discrepancy in weight between the centre of the blanket and the rest. It was initially a ‘can I learn to crochet?’ practice piece, but turned into a full square blanket because of course I could, and I couldn’t stop. It really doesn’t work with the weight of the outside rounds pulling at the lighter weight centre. There’s been no unraveling however. My darning must have been sterling!

So, I’m wondering whether to undo it and donate the yarn back to charity shops, crochet it all back up but with a two stranded DK centre, find out some way of undoing just the red centre and redoing it or……

And my current blanket, The Unnamed Ripple, as I sat in the shade a few days ago catching up with a few rows. This one’s going to a friend who lives on a canal boat, I ought to get cracking with it so she can use it this winter.

Don’t forget that if you’re in UK you can enter my giveaway to win a copy of Edward’s Imaginarium before noon on Sunday 25th. Leave a comment on the post linked here.

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