Is that a drum roll I hear?

A finished thing? Yes!!!!

Making:

I used Emma’s pattern (thank you, clever you) for the linen stitch stripy inspiration and shaping, but then diverged because I needed to make it slightly wider to fit my bottle. So, I crocheted twice around each piece. I double crocheted around the sides once, doing only single crochet at the top and bottom as I didn’t need to add to the overall length. Then all around once more with half treble stitches on both sides and double crochet at the top and bottom. After double crocheting the pieces together along the sides I worked 8 or so rows of DC back and forth along the bottom of the back piece to make a flap. I didn’t want to stitch the hot water bottle into the cosy by crocheting it all together. I know what I’m like; I could easily spill some hot chocolate on it and have to cut it all apart to wash the cover! The flap is tucked up inside. That might be enough without any fastenings, since the bottle’s unlikely to work itself out of the cover and you tend to carry it holding onto the neck.

I made the collar long enough to come 1/2” / 1.5cm above the top of the top of the bottle. I prefer the look of the right side of the crochet on the outside so didn’t make the collar long enough to fold over.

I’ve got to confess that I don’t think I’ve used a hot water bottle in bed since I was a child. I think I might have when I lived in Australia in winter though. The houses were ideal for staying cool in the summer, but were often really cold in the winter.

I did use my HWB in the spring when my hand needed heat treatment initially as it felt really stiff and sore, then alternated it with a cold pack to aid healing and relief.

It would be nice to snuggle up with on a very cold day, when I’m snuggled on the sofa. It’s just been a pleasure making something again, albeit in short bursts. It’s my first finished item since July when I blocked my Edenvale cowl.

The cosy is really warm and lovely with the yarn’s wool content. I much prefer the feel of Stylecraft’s Life Aran with its 25% wool blend, compared to the 100% acrylic version. I’m going to look for something else to make with the remnants I have from the slouchy beanies I made for a friend. Here’s the first. And the second, I really like the maroon yarn.

Reading:

This week I’m reading Moonfleet by J. Mead Falkner and listening to I Found You by Lisa Jewell. They’re completely different books, but both are equally as compelling as the other.

Moonfleet was published in 1898. The story begins in a Dorset village in 1757. It’s the tale of young John Trenchard who becomes involved in the smuggling trade.

I Found You concerns a man found on a beach, by Alice who lives nearby. He has no memory of who he is, or where he has come from. Another man (or is it the same?) has not returned home from work to Lily, his brand new wife. This is an audiobook I’m finding it hard to turn off. I’m actually pleased when I wake very early in the morning, so I can listen to some more! I love it when you can’t put your book down, either reading or listening to it.

Made anything from start to finish lately, or have you bigger things on the go? What are you reading? Do you like audio books?

Joining in with Ginny’s November Yarn Along

Six

1: Many, actually all, ends darned in on my patchwork blanket strips. Bouncy linen / moss stitch is very satisfying to darn into because the stitches are so bouncy. It was just doing it with one knee bent, so I didn’t hold the fabric with my right hand, that was tricky. I had to stop and move around frequently to stop getting pins and needles ‘elsewhere’ in my body!

2: An act of masochism visiting my favourite wool shop when I can’t craft? It felt a little like that last Saturday, but I did enjoy looking at and feeling all the new yarns and admiring some of the new colours. Things move on so quickly, don’t they?

3: This was taken in the waiting room before I saw the Hand and Wrist consultant on Thursday. I liked the way everything coordinates!

But as I told it then: “Don’t think for a minute you’re getting knitted sock. I’ve only brought you to show the consultant how I held the yarn, using tiny fixed circular needles and the repetitive movements which wrecked my hand in April!

I’ve had a hand x-ray and also a scan. He freaked me out saying it may be arthritis. I almost screamed, and did actually wail that I’m too young! Raised eyebrows and “Plenty of twenty and thirty year olds experience it you know…” the x-ray didn’t show signs of any though. Phew.

The consultant reckoned beginning 10 minutes of crochet once a week and increasing the time by 10% will lead to an hour eventually “And by that time – doing it for an hour – you’ll be bored of doing it anyway!” My turn for raised eyebrows. How little some people know, eh?!

Oh, when I said I’d have to give up on the idea of knitting my own socks and buy them from M&S instead, he did say: “But they won’t be so pretty.”

There will be no crochet or knitting for a while yet. This splint has a metal bar up the palm and has to be worn 24/7, apart from showering. I’ll go back for a follow up appointment in six weeks time. I really hope it does the trick, because the invasive treatment options do not appeal! (Huge understatement, typical of the English.) There’s no permanent damage to the tendons, thankfully, but it seems getting the issue to settle down could be tricky.

I can’t say this enough; if you’re knitting on tiny fixed circulars, or doing any craft at all, take frequent breaks. Maybe set a timer, so you don’t do too much in one sitting? This is *no fun* and no real crafting for five months (and counting) is the least of the general day to day soreness and discomfort I’m experiencing. But I know that it’s the kind of sensible warning that’s easy to ignore when you’re caught up in making. I did!

4: I saw Cathy had posted about making bookmarks on her blog and admired them, saying I’d have to make my own at some point. A few days later I received one in the post! It was the day of my initial appointment and x-ray, nice timing. It’s holding my place in Dewey: the Small-Town Library Cat who Touched the World by Bret Witter and Vicki Myron, one of my current reads. It’s a cute dip-in and out of story. Spencer, the small town, is in Iowa. The best aspect of the story is learning about the farming history of the area.

5: One of the salon dogs at my hairdressers. A cockapoo with a cat-like temperament, apart from when the postman comes every morning with a treat for her, and her golden doodle sister, in his pocket. She’s very stressed as you can see, it’s a hard life. This is one of the chairs in front of the hair wash station. Often when you sit on a chair they’re warm….!

6: A friend is moving back to Australia after living overseas for nearly 2 decades. In the process of emptying out her pantry she found five cans of chickpeas! So to use one can up she put together a chickpea and butternut curry. As these things go, she posted a picture of it on Facebook and inspired lots of us to make the same for our dinner the next day. It was just the perfect grey, cool day for a curry. I made mine with onion, garlic, root ginger, spices (ground cumin, ground coriander, chilli flakes, a pinch of ground cardamon, pinch of salt and grind of black pepper), coconut milk (light), about 100ml of stock, a 400g can of chick peas 400g of butternut squash and served it on on a bed of spinach. It was delicious!

Tell us your news, what you’re making, cooking or reading at the mo? Or anything else you want to share.

September Yarn Along

Although still lovely and warm in the early 20s, it’s definitely feeling like we’re on the cusp of autumn now. The horse chestnut leaves are mostly brown and I found a pocketful of shiny new conkers at the weekend. My thoughts are starting to turn to soup and stews, rather than salads and lighter meals; these are always signifiers of the change of season. It’s also time to work on blanket making, as has become traditional this time of year.

I’ve dug out the strips of my linen stitch crochet and found there are now enough for a good sized baby blanket, or a lap blanket for an adult. I’ve sent several parcels of woolly things Knit for Peace and I imagine this will be destined for them too, unless I know anybody who needs this blanket.

I’ll start to darn the numerous ends this week and then decide on the joining method. I might try a whatchamacallit braid, I’m not sure. Originally I wanted an invisible join, so it looked truly patchworky. This is why I left the ends long, but now I realise there will be weaker joins if I change colours all along the edge of each colour block. I’ve got the darning time to consider the matter. What do you think?

I’m reading The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach, the book that inspired the film(s). When I saw it in the library I pounced upon it, then realised after the first few chapters that I’d already listened to the audio version in 2012. It’s well written and the characters are distinctive, so I’m sticking with it.

I’m still listening to The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar. It’s one of my best audio books this year due to the original story and Juliet Stevenson’s lively narration.

If you like book talk and enjoy hearing interviews with authors then I recommend Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year podcast. It’s free on iTunes and Acast. Ahem…someone has had her emails read out on the last two episodes *cough cough* as she is an avid listener. Kate Atkinson is to be featured soon and I cannot wait. I love her writing. Human Croquet is my favourite.

 

Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along.

Springtime, feels like summer

I asked for a new fridge sentence to replace my post road-trip one, which was boringly ‘Over a thousand miles later home’. I know it wasn’t exciting but it was current. Oh, but I’ve really truly been trounced now. It’s poetry which describes the view from the window. What’s my next move going to be?

I finished my Edenvale cowl last week. I know it will look better as the lace work will open out and show it off when it’s blocked. I’ll show you afterwards. I did fewer repeats than specified in the pattern, so I could stop at one skein of WYS Shetland Tweed. Hurray for John Lewis refunds on wool. That’s a cowl which is plenty long enough and I get £8.50 back in my account. I did try it on, in its as yet unblocked state and had comments along the lines of ‘You’ve knitted a neck sock!’ As you know I just ignore these and calmly carry on. I do the cooking so caution would be warranted…This week I added to my garter stitch blanket. I like the look of the navy with the lavender a lot. As I did another 6 rows (250 stitches each) I reflected on how much I’m enjoying knitting. It’s as meditative as crochet when easy, good to have two hands in motion, I like the feel and look of the fabric. I’ve also added a few more colour blocks to my patchwork blanket. Also satisfying once I get into a rhythm, but a bit boring to contemplate doing masses of linen stitch which is why this has been very slow in the making. I much prefer the swoop and flow of trebles to doubles.

Ah this week’s weather has been a delight. On saturday it was gorgeously warm at around 21-22 degrees. My friend and I wandered in Regents park, London wearing t-shirts, coats bundled up in bags. We admired the cherry and almond blossom, the lines of tulips and noticed how many people were also enjoying being outdoors. There are some pics on my Instagram. As you’ll see I took something a little unseasonal and different to do while we were there. My friend was knitting, and said an elderly lady with a stick walked by and gave us a broad smile. I guess others were mostly using the pedalos, reading, picnicing or just sunbathing. We probably looked quite incongruous.

This magnolia tree is not far from home. It was a gorgeous surprise on Wednesday to see it in full bloom.

Yesterday it was 25 degrees! This isn’t so much spring as a full-on English summer day. It can all change in a week so we are all poised as a nation. At the first sign of a warm day: we rush out to stock up on salad, charcoal and steaks, we go through our drawers and wardrobes looking for anything vaguely summery to wear, if we’re in a morning-time rush (ahem) we merely shave from our ankles up 6″ so we can wear shorter length trousers and sandals for the day and fill a jug with cucumber/raspberry/lime/lemon water in the fridge. We are prepared.

The next day we inspect our red patches of sunburn because we didn’t apply sun-cream, forgetting that even though it’s England we can still burn. (Ahem.)A host of golden daffodils. They’re probably all dried and crinkly now. I’m glad I saw them looking so lush.

So in the last week and a half I’ve knitted; ‘that’ sock, the garter stitch blanket and finished my lace cowl using chunky needles, crocheted and done the other craft which requires very fine motor skills. And my point? My hands hurt. My arms hurt. My elbows are stiff. The side of my hands are tingling. (I should probably not be typing this, but dictating.) That is a big warning sign isn’t it? I think I might have done too much knitting with the chunky 5mm needles, the lace pattern required lots of different manipulative movements and then there were hours of sock knitting. I’ve been disciplined at only doing one set of repeats max with the cowl, but got carried away one day with the sock. I unravelled and reknitted for far too long. In all these years of crocheting I’ve never experienced this, I’m in a sulk with knitting. Stupid chunky needles, stupid tiny circulars, stupid lace, stupid sock. I think this means a total ban on craft for a month. I’ve put a note that I can try again on 19th May….unless they feel magically better sooner. Sniff.

I’ll blog what I’m reading and bore you with photos of flowers and places I’ve been to, in the meantime. When I’ve blocked the cowl I’ll show it too. It’s the darning that’s holding it up right now, but with this warm weather it’s not in a hurry to be worn.

Without craft what do you do in the evenings, apart from read and stare at the goggle box?!

(JILL don’t be crude!)

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.

Taking Stock – January

Making : 2 loaves of beige bread (50/50 wholemeal and white flour)

Cooking : pork and fennel meatballs for dinner

Drinking : water

Reading: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, it’s fantastic! The lights on the bridge have just blown out in the storm. I love reading about 17th century London. It’s also very funny in places

Stowe, Buckingham (National Trust) on New Years Day

Wanting: a G&T, it is Friday

Looking: at my Christmas tree, it’s twelfth night so will be gone tomorrow

Playing: the radio, it’s music from the movies at the mo

Deciding: if I really do want or need to do Dry January. After all Dry October went on until December 24th!

Wishing: for a big Euro millions lottery win tonight

Enjoying: the tunes from Beverley Hills Cop, Top Gun, Pulp Fiction, Dirty Dancing

Waiting: for my bread timer to chime

Liking: the lights sparkling still, on these grey, cold and windy days

Wondering: when the shops will clear away the sale rails

Loving: crocheting again

Pondering: how to join my strips of crochet

Considering: a new to me technique like a flat braid

Buying: a new bag in the sale at The National Trust shop, reduced from £20 to £12

Watching: Russell Howard: Recalibrate on Netflix, it’s laugh out loud funny, but tears too when he talks about his family

Hoping: to see lots more stand-up comedy

Needing: something to eat; rumbling tummy

Questioning: why my wrist is still sore, I think it’s due to knitting #boo

Smelling: my new Loccitane rose perfume

Wearing: my new Seasalt floral socks (perfume & socks are Christmas presents)

Noticing: how cold the wind chill factor is today

Knowing: the days are slowly getting lighter

Thinking: about watching the last episode of The Miniaturist

Admiring: my floral feet (when I wore my yellows on Wednesday, Mum said they were very gay! Nice use of an archaic term)

Sorting: Christmas decs tomorrow and putting them back in the loft

Getting: a shopping list together, it’s all cling film and anti-bac soap type of boring

Paper roses made from old books at Stowe

Bookmarking: new recipes

Coveting: nothing, well apart from a big lottery win

Disliking: that rubber glove smell when they need replacing, yucky!

Opening: the last day’s listings in the festive Radio Times

Giggling: at Still Game (a BBC series, on Netflix) aka “The Scots gits” in my house

Feeling: hungry!!!!!

Snacking: on fruit or a raw carrot, soon

Helping: to take Barty to the vet today

Hearing: Someone wailing/singing along to Don’t Leave Me This Way by The Communards

Mixing: 500g of lean pork mince, 1 egg, zest of a lemon and 1 tbsp fennel seeds for meatballs, served in a tomato & pepper sauce

Worrying: about nothing much, as thankfully my mind is clear today

Slicing: onions and peppers shortly

Celebrating: the last eve of the festive season

Forgetting: who knows? I’ve forgotten!

Winning: tonight’s jackpot

Sneaking: an iced gingerbread I discovered in a tin today (this is a late Christmas win!)

Embracing: a very chilled cat who seemed totally unruffled today

There are no affiliate links here, I’d always say if there were. I just assume other people are as nosy as me and want to see!

I’ve used Pip’s Taking Stock list, if you do a TS post too will you link to yours in the comments below? I like reading them.

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?