Hello

Hello,

I know: it’s been so long. I’ve thought about writing lots of times. I’ve been astounded at the number of people still signing up to follow an inactive blog and how many weekly views it’s continued to gather and felt a bit guilty about my continued silence. But that’s not the reason I’m here now. We have all found ourselves in an unprecedented time. All around the world we are in it together. As the situation has unfolded I’ve found myself wondering if I will wake and realise it’s all been a bad dream. I thought now might be the time to wave hello, to write to try to make sense of what’s happening (impossible) and show you some pretty colourful photos. It might help? I’ve just messaged Trish (Made by Patch) and said she needs to blog too as it’s morale boosting! I can just imagine her rolling her eyes.

So why the sudden silence last June? I think I’d better explain as briefly as I can, but as I seem to have lost my non-waffle mode sorry, it’s probably going to be anything but.

Here goes: I didn’t want to put myself under pressure to craft and just didn’t think a craftless craft blog was particularly interesting to read, or write. (I don’t blame you if you’ve got this far and are already yawning. Go if you like. Wash your hands, then go straighten something, dance around the kitchen or polish a mirror.) It had all been a bit of an effort last summer so I paused with the intention of not trying craft again till September. I did try, but it just made my hand too sore and I realised that crochet etc shouldn’t be my priority; instead it should be aiming for pain free normal usage, not putting my hand under stress for the sake of a hobby. It was a hard decision. I’ve missed the soothing mindfulness and feeling of creating something useful for others, but have kept busy doing other things like walking (I smashed my target of walking 1000 miles, I actually walked 1,100 miles) baking sourdough bread for the Bread Monsters and reading lots of books etc etc. I withdrew from Instagram and other crafty social media too as it was just to depressing to see. When I packed up my craft kit, the other week, I realised how many half started items I have. Maybe one day they will be finished. The rehabilitation has been slow, but I can now manage lots of normal day to day stuff without much thought. After nearly 2 years, so it should be!

A fortnight ago yesterday we moved. It’s been a really strange time going from a street where we knew all our immediate neighbours and felt part of a very friendly community, to somewhere where I haven’t even seen any neighbours apart from two, because obviously everybody is staying close to home or working longer hours. I’ve written lists of things to do, order, items to unpack, areas of the house and garden to sort and clean, but it’s been a strange few weeks. It’s a juggle between settling into a brand-new house and area (although not a million miles away from the last) trying to think what we need before a potential lockdown, combined with worrying about family. I’m not unique in experiencing any of that, I know. We’re all in it together.

I’ve cancelled my hair appointment for Tuesday. I either have to learn to colour my own hair or embrace a streak of grey, eek! So far my car is still on to be MOTed at the garage on Monday. Luckily I just usually pop the keys through the letter box, so that should minimalise any interaction until I pick it up. I’ve ordered and received spare asthma inhalers. I checked that Mum has a grocery order coming (today actually after a week or more wait, but she’s lucky to have a slot as long as it hasn’t been cancelled this morning) and I’m crossing my fingers that she gets some of what she’s ordered. However I seem to be far more concerned than she is. She said: “Rachel to be honest I’m not really worried if they don’t bring me any pies, as long as they bring me a bottle of whisky and a gin!” I’m missing her, it seems like a long time since we’ve seen each other. Skype is awful. It’s been years since I used it and when I tested my laptop I could not see or hear my friend. On my iPhone I could not be seen and heard, but could see and hear him. I’m so used to switching on WhatsApp and selecting the call or video icons and it works. I’m not sure that a lot of the older generation are going to be savvy using Skype or want to, but I would be happy to be able to see them in person.

Panic shopping has really meant that some of the elderly and vulnerable have missed out, although I read of so many good things in communities and people looking out for each other. If you need help, please reach out to people around you, there are many genuine people and local organisations gearing up for good in this situation. In some neighbourhoods people have set up a system where if you need something, and are socially distancing yourself or self isolating, you put up a sign in your window saying HELP. Another I’ve read about is if you need help you put a red piece of paper up in the window, or something green if all is okay. A few older people that I know have had outdoor coffee mornings in front gardens this week. They’ve brought their own chair and their own mug of coffee and sat at safe distances from each other. Such a great idea!

I haven’t panic shopped but I did go to the supermarket and picked up a few things for the week, on Monday, as I needed fresh fruit and veg. For that I’m really grateful since it was pretty quiet generally, although it was slightly busier than it would normally have been. My brother said he was not panic buying either, but was getting a few things every day. He had bread flour, chorizo and Parmesan in his rucksack. I found myself panicking about odd things like being out of cumin seeds. I think it’s just how anxiety can manifest at the beginning of something unsettling. Or, it’s just me being plain weird. Later that afternoon Someone left a note on the fridge with a full inventory of the alcohol in the house. #Priorities ?!

On Tuesday I made the decision to socially distance myself, so I have stayed away from people and only left the house a couple of times to walk. I’m on the vulnerable list healthwise and so I am trying to be sensible. I’ve heard that it’s not a case of living so you don’t catch the virus; you assume that you’ve got it and try your best not to give it to other people. The thought that it might be for 12 weeks, as was reported in the media at the beginning of the week, was extremely daunting, And now it seems things might be a whole lot worse. A few friends have a strong feeling, this morning, that we are about to be informed that we must lock down neighbourhoods, only travelling to collect food, work or for medical reasons. I hope they’re wrong, but it’s probably what’s needed.

I’ve been using the following advice this week:

By Wednesday, hearing that my evening class and other appointments had been cancelled for the forseeable future, it was starting to feel very real. Our holiday was cancelled and so we’ve had to claim refunds or credits. I was unpacking a box of summer clothes and my phone was pinging every five minutes with emails from companies and organisations. The creative alternatives springing up online have been brilliant; I have joined a virtual choir group to replace my singing class and I’m sure there are lots of x-alongs going on on Instagram. I completely failed with the first virtual choir rehearsal. I was cooking dinner and my alarm suddenly went off at 7:15pm scaring the Bejesus out of me. I couldn’t work out what it was for and wondered if it might be a mistakenly snoozed alarm, so carried on cooking. I didn’t realise it was my own 15 minute warning, so that I would get a glass of water, go to the loo and log in to sing, until the next morning. D’oh!

On Thursday I went for my first walk distancing myself from others which wasn’t difficult as it was raining. I took photos to share with friends from my walk on Thursday and on Friday, those are the pictures you’re seeing.

Friday’s task was to unpack another box (ornaments) and keep myself out of the way of the plumber. I really regret sending my 1,000 Movies Before You Die (soz, unfortunate title) to the charity shop. What a time to get rid of it. I offered to chat to anyone on the ‘phone who need it, but it’s early days so I think people are okay. However I’ve never had so many messages and emails from many friends and family as I did last week. Constant streams of WhatsApp messages, Facebook messages, messenger chats and emails. This morning I woke to so many notifications. People are really striving to keep connected and keep up with each other. It’s really warming and reassuring. I think my generation are going to have to be careful that we don’t just do everything in type, someone on the radio this morning was recommending that everyone try to make three phone calls a day; so that we stay connected by more than font.

As I sat dictating this post my ‘phone pinged with this, he’s an idiot. I can’t really knit still anyway. Or…can I?!?!

There was a knock at the door yesterday and a case of wine from The Wine Society and two bottles of whiskey were delivered. The inventory had obviously highlighted a lack… ha! I was endeavouring to continue Dry Lent, but accepted it’s not the ideal time this year so had a G&T and a glass of red last night. I’m going back to abstinence until next Friday if I can.

Keep cosy and appreciate those woolies. You’ll be so grateful for all the times when you were churning out blankets and scarfs and hats and hot water bottle covers. I have been! This was taken last Saturday morning, when I was reading in bed. I’ve never been so grateful for bright colourful stripes, there is something so reassuring about them.

So lovelies: we sit tight, listen to what is best for us to do from those who know,
take care of ourselves, and people around us; if we can do so safely. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and to say when you need to talk to someone.

Taking Stock in November

IMG_1835 Making : it much harder for the Damned Squirrel (as he is called) to eat tube after tube of peanuts bought for the birds. Don’t feel too sorry for him; he’s had all the hazelnuts from the tree too.

Cooking : porridge for breakfast.

Drinking : loose Ceylon tea in my new blue teapot (blue left, third row down shown in last month’s Taking post.)

Reading: The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault.

Writing: my own haiku, inspired by the above book, then realised it should be 5-7-5 not 5-5-7 syllables:

Lonely Wind Rustles

Needle Clicks Against

Another, Perfectly Timed

Wishing: I could be back in Broadstairs. Such a lovely day, before the arrival of the tail-end of hurricane Abigail on Friday.

Enjoying: walking by the sea.

Waiting: to finish darning in the ends of my blanket, before starting the border. It’s slow due to three weekends away in a row.

Liking: visiting the C Wool yarn shop again, in Broadstairs, and making a little purchase.

Wondering: what to make with the yarn I’ve bought in the last few months?

Loving: my bargain Rowan Scottish Tweed DK buy, (another day, another yarn shop!) until I started to crochet some Fidra Mitts and hated the wire-wool feel.

Wanting: to buy some loose Earl Grey tea.

Looking: at the lovely parcel of goodies I ordered from Dotcomgiftshop, after they sent me a voucher, because my blog was included in their Ten Creative Needlecraft Blogs list last month.

Garden birds tea-towel, 2 sets of rose pins, sticky notes, 5 glass bowls and lids, a flour shaker.

Playing: with my new yarn, trying another very clever fingerless mitt pattern. Hating the shape just after I’d sewn it up…

Deciding: to spend my (small) Euro lottery win on tickets for Tuesday’s mega rollover.

Pondering: why it is I’ve now spent years saying I’ll darn-as-I-go, but never, ever do…

Considering: what to make next..

Buying: NO MORE YARN!

Watching: I’m a Celeb tonight, it’s the only Reality TV programme I watch.

Hoping: it makes me laugh, I dislike the episodes where they are unkind to each other.

Marvelling: at how dark, how early it is now.

Cringing: at the terrible events on Friday night in Paris.

Needing: nothing right now.

Questioning: why? When? How? Will? As is my way. I wonder if I carry a question mark in the air above my head most days?
   Why is this postbox special?

Smelling: my Cath Kidson rose perfume.

Wearing: a big red zipped cardie I’ve had for years..

Following: many blogs and not making regular time to read them at the moment.

Noticing: sea salt on my car from the storm on Saturday night.

Knowing: I intend to go to the car wash, but really hoping it rains hard and washes it off.

Thinking: I’m going to continue writing Taking Stock posts around the 15th each month.

Admiring: people who stick to a blog routine, but knowing the above is as far as I will go.

Sorting: yarn into storage cubes.

Getting: ready to start thinking about Christmas present buying.

Bookmarking: fingerless mitt patterns.

Coveting: new fingerless mitts because they’re satisfying fast to make and good to wear.

Disliking: darning!

Opening: windows still, it’s so mild

Giggling: at Frasier (204 episodes recorded now.)

Feeling: extremely well.

Snacking: on a French Pink Lady apple earlier.

Helping: the birds, annoying the squirrel *evil laughter*.

Hearing: Scenes from an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel.

If you’d like to write a Taking Stock post too, the list can be found on Pip’s marvellous Meet me at Mikes blog.

Taking Stock in October

Making : jam! Apple and blackberry, then apple and mixed berries  (red currants, black currants, blackberries, raspberries)

Cooking : my version of my favourite Itsu dish: teriyaki salmon

Drinking : English breakfast tea, whatever the time of day

Reading: Diary of The Lady by Rachel Johnson

Wanting: to find back issues of The Lady magazine 

Looking: at the bird feeeders a lot – it’s pure theatre

Playing: scare the squirrel away, watching him return as soon as the door is closed

Deciding: it’s a pointless game but I DO NOT want to see him hanging upside down, scooping bird seed into his mouth

Wishing: I’d stuck to plan A today


Enjoying: cooking with apples and tomatoes from the garden

Waiting: for a parcel from China

Liking: having 164 episodes of Frasier recorded, it’s comfort telly

Wondering: how many times I’m going to hear “Do you know how many episoodes of Frasier you’ve recorded????!

Loving: the humour of my new audio book although unsure at first (Madensky Square, Eva Ibbotson)

Pondering: serious topics

Considering: buying chocolate flavoured instant cofffee from Waitrose, though only ever occasionally drink filter coffee

Buying: toilet rolls without embossed puppies, much more for puppies – madness!

Watching: the weather change

Hoping: to see more starling murmurations

Marvelling: at the starlings who are coming mob-handed into the garden, even the squirrel is startled
   Cringing: at the things people say (roaring with laughter at others)

Needing: some autumn/winter outfits

Questioning: why? Lots, as usual

Smelling: my lovely freesias

Wearing: ha ha! (jumble sale recluse look today)

Following: witty people

Noticing: how much cooler it is in the evenings

Knowing: it’s time to eat something

Thinking: of appley puddlings

Admiring: colours in nature

Sorting: more books to give away
  
  
Getting: a bit behind on a secret thing

Bookmarking: patterns, always

Coveting: a Thames riverside apartment

Disliking: that you hoover thoroughly one day and it needs doing again the next

Opening: a new packet of butterfly shaped pasta – pretty!

Giggling: at the Man Up film, ‘rewinding’ the Reflex bit

Feeling: cheerful

Snacking: on a variety of apple which taste of pears

Helping: encourage a friend to buy more yarn (naughty!)

Hearing: birdsong
   If you fancy Taking Stock too you can get the list from Pip.

Left-Handed Crochet

I’ve been meaning to put my post on Left Handed Crochet here for ages. I originally wrote it for Kat Goldin’s Crochet Camp on her Slugs on the Refrigerator blog way back in the Summer but wanted to put a copy here also for any fellow lefties who might be passing.

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Leftie crochet

After a quick Google of the percentage of left handed people globally I’ve found that figures vary between 10-15%. This illustrates a fact that I’ve always known – there really aren’t very many of us around.

It’s interesting that there seem to be slightly more men than women who are lefties, fewer who crochet though no doubt. I’ve also read statements that say left-handed people produce an above-average quota of high achievers. Bring it on! Alexander the Great, John McEnroe and Billy the Kid are listed as notable lefties in one article, which discusses how left handers are better in a fight because of the element of surprise (!) but perhaps we’d better stick to crochet for now shall we?!

When I’ve crocheted in public I’ve had sometimes comments about looking “cack-handed”, been told it “looks really odd like that” and I’ve also been asked “Don’t you find it hard – doing it like that?” The last one just makes me laugh. Actually I like being different to the majority, although when I was learning to crochet it was a different story as I grappled with instructions and illustrations where the hook was always shown held in the right hand. I tried to squint and imagine it all reversed, but this wasn’t very successful at the beginning.

I have heard that you can learn from or teach, a right hander by sitting opposite them and copying their actions as if they are a mirror image. I haven’t tried this approach yet. I need a willing victim to try this experiment.20130526-075829.jpg

Useful resources

In the end I found a small range of teaching aids. The best one was a smallish booklet I found on Amazon called Crochet Unravelled by Claire Bojczuk, which is for complete beginners and uses illustrations for left and right handers. I can’t tell you how good I found this simple straightforward guide. To be honest I credit Claire Bojczuk with teaching me to crochet. I don’t know her, we’ve never met or corresponded but I think I’d give her a bunch of flowers if we ever did!

YouTube videos showing left handed demos can be really useful as they’ll show you ways of holding the hook and how to scoop the yarn in a clockwise direction (as opposed to the righties who scoop it up anticlockwise.) When I was learning I watched sometimes, just for the pleasure and encouragement of seeing another leftie. I don’t know any other left handed crocheters and sometimes just watching for a few minutes can set you on your way; especially if you’re having problems visualising what to do, don’t know where to go into a stitch or are just feeling a little fed up of instructions written for a right hander.

Simply Crochet magazine has a how-to section at the back every issue which includes a photo tutorial for some stitches for left and right handers. This approach seems to be pretty rare compared to most crochet and craft magazines.

There are several Ravelry groups for left-handed crocheters, where I’m sure you would be welcome to ask questions and seek advice.

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Equipment

Although I do use left-handed scissors when cutting lots of paper or fabric, I haven’t found that I’ve needed any different tools for crochet. If you do know of something crochet related for lefties I’d love to know about it, please.

Crocheting in rows

If you’re left handed you’ll be crocheting rows from left to right. When you begin your first row (called the foundation row) you’ll be working along the chains from the left to the right.

When a pattern tells you that the foundation row is the right side of the work remember that’s the side where the cut tail of the yarn will be hanging down on the right hand-side. If the foundation row is the wrong side of the work the cut tail of yarn should be on the left. Just so that I remember I usually don’t darn this in until the end as it reminds me which side I need to darn into and which to leave.

Crocheting in rounds

As a leftie you’ll be crocheting around to the right, or clockwise. This is worth remembering when you are more experienced and start using symbol patterns. These types of patterns show the stitches going to the left for right handers, but you will be doing the same stitches in the same order but going around to the right. Are you beginning to see why the moral support of YouTube videos, books and tutorials for lefties can be so encouraging at times?

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Final thoughts

It’s just a case of remembering that the pattern will be written assuming that you’re right-handed 99% of the time. Most of the time this doesn’t matter at all, but just pause and think about the instructions before you begin. For example: if you’re going to try some colourwork you might need to reverse the instructions, unless the design is symmetrical. So, if you’re told to follow the chart with odd numbered rows going from right to left, just remember that your rows are going to be from the left to the right.

Is all this confusing? As clear as mud? Don’t worry – once you’ve got the hang of crochet as a leftie everything will become second nature and you won’t think about it too much, apart from sometimes when you might find yourself saying ‘Oh these crazy right-handers….!’

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How about you?