Springtime at Cliveden 

                It continues to be a gorgeous sunny warm Spring here in the South of England. Walking at Cliveden (6.5 miles, now pretty much a breeze apart from really steep bits!) in beautiful sun, seeing abundant wild bluebells and primroses feels like such a treat. You need to catch bluebells while they bloom; it never feels as if they are around for long. I’m sure we usually go to the bluebell woods of my childhood in May, everything seems earlier this year. 

Here are some photos from Cliveden last Summer if you’re interested in comparing the planting of the parterre then and now. 

What’s the weather like where you are?

Bright stripes

       I’m crocheting another stripy baby blanket for a friend, after seeing how much she’s still using the Baby Jewel Blanket for her soon to be two year old. I’ve spotted it in her photos while visiting to Australia, saw it in use in Leeds and a couple of weeks ago it was covering a sleeping toddler in Paris. That blanket is gathering air and train miles!  I can’t tell you how much its made me smile to see it being so well used. It also reassured me that my scant research on how big a baby blanket should be was worth it. To have any longer term use I decided there’s really no point giving a handkerchief sized square, which will only be good when they’re teeny tiny.

I didn’t want the new baby – due in June – to feel left out and so gathered up my balls of Stylecraft. My friend likes bright, is still all for colour equality and is very happy to have another striped blanket. I’m loving zipping along, doing a mixture of trebles, half trebles and the occasional row of double crochet.

My current audio books are Various Pets Alive and Dead by Marina Lewycka and The Life of Lee by Lee Evans.
What are you reading /listening to at the moment?
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Glorious Spring sunshine

A long weekend by the sea, in glorious sunshine…  Sun, sea and ice-cream. The first of many this year, I hope. This was Friday at Bognor Regis after a good walk along the prom. It’s lemon meringue flavour; and had fizzy crunchy little meringue pieces mixed into the tangy lemon. I’m looking out for this again!  West Wittering has a beautiful sandy expanse of beach. On Saturday lunchtime it was full of happy dogs playing, kite surfers, kite flying families, horses galloping along the beach and walkers striding out in the sun. It was t-shirt weather again, woo hoo! Apart from watching others enjoying the beach, stopping to examine interesting looking pebbles (I have one with a fossil) and look for sea glass, we played ‘which one would you like’ as we passed beach houses. I like the chalet style on the right. What about you?   We’d walked 5 miles along the shore, not easy going on pebbles towards the end. We walked on sand some of the way, but the tide was coming in fast and covering it as we got to East Wittering and Bracklesham Bay. We stopped at the Medmerry Holiday village, which fortunately had a very comfortable pub. This gate made me smile as we walked back to the beach after lager shandy, crisps and a well needed pit-stop. (You know that feeling of relief girls?!)  How’s that for driftwood?  Although I had a rule that I wouldn’t start any new crochet until I’d finished the motif blanket, my fingers felt sooo itchy to do something. It feels like weeks! I packed my basket full of new yarn, but with the great weather for walking I didn’t open it at all the whole weekend. Evenings were for wine, a little chocolate, reading or a film. On Sunday we visited Uppark House and Garden. It’s become a tradition to seek out a new National Trust property on the last day of a holiday or mini-break. It’s perfect for a good wander inside and out in lovely surroundings, a drink and snack, then a good mooch in the gift-shop.

Do you remember my Wool Money post? I still don’t look at odds, history or jockeys or trainers, it’s completely randomly based on the horses’ names. As I sat on a picnic bench back at West Wittering on Saturday evening I checked the Grand National results, with the last 1% of my iphone battery. I leapt into the air and looked everywhere for the Mr. I probably looked like a mere-cat on sentry duty. One of mine had WON! Last year’s joint membership to the National Trust was funded by his lottery win, this year’s renewal is thanks to Many Clouds.    I had low expectations for the scent garden at Uppark, this early in the year, but wow! The scent from so many hyacinths was stunning. Unfortunately my nose and eyes ran for the rest of the day! Oh well, we’re heading to hay fever season. I’ve just checked my anti-histamine supplies and typically all are out of date. There’s obviously good business in the hay fever relief industry.
  Aren’t these fritillieries beauties?  I did start some new crochet (tut, tut) when home. It’s bright and sunny again today; so I’ll nip into the garden later to try to take some decent photos for you.

What are you up to?

Nearly there

  My William Morris inspired motif blanket has been keeping me occupied during the evenings this week. I’ve crocheted a jaygo row each sitting and when I realised I’d done the last row I felt jubilant. This has not been a swift make with all those ends to darn, plus the fact that I designed my own motifs after making a quarter of the original blanket.   Next I need to darn in two ends of yarn for every block then steam block it in sections to get it to relax and motifs to line up. Lastly it needs a border.  I’ve planned the overall size to be roughly 6′ by 4′ so it can be a good sized blanket to snuggle in, but also for the intended use of going at the end of a double bed. It coordinates with a pair of William Morris design curtains; which explains the colour scheme and its name. 

I look forward to wrapping it up in Christmas paper (“Think of it as delayed gratification” I shall say) and presenting it to the person who asked me to make a replacement blanket for the now slightly moth eaten one her Grandmother (my Great-Grandmother) crocheted for her when she was a teen, who chose the colours and who has (mostly) waited patiently for its completion. 

 I might get an Easter egg after all. 

All At Sea Shawl II: blocked, lacy & ready to wear

 For years I’ve read about people blocking their crochet and knitting. They rhapsodise about how lacy it becomes, because it really opens up the stitches. From the way people write you would think blocking almost transforms things into mystical items.
I have never felt the need to do anything, apart from perhaps a quick steam block.  Recently I felt quite adventurous leaving the Catherine Stitch Dolls’ blanket pinned out on the ironing board to thoroughly dry! But I could see that the thin mystery yarn of the All at Sea Shawl was going to need something a bit more professional to unscunch it into maybe a thing of lacy beauty.

 Foam mats from The Early Learning Centre are, I was told by my crochet blocking guru, a good alternative to overpriced craft blocking boards. On reflection those purpose made with lines and measurements on them might be preferable, but my plain mats did the job well enough. It is actually quite enjoyable pinning and stretching the crochet, I was quite surprised how much I liked it. My knees weren’t so happy, but that’s too bad! Look how much it has opened out the stitches? I’m so pleased. Oops! A huge gust of wind carried it off sideways. I didn’t realise I’d captured the moment on my camera until later. It’s been so windy here that I had to close the bedroom window because of the noise last night. I heard things in the garden being blown over and got up to peer out the window a few times, then decided enough was enough. Time to sleep and I’d right it all in the morning. It is a triangular shawl but this was the only way I could get it to stay in one place, even then it flapped up into my face several times. The severely pruned buddleia looks bare and deadwood-like, but it will come back and the flowers will be covered in butterflies again in the summer.

In summary: proper grown-up professional type blocking really does work, although it gets boring to read posts like this (!) and I did enjoy it. Also, the mystery yarn is wool, or partly at least, because it definitely had that wet sheep smell.

Make it, Wear it

See, no look of an egg cosy here, I thought it would look gorgeous on my friend. The slouchy beanie with pom pom is a success. It’s a Birthday present and definitely lives up to the book’s name: Hook, Stitch and Give. It’s all come out of the marvellous brain of Kat Goldin. No, I’m not being paid to promote. I’m simply a happy reader / maker.

We’ve just had a day out at Excel, London at the Stitching, Sewing & HobbyCraft show.

It was too hot during the morning, before the air con was turned on, crowded and overall we felt it was crammed into too small a space. I don’t think the Knitting & Stitch show at Olympia has any serious competition, but we had free tickets, so didn’t feel we lost anything. We probably won’t be going back though.

I took a few photos….

               Menai Bridge by Liesbeth Williams 

Horizons

Layers of the Anglesey landscape, the colours, lines, details and the ever present skyline inspired this quilt. Liesbeth overlaid sections of strips, highlighted by deliberately messy black stitching. The fabrics were hand-dyed, mono and screen printed, then painted. 

I love the colours of this quilt – as you can imagine, they look even better with the naked eye than in these photos. It’s also given me hope. Perhaps I could also overlay sections of strips and do ‘deliberately messy stitching’ with my sewing skills, that definitely seems doable!

Slouch & Bobble Hat: hooked, stitched & ready to give 

The great thing about crocheting this Kat Goldin pattern, from Hook, Stitch and Give, is that it gave me a chance to practice foundation treble crochet (FTC). I admit I looked around for a few online tutorials just to check I was doing it right. Once I was reassured that I needed to have two loops on my hook after going into the chain, it was plain sailing. Sometimes it’s the basics which I find myself double checking.

FTC is basically a way of making a chainless foundation row, you start out with only three chains on the hook but end up with a length of bouncy springy trebles. It’s magic I tell you! FTC is perfect for when you need a stretchy edge. I’m keeping my eyes open for something else which uses this method as it’s cool to try something new.

Because I was making this for a friend I wanted to make sure my tension was a-ok; easier said than done I discovered. The recommended 5mm hook gave me a swatch of 8cm across and 4 cm high…NOT 10cm square. Ok, so change to a 6mm. This swatch was close to 10cm across but still only 4cm high. I chatted to one of my hooky IG friends who has made a couple of these beanies and had exactly the same height issue. I’d love to know if you have the same should you make the same, in the interests of curiosity. I’m not sure how you can correct the height thing unless you change to DTR? In the end I decided to use a 5.5mm hook which gave exactly the right circumference for the starting rib for the brim. I decided to wing it height-wise as I had plenty of yarn.  I used Stylecraft Life Aran which is a wool blend (25% wool, 75% acrylic) in grey and fern. The wool content and texture of the yarn makes it pleasurable to use, aran weight works up so fast compared to DK.  Oh, well would you look at that! I’m tilting again! Hannah of Not Your Average Crochet blog said she liked the pattern so much she was using it for a cushion cover, but hers also tilted quite badly. I don’t think it matters at all for a hat, it just amuses me. It happens because you’re crocheting around and around in one direction.

(ETA:) I missed out the chain between the trebles; as a hooky friend said they made her hat too slouchy/wide. I tried the pattern as written and found the same, so also missed them out.

  I showed it to you pre-sewing up on my last post. Afterwards I decided to measure the height of the beanie. What a plonker….! To be anywhere near slouchy it needs to be much taller. I worked out I’d need to do 13 sets of the repeat rows, rather than the stated 8, then the crown decreases. Undoing really careful darning is painful. I just don’t quite know what happened as I had tried it on lots a few times and run off to check (tea cosy) in the mirror upstairs, but failed to spot it was normal beanie sized, not slouchy.  It’s nicely slouchy and a perfect 27cm now. “Do you think it’s ok? Will she like it?”

“Well if it doesn’t suit her, she can always stick a strap on it and use it as a bag.”

Five things

This looks like pizza doesn’t it? I gave Nigella’s crustless pizza a try at the weekend.  The recipe’s from her Kitchen book. It was revolting; basically cheesy Yorkshire pudding. I ate the topping and a bit of crispy edge then the food recycling bin had the rest. 

Here’s my version of the Slouch and Bobble hat from Kat Goldin’s Hook, Stitch and Give book, sans bobble because I’m getting round to sewing it up. Same old story hey. On me it looks like a tea cosy, but on my friend it will probably look gorgeous! Anyone relate?    I laughed aloud (20th C usage alive and kicking) yesterday to see that behind the garden centre/pick your own/farm shop/fishing lakes/carousel there are llamas in a small field, not the sheep (lambs?) I expected to see. Those llamas are getting everywhere these days! Hurray they sell smoked garlic; I’ve only bought it from the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm before. I love it though my fridge stinks for weeks. A few cloves were delicious in a chicken traybake I threw together last night. Like my fridge I also carried the garlic tang today but it was worth it. 

Five Happy Things type of posts, to be frank, can set my teeth on edge as they are sometimes very syrupy reading, they’re also not the most interesting. Do you remember when the 52 Weeks of Happy blog posts appeared last January? So many gave up writing them by May, if not sooner, because I think people found they were not very interesting to write either. I do enjoy ‘ randoms’ though as they give a bit of snapshot. If you fancy posting your own Five Things add a link below please, so then I can read yours. 

Yorkshire cowl …ready & warm

As you know I bought this yarn during my visit to Holmfirth last Monday. I’ve had my eye on it for ages as I just love the colours, especially the aqua blue and turquoise. As I wrote this title, following a discussion about farming, wool and the great wealth which came from wool in Yorkshire during decades gone by, it occurs to me that if this were one of those ‘big blogs’ there might be uproar from the wool purists. My Yorkshire cowl is made from 100% acrylic. It’s named because I crocheted it during a week there, and it’s always going to remind me of walks by the sea and the coastal path. The Storyboards site gives some information about the paths. Yorkshire Cowl

I chained until I was happy with the width (I hung it around my neck as I crocheted!) and then joined the chain to form a ring, no sewing up required!

James C. Brett Marble Chunky Yarn Shade MC44

I used 175g of the 200g ball

Width (circumference) 36″

Height 11″

6mm hook

>Chain until width desired, join into a ring making sure the chain is not twisted

>Crochet rounds of trebles or doubles or half trebles (UK terms)

Turning chains should be 1 for DC, 2 for HTR, 3 for TR, 5 for DTR. The turning chain for DC does not count as a stitch, all others do.

All doubles, trebles and half trebles go into the back loop of the stitch which creates nice ridges to the fabric.

>Crossed double trebles add a bit of texture and interest to the cowl: Chain 5, *miss a stitch and DTR into the next TR, DTR into the skipped TR* repeat from * to * . Make a single DTR into the last stitch, join with a SS to the top of the chain 5 from the beginning of the round.

Next time I might make the cowl slightly smaller in width, I think maybe 32-34″ but this is really warm and you can fold the excess at the front and tuck it under the rest. These are to show some the scrummy colours in the yarn. Some people are good at selfies, some are not; especially when in windswept Derbyshire visiting Hardwick Hall.

I took the photo below from the ruins of Hardwick Old Hall looking across to the New Hall. It’s ‘new’ as in built in the 16th Century. If you can visit both I recommend it, especially to see the Elizabethan embroidery and tapestries in the New Hall.What are you making at the moment?

So, what happened to the trout?

Whenever I’ve mentioned rainbow trout from time to time, Cathy of NanaCathydotcom has basically said “Mmmmm.” I’ve always kept this in mind, should we ever pass within a decent distance of each other. The funny thing is that three weeks ago we did, in a market town in Wiltshire, though we didn’t know it at the time.

As we are currently in the same county I emailed Cathy and suggested we meet in Scarborough for coffee and Operation Trout.  You know when someone rings you and you find yourself instantly thinking “Oh, I like the sound of her!” Well that was exactly it.

We met at the top of the multi-storey car park, probably looking slightly suspicious as we transferred a wrapped parcel from one cold bag into another, then we all went to Bonnets cafe for coffee and a good chat. It was fun to recognise Mr E’s hand knitted jumper, this must be  is a nerdy blogger thing.

After a bit the guys went off to do their own thing and we headed to the market to peruse the button stall and to Boyes, a local chain of department stores. I’ve always got my dishcloth cotton from Boyes, they also sell quite a good choice of wool blends and acrylics. It’s not top end yarn, but there’s always a ball or two you fancy...

IMG_5160I need the Walnut for the motif blanket and the Claret is just gorgeous, the shade is deeper and yummier than it looks here. The cotton is a present.

Later the Mister and I had a good walk along the beach, then bought a dozen crevettes from the quayside fishmongers to take home for dinner. And that was another good day.

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Ummm I’ve *cough cough* bought some more yarn from the Bridlington Boyes today, with the last of my lottery winnings. It’s for a hat for my friend. I might as well just show you now and then we can all go back to pretending I’m still on a yarn diet.

Walmington on Sea

Today we parked at Bridlington’s North Beach and walked along looking for sea glass. We had a little bag of mostly green pieces by the end, but unusually I’d found zero! My sea glass spotting skills seem to have deserted me, mind you I’ve never thought my beanie would blow off before!

We decided to walk up to Bridlington Old Town after asking directions. When someone says it will take 15-20 minutes to walk, you often find it’s more like 10 as they’re drivers and it’s a guesstimate. This time she was definitely right, it might have even been 30, and it was uphill all the way. 

What a nice old High Street, imagine it without cars and it’s perfect.

We knew that Dad’s Army has been filmed here recently, isn’t it perfect for the fictional Walmington on Sea High street? Look what’s been left…

For a fan of the oldie but goodie tv programmes this week is turning out to be a delight! But wait there’s more…

Initially I was horrified that they would remake such a classic but now after today’s sights, and hearing who is in the film I am looking forward to seeing it. The helpful lady also said there is a Facebook page with photos of the actors and the filming, if you’re interested.

After another day of lots of walking I’m going to carry on with some hooky now. I had a slow start this morning sitting in the sunshine…

Just look at those scrummy colours. It’s beautiful yarn isn’t it?

Yorkshire wins

On our way up to Yorkshire we met my cousin and family for Sunday lunch and she gave me this box of freshly laid eggs from her hens. Aren’t they pretty colours? The labelling on the box made me laugh. I think there might be a lucky rooster in the mansion!

On the way up I’d checked my emails and had that heart stopping email titled ‘We have news about your lottery ticket.’ It wasn’t a life changing amount, but £25 is good pocket money. I treated myself to a ball of Marble Chunky I’ve admired for ages because I love the colours, and the new Simply Crochet.

As a fan of Last of the Summer Wine I was delighted on Monday to see some of the haunts of Foggy, Compo and Clegg in Holmfirth, with Trish of Made by Patch. We’ve emailed and sent little packages to each other for over three years, since we began our blogs, so it was fab to finally meet.

 The weather was very wet and gusty, to say the least, so it was good to have lunch and drip dry after our mini tour. This is my ‘Dirty Burger’ from The Old Bridge pub, it was delicious. Obviously you’ll see I went for the healthy option!

We mooched around a few yarn shops and both bought marble chunky. Then we browsed in a secondhand bookshop which is tucked away in one of the narrow lanes. Holmforth is built up the sides of the Holme valley so has many steps and winding alleys, it’s a great place to explore. 

Meanwhile, the Mister was fishing at Scout Dike reservoir where a class of 8/9 year olds and 4 adults came upon him and watched him bring in a second rainbow trout with lots of wows. One little lad said “My Dad fishes up here but he never catches owt!”

Yesterday the weather couldn’t have been more different;  it was around 15 degrees and so warm that we ended up taking off our coats for part of the circular costal walk we did from Flamborough to North Landing, to Flamborough Head and back around to the village.

After the 8.5 mile walk I really felt I deserved my pint mug of tea and chocolate. Today we’ve walked 5.5 miles. I’m keeping a record so I can see how far we’ve walked by the end of the week.

I had a brainwave about the trout on Monday night, and so today met up with someone else. That story is for next time…

A little reinvention

I know it’s now a saga, this honey cowl. As you know, I disliked the feel and look of the Stylecraft Special DK when it was knitted, so swapped to a lovely soft DMC Creative World merino I had in my stash.We all know swatching is important, even vital, but it seems a drag – not that I’ve ever actually done it before. The honey cowl is meant to be 12″ in width, but mine was actually looking like 10″ which meant I was knitting a neck brace! I didn’t think blocking would make 2″ difference so after pondering the inevitable I undid it all. It is best to do this quickly, rewind the yarn into balls and stuff it into a bag out of sight, out of mind!

It’s not great undoing your knitting but I have to admit this was accompanied with a measure of relief – since I found the alternate slip a stitch purl-wise, then purl pattern was really aggravating my golfer’s elbow.

But last night I fancied a quick make while I listened to the last hour of The Minotaur by Barbara Vine. I don’t need another pin cushion so this will go to one of my friend’s charity craft stalls.

I can choose a new audio book on Friday when I get my new Audible credit, do you have any recommendations? 

What are you up to this week? What are you reading? 

To a Snowdrop



Lone flower, hemmed in with snows, and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and its frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

William Wordsworth, 1819.

All at Sea Shawl II 

It’s so sunny today! A really beautiful morning.


Aren’t the colours in this yarn lovely? I reckon it’s sock or lace weight as it feels quite a bit finer than the 4 ply I used for my Raspberry scarf.

I decided to crochet another All at Sea shawl as the first one I made was with DK and I fancied another go with (probably) the correct weight yarn. The pattern by Elisabeth Davis de Herraiz is available here on Ravelry, or in Simply Crochet 22, if you have a shelf of past issues like me.

I’m going to have to go back to print versions of crochet magazines I reckon; I’m behind with the last two issues of Inside Crochet. I just don’t pick up my ipad and stick to reading them on there; I get distracted by other sites, usually social media. Digital versions are good on the space shaving front, but I do like to see curly page markers poking out of back issues. It’s so much faster and easier somehow to grab one and just think ‘I’ll make that today!’ than to scroll through digital versions. Wow isn’t life hard these days?! It’s all the choice.

This is turning into a ramble when it was meant to be one of those sharp and to the point posts, but I’m re-reading The Thorn Birds and life in outback Australia in the early 20th century was so hard. It’s strange re-reading something I haven’t read since my teens. What I really remember is scenes from the tv series: that white shirt, the ashes of roses dress, Mary the dragon, Fee with the careworn face, the run from him on the beach, Luke/Bryan the b****** who ended up marrying Meggie/Rachel in real life afterwards, though at the time I couldn’t understand why…. Skipping the descriptive passages then to get ‘to the good parts’ means that it’s quite a different read this time around, especially as I’ve spent lots of time in Australia. It’s a good book actually, much better than I expected.

It’s noticeable that when an author dies their books leap up the bestseller lists. I bought Judith Kerr’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (surprisingly humorous given the subject matter and the fact that it’s semi-autobiographical) and The Thorn Birds for this reason; seeing that they were suddenly in the eye-catching Kindle top ten sellers.

I’ve completely lost the flow of this crochet post now and am thinking about The Thorn Birds book, combined with mixed up memories of the tv series!
In summary: This is my new make and I’m re-reading a long-ago-read-book. I now need to decide what kind of pudding I’m making for family dinner at the weekend!

What are you making, reading, planning?

ETA: Apologies – Judith Kerr is still among us! See comments below. 

Five things 

I’m making a few loaves of bread again at a time, one to eat and the other(s) to freeze. The freezer lately seems to be full of stewed apples from the glut last Autumn, and frozen trout because of my knowing a talented fly fisherman. No sooner had I baked two loaves on Sunday than 3 whopping fish were brought home; one brown and two rainbow trout. Luckily family and friends are more than happy to have them as they are or potted or smoked.

BBC radio 2 are broadcasting Sounds of the 20th Century, it’s ‘An audio journey through five decades, starting at 1951. Archive recordings include George VI overcoming his stammer to open the Festival of Britain.’  I’m going to try to listen to them on the iplayer because it’s fascinating; no commentaries or explanations, just music, news, programme clips etc from each year. I’m listening to the first from 1951 now.
“The average housewife works for 75 hours each week and does overtime at weekends….according to a Mass Observation study…”

“Coupons will continue to be required for meat, cheese….”

Poor little Princess Margaret “born into disappointment as the Nation longed for a little Prince.”

It is compelling listening for a social and economic history junkie.

On a Saturday jaunt to Marlborough it was lovely to see clumps of snowdrops under trees. It really feels as if Spring is on its way now; with blue skies and sunshine, albeit interspersed with showers. Washing has been hung on the line a few times this week already and partially dried in the gentle breeze, this is a very good thing.

Johnnie Ray is now being asked about why he cries as he sings and how long he’s worn hearing aids. We’ve just watched the three Rock and Chips specials on Netflix (an excellent prequel to Only Fools and Horses) and his music was featured in the first one…

I’m a terrible procrastinator where some things are concerned, like sewing up knitting. This little baby jumper was something I knitted it in 2013, just something I saw in a knitting mag and thought I could give to a friend. I also knitted a cat (recently sewn up by a Nana in my friend’s craft group, which sells items in aid of the Deaf Access charity) and a tank-top which I subsequently undid. I blogged about the sewing up then. Oops.

Forty thousand feathers on a thrush!”

The silly thing is that I did the sewing while listening to my current audio book: The Minotaur by Barbara Vine (excellently narrated by Sian Thomas) and it was really painless. I guess in the interests of complete honesty I should admit that it took so long to finish because my cousin had it for ages, it was she who actually sewed it up. But I sewed on the buttons! This took several months, but it’s all done now.

You are the lone ranger!”The next is better; I sewed up my headband. It only took 2 weeks or so after finishing it. Improvement, yes? Here it is with a little card, ready for posting. The P.O has put in self-service machines and for some reason I really got flustered trying to gauge the size of the packet, type in the address for a proof of posting certificate etc. It was all too much but the new cheese counter take-a-ticket-wait-for-the-number-to-be-called wait was far too long.

“…without cotton many mills in Lancashire would close down…”The friend who sent me Clara Parkes knitting book also popped in two balls of yarn. This one was bought in iknit, London, she was going to make an entrelac something or other but ended up unravelling it without keeping the yarn band. It feels like wool, or a good wool blend, and is sock or lace weight (are these really so similar in weight that they are virtually the same?) I like using a really fine thread, it’s different.

“There will be more houses to let, more houses to sell, more houses for everyone…..the Conservative pledge will be kept in full…”

“The time is now six fourteen and three quarters…”  What an excellent programme, if distracting listening to it while writing here.

What are you enjoying listening to or reading at the moment?

If you write your own Five Things post then feel free to add a link in the comments below, then we can all see what you’ve been up to.

** I just had a text and selfie of the headband being worn, this was super fast delivery as I only grappled with the self-service machine yesterday! It looks really nice and will definitely be in use next week on the ski slopes. Hurrah!**

Begin again

It was obvious I had to start the Honey Cowl again wasn’t it? Thank you for all your comments here, and elsewhere. I was kind of hoping someone might suggest I could wave a magic wand and transform the yarn into something else, without having to undo all my knitting, but no go!
IMG_8715
I’m on a yarn diet at the moment, I’ve sent a bag of never-gonna-use-this balls and oddments of yarn to the charity shop and have others I’m planning to use before another big purchase. I’d forgotten I still have some merino which DMC Creative World sent me last year. I used some when I made my needle roll. It is PERFECT, the yarn slides along my wooden Knitpro needles with ease, it’s soft and the stitch definition is great. Now I can see why it’s called the Honey Cowl, see those little honeycomb shapes?
IMG_8713
Before I kept hearing the refrain: ‘Poor Old Michael Finnegan begin again’, I was reluctant to undo what I’d knit so far, but this has been a fast catch up even for a relatively slow knitter like me. It’s the merino, nothing to do with me!
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What are you up to this weekend?

On a random note: have you ever tried tatting? I was thinking that I could maybe use some of the fine DMC crochet thread to learn.

Dilemma. Knitting.

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So, I’ve knit a bit more of the Honey Cowl, it’s described as a slip stitch honeycomb pattern which explains the name, but am caught in a bit of a dilemma. It’s not big as the world goes; but enough to make me pause. It’s the Stylecraft Special DK, it’s really fine for crochet blankets. It’s lightweight, soft, washable and can be tumble dried (not that I’ve ever tested the last two but it’s comes highly recommended by so many others that I believe them) and is inexpensive. The trouble with knitted stitches more sleek in appearance than crochet, is that suddenly the yarn seems to be too shiny, too light in weight and just very acrylic looking and to the touch too.

I’ve knit too much to undo it without a thought, but am not sure that it’s wise to carry on when I already know that I won’t want to wear it. What would you do? IMG_8702-0

Mostly ends with one beginning

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See the golden coloured ‘square’?  I took this photo to: “You’re in the way of the rugby!” Well, the light was best in front of the tv and it was Valentine’s Day, sheesh! Even so this isn’t the clearest photo, but we’re trapped under iron skies here. I didn’t notice that I’d pulled it out of shape arranging the piece on the carpet. When I went to add more hexagons to fill in the gaps I realised it was in the wrong place completely and it would be far too fiddly to add one in with all the sides to be joined. Bye Bye Goldie.
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I finished the Vanessa headband, it’s blocked and posed to be mattress stitched up. This is my issue with knitting; joining crochet with crochet is not a problem, because it’s crochet. Sewing knitting up makes me start yawning even at the thought of it.
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I have until a few days before 28th, then it needs to be posted to its new home because it’s then flying off to Austria skiing for a week. Clever headband!
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Yet more ends to be sewn. I have another boxful of motifs ready to JAYGO to my William Morris inspired blanket, but they must be darned beforehand. I’ve set myself a 5-a-day plan like last time. But oh it’s boring. Crochet a motif, darn that motif is a great idea, but I enjoy the flow of making them and seeing little stacks pile up.
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I started this circular Honey Cowl while listening to the last part of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins audio book. It seemed pretty obvious early on who dunnit, although I still found the story quite gripping overall.

So, there’s going to be no sewing up! Which is a Baldrick style cunning plan, I think. It’s not posh yarn and I did wonder how I’m going to feel about wearing Stylecraft Special DK; but it’s really soft and consistent for knitting. I’ve only ever used it for crochet blanket making, but I just didn’t want to start with a nicer yarn (I have some Tosca Light left over from Brian) and run out mid way.

Do you use Stylecraft for wearable knitting or crochet? How do you find it?

It’s been ages since I knit

A friend sent me this book

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Knitting and an audio book – The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes – is just so relaxing that when I stop I feel as if I’ve had a deep sleep. This might be the same sensation you experience after meditation?

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I came by this headband pattern on Pinterest I think. Here’s the link. I can’t see me wearing it but I just liked the idea of cabling again. It’s a fast knit with chunky yarn (a leftover ball of Sirdar Escape chunky from when I knit my Bergere de France poncho) and size eights, even for a rusty knitter who keeps dropping the cable needle down the side of the sofa.

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I may offer the finished headband to my generous friend who posted the book along with some VERY interesting yarn. I’ll show you that another day.

I’m also getting on with sewing up and adding little pearly buttons to this

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which is indeed a little doll’s dress to give to a friend who crafts for charities. She’s always happy to add my random offerings to her stall, or at least is good at pretending.

Sorry it turned out to the longest wait for an answer to a silly little Guess What question ever!

Five things

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This is my bargain of last week, a 1,000 piece jigsaw from my favourite charity shop for £1.95. I have to admit that I would never have mentioned it here, but when I sent a ‘look at my bargain!’ message to a few friends and family I realised from their replies that puzzles are people’s guilty pleasure. Or maybe we are just a really uncool lot! Actually today I saw that Hobbycraft sell them, so maybe they’re popular again?

I’ve harped on about wanting to do a jigsaw after reading a Christmas novel, which I bought from a charity shop sale shelf for 25p last January. My friend got me onto Christmas fiction and so I keep my eyes open for a few books for December every year. Anyway, the main character in Twelve days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley cooks for house parties in the summer and house sits for a rest in the winter. This year things turn out rather differently and she ends up with a houseful of the client’s family. While stocking up with food and presents she sees the village shop has a jigsaw, which she leaves on a table in the dining room for everyone to do gradually as they pass by. It just caught my imagination for some reason. Suddenly I really wanted to do my first jigsaw since childhood. It’s a joke really as I found the outside so hard to do, the red background and yellow script are REALLY hard, and I lost my mojo. However it turns out I live with a puzzle genius who has now completed nine tenths of it. I deliberately chose one with a fly fishing theme, as I thought it might interest him into helping me. It worked, with bells on. I don’t give up on them all though – I await a delivery of some of my friend’s jigsaws (“Not hard ones please!”)
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I found this personalised tea towel the other day. I’d forgotten I embroidered this, I was asked to add a trout but that wasn’t the original plan so I’m not. It’s going into service. I might do a ‘moron’ one to complete a set….! It’s a family joke.

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I’m baby hexieing still, mostly just doing a group of seven at the weekend, so am sticking to the original one-a-day plan now, though might have a splurge and make lots more at points during the year. It depends how I feel. The thing is that the material doesn’t have a lot of drape because the hexagons are so small.
This is the boring part of the process….
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Yesterday there was a knock at the door with what I guess is the signature flourish of a local florist’s delivery driver. Isn’t this a beautiful bunch of flowers? Forsythia, tulips, freesia and something which look like hyacinths. The card says they are to brighten these drab February days. They certainly do and smell delightful too. Lucky me.
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I did an incredibly nerdy thing the other day – I made an inventory of my Clover Amour hooks, just so I know what I’ve got. My new 5.5 mm and other (I can’t remember!) sized one arrived in the post and I thought it seemed a good idea at the time. This is more embarrassing than the jigsaw puzzle probably. I hang my head in nerdiness.

What’s happening with you? Do you want to write a Five Things post and put the link below?

Polenta Bread Recipe

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It’s definitely homemade soup and toast weather at the moment especially with the threat promise of snow which hangs over each day at the moment.

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Back in the summer I bought this huge bag of cornmeal, aka polenta, to make a lemon polenta cake when we had guests here for lunch. Since then it’s sat in the pantry neglected really, apart from the first time I tried this polenta bread recipe. Yesterday seemed the perfect opportunity to bake some more and I’m so glad I did as it’s really delicious.

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This is the bread recipe book I use most. I first borrowed a copy from the library to try a few recipes. This had such good reviews on Amazon UK, and I was still using recipes I’d photocopied, that it seemed daft to ask for any other book for my birthday last year. A good decision as I haven’t had a disappointing loaf yet!

I thought I’d share the polenta bread recipe with you in case you have need for a soup and bread meal too.

Polenta Bread

Makes 1 loaf
Preparation time: 15 minutes + proving + 25 minutes
Freezing: Recommended

“Polenta (or maize flour) has a slightly grainy texture and a vivid yellow colour that makes an everyday loaf a little more interesting”

350g (12oz) strong white bread flour
115g (4oz) polenta, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fast action dried yeast
25g (1oz) butter, melted
275-300ml (9-10 fl oz) hand-hot water

1) Combine the flour, polenta, sugar, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and water and mix to a soft dough.
2) Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth. Cover and prove in a warm place until doubled in size.
3) Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle with polenta.
4) Knock back the dough and shape into an 18cm (7″) long oval. Place on the baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, make deep cuts on alternate sides of the loaf.
5) Cover and prove until doubled in size.
6) Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7 / 220oc / 425of
7) Sprinkle liberally with polenta and bake for about 25 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

From Women’s Institute Bread: Over 100 Easy-to-Make Recipes by Liz Herbert.

** I didn’t have any butter so used a tablespoon of olive oil this time. It worked well, although the slightly buttery taste is best. I use my Kenwood mixer and dough hook, so cut down kneading time by half (to around 5 minutes). To knock back the dough I give it a quick whizz again in the mixer. In the winter the warmest place for proving is the airing cupboard, so put the covered (cling film) mixing bowl there. Typically it takes an hour, to an hour and a half to double the first time. I put the oven on to heat after about 30-40 minutes, while the dough proves the second time, then it’s reached temperature by the time the dough has doubled.”**

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Polenta bread is best eaten fresh, when it’s moist and the knife slides through each slice as if it’s butter. It seems to go stale quite fast, but that’s no matter as it makes the crunchiest, tastiest toast. Perfect with chilli and lentil soup! Here’s the soup recipe.

What are you enjoying cooking and eating at the moment?

Timely surprises

What a week!

I’d had a very efficient start to the year, getting all those boring but necessary appointments and tasks ticked off a long list. I was feeling rather pleased with it all last week. The Mister brought the first surprise – my favourite Austrian chocolates from Stockholm airport on his way home after a week working there again. It was great to see him, after all the socializing over Christmas the house had suddenly become far too quiet. Then…he started feeling unwell and coughing. I definitely wasn’t getting it too, so went to bed early, took vitamin C and started off the next day with a scratchy throat…

2015/01/img_4819.jpgA few days later my cousin sent me a quick message to say she had posted one of my Christmas presents. I wasn’t entirely sure why because we often have a late Christmas catch up a few weeks or months after. One year it was in June, to the amusement of restaurant staff who watched as we all exclaimed over pretty wrapping and enthused about a pile of gifts!

I’ve found this about last year’s late Christmas. I never really look back at my blog posts but I might start; to see what I was doing this time last year(s).
2015/01/img_4817-0.jpgAh! What a great present. I can totally see why she sent it this week. I’ve looked at those make an origami-whatever or solve a daily crossword type of calendars, but have never seen a crochet version. It’s an American product which my cousin saw in a garden centre here. I bet you can buy one online.

Because I have GOT to keep on with the William Morris motif blanket I haven’t looked all through the January patterns as it’s too tempting to start some, but there are a some sweet makes.
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I am itching to make those mitts. I’ve never done granite stitch but saw a Kat Goldin pattern in a recent crochet mag which uses it. That’s going to be my next new stitch soon.

The third surprise was from my friend who has been sent free tickets to go to Excel to the Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycrafts show in March, and wondered if I wanted to go with her. Yes please, thank you actually!
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I haven’t really been able to do anything other than cough, ache, wheeze, shiver and groan crochet and watch Netflixs: Life on Mars, Black Books and the excellent BBC version of The Lady Vanishes, or listen to my current audio book: Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell. I’ve darned all the ends on the little doll blanket and now it’s ready to edge. I think it needs something very simple like rows of DC to finish it off, anything else will be too over the top.
2015/01/img_4837.jpgYesterday we both turned a corner, despite coughing in tandem at 5am. In the end we gave up trying to sleep and got up and made mugs of tea at six to take back to bed. Later I felt well enough to cook a little batch of cheese scones, then I collapsed back onto the sofa for a bit of Glee S4. But still, I felt better than I had the rest of the week.

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Last night the football was on and so I immersed myself in the new issue of Country Living which came yesterday. It’s a Springtime goodie and full of lovely designs in greens and blues. I became completely engrossed in this article about British hedgerows. When I’m enthused about something I can’t help sharing what I’m reading and giving impromptu pop quizzes. “So, how many thousand miles of hedgerows do you think we have?” “How many of our lowland mammals’ habitats are in hedgerows?” “How can you estimate the age of a hedgerow?” Luckily I get away with this and had some intelligent answers and a bit of chat, alongside the football commentary. The article brought back long-ago memories of a hedge layer giving my primary school class a talk and demonstration of his craft. It’s so interesting.

How’s your week been?

 

Treats, rewards and more baby hexagons

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This is a progress photo from earlier in the week, it’s 28 days worth of a baby hexagons. Well, what can I say? They are addictive and so easy to make! But LOOK – 28 only measure just over 16″, so for a decent sized blanket by 31st December we’re going to need to crochet one a day, plus lots more!

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So now I’ve kind of abandoned the whole baby hexagon a day concept. Although a one a day CAL is a lovely idea I don’t think this one was properly thought through measurement-wise. So now I’m just doing a batch when I feel like it, and I plan to continue this throughout the year. It’s impossible to just make one a day anyway, the one turns into five or sometimes (prepare yourself) I don’t feel like crocheting anything at all.

Isn’t it turning out pretty though? I’m using leftover yarn from my zesty raspberry ripple blanket and pinching colours that I’m using for my motifs. It will change though as the plan at the moment is to add new colours from whatever I’m making in Stylecraft as the year goes on.

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When I decided to redesign my William Morris colour inspired motifs I was slightly panicked by going from a blanket which was a third complete, with a basket of semi-finished motifs to absolutely zero. So I hooked new versions without pausing to darn any at all. Argh! I ended up with so many ends that I’ve had to stop and do nothing but darning. Argh! On Sunday I divvied the remainder into seven little piles to tackle like homework each night. I missed last night because I was out, but it’s a good idea to tackle the last of a tiresome job in small bits. For the next fifty motifs I will make one, darn it, then move onto the next. I really will.

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I saw my dentist last week “Ah you always have stunningly good teeth” he said before I even opened my mouth! Afterwards I bought a bone handled 1935 cake knife made to commemorate the silver jubilee of George V who was the Queen’s Grandfather. It was a bargain £4, after some Googling it seems most online sellers are asking £15 plus for one! I bought it because I really wanted a cake knife, rather than grabbing the first knife which comes to hand when we have guests, but what a lovely find.

This week I’ve had an eye test. Have you ever been shown photos of the back of your eyes? It’s amazing being talked through how they can tell you probably haven’t got diabetes or glaucoma, and seeing your optic nerve captured in action. I hate the puff of air and the flashing light so the new book by the very talented Kat and a cheese scone for lunch were my rewards! I’m thankfully now at the end of my mini MOT…
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I’m so lucky to have been given membership to the V&A in London, officially known as The Victoria and Albert Museum. I’ve used my card for the first time and loved swooping into the Wedding Dresses exhibit with a simple flash of my card. Do go if you can before it ends. You “Wow!” your way around. I also visited the members’ room which was described to me by a room guide as ‘the inner sanctum’. It was certainly very peaceful and comfortable. The water jugs were donated by Waterford Crystal and even the tray is lovely! My membership includes a guest so I’m hoping to take friends and family to events over the year. Thank you Father Christmas.
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I’ve baked my first loaf of Artisan bread in my new cooker. I started to use silicon coated baking paper last Autumn because you can place it gently down into the heated pyrex while safely holding the strips of paper. I adjust the oven temp down to 220 oc from the recipe’s 230 oc to comply with the paper’s instructions, but this oven has a much better seal and there is a huge gust of steam as you open the door. I’d quite forgotten ovens do this and have had a hot facial a few times. The problem is this time the paper became melded to the bottom of the loaf. It might have been a wetter dough than usual, or the new oven. While I’m not fussy I don’t like the chewy texture of silicon. (Yes, I did try it.) So I might go back to gently plopping the loaf in sans silicone because it’s a tragedy to have to cut the crust off.
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How’s the third week of 2015 going for you?

Catherine wheeling

Lazy Saturday mornings, when there are no immediate plans, look like this… pjs, crochet, Saturday Morning Kitchen on TV and endless cups of tea. This particular lazy Saturday morning turned into a bit of a lazy Saturday afternoon too, till about 2pm anyway. I just couldn’t stop doing just one more row and time ticked away. I’m really enjoying crocheting catherine wheel stitch, though the funny thing is I have to keep the pattern to hand for the ends. I just can’t seem to memorise the five rows. It’s probably because I’m working on three or four different things at the same time, so have to refresh the grey stuff each time I come back to it.

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The whole wheels, which are two rows, are much nicer in a single colour than in two colours, like I tried at the bottom, aren’t they?

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What are you up to this weekend? Big love to you if you’re in Paris.xx