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Friday, 20 January 2017

Mid-January

Well, here we are in the middle of January already.  We haven't seen much of the sun this week, but we have seen a lot of clouds and drizzly rain.  It's not even particularly cold, either, so I've set off for my walks with the dog wrapped up against the weather and come home carrying my layers instead of wearing them.

We did see a patch of blue sky on Tuesday - just the one - and for a short while everywhere seemed brighter and less drizzly.  Not for long, though.  By the time we had left this wood and were on our way home, the dog and I were wet through again.  Ah well.  



After last week's Moorland Blanket Unravelling, I've had to wait until my new crochet hook arrived before I could make a start on it again.  It arrived yesterday - hooray!  I'm very pleased with it - I mean, who couldn't fail to be delighted by another sparkly unicorn crochet hook, especially one that came with a chocolate heart?  (I needed to take a picture of this because I knew that by the time I came to write about it, the chocolate would have gone.  And it has.  But it was very nice.)


This hook even has a rainbow on it (which actually doesn't feel uncomfortable under your thumb when you use the hook, in case you were wondering) ...



and a seriously cute unicorn.  What's not to like?


Here they are, my duo of unicorns.  I wonder what you call more of them?  A flock?  A sparkle? They certainly are sparkly, I've got glitter all over my hands after getting stuck back into my blanket!  I'm not complaining, I could have done with a bit of sparkly magic dust last night after working three blocks of the colours and then discovering that I'd used the wrong stitches.  Aargh! What is it about this month and projects not doing what they're supposed to do?  I've still not finished my skirt ... 


Progress on these socks, however, is coming along nicely - just as well as I'm planning the tutorial for the end of the month.  I've spent a couple of days this week working on the videos that I'm going to put with the tutorials and I think the thing that has struck me most is just how long it all takes.  I could have knitted another sock in the time that it's taken me to get my words right for each of the sections that I'm videoing - I'll be wanting an Oscar at the very least at the end of all this! J



And because I am the eternal optimist and always like to think that I have more hours in the day to knit than I probably do (or perhaps because I am ever so slightly insane), I'm joining in with the Blacker Yarns Pod Knit-a-long which officially started yesterday.  Blacker Yarns are hosting the Podcast Lounge at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival again this year and they have decided to run a Knit-a-long using their yarns in the run up to the Festival.  I happen to have a few skeins in my stash, and have added another recently as I couldn't resist this one the other week ...



It's hard to tell from the photo (thanks to our current dull weather) but it's a lovely deep purple colour and is another of Blacker Yarns' limited edition yarns which comes from the fleece of these rather handsome sheep ...


Source: www.borderleicester.com

They're Border Leicester sheep, one of the oldest British breeds, and this yarn comes from the largest flock in the UK.  Look at those ears!  They look like sheep crossed with rabbits to me! Their fleece is described as similar to Blue Faced Leicester but stronger, so not only is it soft and smooth, but it's ideal for socks.  Ker-ching!  Sold to the lady who can't resist British sock yarn!  (And incidentally, because I know that this is something of an issue these days for some people, the yarn band states that this yarn is from sheep that live to grow old.)

Anyway, because I have realised that I have quite a few skeins of Blacker Yarns yarn that need using up (I'm trying not to keep yarns "for best" because if I get run over by a bus, I don't want my beautiful skeins being thrown out because no one knows what to do with them - it makes sense to knit them whilst I'm still in one piece!) I have not one but two projects in mind.  And no, I haven't discovered the secret of extra hours in the day, but I think that if I keep stuffing my day full of things I need to do, then one day the secret might come to me - a bit like pulling the right book out of a shelf to release the magic door behind the bookcase.  I can live in hope, can't I?  

So here are my choices - firstly, from Verity Castledine's beautiful book, The Sock Drawer, which I bought at Yarndale last year.  Verity is the talent behind Truly Hooked hand-dyed yarns and has written this book of sock patterns which are a good next step from the basic Sockalong sock.  I'm going to choose Arwen from the patterns and I've picked out a skein of Tamar Lustre Blend 4ply which I think will work perfectly.  My second choice is the Hartland Cliffs shawl, a free pattern from Blacker Yarns, which I'm going to knit in the St Kilda Laceweight yarn that I also got from Yarndale.  This was one of those purchases that I really didn't need to make ... until I saw the shawl in real life and then my credit card jumped out of my purse all on it's own.  As it does.  The idea is that you have until the Edinburgh Yarn Festival to complete your makes and then you can take them with you to show off (and get a discount off any yarns you might buy to replenish your stock) ... but of course, there's no reason why you still can't join in even if you're not going to Edinburgh, and you can find all the details of the Knit-a-long here.



My Moorland blanket, tutorial socks and Knit-a-long projects should keep me quiet for a week or so (or possibly longer ...) so I decided to make the most of a gap in the rain showers to look around the garden today.  The snowdrops are coming through already, which of course they should be doing as it is January, but I do worry about these delicate shoots if we have a sudden cold snap. Mind you, we haven't really had much in the way of cold all winter so I think they're probably safe enough. 



Perhaps not these (fool) hardy shoots, though, which have been brave enough to grow in the gap between the steps.  The dog has no respect for any of the vegetation in the garden, whether it's grass or flowers, and will do a handbrake (pawbrake?) turn wherever he feels like.  I don't know how long these snowdrops will last, but it's lovely to see them whilst they're here!



There are also some shoots indoors ... a friend gave me this pretty jug for Christmas which came with some Muscari (grape hyacinth) bulbs.  It hasn't taken any time at all for the shoots to come through and I'm really enjoying seeing them - it makes me realise how long the garden seems to have been drab and brown.  It doesn't take much to brighten you day sometimes, does it?


Have a fabulous weekend.  I hope the sun shines for you and all your projects for the weekend go swimmingly well, whatever they are! 


Saturday, 14 January 2017

A bit of snow

Do you ever have those weeks when you feel like you're getting nowhere fast?  It must have been because it was the first full week back at school, but I had a long list of jobs that I wanted to do and now that we've reached the weekend, I still have a long list of pretty much the same jobs.  How does that work?!

One of this week's jobs was to finish The Skirt.  It's been hanging around for so long now that it qualifies for capital letters when I'm talking about it, and that's not always a good thing!  The pattern told me that I would need a zip and recommended steeking (cutting the knitting) but as I've been using acrylic yarn I thought that would be a mistake.  Instead, I knitted it flat for the length of the zip and then joined into the round; I've had to do a bit of stitch-pulling to get the stitches tighter at the edge but it looks OK.  My zip-insertion skills aren't the best and lots of Dark Muttering was involved - and having tried it on I've discovered that I could get it on and off without needing a zip at all!  Aargh!  I'm also a bit concerned about the length.  The fact that I got the pattern from a 1960s magazine should have given me a clue, but I'm wondering now that whilst the length of it may be fantastic on my 18 year old daughter, it may not be quite so fantastic on someone who last saw 18 thirty years ago ... 


It's easy enough to fix as I can just add rounds to the bottom if I still think it's too short once I've finally decided what to do about the zip and whether to take it out or not, but it was frustrating that what I thought would be an hour or so's job is still sitting waiting to be finished.  Ah well, maybe next week!

Another one of this week's jobs was make a start on the videos to go with the sock tutorial that I'm writing.  After lots of procrastination, I finally made a start ... and another start ... and another start ...  There was more Dark Muttering and more than a few out-takes and this is something else that has gone back onto next week's list of jobs.  I am clearly not going to be one of those people who "just do a quick video tutorial" as there was certainly nothing quick about this! 

Towards the end of the week, though, something happened that I've been waiting for all winter ... it snowed!  At last!  I thought we weren't going to see any snow this winter, and although the amount that we had in Winwick was a bit dismal, I was heading off to Skipton on Friday and I knew that there'd be some there.  Hooray!

The drive to Skipton takes me from Cheshire through Lancashire into Yorkshire and the scenery is beautiful at any time of year, but the sun glinting off the snow on the hills was just fabulous.  I had to remind myself to keep my eyes on the road and not on the snow, but I did stop a couple of times to take pictures ...



and there was still snow on the ground by the time I got to Skipton.  Who knows if we'll get more snow this year (people other parts of the country have had very heavy snowfall and would probably be glad to pass any more of the white stuff over to my part of the world!), but at least I've seen some now so that's me happy J


I've never been able to make it to the Creative Coopers' Friday morning session before because of the length of time it takes me to get to Skipton; I was a bit late but nobody minded and it was lovely to meet a new group of people.  Knit n natter group members are such a sociable bunch! 


I took my Moorland Blanket up to show Lucy, even though I'd only done a couple of rows; I wasn't sure that I was happy with the tension and wanted her opinion.  What was happening was the rows were ridging and this was apparently down to the size of my hook; even though my tension had seemed OK on the tension square using my 4mm hook, it wasn't working out quite right on the actual blanket.  It's very useful (and I very much appreciated) being able to ask the Blanket Guru herself how to fix the problem!

As you'd expect, Lucy had a few spare crochet hooks in different sizes so I was able to try them out and see if a bigger hook was better; a size 4.5mm let the fabric lie flatter and so that's what I've decided to use.  It meant ripping out what I'd already done but better to do that now rather than when I'm half way up the blanket.  Yes, it puts the blanket firmly back on the list, but it's going to be on the list for some time anyway so I'm not upset about it at all.
  

I've got a new crochet hook on order now.  I was going to order one like Lucy's as it was very comfortable to use, but then I thought it would just see if there was a unicorn one in the right size ... my new hook should arrive next week!

I hope you've had a more productive week than I seem to have had - and here's hoping that next week is a very productive one for us all!



Sunday, 8 January 2017

New Year, new intentions!

Hellooo!  How are you doing on this weekend in January 2017?  I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year - it seems like such a long time since I've written a "what I'm up to" post and it's lovely to catch up with you again!

It always takes me longer than I'd like to get back into the swing of things after a holiday.  The decorations are down now and the house looks very bare (and rather dusty); small daughter is back at school and big daughter goes back to university on Monday, and I've spent these last few days feeling as if I'm getting nowhere fast.  Oh don't get me wrong, I'm all fired up and ready to go for the New Year ... it's just the thought of getting going!

The dog is very happy to be back in his usual routine, although I have to say that I'm a bit fed up of seeing the same soggy paths.  Where's the snow?  Or even a bit of frost to give the ground that winter crunch?  It's not even really cold enough to be wearing my hat and mitts, so although I start off with them on, I've been having to take them off and carry them about half way round our walk. I've been having to get my snow fix through Instagram this year and although vicarious snow is better than none at all, just a little bit would be nice!



Now that the New Year is here, my husband has had his annual chuckle at the sight of me trawling through pages of free planner printables in an attempt to get myself under some kind of organised control.  Two years ago, I decided to take a plunge into bullet journaling which lasted all of about six weeks ...



and last year I tried using various printed pages and diaries which again, lasted all of about six weeks, which is why I'm looking at the free printables and not a paid-for planner!  My problem (or so I tell myself) is that none of the pages actually do what I need them to do - I've got so many different things that I need to keep track of: the blog, the family, the socks, the work that I do with my husband's business, the pets, holidays etc etc - that I end up missing something out and then I get cross and stop using the planner altogether.  We do use Google calendar as a family so that we can update in real time where everyone is and what they're doing (and I have had to get used to using that as my husband takes the view that if it's not on the calendar it's not happening, and he can book what he likes (usually work!) into the free space), but no matter how many to-do lists and task lists I set up, I still end up running round like something silly.

Yes, yes, of course it's all down to discipline and actually using the planner pages - my husband likes to point out that writing it down isn't enough and I still need to do whatever it is, but I think he's just asking for a poke in the eye! - and I'm going to try very hard to last for longer than six weeks this year.  And besides, I like to look at all the planner pages and imagine that my life is super-organised and clutter-free.  I've even set up a new Pinterest page with styles that I like which isn't procrastinating at all but even I know that there are limits and I can't begin to look at stickers, doodling or any other form of planner decoration because then I really will never get anything done!

So here's my choice for 2017 (or at least, until the middle of February): simple pages from www.kraftyowl.com which I can hopefully use to write down some of the stuff that I need to do every day rather than try to keep it all in my head.  There's no date on the weekly pages either, so I won't feel guilty if I miss some pages out.  You never know.  It might just work this year. I'll keep you posted!



I woke up really early on Saturday morning (why does this happen?  I'm never ready to get out of bed really early during the week!) and decided to get up and make a start on my Moorland Blanket, the new crochetalong using Lucy's brand new pattern.  It's been a long time since I crocheted a blanket - July 2013 in fact - and that was my neat ripple blanket which I originally made to wrap myself up in whilst I'm meditating, but have found myself snuggling under it far more often.  I've been promising myself another crocheted blanket ever since, but have never quite got round to it until now.  Lucy had a sample of her new neat wave blanket at Yarndale and I knew this was going to be the one.  I bought myself a new crochet hook (mine are all ancient metal ones) from Nicola at Fleabubs by Lala at Yarndale.  I'm very pleased with it - I may have mentioned my pink sparkly unicorn hook before ...



and set about making my tension swatch.  I'm using up stash to make this blanket - I have a pack of original Lucy colours which have been sitting in the cupboard for a few years so much as I love the colours that Lucy has chosen for her blanket, I really must use what I have before I buy anything else.  Of course, once it's gone then that leaves me free to buy any blanket packs I might like in the future or possibly - ahem - some more rare breed sock yarn ...   

I was just looking and it fell into my basket.  What could I do?

Getting back into crocheting again this weekend has been lovely, and although I needed a bit of a refresher on one of the stitches (luckily, Lucy has thought of this and written instructions for people like me), it wasn't long before I was happily hooking away.  It was really foggy (foggy! what's that all about?) here in Winwick yesterday and it didn't get light until quite late in the morning.  The family were asleep, even the pets took themselves back to bed after their breakfasts, and I was quite content with my cup of tea and the crackling of the fire for company.



I've decided to go for random stripes so this new blanket will probably end up looking quite similar to my neat ripple blanket, but as I really like those colours anyway it's not a problem.  I suspect that this blanket will end up living on our sofa so that there's an extra one for TV snuggling, and as our sofa is a rather battered brown leather one, some bright yarny colours will be just the thing!

My brother and his wife bought me this which is just right for this project ...


That's a cute fox, isn't it?  It's a Jane Foster large knitting bucket and I've managed to pack all 17 balls of yarn that I have into it so it will be perfect for TV crocheting.  


It's taken me a while to get going because I wanted to make the blanket the same size as my ripple one which is a bit bigger than the size Lucy's given for the single bed, so last night was spent in trying to get the foundation chain right.  At least I'm up and running now!



I have no idea how long it's going to take me make this blanket because I've always got so many things going on (all right, I can hear you shouting "use your planner!") and I have got some Exciting Sock Stuff to be working on too, but it's nice to have got started and it will get finished during the year.

Ooh, did you hear me say "Exciting Sock Stuff"?  I did say that!  I told you last year about the new tutorial socks that I'm making and planner or no planner, I'm doing my best to have the tutorial ready for the end of this month.  It will be the first in a series that I want to do this year which will look at expanding sock knitting skills and taking another step towards discovering all the fabulous patterns that are available.  I absolutely love it when people tell me that the Sockalong tutorials have helped them to get started knitting socks but I've also been told that sometimes people are still a bit reluctant to make the next step into exploring new patterns.  I'm hoping to help put that right!  



Also under the heading of "Exciting Sock Stuff" is something that is very new to me and quite some way out of my comfort zone ... I'm going to make some videos to go with the tutorial as I know that there are some people who like to watch rather than just see pictures.  Ulp!  It does feel very scary but just like any new skill, we all have to start somewhere and if I don't just launch in and do them, I'll never get any better.  And if I've told you that I'm going to do them, then I just have to get on with it, don't I?!

I think we're pretty much caught up on everything for now ... I have finished knitting my Fair Isle skirt again after the lumpy bumpy disaster that it was; it's looking much better this time and early indications are that it's going to fit much better too.  I've woven all the ends in (and there were so many ends!) and just need to put a zip in and then it'll be done.


  
And just to finish off on the subject of knitting - and socks - I'd like to thank everyone who's added their pair of basic Sockalong socks to the Ravelry project page - there are over 1,100 projects on there now which is quite amazing!  I always love to see the socks that are linked, and you can find all my free patterns on Ravelry as well as on the Free Patterns and Printables page here on the blog (it's in the tabs at the top of the page).  There's also the more practical application too in that the more people who are able to find the Sockalong tutorials, the more people can start their own sock adventures - and there's always room for more sock knitters in the world! 

Have a lovely weekend everybody - and may it be calm and organised!  What are your own planner intentions this year?  I'd love to know as it might help me stick with mine for longer than six weeks! J



Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Monthly Musing - January 2017 - Fun fun fun

I’ve just looked back at my Monthly Musing forJanuary last year and it was all about taking care, and in particular, taking care of myself.  It’s been something that I’ve thought about quite regularly over the year and of all the resolutions I’ve ever had, I think this is the one that’s lasted the longest.  I may not always have been great at it, but there’s always room for improvement whatever we do, and I’m happy to spend some more time working on it this year.

What I’m also going to do this year is have more fun.  It feels a bit odd to write this, as if I’m sitting in a huge armchair somewhere saying, “Come on then, entertain me, make me laugh” but that’s not quite what I had in mind. 

As a family, we had a lot of fun in the run up to Christmas and that’s when I realised that I don’t always stop to enjoy the moment as much as I should do.  I smile a lot, but I don’t laugh as much as I probably should do, and you might feel that you are the same.  After all, there’s a lot going on in the world that certainly isn’t fun and we might wonder if it’s right to be enjoying ourselves when others have it so much worse than us.  But having fun isn’t just about going out to planned events, it’s about finding the fun in the moment.  There are times when small daughter is reeling off bad joke after bad joke when it really doesn’t feel like fun at all, but I know there have also been opportunties when I could have stopped what I was doing for just a minute to laugh.

I’m not a fan of taking Bible quotations out of context, but these words came to me:

“When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Corinthians, 13:11)

and made me wonder if we tend to associate fun with childhood and feel that it is incompatible with life in the Real World.  But why should fun be something that we watch our children do whilst we work around them, cooking, cleaning and earning a living?  When was that moment that we became a Grown Up and we stopped giving ourselves permission to have fun?  How many times have you said, “Oh, I used to love doing that” or “I used to play that game when I was little”?  I’ve done it a lot recently.  Why shouldn’t we still do these things?  Yes, we have to work a bit harder to fit it in around the Grown Up stuff that we need to do, but isn’t it true that things you have to work for are all the more appreciated?

If I’m honest, the quotation from the Bible makes me feel a bit sad, although I know that Bible stories are often metaphors and not required to be taken literally.   I don’t want to plan all my fun moments in advance with an appropriate entry on the calendar.  I need to remember that taking care of myself also means laughing more, and I’ve decided I’m going to use this quotation as a reminder for the year instead:

“Adults are obligated to have fun so that children will want to grow older”

Now isn’t that much more fun?

Happy New Year! xx