Showing posts with label knitting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label knitting. Show all posts

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Walking uphill; or, the beauty of a barn door

 I have great dreams of powering off to the gym every morning, and honing those muscles in preparation for the physically demanding tasks of basting a quilt top or casting on a legwarmer. But, alas and alack, they remain dreams - as the days get shorter, the nights longer and the mornings darker, it takes an even greater effort of will to heave myself from the warm and cosy nest that is my bed.

No quilt in sight

If I were left to myself I would spend the winter months huddled up indoors, never straying too far from the fire or sofa. But luckily I have the services of a personal trainer to keep me up to the mark.

An October morning

Several mornings this week I have tried to begin the day by sitting at my computer, thinking that I couldn't possibly go out in the cold and damp because I have so much to do, but no, there is no slacking - there is my trainer by my side, arms around me, whispering in my ear, come along do, you know it is time for our yomp, you know it will do us both good.

Personal trainer extraordinaire

She will brook no refusals, and shivering and resigned I find myself in the lane, wrapped up to the nines, wellied and ready.

The road less travelled

And she is right, you know.

Green and growing
It is the best thing in the world on a dreary grey morning to go out into the wide world to seek out the tiniest weakest gleam of watery sunshine peering from behind a cloud, to find the widest most open spaces you can, stand on the highest point you can reach in the landscape, get a little breathless, look far and near, and observe the seasons and the weather and the green growing things defying the turning of the year.

Poppies on the grattan

Nothing can match the bliss of walking out one mid-autumn morning and listening to the curlew crying and hearing the wind in the trees, the sound of far, far away traffic a distant hum, and the sound of boots slap, slap on the muddy lane the most insistent noise around.

More flowers in October

There is nothing better than this and I would wish myself nowhere else, with the soft ground underfoot and my faithful friend by my side.

Come on, keep up

There is some Welsh in her ancestry and I imagine her forebears as drovers' dogs, padding across the land, watching and listening, herding and keeping safe.


And I saw barn walls perfect for hanging quilts on, sitting waiting in the morning light, and now I am hoping that one fine day I will turn the corner and see there amongst the trees and the clouds a quilt hanging, blowing gently in the breeze, a vision just for me.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Sock issues

Captain Lurgy has been in residence at the cottage and his requirements for bed and board have been quite tiresome, but I decided that I must drag my frail frame from its indolent habitation on the sofa in order to prove that I still exist and that some days I manage to achieve something.

What with the gammy hand and the dicky neck and the tender ministrations of Captain Lurgy, my output has not matched my aspirations, but I am distinctly conscious that there is a nip hovering in the air, and the season to be cosy approaches nearly.

Nice socks

So my creative efforts have been concentrated on things warm and comforting. Hence the stripy socks. Hand-knitted socks, as I am sure that I have said before, are like cashmere cardigans - one encounter and you are ruined forever (I am still in hopes that Brora will suddenly email me, begging to sponsor my blog and offering copious amounts of things cashmere to review).

Thus I try to knit one or two pairs of cosy socks a year, and you may look at and admire my Jubilee Socks. (Yes, I was a Bay City Roller fan when I was a mere scrap of a girl - why did you ask?)

Heavy duty winter warmers

I cast on these jolly numbers on the Jubilee weekend in June - we had fled the country in honour of the celebration and as I sat in sunny Brittany I was quite bemused to see that the French were quite over-excited about the whole event (little union flag logos on the TV screen and hysterical TV presenters in the rain on the riverbank interviewing equally bemused Brits in their waterproofs), so we didn't have to miss anything.

I knitted my very patriotic socks, quietly satisfied that for once the weather in the country in which we had chosen to holiday was sunny and dry, and that it looked pretty grey, wet and cold at home. The converse is usually true and it has become something of a holiday essential for me to be out searching the shops for heavy-duty Goretex.


Unfortunately I have still not solved the problem of how to photograph myself in my new socks without my ankles thickening before my very eyes, or my thighs appearing to be of titanic proportions (I hear my sister sniggering as she reads this, and muttering 'stumpy' ...)


In my defence, I would like to say that these have been made as top-layer winter socks, extra-roomy to accommodate an underneath pair, for those months when my circulation comes to a halt mid-calf. The pattern is my usual favourite from Ann Budd's book, and the yarn is Regia 4-ply sock yarn - I now find out that it is Flusi Das Socken Monster yarn (colour 1807) especially for small children with small legs. I was not warned about this in the shop. Perhaps that is why my ankles are so rotund in appearance?

Hmm, they are a bit on the thick side

And I have also just cast on some super-cosy legwarmers (free pattern here) to ensure that my legs look equally thick the whole way along.

It is also of some comfort to me that the Little Stranger likes my socks - I know this because she jumped on my stomach and licked my face and my camera. The lens will probably never be the same again.

Thank you for all of your lovely comments on the previous post. I will come and say hello to you in return as soon as I can get round you all. Perhaps you could also say hello to the lovely new followers who are Kay at Deep in the Cornish Countryside,  Sarajan at Fleachic, Pattypan at Tarragon & Thyme, Debby at Cozy Blanket, Geraldine at Sophie Belle Designs, Cheryl at My Little Piece of England,  Maggie Moore at Pretty Flowers in the Window, and Kaylagking.

From a health and safety point of view you will be pleased to hear that no socks or black dogs were harmed in the manufacture of this post, but unfortunately a party of ants hitched a ride and are only now emerging from their hiding places about my person. With skin crawling I salute you and depart ...

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Vitamin therapy

The summer seems to have slipped by in the twinkling of an eye, the admirals have sailed off with the tide, and I remain, beached, almost wondering what to do with myself, so much have they filled my days over the past few weeks.

Dear readers, I would love to tell you that I can manage to edit a book, run a B&B, be a good mother, and keep my house and garden tidy at the same time.

But sadly if I did I would be lying.

Catching up with the laundry mountain

I would love to be the sort of blogger who leads a life to which other bloggers aspire, in a house filled with sunlight whatever the season, where the dogs sleep on clean blankets of patchwork and crochet, with a garden where one can take a photograph anywhere and be confronted with a vision of loveliness and distinguished plantings.

Did someone mention a crochet blanket?

And yesterday I could have started on that route to the pink and pineapple of perfection by addressing the dog-hair, ankle-deep in the sitting room, or polishing the windows to improve the light-levels indoors. Maybe I could even have done a little light weeding in the aim of getting to grips with the bindweed, creeping buttercup and ground elder which threaten to overwhelm my flowerbeds.

I pegged up my sadly deficient dog blankets that seemed to have taken on the appearance of ragged old bathtowels, splotched with sinister-looking stains which are highly resistant to the boil wash, and sighed.

Dreaming of a tartan blanket to sleep on

I looked at the bedrooms of my absent boys: the Ploughboy's is merely grubby and unkempt, whereas that of the General one could categorize as a health hazard and threatening to the fabric of the house. There is very little floor space available for standing in, even if I wanted to attempt some sort of fumigation.

A strong aroma of mouse
But when they do come home, I want to be a welcoming, glad to see you, sort of mother, and not one who berates them with the amount by which their disorderly nests reduce the value of the house (£8,000 per mucky children's room apparently).

Then I heard the caressing tones of Dr Mark Porter on Radio 4 (trust him implicitly, he is a doctor) recommending the benefits of vitamin D as an anti-inflammatory (this is why TB patients were made to sunbathe in winter).

I need such treatment, I thought. So I took up my knitting, heaved a chair onto the grass,
and I sat and basked in the sunshine, in order maximize my intake of anti-inflammatory vitamin D.

Very soothing

And I thought that you might like to know that the result of my experiment was to feel very much better, so I can highly recommend its efficacy, and anti-inflammatory nature - the experience of such therapy was distinctly healing.

Sunning oneself

However, it does not seem to work for dogs. As two out of the three were sick on the grass,  I cannot affirm its effectiveness in canines.

I think I am going to be sick

So the moral of the story is that if you are feeling a little inflamed, then go and expose your body to sunlight (trust me, I am a doctor).

But don't forget your knitting ...


And if you would like to see some pretty pictures of far better regulated households, then do go and visit some of the new faces at the cottage, who are:

Ada at Vintage Sheet Addict, Lush at Diegoagogo, Nancy McCarroll at Art, Crafts and Favourites, Jane Sorgetz at Atelier de Artes, Gillian at Tales From A Happy House, Gigibird, and Ellimay (I couldn't find your blog, so do let me know if you have one).

A genteel good afternoon to some lovely new friends and charmed to meet you, I am sure.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Knitting and dreaming

There is something very soothing about sitting on the sofa of an evening, knitting a few rows, and winding down from the day.

And knit, knit, knit is better than stitch, stitch, stitch for sweet dreams. I spent a night last week tossing and turning as I sewed in an endless train of zippers in my sleep.

But I have never had nightmares about knitting, I am sure - although to ensure that sitting and knitting in the half-light is stress-free I need the sort of simple pattern that I could, well, knit in my sleep.

Jane Brocket's pattern for these nifty little hanger covers fits the bill perfectly (you can find the pattern here) - easy enough to knit without your dreams turning to nightmares, and quick enough for a last-minute, charmingly retro present.

I love the clever little flowers which you make by winding yarn around a needle - rather like the fluffy balls I loved making when I was small.

And this can also count as a Thrifty Activity perfect for enhancing your halo of modest and frugal domesticity - I made these with yarn from my leftovers bag, and so can you too.

So there you are, a Thrifty Hint, a cure for insomnia, and a transfer from WIP to the finished list all in the space of one evening - what more could you want?

I have also just noticed that lots of new friends have joined the jolly party at my little cottage, so do go and say hello and welcome them to the throng:

Jodi at Farm Country Comforts

Deborah at Simply Miss Luella

Sarah Jane at Chantille Fleur

Annie at Moving On

Thea at Hearts and Bluebells

Miss Organic Fairtrade Knickers at I Blame Enid Blyton

Saffa and her lovely handmade paper art

Victoria at Tangled Sweetpea

Sophie at A Good Year

I do love blog names and often wonder how people think them up - the ones above are all so enticing, you just have to go and look.  I think I have put down all the new friends - I am never very good at keeping track of who has just arrived, so do tell me if I have missed you out, or if you have been following for ages and I have only just noticed, I prostrate myself most apologetically.

[And if you were wondering about the admirals, yes, they are still bothering me, and I am only doing this because otherwise I would be having nightmares about them and their stripes all the night long. I had better go and knit a bit of my favourite simple sock pattern to ward off any watery dreams. It is such an easy pattern that I can knit and nod away for hours, and the woolly stripes are so much more comforting than gold braid.]

Monday, 6 February 2012

Stash happy stocktaking, and a giveaway to come

The new year is traditionally a time to take stock of the past and make all sorts of worthy resolutions for the future, but I am never very good at worthy resolutions, so this year we plumped for something more mundane and resolved to run down our food stocks before ordering anything more, after finding an unopened kilogram bag of sesame seeds with a best before date back in early 2010 (not to mention various small bags of odd ingredients such as semolina and gram flour of very uncertain vintage, and bought for equally uncertain reasons). The hens have had a feast and we have 10kg of porridge oats to eat before we can go to the shops again.

Very neat

So that was the big resolution, stock control and stock rotation - all very good and proper, and all very successful. So how come this sort of resolution is so difficult to apply to the stocks residing so neatly in my sewing room?

Some nice tins full of bits and bobs

I decided that it was time to take stock of the fabric and yarn holed up in the store cupboard, and under the table, and other sundry hiding places, not to mention the stash which has escaped out into other hidey holes around the house, after reading a post by Cheryl, who is thriftily working her way through her own crafty stores.

A nice cupboard full of even more bits and bobs

Very bravely I thought that I would share with you some of said stocks, on the understanding that this is not necessarily a full disclosure, as there may be one or two other interesting surprises elsewhere (I am thinking that there might be something in a basket under the bed . . .).

And in a spirit of thrift and good intentions I am resolving not to buy any more inessential supplies until I have at least made a dent in the stores that I already have (although I do reserve the right to adjudicate on the definition of essential).

Some nice Christmas presents

But as any seasoned crafter will know, there is a difference between stash with future potential, and that with past history. Because one inevitably ends up with leftovers from projects, which may or may not have potential for something else.

Some leftovers and some left unfinished

There is also the speculative stash, which might well have proved to be a hopelessly unsuitable mistake, and undergone a transformation from tempting to hideous on the journey from shop to cupboard.

And the hopelessly optimistic stash, which usually involves a long trip to a festival or show, or even a holiday visit to some long dreamed of emporium, followed by the purchase of enough material to keep the most industrious crafter busy full-time until beyond retirement. (The words 'limited edition', 'today only', or Wollmeise often feature in such purchases.)

A drawer full of nice surprises

However, such stash explorations can turn up some interesting surprises, and really end up being almost as good as going to the shops (I am being positive, optimistic and thrifty here). I found a waffle dishcloth that only requires the ends darning in, and a coat hanger cover that just needs to be stitched onto a coat hanger (but where I did I put those hangers I bought for covering?) - two presents ahead for Christmas and it's only February. Not to mention a nearly finished jumper possibly slightly short on yarn, and a sock and a bit.

I like these, but some did not

And a cornucopia of quilting cottons bought to make a quilt before I went on the patchwork training day when aspersions were cast on my taste in fabric which put me off the whole thing. But time has passed, I stitched some of the cut pieces together last week, and hey presto! I rather like the effect, I remember that it was just what I was seeking for, and not only did the Head Chef say that it would look nice in our bedroom, but Princess Bunchy started making covetous comments.

A nice book

I think that these stash explorations could be quite productive - I must just sit on my hands and not let my fingers do the walking over the keyboard and add to the stores before I have dealt most firmly with the matters in hand. Trouble is, I was given a very nice book for Christmas, which has given me ideas of a most expansive kind . . .

Those little dogs keep popping up everywhere

And one last good thing - I suddenly came upon some things which I was given before Christmas for a giveaway for you - I will be posting about this very shortly!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Life's little ironies

A sunny day and all seems calm - but lo, a cloud on yonder horizon . . .

Two women sit either side of a small, white table. The conversation is quietly rational.

So what have you been doing to your hand?
I was wringing out a dishcloth . . .
And how long ago was this?
A few weeks now. I was cleaning windows too. Quite energetically.
I can see that it is rather swollen. And the symptoms would indicate inflammation. You must rest it completely, wear a splint day and night, and then we can begin rehabilitation exercises when there is no pain at all at rest.
But I have to make my Christmas presents.
Not this year - maybe next. No knitting, no sewing, complete rest.
But I am a freelance - no sick pay, you know the sort of thing . . .
Essential computer work only, and wearing a splint at all times.

Of dishcloths be very wary, they are dangerous things
Sunday afternoon. At home. Our heroine paces the room. No knitting, no sewing. She casts about for something to do and growls at her keepers.

Three carrier bags later the contents of her wardrobe and drawers have been turned out. Princess Bunchy has heard a new word: What does dowdy mean? she says. It proves a useful word. Another handy phrase when decluttering: Is it meant to be that tight? She concentrates on the power of positive thinking and takes comfort in the fact that there is now storage space for new clothes. How exciting!

And if she can't make her own Christmas presents, she can buy handmade and support other lovely crafters.

The sewing cupboard must remain firmly shut
And as some of the recipients have been known to lurk on the borders of Blogland, she can tantalize them with pictures of packages with mysterious and beautiful contents.

Feeling festive
So here are two wonderfully enticing boxes from Emma at Silverpebble. I wonder what exquisiteness they contain and who will be the lucky recipients?

The lovely screenprinted fabric from Amy could, of course, be used to wrap presents, but she is not giving everything away and will bide her time because one day she will be able to sit in her newly completed, but sadly neglected, sewing room and stitch, stitch, stitch.

She will use tea towels for wrapping paper, though, and has them sitting all ready in her present basket (you will have to go here to look at them because they are Top Secret).

Little mirrors from Jenny Arnott
And look, there is another enticing little package from Thirtyfive Flowers (who are a new favourite shop on Etsy if anyone cares to buy her a present), together with the perfect little presents for a Young Person to give friends and teachers, which come from Jenny Arnott Textiles.

Word art from Mrs Eliot Books

She never realized until now that knitting was an addiction. I am in recovery, she says to herself, I will have more time for reading.

Motivational apparatus from Dottie Angel

She will be back in a day or two with a giveaway which is a cheering thought.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Three little mades, and some noble thoughts

Some of us in this world are blessed with tenacity, determination, and an iron will - those people who get on and succeed in getting things done regardless of the hurdles in front of them, or the chaos around them.

Unfortunately, I don't seem to be one of them, however much I aspire to such nobility of purpose. I need the spectre of Old Father Time scything at my heels, or Nurse Matilda wagging her finger in the corner, to counteract my slackness and love of displacement activities.

So I am pleased to say that the Polka Dot Daze Christmas Challenge seems to be offering me the right amount of swish and swipe to keep me on track for a relatively happy Christmas. My weekend disappeared in a maze of furniture moving and rearranging domestic artefacts, and one book project arrived hard on the heels of another - normally this would be excuse enough for Christmas crafting to back up merrily towards Christmas Eve.

But that jolly little email arrived in my inbox reminding me that Tuesday was progress day (I know, I'm late, but better a day late now than in December, and I really do have a Valid Excuse, ready stamped and dated, as I didn't finish until after the gloaming yesterday, and then it was really too gloomy to take pretty pictures). [By the way, if the parenthetical comment becomes longer than the initial sentence, is that a case for reversing the brackets? Hart's Rules is silent on this.]

So here are my three little mades, all in a row (that'll fool you, Mr Google, and no, I didn't mean maids), lined up ready to take their curtseys.

Once again I used Michelle's super-duper Pleated Pouches pattern, (the ones in yesterday's post were the Large size, these are Small (and there is also a Tall which I have not yet tried, but you never know)), and I have to say that I am rather pleased with the result, since they have received the Princess Bunchy Seal of Approval, which is not lightly bestowed. The fabrics are a selection from Annie's Farm Stand by Holly Holderman/Lakehouse Dry Goods, together with some buttons from my Grandma's button box.

And I am also happy to inform you that the passage of twenty-four hours meant all the difference to my relationship with my Ten O'Clock Scarf - we are now quite reconciled, because I took the momentous decision of throwing kilowatts to the wind and knitting with the lights on (low-energy, of course). 

Or it may be because knitting with Skein Queen Plushness in Plumcious is an activity so pleasant that the result cannot help but be pleasing.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Thrift and November; or, I'd rather be making and creating

How are things in your neck of the woods? Here it has been one of those grim, grey November days when the sky feels low enough to touch and the world sapped of light. I found myself much in need of the Making Winter cheer of Emma's lovely mosaics.

Dreaming of sunshine and sofa time
And contrary to Nancy's good advice, I have spent the day inside slaving over 103,000 words and trying to find somewhere in the house light enough to be able to read without turning the lights on. Like so many thrifty practices, there is a downside, and in this case my efforts at being thrifty have led to collateral damage in terms of aching eyes (not such a good idea) and a certain weariness of mien.

A happy place
I should also have remembered my previous attempts at knitting in the dark and not tried to be thrifty on the illumination front as last night this led to my ripping back my Ten O'Clock scarf twice over (and it is a very simple pattern, honestly), so that all I have to show for an evening's work is one small repeat (possibly thrifty, definitely stressful).

So what on earth am I going to show and tell in my Christmas Challenge weekly progress report? Oh dear . . . One week in and I am already falling behind. Not a good start.

Unbirthday presents
Rather than revving up for the smooth run to Christmas I have been sidetracked by a sudden influx of remunerative work, which of course is a Good Thing, but the trouble with paid work I find is that it eats into knitting and stitching time something rotten, which is quite a dreadful thing to say, but as part of the decluttering involved in redecorating, I have had to give up the dark and gloomy yarn cupboard in the corner of the sitting room, and now my yarn stash is awaiting a new home. Which means it is sitting on the bed behind my desk smiling and calling to me as I sit at the computer ostensibly working and trying not to roam the corridors of Ravelry looking for free patterns (thrifty? Hmm . . .).

I made them all by myself
And there have been unbirthday presents (not to mention birthday presents). I have a habit of being so pleased with myself when I make something presentable that I cast around for someone to give it to, so my two Pleated Pouches (the pattern is from here) rather than remaining in stock for jolly old Yuletide have found their way to new homes, the flowery one as a thank you for being a friend to Princess Bunchy, and the spotty one as a thank you for my dear Mamma.

Fun with velcro
But all is not lost - I have finished one book today, and with luck the next one won't arrive until the next day, and maybe even the sun will shine tomorrow, and I can sit and knit and sew to my heart's content, and who knows? Perhaps I may have some lovely Christmas presents to show you tomorrow . . .

Stitch, stitch, stitch . . .?

Credits: sofa pincushion and My Happy Place fabric from Amy at During Quiet Time; fabric for Pleated Pouches - Tanya Whelan Grand Revival Ava Rose.


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