Sunday, 14 May 2017

SPRING!



I'm late again, aren't I? I just don't seem to get myself together these days. Ah well, I suppose better late than never. Easter has come and gone, and our weather here in West Norfolk has been changeable to say the least; we've had dull, overcast, spotty-rainy days, bright sunshine but bitterly cold days, and, occasionally, bright sunny days which has warmed the cockles of our hearts. But that's what living in the UK is all about - variable weather!  And grumbling about it - it's a national characteristic!
So let me jump straight in and update you on what I've been doing.

What's on my plate?


I am having a THIRD attempt at keeping a sourdough starter alive! Two very kind friends have, in the past, given me a portion of their long-lived 'babies'. Which I proceeded to kill-off within a couple of weeks. Both of them! So I had given up sourdough bread making. However, my friend Blanche - whose wedding we attended last March - bakes regularly, and as we were going to stay with her to celebrate their first anniversary, I wondered whether she could let me have some starter from her very successful batch. She did, and I am the proud guardian of Doris, a healthy, bubbling starter who has improved each time I bake - only had one real disaster where the loaves over-proved and came out like flat bark-cakes!

What's in the garden? Sorry, the light wasn't very good when I took these photographs.





The garden is looking quite good, we've been enjoying lots of lovely chard and i've planted some more. I've put celeriac and several varieties of salad leaves in the raised beds, and I'm about to sow some vegetable seeds to go into the cold frame. Early potatoes are in their sacks. Oh! And some Jerusalem artichokes, much to Jim's disgust! And look  - the lovely Welsh poppies, given most generously to me by my blogging friend Dc, from Frugal in Norfolk  blog. They have popped up and are so beautiful - thank you so much Dc! The heifers are in the nursery field next door, and often come to look over the wall/fence when we are in the garden. And up on the summer house roof the cock-pheasant holds court - he had THREE young admiring hens in the garden the other day - as long as they leave my fresh young leaves alone they are welcome.

What's on my sewing table?

I stitch with friends once a month, and have to confess that this is probably the only time I work on my colour wash hexagons, so it is a slow job, but that doesn't matter, does it? I still have many patches to put together, but I'm beginning to get one of the larger pieces squared up, because I need to get it into shape soon. Still enjoying working with these lovely fabrics, they cheer me up!

What's on my hook?



Well, my Moorland Blanket (Attic 24 pattern)  is plodding into the final rows - at long last! I'm on the 'sky' now, and then I've got the 'ends' to weave in and the border to hook. I was desperate to begin this blanket but had a few false starts  - like many people, so I understand. And it is SO BIG! To be honest, I'm hooking to get it finished now, rather than enjoying the journey (as they say).


The "solid granny squares" are growing in number and I've sewn several strips together. This is going to be a 'snuggle blanket' for grandson Fraser. When the Moorland is finished I can get cracking on one for his big brother Dylan too.


This is an accidental throw - begun with left-over 4-ply and some fine Noro yarn. I seem to have amassed a fair amount of 4-ply so this will go into this throw which began as a way to use up bits and pieces. I don't know where it will go, or how long it will take to finish, but I'm enjoying hooking on it for the odd half-hour here and there.

What's on my needles?
Yes, you heard me - I have become a KNITTER! And a SOCK KNITTER at that! I won't dwell on the huge learning curve that has taken place, but I've wanted to knit stripy socks for quite some time now, and I took the plunge.


First pair… learned lots on these two socks, tried various types of needles and fought the good fight with FIVE double pointed needles at once, which does not float my boat! I much prefer the circular needles which I've taught myself to use. So this pair is a little mismatched but I don't care I love 'em!


Couldn't wait to cast on the second pair, and decided to knit them concurrently - after a fashion. Here I've int the heel flap and begun the turn on one and just catching up on the leg on the second. When these are done I want to try a cable stitch sock…. and a triangular scarf on the circulars too.


I also joined a small group of women who knit for charity - blankets for the homeless, clothes and soft toys for a local Family Refuge, and tiny woolly hats for prem babies. I'm knitting squares for a blanket , because I wanted to just be really relaxed and unstressed about my knitting time here. A couple of hours twice a month isn't too much to ask is it?

I have to confess to playing very little music this last month, I've felt distinctly averse to picking up my instruments I don't know why. But it is the session at our pub this week so I'll be there and playing the melodeon so perhaps that will nudge me back into music-mode. It's not like me, but I haven't even been able to listen to music recently. How strange.

So there we are, I was amazed to find that I have only posted once before in 2017! I can't promise when the next one will be, but I hope to make it reasonably soon! Until then, keep smiling!






Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Winter Warmers



Brrrrrrr! Actually here in west Norfolk UK we aren't doing too badly with the weather, and today it is dry, no rain sleet or snow, but it is dull dull dull and I am COLD!!!!!!!! So food has been a great cheerer-upper, both the cooking of it and the eating of it. Also I have spent hours with a crochet-hook and yarn in my hands, hooking away like a mad woman. Some stitching too - bizarrely I am making paper-pieced hexagons. Not a lot of music playing, to be honest, just not in the mood for it. I am in the throes of post-Christmas ennui and finding it difficult to do anything which I'm not feeling passionate about at the moment.

So, here we go with some photographs of warming activities.


A wondrous smoked fish risotto. I used the poaching liquid - milk - to cook the rice, a bit unusual I guess for risotto - but it was luscious!


This is a stuffed and roasted pork loin. Well, two pork loins actually. The recipe was one I pinched after we watched the Hairy Bikers Comfort Food episode on television. It's a bit of a faff, and not something to whip up every weekend, bit it was delicious, went a long long way, and really is a bit of a show-stopper. Great for serving up to a bunch of friends!



A stuffing of fresh white breadcrumbs, chopped onion, stem ginger, garlic, eating apple and some of the syrup from the stem ginger jar really sets the very lean tenderloin off. I served it with a sauce made from the pan juices, ginger wine, and cream. No low-fat rubbish in this house!

What's off my hook?


This lovely (though I say it myself!) chevron shawl has been a delight to make. The pattern just tootles along, very relaxing and soothing. I made it with three 50 gram balls of DK  - pretty fine DK . Then I thought no, it will work better as a shawl than a scarf, so hooked another three balls. I love the colours in this variegated yarn, which is Rico Creative Melange DK in Pastel Mix. 

What's ON my hook?



I'm using up all the left-over Stylecraft yarn in my basket - I have a LOT of it! I'm making oodles of these solid granny squares and stitching together not randomly but not too concerned with clashes of colour . It's a great little  "as you go along" project, when you just want to do something un-challenging and you can make a square in no time… they all add up. I've no idea when this will be finished, and I don't really care. 

What's NOT on my hook?

Well, I blush to admit…. after my great enthusiasm to get cracking on the Moorland Blanket from Lucy art  Attic24, that I haven't begun mine yet. I had such a battle doing the tension swatch ; the actual pattern wasn't the problem, but the starts were weird, and I went wrong each time, so my finishes were incorrect too. The middle bits were OK because I fudged it, but I can't start the blanket in this manner, I need to crack the entire pattern first. I note that MANY people have been frogging row after row of the blanket - that's a lot of frogging! So not just me. Lucy assures us that she did too, and that the pattern gets easier as you go on, and I'm sure that's true. But I can't raise the enthusiasm to get going knowing `I am probably going to have to be ripping it out , maybe more than once, before it clicks. I feel very guilty. And I have to say I have NEVER had a problem with any of  Lucy's patterns before, she writes an excellent tutorial. No idea why this one is so difficult.

What's on my sewing table?

Well, I had no intentions of making another quilt. And certainly not a hexagon one. But I caught sight of some of my gorgeous fabric which I had been 'saving' for a special project (unspecified!). And I thought - why am I hanging on to these fabrics? At my age I need to be using it up! And stitching away at a few hexies really appealed, you can do a few , or work at the different stages, cutting paper templates, cutting fabric shapes, stitching a few together….. and so on. Very undemanding I guess. So the fabric I picked up was the Kaffe Fasset collection, and my even older Liberty Lawns collection which I've had knocking about for about 25 years. I've supplemented these fabrics with others of similar pattern. It was so liberating cutting into them!




I had a small amount of the bright roses fabric so cut six hexies from this, and made six granny's flower garden blocks. However, I didn't want that to be the dominant pattern in the quilt, so have softened the effect by attempting a random colour-wash effect around the granny patches. NO IDEA how this will pan-out, as I have no plan. But using these gorgeous fabrics is such a joy, it is really warming me up!

Working in these projects has brought lots of colour into my daily life, which is something I crave. Now I just need to find a sudden passion for exercise and I might feel a bit fitter. Until next time!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Advent Activity




Well, I am now officially an OAP! (For non-UK folks that means Old Age Pensioner, what you Americans  call Senior Citizens -so much nicer!) I was invited, along with my friend Pat, to attend a school band concert and afternoon tea "For the OAPs". Pat's two granddaughters were playing and the standard of musicianship is very high at their school. I actually played BINGO! Not that I won anything but it was a bit of fun, and the music was brilliant. SO, no school Nativity plays for me but I did get into the Christmas Spirit somewhat, at last! And at home the decorations - though minimal - are in place and a very tiny tree is dressed and lit up.



There are a few more presents under the tree now, and our grandson Chris has just been round with his, so it's looking far more Christmassy. I haven't wrapped Jim's yet - his guitar hard gig-bag will NOT be wrapped, maybe a bit of tinsel round the neck!

What's off my hook?

I've hooked about eight blankets or throws, and a couple of cushion covers. One scarf, with the Noro yarn was a cobbled together of two pieces of crochet which resulted in a very uneven shape! It was just rows and rows of trebles, made up as I hooked along. But so far everything has been very simple. I wanted to try something a little more challenging and so loved the look of a chevron scarf - well, almost a shawl - on Pinterest, that I checked out the free pattern on Ravelry. I downloaded the pattern by Dena Stelly, and began the 32 chain foundation. I was quite intimidated at first as it was a quite sparsely worded pattern which left a couple of doubts in my mind - due to my inexperience, not Dena's pattern. However, once the chains and the first row were completed it was plain sailing. I used Rico Creative Melange yarn which is DK but feels more like 4-ply, so I used a 3.5 hook. I'm really pleased with this skinny scarf, it snuggles round the neck beautifully - I might even stitch up the ends and turn it into an"Infinity" or Mobius loop cowl.



Following on the success of the first Melange scarf I hooked a larger foundation chain (62 chains) in a different colour way of the same yarn. People who are used to me working in very bright shades might be surprised to learn I CAN do pale and interesting! The longer chain is SO satisfying to hook - you chevron away for longer before turning and get into a lovely rhythm. I actually feel so relaxed and happy when I'm crocheting, perhaps it should be prescribable  by your GP! The shades haven't photographed very well, but you can see it on the left here. For these subsequent scarves, I used a size 4mm hook, and I like the slightly looser, lacier effect.



The one in the centre is a green and purple colour way which is lovely and I have earmarked this one as a present for someone, but I need to make it up into a cowl.

As I had two more colour-ways I made shorter scarves with the blue and the raspberry shades - these will be cowls, I think. Here are all the scarves folded up.



What's ON my hook?

I saw a pair of WONDERFUL fingerless mittens, sold by Anthropologie, and now sold out - even at the price you'd pay there! The lovely Emma on Potter and Bloom blog has put a youtube video up to show how she has made a similar pair, using granny squares. It looks very simple so I'm about to have a go. The central motif is a puffy flower which I've not made before, so I've learned a new stitch too. I'll keep you posted on how I get on with them! Meanwhile here's as far as I've got!


The centre is actually pistachio green, not lime as it looks here. Greens somehow don't translate well with my camera, sadly.

So, in the run-up to Christmas, that's what I've been getting up to. I know lots of you have been feverishly decorating, making jams and marmalade and puddings and mince pies, and rushing round from one school concert to the next Nativity Play - but life is quieter for us. So whether you celebrate Christmas or not, enjoy the holiday and festive spirit, we can all embrace that, I think!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

OCEAN



A very quick and short post today ….. I have finished my latest blanket, a gift for my younger son. It's called OCEAN because that is where he loves to be. I wove in the ends and added a couple of rows for a narrow border this afternoon, and am SO happy with it! I think I have managed to complete this in under three weeks. I know some people crochet much faster than that but usually a blanket this size would take me a few months!


Not my usual choice of colours, being neither very bright nor pale and interesting, but I think it's just right for a chap who likes the beach and the sea - what do you think?


I now have some new wool which is making me drool. I just have to decide what the next project is going to be. I don't really need another blanket  - even though Ocean will be posted far away - but I have some lovely patterns which have been calling to me! Though I'd like to do a shawl, if I could find a pattern not too difficult for someone who has most only crocheted throws and cushion covers. The wool is Double Knitting but is very fine, and is gently variegated. I'll show you when I decide what I'm going to make with it!


I expect you'll all be getting frantically busy in the run up to Christmas. I am happy to report we have actually got the decorations (very restrained) up and the tree lit up with fairy lights. All looking fairly festive here. Hope you are feeling the Christmas spirit, and not feeling too stressed out with organising things. I've read quite a few blog posts, and a number of articles recently urging people to not get drawn into the over the top hype, and then feeling inadequate compared to the 'people' in the adverts. Remember everyone will experience some stress, some joy, some disappointment and some happiness. I hope you have more of the good stuff than the not so good stuff!







Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Colouricious!



I know. There's no such word. But there should be! I am feeling quite intoxicated by colour, at the moment. I bought a book called Rainbow Crochet Blankets by Amanda Perkins, and I have truthfully been drooling each time I opened it! Her use of colour is masterful despite the blankets being fairly un-complex (mostly). She uses her own hand-dyed 4-ply yarn though her company The Natural Dye Studio was dissolved in 2015, and you can no longer purchase that yarn. She does, however, give a variety of suitable alternatives in the book. I just can't wait to get cracking on something from within those colour-saturated pages!


However, I shall have to wait a while as I'm hooking away madly trying to finish OCEAN, the blanket I'm making for my son Kit. (It's alright, he sussed out that it was for him, darn it - I was sure he didn't read my Face Book statuses!)


It's coming along nicely, and I am enjoying hooking it, but I'm going to have to put a double border round it in two blues, to balance the colours a little better - at the moment I feel the greens dominate, which is not the effect I was intending.


These pretty little beauties are just two-row grannies hooked from a stash of cotton yarn I found a few weeks ago lurking in the sewing room! It is half Rico Creative Cotton, and half something else which I've no label for, and it splits a bit so not as nice to use as the Rico. But I really love the shades, they remind me of a spring flower garden. I think I need another four then I can join them and make a cushion cover. Hmmm, what to make the back from…..


Another chance to see the two Mine and Jim's Summer House blankets, these are made in a Rico cotton blend too, can't remember the name I'm sorry. They do look lovely draped over the arm chairs down there and we both enjoy wrapping them round our legs as the weather has got colder.


For those of you who haven't seen it before, this is the first of my two Ripple Blankets, made from Lucy Attic 24's pattern. Once you get the hang of rippling it is so soothing to work. I'm wondering now whether I ought to have made Ocean using ripple. Ah well, it works well with the two treble patterns I think.


And last but not least, this gorgeous - though I say it myself - scarf I hooked using some beautiful Noro 4-ply yarn. I just love it. Though I have to confess it is cobbled together from two uneven pieces so it has to be draped in a very artistic fashion so you don't notice the wavy sides!

So as you can see, I am heavily in love with crochet at the moment. That's way it goes with me. I'm all over Facebook with it, and have managed to snare a few people into becoming addicts too. I am spending far too much time reading crochet blogs now and I have discovered the many wonderful crochet podcasts. Don't go there unless you want to develop a very late night watching habit! I hope you've enjoyed the new work and the trip down memory lane with the older stuff. Happy hooking until next time!

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Crochety!



The sun streaming through the windows encouraged me out into the garden to take some autumn photographs - clogged up with leaves as it is! Still a few summer herbs, and good old geranium. The bird house gets used as a perching post, but not for nesting, and the large bug hotel appears empty, but the one Jim made  has three or four residents I think.


     Hanging on to my parsley for grim death! Of course, when the frost hits, that will be it for the year.


           I'm hoping the chards - white and rainbow, will see us through winter, along with the kale.


                                Back of the cottage in the late afternoon autumn sunshine.



                                              Really pleased the bug house is being used!


                                                   And still the cranesbill survives!

I've really got back into crochet the last month or so; perhaps it's the weather! Lovely to cosy up with a basket of gorgeous wool and a crochet hook when the evenings are dark and the temperature drops. Colour-schemes buzzing round my head all the time.

I'm very excited that my wool has arrived for Lucy's (Attic 24)  latest  "Moorland" blanket, though it has to sit on the back burner until January when she begins the Crochet Along pattern on her blog. I haven't even opened the bag in case I'm tempted to dive in and use the wool!

I do have a fair amount of Stylecraft yarn which I've just boosted with a small delivery, in order to begin my own latest blanket which I am calling "OCEAN". I'm using the Lucy pattern from her Cosy Stripe Blanket, but have come up with my own colour scheme. A little like her Moorland idea, I used the natural colours of an outdoors scene. I wanted to depict the colours from the grassy dunes, down to the beach, and into the ocean. I haven't used a photograph, and my colours repeat as a block rather than as Lucy has done hers following the vertical striations of the photograph. (If that sounds skew-iff,  I mean the striations are horizontal in a vertical context.) I think that's what I mean anyway.


This is my "Cosy Stripe" blanket, using Lucy's pattern and colour scheme. This is our favourite of all the Lucy blankets I've made. It works up very quickly and soothingly.


OK so this is MY colour scheme for "OCEAN" It begins with four shades of green, depicting the grassy dunes, the sea-buckthorn, samphire and other seashore grasses. Then comes the dry sand at the top of the beach, followed by the damper sand closer to the sea. Then comes the almost white surf, and four more shades of blue as the water gets deeper and further away from the shore.  This 'colour repeat' is only 22 rows whereas Lucy's moorland depicts the entire vertical slice of her photograph, and is one single scheme with no repeat. (although colours are repeated obviously).


Here I'm just beginning the first repeat. I love all these shades, so am excited afresh each time I change colour! "OCEAN" is intended as a gift for someone special, but no more about that just yet.


As a break from the blanket I'm using up all those little balls of left-overs to make solid granny squares. NO IDEA what I'm going to do with them, but they are building up nicely into a little pile; I'll just keep going with them until I have sufficient to do something with.


Each little ball makes roughly four or five squares. More left-overs will accrue, so obviously this is an on-going project.


                   More greens required - and some shades of red too, I think. Time will tell.

Rummaging through the sewing room, I found a basket of multicoloured granny squares which I began years and years ago - I'd forgotten all about them. They are a pretty disparate crowd, but I have thoughts about adding a couple of rows and pulling them together with one or two colours, so they will blend more easily. Again, no real idea of the outcome, but there will be enough of them for a throw.


The light in my sewing room wasn't the best when I took this shot; the squares are much brighter than they appear here. And of course, greens never seem to come out properly on the blog, for some reason!

No other stitchery going on at the moment, I am obsessing about crochet - and you know me - one obsession at a time! But of course I am cooking and reading, and even doing a little gentle walking! Yes! Me! I hope you are all finding something  lovely to obsess about and are enjoying yourselves.

EDIT :  APOLOGY!!!!  Whilst publishing the comments for the previous post, I inadvertently clicked on the "DELETE" instead of "PUBLISH" but I cannot for the life of me remember whose comment it was. Please, if you commented and haven't seen it posted, let me know - I never delete a comment and would hate someone to think I have whisked their kind comment away without publishing it!