Thursday, 18 September 2014

Hey dude!

A lovely sunny afternoon gave me the chance to do a little bit more of Paul. This was following our nice long dog walk... you can see the dogs in the second photo but thankfully you can't smell them. Eau de Pond with faint undertones of fox poo.

Paul is looking a bit strange with his long body and absence of arms, not to mention his unstuffed face. His eyes look low but I swear that is where the pattern suggests they go. When his head is stuffed I will be able to do his rosy cheeks and then he'll start to look a little cuter.

A spare basket is where he is living for the time being, with a scarf thrown over the top to hide him from nosy people. I'm only managing a short spell on him every day. The stitches are small and I have quite big hands and the thumb and forefinger grip on a 2.5mm hook gets painful, but I do love this intricately stitched look. I've not done anything like it before, and after Kira and Lupo I may not do anything like it again!

In other crochet news I've completed one Christmas gift and have more on the go. I'd like to be sharing the finished one with you now but the recipient reads my blog so it will have to stay secret for now. I can tell you that it was made using a gorgeous alpaca yarn that was very nice to work with. I purchased the pattern via Etsy and it suggested the time taken to make it would be approximately ten hours. I've no idea whether it took me that or more but it was a very manageable project considering I am making two and have left my gift making much later than I would have liked. I will take some photo's and share them with you after they've been unwrapped.

autumn walks with Harvey and Riley...

It's funny how we shift and adapt to the seasons, sometimes without even realising. Over the summer I favoured certain dog walking routes and now I seem to have returned to those I favoured during the winter. There's not much logic to it. Perhaps the summer ones were a little shorter because it was hot. Perhaps the autumn/winter routes are full of interesting trees, fields, hedgerows. I've already harvested some crab apples that no-one seems to have spotted. Harvey and Riley have harvested thistle heads and grass seed mainly, they transport them home in their long curly ears. I suppose that's the gun dog design for protecting the inner ear from such things. When I had my two other Springers in the New Forest they used to collect mainly heather in their ears and that was a lot easier to brush out.

There are plenty of rivers and streams on these local walks. In fact this last week or so the environmental agency have been dredging them and cutting down all the stuff growing on the riverbanks. It's revealed a network of burrows, most likely water voles. It has also uncovered a whole host of interesting smells according to the dogs who have been up and down the muddy banks with their noses doing overtime.

Eventually we come to a nature reserve which is really one of the area's best kept secrets. It was created by three sisters who bequeathed the land to the community when they died. Volunteers have planted all sorts of saplings on newly acquired neighbouring land which have grown considerably in just two years. They've also introduced lots of wild flowers, most of which I've missed having been busy elsewhere for most of the summer (cricket mainly!). There are hundreds of flowers which have now gone to seed and I don't think they'd miss a few seeds would they? The top half of our garden has huge trees down each side which prevent the grass from growing healthily. We've been thinking of introducing wild flowers but it's an optimistic thought... the dogs have no respect for plants.

Autumn is most definitely my favourite season, what's not to love? Perfect temperatures, beautiful colours, seed heads galore, blue skies, muddy dogs...

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Puur Haken... Pure Crochet

There must be a bit of a shortage of good crochet books. When I browse through Amazon to see if there's anything new and inspiring I get the same old titles. So when I saw this one on the 'My Rose Valley' blog I thought I'd give it a go. Yes it's in Dutch and no I don't speak Dutch. I do know someone who speaks fluent Dutch though, but in the meantime my ability to read crochet charts or diagrams is improving all the time. The charts in this book have handy row one and row two etc markers which the Italian ones didn't.

It is a very dark  and overcast day here in Lincolnshire so the photo's are a bit rubbish. I have my eye on those place mats which would look rather good in our rustic kitchen. (It's so rustic we still have bare  plaster on two walls!) I like the aran style scarf which uses front post trebles but not in a way I've tried yet (diagonally?). The egg cosies are on the to do list too since we've been getting through trays of 36 from the farm up the road. Why, my sixteen year old daughter has finally learnt how to boil on egg! Despite that though she still only has them for breakfast if M happens to be home and offers. Lazy.

There are several projects that look simple but effective. This is a book I would have loved when I was just starting out in crochet. I could have tackled the simpler projects but still had some for when I'd learnt how to do front and back post trebles, join as you go, puff stitches and bobble stitches etc. There's a simple floor rug using t shirt type yarn with a simple bobble stitch. I need to spend a weekend cutting up Jake's old t shirts. The last time I sorted out his chest of drawers was last year when he was 12, I came across a whole load of age 9-10 t shirts which he'd grown out of when he was about 7. He hates to part with things, I think he's going to end up like those hoarders you see on tv!

Progress on Paul is still happening. The neck and the beginning of the head was a bit of a nightmare. The pattern writer says she wrote the pattern for beginners. Nooooo way! You'd have to be a darn good beginner to get through this.

Friday, 12 September 2014


A progress report on Paul! He's a bit fiddly. I suggest if you make one try and choose a wool that's not 'splitty'. I'm not sure what the technical term for that is! Trial and error maybe. This Phildar Phil Folk 50 stuff is hairy and splitty (70% wool) so it's a bit tricky to handle with a 2.5mm hook but not impossible.

I am forcing myself to do at least a few rows a day so that progress is made. I've only roughly stuffed him at the moment so he's a bit lumpy in places. Stuffing is an art form in itself I think. In the meantime I keep marvelling at the tiny tiny stitches. Marvelling through reading glasses that is.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Lalylala Paul...

If you crochet you can't have missed these. Lalylala. If you have, just google 'lalylala crochet' and you'll see what you've been missing. They've been around for nearly four years I think. That's before I learnt how to crochet and roughly how long it's taken me to convince myself I could make one!

Ella gave me the nudge. She spotted them whilst I was browsing for crochet patterns on the Internet and immediately requested a 'Paul the Mushroom'. I did protest that making a toy with a 2.5mm hook was a bit like eating baked beans with a cocktail stick but she reassured me I would be able to make it.

The pattern was emailed within 24 hours but the wool took a little longer to source. The suggested sock yarns are not easy to get hold of in the UK so I had to find a range of sock yarn or 4ply or anything requiring a 2.5mm hook with as many of the colours in the range as possible. I'm sure wool from different brands would work too, I just wanted to be sure it would all be the same guage. It's always tricky choosing colours from a screen and the brown is a lot lighter than I'd imagined and the green is more sagey than grassy but I think he'll look ok.

Even though E has chosen Paul and knows I'm making him, he will still be made in secret whilst she's at school and squirelled away for a special birthday present in December. He comes with both a mushroom hat and a toadstool hat. I'm glad she's chosen this one, he looks fairly straightforward, and the 2.5mm hook isn't as bad as I thought it would be. I quite like Kira and Lupo myself. There are a few finished ones on Etsy but they charge a small fortune for them, no doubt because they take a while to make. Just as well I've got a few months before her birthday then!

Monday, 8 September 2014

GF baking day...

Ah Monday! It finally came. Both children back at school. Peace.

I'm not so chuffed to be transporting them to school once more (I thought we were done with all that at the end of primary school). Whilst it is a legal requirement to be at school until you are eighteen now (I think apprenticeships might be the exception) you suddenly get treated like an adult when it comes to getting there. J still has his free bus pass but E's bus pass to the same school would cost a whopping £454! Bit silly. So, it's cheaper to take them both. Rather tedious though since the route goes past three primary schools and I end up crawling at 15mph for most of it.

I've eaten some stuff I shouldn't have eaten lately and pretty much got myself back to square one. I ignored most of the problems until they became a bigger problem and then had a small strop about the lack of tasty gf food. One of the big issues is bread. M has baked a large number of gf bread recipes for me and none have come out remotely edible. So whilst moping around this morning I suddenly thought to contact my pal, the genius when it comes to all things gf, Tess. T suggested scones. I googled 'simple recipe for gf scones' and found one that used ingredients I already had. Half an hour later and they were done. They tasted better than they looked, in fact they tasted great, and what's more there is scope to bung in some cheese next time. Happy days! So sod the bread, I shall stick to scones from now on.

The other thing I made was a gluten free oaty, sticky date thing. It's a layer of boiled to syrup dates in between two layers of oaty stuff. It smells far too buttery for my liking although I used dairy free butter. I may have to drown it in custard.

Tomorrow I'm going to use up three ripe bananas and make sugar free flapjack, and a batch of cheese scones so I'll be stuffing myself with all of this and not missing tasty bread at all (who am I kidding?).

Apart from baking I also spent my first back to school day walking the dogs. It was perfect weather. The tractors were out in force ploughing the fields for the next round of crops. I hope they plant something more useful than cattle grade broad beans. I have been known to come home from a dog walk with a pocket full of fresh peas!

Our garden is full of Red Admiral butterflies at the moment. Masses of them and I could only manage to snap one in situ. Every morning there are twenty or so on our beech hedgerow. They quite like the bamboo too. We've never had this many before, they flutter round while I do a spot of crochet on the deck.

Finally, just before picking up time I managed to squeeze in a film I'd recorded the other day. This guy (Audie Murphy) I usually see in cowboy films but this one was a WWII film and as ever I kept my eyes open for crochet! See that blanket? It's joined with some kind of lattice stitch. Any colour combination seems to go with crochet blankets!

So, a lovely back to school day. Oops I forgot to do any housework. Oh well, that can wait.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Random Ramblings and The Fantastic Forties...

I have a brief window of peace today. I've waved M and J off. J dragging a cricket bag large enough to sleep in. M forgetting his special scoring pens, he will be cross about that, he is very particular about the way he scores.

E is meeting a friend in town. A male friend. Today we have reached that rather awkward milestone when your daughter brings home a boyfriend. Oh boy. Not only have I no back up, and by that I mean socially and a back up pair of ears, I'm also part way through trashing the dining room in order to get to every single last book in there (did I mention it was two million?!). We have a kitchen which is half done (but hey the sink is plumbed in at last) and two stinking dogs from their early morning twenty lengths in the nearest boggiest river. I'm out of scented candles so I've had to light an incense stick. He will surely expect me to appear in hippy attire with a woven band round my forehead.

In between stressful situations like the boyfriend and the bookshelves I will be finishing off another oatmeal cowl. The last one was 'gifted' as they say across the pond. I'm modifying a free pattern I found and will share the details on that soon. It was one of those leisurely projects that whips up in a day, leaving the decision about the final few rows for at least another week.

I've also done a HUGE amount of surfing online for vintage style cardigans or sweaters. I've concluded that in the old days they pretty much crocheted with dental floss and a toothpick. Even 4 ply wool is too thin for me but imagine doing an intricate sweater in 2 ply! No thank you. There are some sensible knitted versions to be found (thanks T) but my wrists won't thank me if I start a knitted one.

I eventually found a crochet cardigan pattern which appears to use something close to DK. The suggested hook size was G, which roughly translates to 4.5mm according to online sources. You can see in the photo that it's called the Americana Cardigan; 'a sweater to live in will be such a help in your wardrobe..bejewel it for an evening and dancing, wear it with a dicky for everyday or team it with slacks for active service.' Well slacks it is then! Active service clearly means, mopping floors, bathing dirty dogs, sorting books...

I've worked up a few rows just to see whether the pattern is decipherable. I've chosen random wool leftovers which will run out before I'm done with the pattern sequence but in the spirit of Make Do and Mend I'm using up what I've got to see whether it produces a wearable item and whether the size might need adjusting before I purchase the 400g the pattern calls for (doesn't sound nearly enough to me!). I thought the colour combo was vaguely vintage but Ella thought it was revolting! So helpful.

There is a reason for this garment. I've told a few close family and the reactions have been decidedly luke warm. Perhaps only Mum 'gets it'. I do wish my Nan were here to advise, she'd also get it, very much so. I'm going to be cough, forty cough five, next month and I wanted to do something fun. I've always liked the forties look and fancied a forties makeover! From 45 to 1945. Yep, I know, it's slightly mad.

Mum has big rollers, Ella has bright red lipstick...I may even have a forties style cardigan by then. Do you think that raffia crochet handbag would pass for forties? M keeps pulling funny faces about it and I just say that once I've done my cardigan I need to measure him up for a fairisle tank top. That shut him up!