Tuesday, 9 August 2016

A simple break...










It's very good advice to have something in your diary or on your calendar to look forward to. It's a shame I don't take that advice more often! When it comes to short breaks and holidays we are definitely more likely to be lastminute.com and although I love spontaneity I've also come to need that little box on the calendar to count down to.

The children had their own adventure this year and visited Cornwall for the first time. It wasn't so much of a trek along the south coast when I was growing up but it's now a major north to south expedition. However, they made it (with Mum clocking up a silly amount of driving miles) and loved it. J in particular enjoyed surfing lessons. E liked the laid back vibe (I knew she would). They visited the Eden project and Lost Gardens of Heligan amongst other places and generally made the most of it despite the lack of reliable sunshine.

Meanwhile M and I didn't want to waste a whole week to ourselves despite the fact that M still had work assignments in Wolverhampton, Derby, Liverpool and Sheffield. It made it rather challenging to figure out how to get a few days away in the caravan. I got the old fashioned road atlas out (I hate satnavs!) and figured out that Derbyshire would be an acceptable location for M to use as a base for work. From discussion and hasty booking of a site to leaving was approximately 24 hours!

We found a site near Ashbourne in Derbyshire which is an area neither of us knew very well. It was extremely popular with walkers and cyclists. I'd have preferred a less busy site with fewer amenities but you can't beat having everything to hand especially when you're in a caravan that hasn't been used for over a year. There were quite a few children running about which made Riley nervous so he barked at them which in turn made him seem quite unfriendly. One brother and sister weren't put off though and came and made friends with him which was really nice. He settled down after he'd made a few friends, he's a dog that doesn't like new places. Harvey is a dog who is clearly old before his time. He's like an old man who likes an uninterrupted afternoon nap so he'll snooze through anything.

We liked Ashbourne, although it's small it has a few nice coffee places and everything you need. Tissington is a chocolate box tourist village but it was a nice spot for (more) coffee and to buy some homegrown rhubarb. I like picking up eggs, honey and whatever people have in a little makeshift shops by their garden gate. The large bunch of rhubarb was only £1 and enough to last the whole week!

The week was spent in a very simple and relaxing way. We picked up food day by day, we read books, we took the dogs to nearby streams for walks and swims, we threw a few things in a basket for simple picnics, we visited a few places, not many, we fixed a few things in the caravan with the help of a parts shop nearby. We had Coca Cola in glass bottles with straws in a pub garden; a trip down memory lane! M was lucky and had two cancellations which meant more time to put his feet up.

I did take some crochet but after buying some groceries in Ashbourne on day one I spotted some unbleached cotton and decided to make myself a decent sized face cloth. I'd forgotten to bring one and M uses his all the time (a face cloth is so much easier with a tiny sink). The face cloth went well and it was nice working with cotton in the summer so I challenged myself to use up the rest of the ball. I ended up making a sunglasses pouch since mine were getting chucked in my basket or bag every day. With the tiny amount left I made a cotton bracelet. We have a man drawer in the caravan which happened to yield the perfect button for a fastening. 100g of cotton turned into three nice things and not a pattern in sight!

We both agreed how relaxing and therapeutic the week had been. We were even able to calmly discuss the problems that need addressing with our property at the moment and how M blames work for not being able to deal with them and equally how he won't part with his hard earned cash to pay someone else to deal with them. A kind of stalemate I think. When we got home several of the tasks we had discussed miraculously got done! Happy days.

From our pitch round the corner from the little camper pictured above I spent some time being discretely nosey observing the couple who had come to England with it. M obliged and took a crafty snap so that I could share it with you. I'm not sure if the photo gives a sense of scale, perhaps the bicycles help show how tiny it is. They towed it with a hatchback which also held the bikes on a cycle rack. Isn't it just amazing!? I love it. It's clearly a well thought out little unit with its pop up top for standing room inside and even a mesh fly screen for the door. I'd have loved to have had a peep inside. Can you see the clever clothes line with the two dangling socks?

This little Dutch caravan got me thinking about how nice it would be to have a much smaller caravan that I could manage to tow myself. I'm sure there are women out there who are happy and qualified to tow a twin axle whopper of a caravan but I'm not one of them! I'd have a go of course but I'm sure it would be stressful. M is an absolute genius at towing, I've held my breath and clenched my knuckles at some very tight entrances and along narrow country lanes and he's handled everything that comes his way. He does get annoyed if I grab the door handle in fear but that's fair enough.

A quick browse for little caravans old or new revealed that it's just another idea along with one day owning a campervan that isn't going to happen any time soon! Small doesn't equal cheap! Not only that but even the small ones would have issues with windy days which is a whole scenario I could live without. This led me to discover teardrop trailers (google it!). The benefits of a caravan/campervan type thing but without too much of a towing hassle. Think 5'x8' a single axle trailer... as Catherine Tate would say, 'I can do that!'

So, I've given M his next DIY challenge despite the fact the kitchen needs finishing off and his workshop still needs a roof. He's downloaded a template and cut it out of wood just so that we can see exactly what we are dealing with. It looks pretty darn small to me. We're pulling in favours and quotes from people M knows who can weld for a purpose built trailer. It's a pay as you go project and there's nothing hugely expensive to buy for it after the base itself so I think we might just have a tiny caravan by next April. That's the deadline I'm giving M; it's the start of the cricket season and I'd like it finished by then so I can at least remove myself from these four walls while every weekend is taken up with matches.

Without electrical hook up you can usually camp for a tenner or less per night. Although this camper will have the ability to hook up it would only be for charging phones and iPads and maybe switching the fridge/cooler from battery to mains like our caravan one does. For a short stay though everything can run from a leisure battery that recharges from the car on the way home. Unlike the caravan there will be virtually no setting up tasks. It will be a case of pitching up, unhitching and getting the chairs out. Ella already has her eye on it for next year's music festival!


Monday, 18 July 2016

Freedom!


When your child passes her driving test it is both exciting and terrifying in equal measures. On the one hand you join in with the jumps for joy (metaphorically, this knee isn't jumping anywhere for a while) and on the other it hits you like a tonne of bricks that she'll be hurtling down dual carriageways all on her own. Eek.

Another thing that hits you square on is the hike in insurance from having a learner driver on your policy to having a new driver. An additional payment of £625 thank you very much.

Then, round about day three when she's exhausted all the local places she can go to just because she can, and even picked up her brother from school, she comes to you and asks for ideas for a day out. Oh boy. I come up with anything within half an hour's drive while she rolls her eyeballs and says things like 'I can drive you know' and 'it won't be an adventure if it's only up the road'. Eventually one of my forty minutes away suggestions goes down well and craftily that makes sure she is only 15 minutes away from my parents.

All this and she knows the story well that I jumped in my car the day after I passed my test and toured the West Country and Cornwall with a friend for two weeks. Thankfully she has no such ambitions...yet.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Wheat stitch shopper...





Urgh! I've managed to get sidetracked again! I really hope we get to take the caravan away for a weekend soon, I'll pack the CAL blanket and nothing else so that it gets done. The joining method instructions have been released and in a few days time so will the border.

Though who could resist the challenge of this shopping tote pattern? Not me. It's like a good crossword, it keeps my brain ticking over. It was fairly straightforward once the set up rows were complete. Front post trebles are always a bit fiddly to start off in the round, especially when you need to increase by doing two fptr's into each fptr. M says he totally agrees! I'm not sure whether it was the colour of this project or the complexity that caught his eye. He seems naturally drawn to anything in the orange spectrum. I seem to be naturally repelled by orangey things. I must have tried to convince myself that this recycled cotton yarn was a rustic terracotta when I bought it. It is a bit of a duller tone in real life but even so I had planned to make it up and then throw it in the washing machine with an indigo machine dye. Once finished I remembered some bag handles I bought in a Rome market a couple of years ago. I think they go with the terracotta and might also be sturdier than the crochet straps given in the pattern.

I'll have to call it my 'fancy shopper' since it's a lot fancier than my usual taste. Heck, it's colourful, patterned but not too girly thank goodness! I think they call this 'wheat stitch' which is rather nice since we have millions of acres of it growing in Lincolnshire right now.


The free pattern is by Lily Sugar 'n' Cream.

http://www.yarnspirations.com/patterns/rich-textures-tote-1.html

I used a recycled cotton Aran weight yarn (I've forgotten the brand name) and it used 130g.


Saturday, 9 July 2016

Honeycomb hats...




I might as well be calling these cricket hats. Most of the work was done on arrival at two day long matches recently. One in Stoke on Trent and the other at Cleethorpes, both County under 15s although Jake seems far too tall for this age group now, at 6'3.

Red is a devil of a colour to photograph. It took a bit of shuffling my little table around to get the light right so that it wouldn't merge into one big lump of red with no definition. Limitations of an iPad camera too I guess.

Naturally I started the little red hat half way through the slog of the oatmeal one. I was curious to know how much quicker or less fiddly it would work up in a chunky yarn. The answer is, not much. The secret is too keep the slip stitches nice and loose. So, this is not a fast fabric to work up but well worth it for a hat because it provides a nice amount of stretch for a good moulded fit, not to mention a look that might not be obviously crochet to the untrained eye! In fact the knitted honeycomb stitch looks pretty similar.

I think there may well be more of these in my crocheting future. I'm now curious to play around with stitch counts between changes and some kind of honeycomb yellow yarn is just crying out to be made as a baby or toddler hat with a small crochet bumble bee attached!

My next step is to crochet another adult hat so that I can write down and share the pattern. Coincidentally this kind of stitch was also the pattern for the last Scheepjes CAL square, at least I think it's pretty much the same, I haven't started those yet. It seems I finally succumbed to the boredom of repetition even though each week is entirely different. Psychologically it's just more squares. I really need to work on my concentration span.

I used to wait until we took the caravan away for a long weekend or longer to get projects like that done and dusted. The trick was not having a yarn stash, crochet magazines and the Internet as distractions. Not to mention leisurely summer evenings (are we ever going to have those again?)

We've barely taken the caravan anywhere in the last two years which is something I'm trying to rectify. As the children have lost interest as they've grown up I'm in the process of emptying out all their 'junk'. Things like body boards, buckets and spades, balls of every type, kites, board games, plastic cricket sets, pop up goals, comedy films on DVD, books, boules, scooters, skateboards and probably much more once I get as far as the main under bed storage bunk. It's a wonder we ever had any room for the four of us with all that on board! I'm looking forward to creating a more minimalist interior which I will find a more relaxing 'get away' opportunity.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Rainy days and Monday's...








I haven't been watching the televised news and weather lately but I'm sensing that this British Summer must be heading for the record books as the wettest for some time. It is holding up our repair work on the workshop roof; every time M gets a free afternoon due to a job finishing earlier than expected (or someone not showing up for their court appearance) he comes home hoping to take the rotten old roof off and get started on attaching the new one. This can't be done in heavy rain.

M had a whole day free this week but the forecast was grim and the skies were dark and ominous, so we did the only sensible thing and headed for the coast! I mainly associate the seaside with winter walks with a dog, since that's what we used to do when we lived near the coast in Sussex. As a family I don't think we ever spent a day on a beach in the summer. I don't think I've ever spent such a wet day at the beach as our visit to Cleethorpes though! Oh wow, it was seriously chucking it down!

We found a quirky cafe for a large coffee while we waited for a break in the rain, the break didn't come. So we moved swiftly between charity shops while I picked up a few paperbacks. Finally a short break in the rain meant we could take advantage of the bargains that are only to be had in a town like Cleethorpes; dog beds for £4 each! Springer Spaniel sized too! I usually buy old woollen blankets from charity shops for them but these come with comfy padding and at £4 we can chuck them when they get too mucky.

Taking home a bundle of rock for the kids was essential even though they are now 15 and 18 years old. Also essential is eating a cone of chips under a chip shop canopy while it carries on chucking it down like there's no tomorrow. Although I was dressed for the weather, M wasn't so we had to miss out on the walk along the promenade. He thought I was joking when I suggested that. I wasn't. At least we laughed a lot. Something I very much needed to do.

So today, guess what? Yep, it's raining again! I have managed to mow the front and back lawns, cut the front hedge back so that we can get to the caravan more easily, jet wash the caravan (it was turning green) and get the mower, hedge trimmer and jet washer all back inside my shed before the heavens opened. My knee is in pretty bad shape now but it was worth it to actually get something done rather than putting it off because it might rain.

I feel I have earned the right to sit down and do a spot of crochet now. The blue/greyish square is the CAL week eleven design. Not a big fan. It seems kind of unstable and flimsy compared to the other squares but hopefully it will hold up to being sewn in with them. At least it is a fairly simple square and works up quickly. This is the unblocked one and I have another on the blocking board.

I'm still a bit restless with the blanket as my main crochet project every day so I've been dabbling with some new textures/stitches. I came across a photo of something that looked like honeycomb and decided to try and replicate it since the photo wasn't linked to a crochet site unfortunately. Eventually I googled likely names for this stitch and found some instructions under the search 'crocheted textured wave stitch'. It's just slip stitches and half trebles and a pattern repeat of four rows. I've started a hat using this stitch and the side to side method I used a lot for my batch of Christmas hats. It's fairly slow even in Aran weight yarn with a 5.5mm hook but worth it for something slightly different. If it turns out to be a good fit for an average adult head I will attempt to write the pattern down. It's about time I put some free patterns in my side bar!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Scheepjes Last Dance in the Rain CAL...







I'm experimenting with floret stitch for an alternative to the week ten Scheepjes CAL square. The instructions are in this very useful book I picked up at a local table top sale for 30p. It's called The Harmony Guide to Crochet Stitches, published in 1986. It's extremely well laid out and packed with stitches of all kinds; every crocheter should have one!

Floret stitch is a bit fiddly and not especially quick but I need to settle on a square and make four by Wednesday to get me up to date ready for week eleven. I like the way it's keeping its shape and probably won't even need blocking.

I couldn't resist getting my piles of finished squares out of their boxes for a quick recap. Oddly enough 36 squares all piled up like this doesn't seem anywhere near enough for a blanket but there are twelve more squares to make and I'm sure it will be plenty. If I need crochet inspiration in the future I only need take a look at the variety of squares in this blanket!

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Warm woollen mittens...





Following on from a frenzy of woolly hat making in June why not make woolly mittens too? I had a small quantity of Patons Crofter Aran weight that I found in a charity shop for 50p. It's 60% wool and has the feel of Rowan Big Wool, it's ideal for mittens. The pattern is from the book 'Crocheted Gifts' by Interweave which I've had for years and had the mittens bookmarked since I bought it. As with hats, once you've made them once it is easy to make adjustments for different sizes. I plan to make a pair in a slightly smaller size for E whose hands get cold so easily in the winter. Since there is plenty leftover if you start with 100gms I could easily add a few more rows of the shell cuff for extra warmth.

The pattern looks more complex than it actually is. The mitten is worked in the round until the thumb and then suggests fastening off but I slipped a few stitches to the new starting place which saved cutting and reattaching. They were done and dusted in one evening whilst watching the England vs Sri Lanka cricket.

I've started weekly swimming sessions as a gentle way to exercise my knee. It's certainly a lot less painful than trying to walk on it. I dislike the faff involved in swimming, I'd much rather be traipsing through fields in the fresh air with all the country smells and watching the dogs enjoy themselves but once I'm in the water and particularly once I'm in the jacuzzi after the swim then I have to concede it is quite an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Today, J is taking a break from his very intense cricket schedule and resting a sore muscle so he'll be joining me for a swim. Not M though. As if driving J all over the country for cricket and watching it on TV wasn't enough, he's now a fully qualified umpire. E is working at a children's farm which she alternatively loves and hates, but mostly loves. It's weekends like this that remind me how difficult it is to actually spend some quality family time together.

I've been catching up on my Scheepjes CAL squares. I've made the first of the week ten squares and decided that I can't bring myself to make four of them. Despite my best efforts the dc edges are a complete nightmare to go round without it looking raggy. It isn't just me, there have been comments from other bloggers. It's just not enjoyable to crochet four squares and settle for untidy edges so I'm going to try and work up something similar that will eliminate the edge problem. Another two weeks of square designs and I think it will be time for a photo call!