Friday, 5 February 2016

A little string bag...

I made a little string bag. A make it up as you go along affair. The bottom half is a plastic type of string which I thought would be a nightmare to crochet but wasn't. When that ran out I used standard parcel string so that the handles would be more comfortable.

It's a little on the small side but ideal for buying fruit from the market which I often do when I am near the end of one of my 'town rambles'. It's a distraction from the chocolate which I'd rather be buying. It's also one of those personal challenges that I decided I would tackle after witnessing how much M enjoys food markets. Admittedly I will probably never obtain a market trader's life story like he seems to have the knack of doing but just managing a successful transaction is an achievement. I've spent a life time avoiding situations which require 'chat' with perfect strangers. I much prefer the anonymity of self service.

It wasn't until I had children and they accompanied me on shopping trips that I realised just how much I miss. When E was small I'd often get a little tap on the leg and her little voice would pipe up, 'Mummy, she wants to know whether you'd like a bag' or if I'd missed something much more complex there would be a certain expression on her face that only a Mother could interpret; in this case, you've missed something but I'm too young to let you know what exactly it was. It is true that when one of your senses is lacking the others are finely tuned to compensate. I tend to rely on facial expression and body language to give me clues when I can't hear. Raised eyebrows and a glance towards something let me know that it's probably a question. I have a nanosecond to work out what it might be, and if all else fails I always plump for 'no thank you'.

I'm really happy about the new laws regarding plastic bags. It's something that should have been introduced much sooner. The added bonus is of course, I get asked if I want a bag much less now!

This type of bag is so easy to design as you go. Just create a crochet circle for the base and once that is the size you require choose a loose open stitch for the sides. I chose a simple v stitch which is two trebles in one stitch, miss two st, repeat all the way round. I did a couple of rounds of dc before starting the handles. Next on the list is a larger version with two balls of yellow string. A girl can never have too many bags right?

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Baking and baggy jumpers...

I've been out and about this morning and treated myself to a book about Shackleton. For years this particular expedition seems to have intrigued me in a way that others haven't. I think it might be Ernest himself that holds the key to that, I mean, who can resist a man in a chunky woollen jumper? Clearly not me. Seriously though, I love tales of exploration and adventure. I'm drawn to tales of factual or fictional journeys. I'm not sure why.

It hasn't exactly been Antarctic weather here but the temperature is up and down like a yo yo. Yesterday I was out with the dogs in just a thin jumper and body warmer, albeit trying to stand up against very strong wind. Today I've been wrapped up in every woolly crochet thing I own.

I get quite twitchy when I haven't got a crochet project by my side. I have to be in a certain frame of mind for certain projects, hence E's blanket is a little further away than my side. I do feel guilty if I have too many wips though and now that they are all in one place I can literally 'whip' them out and see if anything takes my fancy.

So, this oversized 'Rebekka' jumper from a back copy of Inside Crochet re-surfaced. I'm pretty sure it got shelved because I wasn't convinced that it would make a wearable garment and also because I thought I'd run out of yarn. It's made entirely in trebles which makes for a pretty speedy project. I had the entire back panel done in no time. As it turned out I had enough to complete the jumper but didn't like the length (a bit boxy). It's a Stylecraft chunky yarn and the colours available locally haven't changed in years so I managed to get two more balls of charcoal and I've just finished adding to the body and sleeve length. It's definitely wearable, I'm wearing it now and it's extremely warm.

In amongst all this crocheting I baked some ginger biscuits. If I suddenly sound like some kind of domestic goddess, you should have seen the two batches I burnt over the weekend! The recipe was written out at least twenty odd years ago when my brother and I spent a year or two renting a house together and I suddenly came over all motherly and started baking. If memory serves me right this didn't last long and we very soon resorted to eating takeaways and finding excuses to visit 'home' to be sure of a healthy meal! The ginger snap recipe has however, survived, and is usually quite foolproof. I blame the new oven.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

One skein, one hour crochet cowl...

It's cold, wet and windy here in Lincolnshire today. I'm so glad the dogs and I made the most of the sunshine yesterday. Whilst keeping an eye open for a gap in the rain this morning the bathroom got lucky and had a thorough spring clean. Since Christmas there has been an explosion of shampoos and shower gels in the shower which pretty much goes against my desire to only have one large bottle of each for our family of four. Does anyone else think it's only them that actually finishes the remains of a bottle and throws it in the bin? If anyone does actually finish a bottle before starting a new one it never leaves the shower cubicle. I do make requests, they just don't happen.

I guess, in the grand scheme of things, it's not a big deal. At least my children willingly step into the shower every day. I've heard from parents of J's friends that this is an achievement! Ew!

So, with the rain still chucking it down, I'm drinking tea and wondering whether to make another of these crochet cowls. It's a one skein, one hour kind of project which lends itself to having one in every useful colour!

actually did some swatching to work out the optimum size cowl I could achieve with this yarn. A couple of hook size changes and dodgy maths later and I ended up with just enough to sew up the seam. It's a bit like making the polo neck part of a jumper without the jumper, so much more flexible for wearing indoors! I like to crochet in our sunlounge and on a day like today it's extremely draughty.

I used a 9mm hook, not the recommended 6mm, to give a bit of extra drape (It's not an expensive yarn, just something I liked for its tweedy flecks.) It's made using half trebles through the back loop to make a ribbed fabric. I created a gauge/formula for roughly how big a piece I could crochet but for a guide I will endeavour to write a stitches/row guide for anyone wondering what to do with a random ball of chunky yarn.

The recent cowl obsession came from the realisation that scarves take up an awful lot of room in a small suitcase. I bought two large ones in Barcelona last October and even though it was sweltering when we left I was obliged to wear one because my carry on suitcase was full (of yarn amongst other things!). E and I are heading South soon and I like to travel light, hence the productivity with cowl making! Three cowls later and I think it's the simplest, cheapest, smallest one (ie. this simple tweedy black one) that will be squished in my suitcase for the trip.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Off the hook... Sea breeze cowl

There is a bit of a pattern emerging with my crochet hobby. It seems I mainly try new stitches and techniques early on in the year. Certainly my thoughts have all been about texture so far. On first glance this cowl doesn't look hugely different to bog standard double crochet but if you look closely at the fifth picture down you'll see it's actually crocheted knitting v stitch, otherwise known as camel stitch. The sixth picture is the reverse side which is also a nice texture.

I may try this same stitch in a plain chunky yarn, I have a feeling the stitches would show up much better. The yarn I used was Wendy Fusion, two balls I fished out of a sale bin somewhere for next to nothing simply because I liked the colours; this colour way is called 'White Pepper'.

Sea Breeze Cowl

Yarn: Wendy Fusion (a chunky yarn now discontinued)
Hook: 6mm

(cowl is made in continuous spiral which avoids visible seam)

Ch 90 and join to form a loop.
Row 1: htr to end
Row 2 onwards: htr into the third loop*

When yarn runs out or cowl is comfortable height, join with a slip stitch, weave in ends.

*There are various tutorials on the internet that show you how to find the third loop.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Off the needles... Stitch Stripe Snood

The stitch stripe snood went pretty quickly in the end. I thought I'd reach my wrist threshold before the end of the project but they held out. I've been wearing it quite a bit and I'm loving the freedom from the flapping ends of scarves that have been bothering me all winter. I made this cowl about 20cms shorter than recommended so that it sits more snugly round the neck. I'm much more about the function than having a decorative draping thing that doesn't keep your neck warm.

E took a liking to the stripes and asked if I could make her one that was 'any colour but blue'. Apparently mine is blue which is news to me, I thought it was green. We'll call it ocean for the sake of argument and that's just where it will be travelling next month. Hence the newly acquired pocket book. I thought it was about time I refreshed my memory on things like seaweed and coastal flowers.

It's true that E and I like very different colour palettes so my supplies of chunky yarn didn't yield any tasteful combinations. I surfed online for what seemed like days but didn't really want to try something new without squishing the wool first. Then an opportunity to see an art installation and visit a good wool shop came up last week and hey presto, two very squishy balls of wool were purchased, at half price too.

Meanwhile I am also finally joining my hexagons to make up the pebble beach blanket. By the time I'd worked out what method to use the light had gone so I'll photograph that for next time. It's pretty tedious but the incentive is having another blanket at the end of it. The hexagons have been sitting in a basket for far too long! Despite the fact that there are nearly 100 hexagons it looks as though it will only be a lap sized blanket. I'm hoping some of the colours are still in my Aran stash so that I can make some half hexagons to square it off. Future blankets will definitely be made using the join as you go method!

Tuesday, 19 January 2016


Having a child turn eighteen seems to be one of those occasions that throws up all kinds of conflicting thoughts. Although I joke that we are long suffering and how lovely the freedom will be once my chooks have flown the nest, it doesn't stop me trying to create some lasting memories whilst we are all  still under one roof.

We attempted to go bowling this weekend. It's been a while since we last went and clearly, trying to bowl at 5pm on a Saturday is highly ambitious. So that turned into a nice meal out and the promise of a booked lane next week.

Yesterday evening however, was much more successful if a little surreal. E is a dab hand at concerts, festivals etc. J has only ever been to one, and that was under the supervision of M. So I was a tad nervous about dropping J and E at a concert in a city and leaving them for four and a half hours. Eek. M and I went all of a few hundred yards down the road and found ourselves a Carribean Bar and Cafe. I was feeling distinctly less anxious after two Carribean Pimms cocktails! I felt quite nervous walking it off round the city but it was a new experience seeing how many couples our age were out on the town on a week day evening. We have vowed to head for the city, oo, at least once a year! The rest of the time I'm quite happy in our humble village thanks. Thankfully all went well with the concert and we were grateful for 24/7 McDonald's coffee on the way home.

In the meantime my days have hit a comforting rhythm. Walking the dogs nice and early means a lot less mud comes home with us because the ground is frozen. I see a fair few trussed up dogs on our walks and sometimes wonder if H and R would like a padded jacket each but I wouldn't really enjoy being seen in public with dressed up dogs. According to some study someone somewhere did, involving a tracking device, dogs walk twice as far as we do on an average walk. I'm really surprised about that, it seems to me that Harvey covers at least ten times the distance I do.

I'm knitting the stitch stripe snood that I bought the pattern and supplies for back in October as a birthday treat. I'm loving this pattern and yarn, both by Erika Knight for John Lewis. It's so simple and yet creates a lovely textured fabric. Not only that but when you move the fabric it changes from an emphasis on one colour to the other rather like one of those optical illusions. I'm looking forward to wearing it. That might be a little while because knitting is rather annoyingly uncomfortable, but it is definitely growing daily.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Off the hook...linen stitch crochet cushion

Never try to photograph a cushion on the floor with a daft dog in the room. Riley really likes to be in on everything. 'Cushion, floor, ah, is that for me?' Plonk.

Actually it's quite difficult to photograph a cushion in situ when everyone is sprawled out on sofas ready for a Saturday afternoon family Netflix fest. It's so rare that we are all at home at the same time on a weekend these days. A good film is also the only thing (apart from meal times) that will coax J out of his room.

I think this is the first linen stitch project I've ever done. It's so simple but I love the texture. I used two rows of each colour. I'm sure it would be interesting to experiment with variations and even a one colour piece would produce a nice texture.

I wimped out on making a button closure. This envelope construction is so quick and easy. I used the last of two lovely plain wool blankets I picked up for £2 each. This new cushion ties in well with those just made with the blankets alone. Now all I have to do is keep the animals off it! Riley has a rather naughty habit which involves helping himself to a sofa, knocking all the cushions flat and then shuffling them into a nest and finally crashing out on top of them. He did that the very first day we brought him home and we all thought it was cute, adorable and very funny. It's slightly less funny now!