Saturday, 24 January 2015


I've been procrastinating. I've been reading blogs about de cluttering, minimising, simplifying... but that's as far as I've actually got this new year. It's time to turn off the iPad and actually tackle the wardrobe!

I'm probably late to the party as usual but I came across Project 333 and thought I might give it a try. 33 items from your wardrobe for three months. The rest can be packed away or given away, depending on how brave you are. The 33 includes footwear but not underwear. The rules are there to broken accordingly.

Note that this wardrobe exercise is simply to divert attention from the tricky start I had to de cluttering the kitchen. I woke in a cold sweat one night realising that we had no fewer than 5 teapots! I've managed to part with one. The rest have 'issues' that make it much more difficult to get rid of them. One was a wedding present, one was a birthday gift, one has a filter for loose leaf tea, one is a gorgeous two cup vintage pot with matching cups for heavens sake... Where do I start? The last time I used a pot at all was the latter mentioned vintage one and that was only for myself in the back garden last summer.

So, clothes it is this weekend. A capsule wardrobe in 33 items. I must confess I had a laugh at the many mentions of bags. Those who know me know I hate handbags. I used to get away with big pockets but these days it just isn't cool or practical. It's popular amongst project 333 participants to retain a large shopping tote, a handbag and a clutch. I've never used or owned a clutch in my entire life. So for clutch read 'knitting bag'. Yep that's that one sorted.

I fear the majority of the 33 items will be related to dog walking attire. Do my muddy gaiters count as one item? What about the fact that I alternate between walking shoes because one pair is usually drying out from the day before? Yep that's two more items then.

I'll let you know how I get on.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Restoring the balance...

Mid afternoon oatcakes

An almost snowy walk

Baking cookies

Old film crochet spotting

Mondays are my day to unwind from now on. I'm hoping there won't be too many Mondays with kids off sick, or husbands for that matter. Mondays are now mine, all mine!

I have a new found appreciation for the little things that fell by the wayside when I decided to help set up and work for a new charity shop. I haven't baked for months. The dog walks were down to a brisk one hour route just before dark. Old films were piling up on the hard drive. Crochet sitting around in baskets. Yes I know, crochet neglect!

I'm shuffling my shifts so that I have a more useful amount of time at home each day. Restoring the balance.

I watched Away All Boats recently. The opening scenes included the above, a mother with a boy wrapped in a gorgeous crochet blanket (tricky to see on the still) but unfortunately the crochet spotting went downhill from there; it was all at sea! It was rather long winded but I did manage to get to the end. I was hoping it would give me an insight into what life was like for my Grandfather on the HMS Duke of York, but alas it was far far removed from that. I'll have to watch a British film for a better idea.

The cookie recipe is on the BBC Good Food website and they're called Millie's Cookies. I slightly over cooked them but Jake didn't seem to mind. He appreciates my baking efforts when he comes in from school. The choc chip supplies have been replenished so I'll just have to try another batch.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Buddha under the Bridge...

The first time I spotted the Buddha under the bridge I wanted to pause and sit for a little while. Unfortunately I wasn't alone that day, a flock of chocolate Labradors was within sight so we trudged on and left him there to return another day.

It's been cold, wet and windy this week and after one particularly unpleasant episode involving cold driving rain which reached my underwear and made my skin itch as I was warming up again I decided to watch any subsequent rainy afternoons from the comfort of the sofa. If I had a pair of waterproof trousers I would be happy to brave that kind of weather again, it was just as well I remembered my drawstring bag of front seat waterproof covers, bought for a vehicle, several jeeps ago. My drivers seat is fine but the boot smells like... well it's indescribable really. Damp dogs, stagnant ponds, muddy lakes, rotting bits of log that Harvey insists on bringing home with him.

These photos were all taken this morning. We left quite early and my car registered an outside temperature just above freezing. After a two hour walk, on the homeward stretch, I was carrying an extra jumper, hat, scarf and gloves, and the temperature was a lovely 6.5 degrees! Still not swimming weather but it didn't seem to deter Harvey.

H: Hey Riley!

R: Wassup Harv?

H: last one down to the lake is a sissy!

R: are you nuts bro? It's minus something in there y'know!

(Harvey sprints, takes off, lands with a four legged belly flop)

H: brrrgodalmightyrrrrrrrrrrr oh my god, I can't feel my legs, I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die. Hey Riley?

R: wassup?

H: it's lovely, c'mon in!

R: I'm just gonna stick to the edges thanks, I've got a heart murmer remember bro?

H: chicken.

R: lunatic.

Monday, 12 January 2015


I've been working too many hours at the charity shop and needed to restore the balance a bit. We finally have some new volunteers so I've reduced my hours a little. Apart from tackling the mountains of washing (football kit, cricket kits) I've also been able to pick up my hooks and doodle in wool.

The above samples are just two of many that I've made on these hooks and ripped back again. I'm trying to achieve a simple look using a loose guage and just these two colours of 4 ply alpaca mix by Drops. I bought them at the Knitting & Stitching Show. On another stand entirely I was most taken with some simple garter stitch shawls using something like 4 ply and I wanted to create something similar in crochet. The only problem is that dc or tr crochet fabric doesn't quite have the same beauty as garter stitch fabric, for my taste anyway, so it needs a little stitch detail.

I've been looking through my crochet books for inspiration and surfing to no avail. I'm sure something will turn up! This wool is absolutely gorgeous! It's so incredibly soft and light. I can't remember how much it cost but it certainly wasn't expensive. I very rarely buy or use such a fine weight of wool. As I've said before, fine hooks hurt my hands which is why I suddenly hit upon the idea of using a much larger hook than the recommended size. The wool suggests 3.5mm and I've used both 6mm and 7mm and quite like the look it creates.

I haven't made any new year's resolutions, except for a vague idea that I'd like to rely less on patterns this year. (I may even have said that last year). I'm finding that as I grow older I'm more keenly aware of what my tastes are, rather than being overwhelmed by the sheer variety of influences out there. It's only been in the last year or two that I've worked out exactly what floats my boat and why. That has helped narrow down what I make and what colours I want to use. I created a mood board of photographs of the type of things I might like to make this year (still haven't really taken to Pinterest) and so I'll be able to do a similar mood board (using a pic collage app) at the end of the year to compare with; see if I stuck to my guns or got sidetracked along the way!

Monday, 5 January 2015

wool, winter and wandering...

If this first rug looks like I just raided my super chunky stash, it's because that's what I did. There's no colour coordination going on at all. That's ok though, the odds and ends weren't much good for anything else and the rug is going somewhere discrete... I'm going to pop it down beside our bed in the caravan. We rolled up all the carpet in the caravan because the Lino was more dog friendly, but it's cold underfoot and the rug can go down when they are clean and/or confined to their end of the caravan.

This technique, using this wool, makes a very thick rug. I've got an off-cut of thick calico for the backing just for peace of mind, though I imagine you can just sew the edges under and leave it. I'll have to read up on that.

In between shifts at the charity shop and a spot of rug hooking I've been tramping for miles over frozen fields. Every now and then Riley completely loses his sense of direction and heads off the wrong way. He did this today and the last time I'd seen him was ten feet down a muddy bank drinking from a fast flowing stream. I yelled a few times and sent Harvey to investigate and when that didn't work I set off at a very brisk pace worrying that he'd slipped in and drowned! Thankfully not, he was jogging along in the homeward direction despite the fact that we mostly take the same route these days. Daft dog. I think he was as pleased to see Harvey and I as we were to see him.

After work it's always tempting to make a mug of tea and put my feet up in front of a soppy afternoon movie but I'm always glad I dragged myself out. There's something very heartwarming about watching two Springers bounce along loving every minute.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Another year over...

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun...

The best laid plans got waylaid sometime back in early November when I signed up for volunteer work. Every year I have visions of doing a fully handmade Christmas but somehow never get round to starting that in the January before, which is clearly when you need to make a start!

There was just one touch though and those little fabric gift bags were made on Christmas Eve no less! A glass of wine helped make sense of the instruction booklet for the sewing machine and I discovered just how one little cotton guide thingy can make all the difference between sewing machine cooperation and sewing machine rebellion. Sewing machines and me just aren't meant to be.

Molls enjoyed her Christmas thank you very much. She spent most of the time on laps being made a fuss of. This is contrary to her home behaviour where she seems to prefer to sleep anywhere but a comfy lap.

The dogs behaved themselves right up to the point where one of them decided to dig up a few bulbs in Mum and Dad's back garden. I had to do a little gardening to put it right.

I must confess I'm not keen on the whole Christmas thing. I can guarantee that in the run up to Christmas I run into a horrible dark place, a place where even the jolliest Christmas jingle doesn't reach me. This year was no exception. Luckily the wine was taking the edge off by Christmas Eve!

M surprised me this year by making a freestanding rug hooking loom! This may sound completely random but he did ask me what I'd like and I said I would like a rug hooking tool and a big frame. After some proper research we came to the conclusion that what I really wanted was only available in America and so I suggested four lengths of wood fixed in a doormat size rectangle. I was so suprised to find he'd made the floor standing type and without any woodworking plans too! The photo was taken in poor light but you get the idea. The top tilts whichever way you want so that you can work with one hand underneath the hessian and one on top with the rug hooking tool.

I've started off with a simple design of random falling leaves just to practice the technique of drawing up loops of wool to the same height (rug hooking). It sounds easy enough but there are variables such as how big the hook is, how thick the wool is, how splitty it is, what backing is being used, the pile you want, etc. I'm using up all my super chunky wool ends which seems to be quite a comfortable weight with the hook but I have a feeling chunky would be even better, and would allow more detail perhaps.

I always like to have something creative on the go over Christmas and I did manage to hook up quite a bit more than the solitary leaf shown above. It works up fairly quickly. I have a lot to learn but for now I'll be happy if I produce a usable rug!

There was another surprise... he actually went into a yarn shop without my knowledge and asked what he could buy someone who could already crochet but wanted a challenge. I think he was helped considerably but even so I think he deserves brownie points. He bought me some Tunisian crochet hooks in different sizes and two fantastic books (which I will photograph for my next post), one of which was a beginners guide to Tunisian Crochet and the other was a book of the various Tunisian stitches. I have been wanting to try this out for some time but it's been a bit like cables in knitting, it looked scary! I jumped right in with the book open on my lap and it wasn't scary at all! I've only got as far as learning Tunisian Simple stitch and Tunisian Knitting stitch, TSS and TKS I think. I'm not sure if I'm turning in the right place but I am producing perfectly square samples. TKS is amazing, just like stocking stitch but so much quicker! Curls up like crazy but I think that could be overcome by adding a rib or edging. I've got a way to go yet before I can follow a Tunisian pattern, but I like a challenge.

Here's hoping you all had a lovely Christmas.