Tuesday, 31 January 2012

end of the month mosaic...January

January 2012


Did you notice that basket of string in my last post? I tried crocheting with some last night. Ouch. It's painful! Hence, the bowl is only a shallow one, but handy for small things.

My childhood heroes were characters like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, the Famous Five, Swallows and Amazons... I loved the whole 'survival' thing. I'd pack up 'survival kits' which would contain a compass, matches, penknife and... yep, string.

Had I known how to macrame back then I would have been in my element. I got kicked out of a class when I was 13 where we were supposed to be making nightdresses (blurgh!), there was just too much pink, frilly stuff going on and I did not have a good relationship with fabric or sewing machines. Thank goodness my teacher put me in a corner with a huge reel of string and a 'learn to macrame' pamphlet. I should have been humiliated I guess but I'm ever grateful to Mrs Hall for that flash of inspiration.

I've rescued many a plastic beach bucket with a broken handle by making a new macrame handle. Similarly if we ever made an impromptu visit to the beach I could turn a plastic pot into a bucket in about 5 minutes... this one from several summers ago was made with some colourful shoelaces from outgrown shoes.

Monday, 30 January 2012

rustic heart garland...

As promised, here's a little heart shaped project I worked out over the weekend. I still consider myself a crochet novice so I'm sure there are better versions out there in cyberspace but I thought I'd share it with you anyway.

I used a 4mm crochet hook with dk cotton. They come out about 3-4cm wide this way. If you have finer hooks and cotton you could do truly dinky hearts which would work well for cards, for trims or an even more miniaturised garland.

I wrote this all out long hand to start with and then realised it would be much easier to understand in list form. I hope all will become clear.

Start with a magic ring and crochet 12 half trebles into this, slip stitch to join into a ring and pull circle tight to close.

You should now have 12 stitches (count to make sure) into which goes the following:

1. ch2, htr, tr
2. dtr, tr, htr
3. ss, ch6, ss
4. ss, htr, tr
5. dtr, tr
6, 7 and 8. htr
9. htr, 2tr, htr (this is the bottom pointy bit)
10, 11 and 12. htr

ss to finish, simple!

ch = chain, htr = half treble, tr = treble, dtr = double treble, ss = slip stitch (UK terms)

I used hairy gardeners twine for a rustic look. You could use a cotton chain stitch, ribbon, whatever takes your fancy. Don't look too closely at the close up, this might have been one of the many experimental hearts (I tried lots of variations for the pointy bit at the bottom).

Sunday, 29 January 2012

from knitting to crochet with love...

I got quite carried away knitting these little hearts last year. They're in a little wooden box somewhere, waiting to be turned into mobiles or tags or something creative. They were all made with 100% wool so I felted quite a few too, they ended up about 4cm tall. Cute.

Now that I'm hooked on crochet I tried converting this knitted heart to a crocheted one. Despite experimenting with quite a few different stitches it didn't look very good in rows.... so I've come up with a design that is quick and easy, if a little rustic, which I'll share with you tomorrow (daylight is best for my little camera!).

Saturday, 28 January 2012

the little things in life...

It's the little things in life that make it all ok don't you think? My Saturday morning coffee a stone's throw from Lincoln Cathedral. Mr H doing the Times crossword and me flicking through a new crochet magazine.

Could this crisp, cold, sunny morning get better? Yes actually... a couple of new books from Oxfam and two balls of chunky yarn in gorgeous steel blues with random colourful bits. Yes I admit this does go against my 2012 resolution to use up what I have and 'keep it natural', but it was kind of thrust upon me by Mr Helpful H who suggested I make another easy peasy ruffle scarf for myself, so that doesn't really count does it?

...meanwhile, this continues to grow...

eight lives left?

We're not having a lot of luck with our brood of animals just lately. There's an old saying that bad things happen in three's; the Guinea Pig died this month, our older dog has a brain tumour and now the cat has returned from her daily adventures nursing an injured leg. Mr H knew something was wrong when she didn't turn up for the evening dog walk (she always goes too). We've no idea what happened but this is the first time she's had any accidents or illness so she's not done too badly so far.

We rescued Molly seven years ago when the children were only 4 and 7 years old. The cat charity woman came and assessed our suitability and then read out a long list of possible candidates. The first dozen or so were very old or didn't like children and about half of those had at least one missing limb (eg. Tom and Jerry, both twenty years old, blind, deaf, and 6 legs between them! I was open minded but this was pushing it a bit!) Finally she came to Molly and couldn't quite believe herself that she had a cat on the list that had all it's limbs, liked children and was relatively young (she was 3 and a half). The children's faces suddenly lit up with relief and we set off the next day to see her.

Her foster family said that she was the noisiest cat they'd ever had. Perfick. We took her home that day and so began my steep learning curve about owning a cat. I've always been more of a dog person but as far as cats go Molly is pretty cool (as the kids would say).

Friday, 27 January 2012

keep calm and crochet on...

The dogs snoozed at my feet whilst I crocheted my two stripes for the day. It isn't going to be difficult to achieve that target; it's true, it really is strangely addictive! The only struggle is putting colours together and coping with pink! I'm choosing colours I know my Nan will love which just happen to be all the colours I don't like. Ever since I could express an opinion I've rejected pink, frills and florals. I'm beginning to accept florals but pink and frills are still banned!

sad news...

Had a bit of a tearful day yesterday. Our handsome labrador/setter cross is very poorly. I found him in the middle of the hall floor yesterday morning having a fit (seizure). He'd lost control of all his bodily functions and it was extremely upsetting seeing him like that. I managed to lift him to the car and we rushed to the vet with me snivelling all the way, well ok, crying my eyes out - but thankfully by the time we got there I managed to 'keep calm and carry on' and ask all the right questions.

The long and short of it is that he has a brain tumour and it's starting to affect him badly now; we'd known something was wrong just before Christmas when the left side of his head seemed to cave in, but put it down to old age (he's 12).

Amazingly he seems right as rain at the moment, so it's a question of 'wait and see' and deciding at some stage whether his quality of life is sufficient.

He's an incredible dog; the most placid, docile thing you could ever wish for - he's helped more than one of the children's friends overcome their fear of large dogs. Hard to imagine life without him.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

two a day...

I've been reading Lucy's blog at Attic24 for some time now, way way before I could even crochet. Who couldn't be cheered up by her colour sense and happy vibes? She's a star! Now I can finally credit her with starting me off on my first ever crochet blanket. We have several around the house, all found in charity shops. Two are reasonably tasteful and the others will probably become cat or dog blankets at some stage. The thought of finally being able to create my own is very exciting!

I've always been put off by blankets because I struggle with repetitive tasks but I'm hoping I'll get the bug, just as Lucy and hundreds of others seem to have.

I needed a recipient in mind to provide extra motivation and I can think of no-one more special than my Nan. She's in hospital at the moment and her feet and legs get chilly sitting up in her bedside chair, so I'm going to make a lap size blanket. I'm setting myself a minimum of two colours per day - so that'll be 4 rows for the granny stripe design. I've started with a foundation chain of 150 which wasn't as daunting as I'd expected.

Whilst I'm crocheting up and down my granny (or nanny) stripe blanket every day I'm also setting myself a target of 2 rounds a day of my snood and 2 hexagons a day for my table runner. I need these self-imposed targets or they'll be sitting in their baskets for far too long.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A favourite recipe...

My oh my, baking twice in the space of one week. Most unlike me. I've been making these ginger biscuits since I first left home and went through an uncharacteristic spell of domesticity. I've come full circle since then and this recipe really deserves to be written up from the twenty year old scrap of paper to a proper notebook.

The biscuits are nice and crunchy, like ginger snaps, if you fancy having a go, here is the recipe:

You will need:

220g self raising flour
2 slightly rounded teaspoons of ground ginger
2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
80g granulated sugar
100g margerine
4 tablespoons of golden syrup

Preheat oven to gas mark 5 / 375*F / 190*C
Sift flour, sugar, ginger and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl, rub in margerine until mixture is crumbly. Next add golden syrup and mix to form a firm ball.
Divide into approximately 24 even pieces, roll each into a small ball and flatten slightly before laying out onto a greased baking tray. Allow room for them to spread a little. Bake in the centre of the oven for 10-15 minutes.

Note: I've substituted almost all of the ingredients at some stage over the years. For instance, clear honey works fine instead of golden syrup. Most butters seem to work just fine too. Demerara sugar gives a nice taste instead of granulated. You can also throw in chopped nuts at the same time as the syrup stage.


Love hearts...

According to my manifesto I should be thinking about Valentines Day round about now. In the past we've always found the pennies a bit short at this time of the year and so we've exchanged a simple handmade item in the shape of a heart. This year, regardless of pennies we've decided to carry on the tradition. It's so much more meaningful somehow. My favourite heart is one Mr H carved from a fallen ash tree in our back field. He lugged an enormous chunk of the tree into his workshop and 3 hours later came out with a small carved heart; so much nicer than a bunch of flowers.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

making winter warm and cosy

Do you really need to be feeling under the weather or have a sore back to fill one of these and snuggle under a blanket in front of a good film? Well it helps. Mind you, so does a bar of Green&Blacks. I crocheted this without a pattern - it looks precisely tailored for a hot water bottle but it's just a rectanglur pocket with an eyelet row somewhere near the neck of the bottle. I made a cord using chain stitch with two strands of the wool, and added the oversize pompoms for a fun element. The wool is Rowan Big Wool Fusion in three shades (which had been in my stash since learning to knit 4 years ago).

Being a bit of a novice I made the 'fabric' a little tightly woven. If I were making another I'd use a bigger crochet hook to create a much looser weave and therefore let a bit more heat through! I'd also do the whole thing in rounds rather than in two pieces (front and back). Doh!

to felt or not to felt...

I'm toying with the idea of throwing this little fella in the washing machine. He's made with 100% wool so I'm sure he'd felt nicely. I do like the way felt looks and feels. Yes I think I'll risk it. Then perhaps a pair of tiny black button eyes.

We're lucky enough to live within an hour of a seal sanctuary. It always seems a bit grim, like going to the zoo (seeing captive animals) but once you get there and you're reminded that these animals would otherwise have died, then it's not so bad. The seals have such big personalities. We're always mesmerised.

Monday, 23 January 2012

when inspiration strikes!

I've been sorting and throwing out old magazines. I have one last flick through and snip out anything that catches my eye and might be useful design reference for future projects. I spotted a silk throw in last October's Living Etc and particularly liked the way that lots of colours are used but with a neutral ecru as a backdrop.

It occurred to me that I could probbly crochet a hexagon with a 'splotch' of colour in the middle and if not make a whole throw then at least a table runner. First attempts made great jam jar covers (a bit frilly) but then I realised that clusters of two trebles would work better than clusters of three.

I'm not sure you can see the picture clearly enough but the hexagons on the original throw have a sort of 'pixelated' navy outline. I've achieved a similar look with the blue/white twist cotton. My ecru is dirt cheap unbleached craft cotton which says on the label 'ideal for washcloths'. It's quite rustic which I don't mind at all but it would look nice and smart in a silkier cotton I'm sure. I think I'll need between 30 and 40 hexagons and a few halves to make a strip 3 hexagons wide for our table. Better get cracking then!

a family weekend

sunday socks

Hope you all had a good weekend. We had a rare family weekend (ie. no cricket, no sleepovers etc). Our mission on Saturday morning involved new football boots. Is it normal for an 11 year old boy to have size 9(UK) feet?

Lunch at Damon's was a nice treat. The decor is pretty cool (art deco). Food's not bad either!

Sunday was a lazy day with the men watching football (yawn!). I started watching the Mildred Pierce mini-series on dvd (a Christmas present from the children) having totally missed it on Sky. This is right up my street. I love anything set in a different era, there's so much to see. This is set in 1930s America, oh wow, the cars, the fashion, the interior design. I'll be watching this more than once. I think it will strike a chord for me, having a teenage daughter. I'll say no more.

Perhaps Mildred's pie-making influenced me a little - I used up a bunch of brown bananas and made muffins. They weren't my best ever in terms of looks but they taste fantastic. Recipe from a small book I've had for years; Muffins Fast and Fantastic by Susan Reimer. There is a newer version out now. The recipes seem totally foolproof. I like the fact that most just involve two bowls - one for dry ingredients and one for wet. You combine them both and spoon into muffin cases. Ta da. If I can do it, anyone can!

Friday, 20 January 2012

can you guess what it is yet?

I think that was what Rolf Harris used to say when he did huge pieces of art on tv ('Can you giss what it is yit?'). Can't remember what the programme was called but that was the best bit!

Aye, it's a seal, or it will be very soon. If it wasn't for the blog the poor thing would be lying about in pieces for weeks. A wee bit of sewing together, a couple of eyes and a black nose... I haven't a recipient in mind but he matches the colours in my most recently acquired pottery vase (see last post) so he'll probably live next to my pot of crochet hooks for a while.

for the love of wood

I do like my multi-coloured aluminium crochet hooks, but I LOVE my collection of wooden crochet hooks! I have quite a collection of 'thrifted' pottery pots and vases too. This one, from Save the Children, for 99p reminds me of sand and sea.

For those not familiar, the multi coloured ones are Knit Pro, the decorative turned ones are by Brittany and the bamboo ones are by Pony. Lovely to use and beautiful to look at... unlike the view over the fields today... rain, rain and more rain.

a patched up penguin

After about ten photo shoots this is the best I can come up with. It's so dark and miserable today even my 'sunny table' isn't generating enough light for a decent photo. After this enforced pose he toddled off to a quiet windowsill in a pretty bedroom awaiting the return of Big Penguin Fan. (I really hate googly eyes but for now they'll have to do!)

Meanwhile a tatty old lampshade (cracked in a few places thanks to indoor cricket) is getting the decopatch treatment.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Easy peasy crochet ruffle scarf

Oops! Maybe I should have dressed the model before draping her with the scarf! In fact it doesn't show up very well colourwise but nevermind, I can't re-shoot the picture because the scarf was a pressie for Mum's birthday. Made in wonderfully soft baby alpaca in one evening. The pattern is from First Crochet by Lesley Stanfield. The book is out of stock on Amazon at the moment but I picked mine up at a Publisher's Clearance store for £2.

R.I.P. Honey

It's always sad when a small furry friend dies, but thankfully the children took it better the second time round. Honey's companion Inky had an altogether more dramatic end. We found her struggling to breathe and thought she might be helped by the vet. After a dramatic dash there she stopped breathing in the waiting room. I was dreading this one popping her clogs but the children are a couple of years older and a little wiser. Still, it was me that cleaned her out mostly and me that dug the grave, and me that'll probably miss her most. Amazing things Guinea Pigs.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Variation on a theme...

I couldn't resist making another of these bobble bags (see earlier post here), they're very quick. I used the same brand of yarn but in a different colour. The bag is just the right size for a couple of balls of yarn and a crochet hook. The handles were free with a knitting magazine.

Monday, 16 January 2012


We're several weeks into the New Year, but as ever I've been plodding along at my own pace and doing a fair bit of thinking about the year ahead.

I've been reading the lovely Wise Craft blog and other manifesto's and lists of goals for 2012 and thought I'd join in the fun:

M a n i f e s t o   f o r   2 0 1 2

1. Bravely venture into my yarn cupboard and locate WIP's. Make a list and prioritise them in order of usefulness once complete, and plough through the list finishing them all or unravelling and reclaiming the yarn.

2. Keep things nice and simple, whether it be knitting, crochet, baking, outings, craft etc.

3. Use up as much of my 'beginner's' yarns ie. nasty but colourful acrylic wool. Or donate it to charity.

4. Use up all the scrummy wool in my stash, preferably for gifts and try not to add to it at all this year. Ouch.

5. If I do weaken and feel the need to buy yarn, this year I want to support the British Wool Industry and try out the lovely unbleached, undyed shades of the many breeds we have on offer.

6. Blog regularly and improve my technical knowledge (which is practically zilch at the moment).

7. Bake more (I loathe cooking but sometimes enjoy making muffins, sweets and biscuits).

8. Come up with my own crochet patterns! This could be a challenge since I did my first wonky granny square only 5 months ago. (I needed to have at least one challenge on the list!).

9. Do seasonal things way way ahead of the season so that I've got crafts, decor, cards, baked goodies etc. all ready for the appropriate time of year. NB. Start Christmas presents now!

10. Chill.

Rock Cakes

Decopatch ta-da

Even though I have miraculously learnt a new thing about my camera (after owning it for 5 years) and shot this in candlelight mode, it does look prettier in real life. It took no time at all and recycled a plain glass that used to be full of scented candle wax.

Here's what it looks like in daylight...I will probably try out a few layers of the protective varnish and see whether that works out ok.

It's quick and easy. My buzz words for 2012! I did the wooden jewellery box (featured in my blog header) at the same time. A tip for anyone thinking of doing decopatch of an evening like I did... work in good light! I had a little patching to do when I saw my efforts the next morning in daylight!


I've been away for the weekend. I went 'home' to the South Coast. It was hilly, sunny, lovely. I do miss the hills when I return to Lincolnshire.

Catching up on weekend washing my 11 year old son's school trouser pockets contained this...

These appear in his pocket every few months. When I asked him about them he said that they were supposed to throw them in the bin but he couldn't bring himself to do that whilst it still had some use left in it!


'I quite like you.'
'Well you're not so bad yourself.'
'Don't suppose you'd budge over and let me have a bit more of the sunny patch?'
'Don't push it big guy!'

Molly (left) and Jake

Friday, 13 January 2012

Christmas all over again!

You know you've got a 'keeper' as they say in the States, when your husband calls you from the middle of Manchester and says his job finished earlier than expected and is there anything you'd like from the most amazing, well stocked craft shop in the North of England! I nearly choked on my morning cuppa. I whizzed round the virtual store making tentative suggestions. I was impressed he managed to find everything until he confided that he'd asked for a personal shopper! It seems Fred Aldous were happy to oblige.

Here's what I chose to be getting on with... some decopatch sheets, glue, varnish and brush (I've been meaning to have a go for a while and it fits my aim for 2012 - keep it simple!). Two packs of merino tops for needle felting (I was lucky enough to receive the needle tool and brush thingy for Christmas). A Yellow Owl Workshop rubber stamp set (pine cones look very Christmassy I know but I love pine cones!). Assorted metres of coloured hessian (I've only ever seen this in sack cloth colour, and use it for all kinds of crafts. I was thinking of creating some needle felted panels and attaching them to a hessian backing). A metre of natural unbleached calico - every craft cupboard should have some!

A few things were out of stock but I'm pretty happy to have some new supplies which I can do indoors (rather than go out to my cold and drafty craft shed).

All at sea...

I've just finished reading Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch on Kindle. I've only had the Kindle since last October and I've continued to read paperbacks as well. I'm not sure I'm a total convert yet. It's easier to take the Kindle when we're out and about; particularly if Mr H has a day off and we go to a nice cafe for lunch. Invariably he still has to take care of the many business calls, texts and emails, leaving me sitting like a lemon drinking my coffee whilst receiving sympathetic looks. Now I can whip out the Kindle and we just look like we've got a terrible marriage where we never speak instead!

In Jamrach's Menagerie I was transported right there, with Jaf, and the sights and smells of the docks. I loved the almost poetic language which carries you along a bit like being at sea. I won't spoil it if you haven't read it, but there's a nasty outcome of their voyage which was a tad unexpected, and so I ended the novel with a slightly downhearted feeling.

I've chosen something altogether lighter for my next Kindle read; Breaking the Silence by Diane Chamberlain - the free sample drew me in. I like to mix it up and American novels are something of a guilty pleasure.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Postie's been...

I do like an Amazon delivery of a morn! There wasn't a 'look inside' feature with this and reviewers hadn't described the info I particularly wanted; which was 'will this stash bust my box of DK?'. The answer is yes.

When I learnt to knit I started out with Jean Greenhowe toy patterns. These are so clear and easy to follow and usually don't require any clever or complicated stitches. Toys were perfect projects at the time because I had two little ones eagerly awaiting the finished item.

Now that I've discovered crochet I'm hoping to get a little of the toy magic back with Easy Crochet Critters. I'm also hoping these will be a little quicker too. There are 10 designs: Elephant, Hippo, Monkey, Giraffe, Alligator, Lion, Seal, Walrus, Snowy Owl and Penguin. (For those in the UK - this booklet uses U.S. terms). I know a penguin fan who'll love one of these...

Saturday, 7 January 2012

On the needles...

My lovely husband bought me a whole set of Knit Pro interchangeable circulars last Christmas. Such a joy to use. I love the satin feel of the wood. I couldn't resist this pattern book on my last visit to John Lewis; it's Winter Warmers by Rowan. I'm knitting the cowl in Lima (shade 884). A 2 in 1 garment that you can wear on your head or round your neck. Not a new idea I know, but the first time I've knitted one. Hopefully a nice easy knit not requiring too much concentration.

Bag in a jiffy...

Trying to knit complicated cricket sweaters last year gave me a major headache and another WIP in my knitting cupboard. This year I'm on the look out for quick and easy. I've only been able to crochet since last summer so producing something like this is pretty pleasing.

It's the Bobble Purse from 'I Love Crochet' by Rachel Hendersen and Sarah Hazell. I used wool I already had and handles that were a gift. It only took an evening to make and assemble. I used Wendy Serenity Superchunky on a 12mm crochet hook.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

A new year, a new approach...

I think my blog title speaks for itself. It's a lifestyle I'm striving for; trying to make sense of the world we live in through each of these words. Simple. Natural. Handmade.

I've read and enjoyed great blogs for the last few years and at last I'm taking the plunge and having a go at it myself. I hope you'll join me and call in from time to time!

Meet one of the gang...Harvey