Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Italy road trip #1 Lincoln to Dijon via Reims

I had planned to blog from France and Italy using my iPod but it just wasn't to be. Blogger turned everything into Italian and then refused to recognise my log in etc. It might have been easier had I taken my iPad but I didn't want the burden of carrying that around for two weeks; we stayed in various different places rather than one base and on occasion the parked car temperature reached 47 degrees!

We set off from the UK in my much checked over jeep. A top box was borrowed and fitted. Blankets and travel cushions packed. It's entirely possible to drive from the UK to Italy in one go but we felt that would be a tiring way to start the trip and the whole point was to see things on the way.

After a small drama at Dover (one grumpy driver had a hissy fit because the children were a little excited in the back and couldn't sleep, children eh?) we finally boarded at 6.30am. If we ever did this again we would choose a different ferry time and sleep over in Kent to start afresh. We lost a whole nights sleep by leaving home at midnight and arriving at Dover two hours before the boat sailed.

We stopped in Reims, in France on day one. We found a small cafe and the young girl was clearly enjoying trying out her English. She stopped to ask us lot of questions, 'how you say this?' In return she pointed out all the food choices in English, and also suggested we pop round the corner to see the smiling angel. We weren't sure what to expect but there she was by the door of the cathedral, clearly smiling. Slightly creepy we thought. We popped inside and although I'm not a religious person I made a donation to light a candle for Nan. She'd have liked the cathedral.

I spotted the giant crochet fruits and bears on the way back to the car from the cathedral. How cool are they? Just as well the shop was closed for the long midday break; I may have come home with a giant crochet strawberry! As it is, I'll just have to make one!

We stayed over night in Dijon. Not far from the hotel was a branch of Leclerc, the kids were able to stock up on some of their previously discovered French favourites including hazelnut chocolate wafer biscuits. These were scoffed steadily through the first evening of many spent playing UNO.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Have crochet water bottle carrier will travel...

I was supposed to be at cricket training myself this evening but the trouble is... time to myself is too good to resist. M is suffering from permanent pmt (he says it's coffee). The children are experts at making that worse than it needs to be. I'm trying to muster up enthusiasm to go on a road trip with the three of them and I'm failing. Let's hope it all fades to a distant memory when we get going.

So, this beautiful summer's evening was spent, quietly with my dogs on the deck with the evening sun still very warm. A leftover amount of navy blue cotton was turned into a bottle carrier, with a little help from the Kindle version of Crochet One Skein Wonders. I modified it a little. Lengthened and narrowed the strap and did a couple of rows of hdc instead of trebles at the top. I thought it would be a bit stretchy and weak but you could swing a full bottle of water round your head (if you should ever want to!) and it wouldn't break, or stretch.

I told Ella I would be crocheting this water bottle carrier and to my surprise she said that it was a really good idea. Then came the 'but'! Her recommendation was not to wear the crochet bottle carrier at the same time as my crochet rucksack, whilst wearing my crochet sun hat and throwing my crochet frisbee. Huh? She spoils all my fun! What no crochet trainer socks and sandals either? Pah.

It did make me wonder whether this whole crochet hobby has got a little out of hand! Instead I told her that when I'm old I will do exactly that. Go the whole crochet hog. She said I wouldn't get any visits at my care home. Cheeky.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Monsieur Bearnard...

Riley must have had some kind of adventure in the fields of broad beans while I was in Sussex. His paw swelled up a little and it looked like something might have gone into a small entry wound. We've been there and done it with grass seeds when Harvey was a puppy and he had to have three surgically removed from his ear. They can be dangerous things. A friend of ours had a Springer with a grass seed that travelled through to its spinal cord and paralysed it. It had to be put down. Terrible.

So, we weren't going to take any chances with this lump on Riley's paw. £241.75 later and he's had an operation to investigate and repair the tissue and had the paw stapled together. No foreign objects, just a wound. He took an extra hour to come round (snoring apparently) and he wagged his tail when I picked him up. I cried with relief on the way home. The vet had detected a heart murmur when he examined the paw for the first time and I was worried he might not be the best candidate for an anaesthetic.

Harvey paced up and down all day not quite knowing what was going on. He was pleased to see Riley again and did something quite amazing; he dropped his precious tennis ball into Riley's bed where he was resting. He never gives up his tennis ball for anyone. Must be brotherly love! Never mind that Riley couldn't pick it up with his cone on!

He's got to wear the plastic cone for ten days while the paw heals. So far he is pretty rubbish at negotiating steps and furniture. I've even lifted him into his bed after watching him repeatedly fail to lift his head up far enough to get in! He finally settled when I sat down with him on the sofa and luckily I had my latest project within reach. He's been fast asleep beside me for as long as it took to run up two arms, one leg and a French beret for Monsieur Bearnard! That was quite a long time actually. I haven't knitted for yonks and I was a bit rusty. I had to remind myself what skpo was! Definitely not my neatest piece of knitting but Monsieur Bearnard will be travelling on the dashboard of my jeep while we drive right through France to Italy.

(The bear comes as a free kit with the latest issue of Simple Knitting.)

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Random tales from Sussex...

The woolly acquisitions (yesterday's post) was clearly only half of the story. A big pile of books and a Rye Pottery mug also came home with me after doing the rounds of charity shops. The mug is a very large one and is going to be my new favourite. It's screams 70s to me but I haven't looked up the design yet. It goes very well with a Rye Pottery vase I bought up here in Lincolnshire.

I've started The Missing One (yes I am very behind on updating the reading list in my sidebar). When I chose it I didn't realise that the female character in it lived in Oxford but grew up in Sussex. I've also lived in both, but there the similarities end. It was the book I took down to the beach when I had a couple of opportunities to sit on the pebbles and read. I'm now back in the thick of it; families and the s*** that goes with them sometimes, and wishing I was back on that beach!

The Italian phrase book is a very good one, it has lots of advice in it as well as the lingo. I need to do some bedtime reading and swot up. M is using an app to listen and repeat key phrases but I need to see it in black and white.

Home Made Simple seemed like my kind of book. On closer inspection some of the projects are a bit obvious but if I use just two or three ideas from the book it will have been worth the £1.50 I paid.

Now I bet you're wondering what the picture with the cream tea is all about. I think the cream tea tradition is bigger in Devon but it is certainly popular in Sussex too. I had to take that photograph very quickly before the scones were scoffed! This was at a lovely garden centre near Catfield called Great Park Farm. All the teapots had different knitted or crocheted cosies. My kind of place!


Saturday, 19 July 2014

Acquisitions of the woolly kind...

Home sweet home! I'm on my fourth washing load. I've emptied the bins that were overflowing (they must think the bins miraculously empty themselves!) I've swept up twigs, mud and leaves (dogs), I've wiped all the worktops which clearly hadn't been wiped in a whole week, yuk. The funny thing was that E said, proudly, 'we hoovered yesterday!' I resisted the urge to ask where they hoovered. Actually I won't bore you with the rest. Suffice to say it's going to be a week before I get the place reasonably hygienic once more.

In the meantime, on the newly scrubbed kitchen workbench I have gathered my woolly acquisitions and photographed them to show you. That dolly mixture of gorgeous tweedy yarns and muted wools was just £2 for the whole lot in a charity shop in Bexhill. I think some of it is Rowan sock weight yarn.

The unusual wooden oval bowl was also from a charity shop, just 99p, I loved the carving. You can never have too many bowls for creative use; I use them for my pins, tape measure, crochet hooks, whatever I'm using at any one time.

The handles have turned out not be the right size for a project I had in mind but I know I will use them at some stage.

Before I tell you about the scrumptious Jaeger wool I must fill you in on the whole Uncle and Auntie thing. It is with some horror that I've found my children didn't really go along with the whole auntie and uncle thing when they were smaller. For relatives yes but not for very good friends of our parents like my brother and I were required to do when we we children. It doesn't seem to be the way of their friends and so I've let it go. Now that I'm (ahem) years old I do think it's time I dropped the Auntie and Uncle thing. In practice it's harder to drop the habit of a lifetime and so I bring you, Uncle R and Auntie F. You know who you are!

AF won't mind me telling you that she is amazing when it comes to all things creative. Oh how I wish we lived closer. Spinning lessons? Tick. Rug making? Tick... I think the list is probably quite long. When there were murmurs of 'getting rid' of some supplies that were hanging around I didn't say no! (Jaeger wool!) In fact we had an impromptu rug making lesson at my Grandfather's party. I've picked up a couple of rug making books on my thrifty travels and never quite trusted the information that nothing needs to be knotted. See pic 5, it's a square of old blanket and beautiful hand spun, undyed wool. Here, I must confess that I didn't hook all of this, in fact my bit is the slightly dodgy dark brown patch which proves I need a bit more practice. I can now see how it all holds together. I can also see this becoming quite addictive!

The Jaeger yarn looks like an aran weight and with about 400g to play with I've got a few ideas. I love this kind of wool, I call it 'slubby'. It's got a good wool content so I imagine I will be making a warm item with it.

Not photographed is four 100g balls of Patons wool blend aran weight wool. £1.25! All different but natural shades. Two are grey shades and would work well with the Highlander. I'm thinking stripes, or patchwork squares. This is most definitely going to be back to front or random crochet. Acquire the yarn and then work out what to make with it as opposed to choose a pattern and buy the wool for it! Random is so much more fun!

Homeward bound...

It's with a heavy heart that I leave the county I grew up in. In fact it's been a heavy week in some ways. I've never felt a connection to where I live now, no matter how I try and convince myself otherwise. Though I do return to it with a renewed desire to try and make the best of it, and if that means trying to enjoy gardening then so be it. Having enjoyed a beautiful garden this past week I realise ours is sadly lacking in all things flowery. I must admit Harvey was never brought up to respect plants because we've simply been taming the jungle throughout the four years he's been with us. He knows just how to join in with the pruning! Unlike Archie (last pic) who prefers shoes!

It's been hard to know that now my children are old enough to fend for themselves for a few days I can pop down to Sussex and spend some time there. This is something I wished I could do a few years ago when my Nan was still alive. I've always thought graves were a comforting thing to have, but three years on it is still extremely difficult to visit hers.

On a happier note though, it's been great to spend some time with my Grandad. We had a party in the garden for his 90th birthday with about 30 or so friends and relatives. Since then I've been fascinated to hear all sorts of stories about his childhood that I hadn't heard before. My children have absolutely no idea what life used to be like!

I really do love the coast and took every opportunity to dip my toes in the sea. I looked in rock pools when the tide was going out. I walked up and down the whole length of promenade, several times. Oh, and fourth photo down... I sat behind this dark haired, six packed, guitar player until he started turning round and singing directly to me. Awkward moment! He definitely picked the wrong person to sing to, I couldn't hear a thing! I did smile nicely though and went and found another spot in the beach!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Welcome to the world...

Aw! Isn't he gorgeous? Baby B, born a few days ago.

I had a little cuddle today, he was just adorable.

He's my second cousin, the tiniest of all my cousins.

Dubbed a 'future Volkswagen driver'. How do we know? His t-shirt says so.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Postcards from Sussex...

Loving my time here in sunny Sussex. I'm home! Woohoo! I stood in those shallow waves today and it was wonderful. I picked up pebbles with holes in them and filled my pockets. I closed my eyes as I sat on the pebbles and thought back to when I was 15 or so and used to swim in the sea with my friends.

There's no place like home.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Crochet trainer socks...

I made some crochet trainer socks! I'm not a big fan of socks. In the summer I live in flip flops and in the winter I prefer slippers without socks. In the evenings in summertime however, my feet get cold. If I have to wear socks I prefer the trainer sock type so I thought I'd crochet some. Before long most of my posessions will be crocheted!

(And yes that is the pre holiday tan that comes from watching 50 odd cricket matches and counting...)

So, I had a lovely session combing through my back copies of crochet magazines, probably a good half an hour browsing the internet for a pattern which used the weight of wool I had on stand by. No luck. So I did much the same as I did for a pair of mittens I made yonks ago and made it up as I went along. I even got flashy and made a little loop for the back of the heel. Woohoo! Not that I will be hanging these up very often but I just fancied a loop ok?

I even remembered to write down roughly what I was doing so that the second one would come out approximately the same. It did, I was surprised!

Of course, you could embellish these in a hundred different ways but since that is rather overwhelming and I like plain and simple things I stuck to plain old oatmeal.

They are packed in my little suitcase, I am off to Sussex for a little while, leaving dogs, children, husband and cat to their own devices. That will mean coming home to mud throughout the whole house!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Vintage crochet patterns...

M and I went to a small town near here, which shall remain nameless so that I can call it a bit of a dump! It just happened to be the nearest place to where M's sister lives and we were charged with having to entertain her for a morning. I say that like it's a chore, but in truth it's me that finds it difficult because her speech isn't clear (a learning disability). M however, seems to understand every word.

Anyway, with just five pounds to spend and strict instructions not to allow her to buy any cuddly toys or dolls, we thought we'd introduce her to charity shops. Luckily she likes puzzles and we came home with several. Bearing in mind that I like to have a proper browse myself I left M to do the supervising. It seems he lost the battle over the duplicate design. He told her she already had a cottage one (purchased and popped back to the car) but she insisted she hadn't. Communication barrier or not I like to think I would have won that particular battle if I'd been supervising! M was particularly or should I say spectacularly bored that morning (think Kevin by Harry Enfield) and refused to go back and exchange it so we suggested she donated it to the local horse charity (up the road).

Meanwhile I resisted the temptation to jump up and down or turn cartwheels in Barnado's when I stumbled across a whole pile of vintage crochet patterns. Twenty pence each! I bought the lot! Ella likes the crochet collars would you believe? They look tricky but I plan to have a go.

The His and Hers crochet vests made us laugh, a lot. They look like old fashioned dish cloths! When I'd sobered up I realised that the pattern would make a nice summer top. I've never used 4 ply and I'm not sure how my hands would cope but I could possibly work out the sizing if substituted with DK.

As for the other garments I think they'd need adapting for modern day wear, though I think the blue top would look ok, again, without the shirt! See the collar on that one! In the background is a woven raffia mat, I'm pretty sure we had one of those on our kitchen floor when I was very small.

The sage green waistcoat might work out without adapting, just a change of colour perhaps, and lose the belt!

It's a shame the anenome doily isn't photographed in colour. It reminds me of one my Nan had and Grandad still has, but with pansies I believe. I am most definitely going to make this one. Somehow the sight of the pansy doily is always comforting. My grandparents were so much more consistent than at home. If I went away for a week I'd come home and find Mum had moved all the furniture around! Of course, I do that myself now!

The Pineapple Chair Set looks far too fine and fancy to do the job it was intended for (I'm told this was to keep the chair underneath clean, particularly from hair oil.) The pattern is dated 1961, before I was born. It suggests that you wash the finished item in 'a warm lather of pure soap flakes'. Is that before or after you've cooked a three course meal for your husband and got the house looking spick and span?

Finally, one of my favourites, the raffia handbag! How thrifty they were in the old days! Inside it says that the handle design is 'economical' because it has two rods that can easily be removed and quickly inserted in another bag, so that one handle serves for any number of bags for different occasions. Well, I could certainly crochet one for day use and one for evening use. Those who know me will be falling on the floor laughing right now. I'm not big on handbags but I see this as a crochet challenge!

Excuse me while I go and lather up some pure soap flakes!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Cottage chic stool cover...

I didn't name this pattern (just for the record). There's not a lot of cottage chic going on here, except for the stool cover of course.

The pattern is in the current issue of Inside Crochet. It's extremely quick and easy. I made it with much cruder cotton than the Stylecraft Cotton recommended so it worked up a bit chunkier, I just sized it as I went. I ended up adding a few more of the last rows. It suggests a ribbon tie for underneath but I used a length of the same cotton because it isn't going to show.

My formerly tatty stool isn't actually a stool at all. It's one of those irritating leftovers from a successful auction bid where you end up with a few bits you didn't really want along with the item that you did want. If you've been to auctions that will make more sense to you! This 'stool' used to be a child's chair but at some stage lost it's back.

At the moment the cotton is a dazzling and clean white but it probably won't stay that way for long. M has already put his feet up on it! How very dare he!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Crafting with cotton...

I definitely recommend having a good old rummage in your wool cupboard/ baskets/ bags/ drawers/ under the stairs cupboards/ vintage suitcases...ok I think I've covered a few bases there. Where do you keep your 'stash'?

My stash is stored in one of those wood and canvas wardrobe affairs which was Ella's until she grew up. Inside I have boxes labelled according to wool type ie. DK, chunky, superchunky, etc. A lot of it was acquired when I used to knit. I know I've said this before but I started out with brightly coloured DK wools and a handful of Jean Greenhowe booklets. Those knitting patterns are expertly written and ideal for all levels of knitter. Indeed I did impress my Nan by knitting up some Grandad and Grandma characters and I hadn't been knitting long. If only there was a Jean Greenhowe in the crochet world. There's a lot of amigurumi patterns out there but none have the consistency, range, charm and simplicity of a JG pattern, in my humble opinion.

So, as I unstacked the boxes and came to a box titled 'misc' (it's like the man drawer of the crochet world!) I had the most fun discovering mostly unusable yarns - have you ever tried crocheting chenile or eyelash yarn? Don't. They have been added to the charity bag. Right at the bottom was an untouched ball of 'craft cotton' which is probably just a fancy name for string, it is exactly the same as the white string of my childhood, and I know this for a fact because I threaded my conkers onto it!

Every now and then I browse through the crochet magazines and the patterns in the latest issue of Inside Crochet were the first to catch my eye for a while. The stool pictured looks very similar to one that we have that currently has a tatty knitted cover. I took the string, a hook and the magazine to a cricket match today and made a start.

Half way through the match E was bored and asked me to teach her to crochet. This was probably the third time, and the third fail. I think you probably have to want to learn, rather than just pass the time!

Today was one of those typically British cricket matches. Sunshine, freezing wind, rain. The last two overs were played in a heavy downpour, I think the umpire was keen to get home.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Cricket and crochet...

OK, this wasn't my most successful spherical shaped crochet object. (Try saying that after a large Gin and Tonic!). However, it does vaguely resemble a cricket ball and J was delighted to have a suitable ball to go with his mini bat for indoor games. It's already been whacked around the sunlounge and miraculously kept it's shape.

It started off wet and windy here in Lincolnshire and with no word of today's match being cancelled the men set off for the venue. I've got a bit of a cold (yes again!) and with the weather looking dubious I decided to give it a miss.

I've been ransacking my wool cupboard (it's a rainy day and I have at least hoovered) and I've come across some works in progress that really shouldn't have been abandoned for so long. One, a summer vest top that turned out a bit too big, I've unravelled and I've found a new pattern for the quantity of aran weight cotton. The other, is being 'reinvented' (it's amazing how many crochet disasters can be transformed into useful bags!)

Friday, 4 July 2014

A crochet sun hat...

What no cricket? Quick, grab a basket of yarn and a hook, and don't forget the tea!

Italy seems an agonisingly long way off. Hell, I've got my backpack and I'm ready to go! Hang on, wait a minute, what about a sun hat? I have a lovely finely woven sun hat made in Ecuador but it's straw and can't be rolled up and shoved in a bag whilst eating (risotto for instance). It's also quite light and liable to blow away in the slightest breeze.

Cue the bargain cotton mix denim yarn I picked up in Oxfam at the end of April. It's Sirdar Calico (DK) and the hat used 91g which means the hat cost less than £1. I used it doubled up for speed more than anything. I constructed the main body of the hat in much the same way as I did the beanies I made earlier this year (pattern link in my sidebar). When the hat was a comfortable fit and came down far enough I started the brim. At this point I confess to using a combination of crochet hat brims found on the internet. It needs some more experimentation. I have plenty of cotton to try another one. They only take a couple of hours to make. In the meantime this hat was well and truly tested by sitting outside in the afternoon sun and it works beautifully!

Jake thought the hat was funny. He refused to model it for me, for my blog. I told him I was going to make him one next, in lime green with a pink band. He didn't believe me. (I'm secretly crocheting a cricket ball for the beach!)