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!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016


The new wash cloths are in a large straight sided glass bowl in the bathroom. They look lovely and clean and fresh, unlike the paintwork in there. Another job for the list this year!

I will return to wash cloths. It is my aim to create a file or book of simple but effective 'go to' patterns. My memory isn't so good so every time I return to an item I want to make I begin the search for a reliable pattern all over again.

Meanwhile my thoughts have turned to a slightly larger project. I'm thinking of texture again and I fancied having a go at something in linen stitch. I've started a cushion cover using wonderfully tactile, 100% Aran wool interspersed with a random tweedy blue wool I picked up from a sale bin quite a while ago! The fabric is sturdy but not stiff, ideal for a cushion. I haven't made any new covers since I upcycled two plain cream wool blankets into envelope covers. A second colour way using this beautiful 100% Welsh wool will go perfectly with our sofas. The wool was a gift and I think this use and stitch will do it justice.

The chunky ceramic buttons were made by a local potter who specialises in raku fired pieces. She is often at the craft markets we have near the Cathedral and I've been buying a pot or two for no other reason than I really love raku fired pottery. I'm not sure how practical ceramic buttons are for a washable garment but I might use them on this cushion cover which will have to be hand washed anyway. On the other hand they might end up on a chunky cowl.

Today's weather (torrential rain) is the perfect excuse for getting comfy on the sofa, a large mug of tea, the dogs at my feet (the cat eyeing me suspiciously from her favourite chair) and something on Netflix while I enjoy the rhythm that is linen stitch. To think that yesterday I wished we lived somewhere hot!

Friday, 8 January 2016

Out with the old, in with the new...wash cloths

The New Year seemed to be a good time to think about new wash cloths. The old ones will be relegated to the kitchen pile, along with M's old shirts which I cut into useful square pieces. Since I banned M from buying wipes, kitchen towel or cloths of any kind it's been surprising how easy it is to find things for rags.

Last year's wash cloths were mainly a crochet shell pattern. This year I fancied something that required even less concentration so that I could run up a few whilst watching our newly acquired Apple TV thingy (M and I are very slow to catch on with new technology these days). The kids (and my parents) convinced us that Netflix was a good thing. Well it is, and we've watched some great films and I'm already on my fourth crochet wash cloth but alas, the plan to walk twice a day in January has totally fallen by the way side! I'm pretty sure that if I asked the dogs if they fancied another walk in the evening they'd both say, 'nah, let's just watch the end of this movie, we like Morgan Freeman'.

I'm using up odds and ends of 100% cotton. The rib pattern on the diagonal is made by crocheting into the back loop and increasing once at each end of the row until the two sides are the desired length and then decreasing once at each end as you go until you've made a square. Simple.

The cream coloured cloth is about 8" square because I only had 30g of that leftover from E's Torquay Jumper. I tend to weigh my cotton and then wind off half of it, crocheting with increases until the first half is used up and then starting the decreasing, that way I can use up all of my odd amounts. 50 or 60g makes a decent size cloth. One movie = one wash cloth!

Monday, 4 January 2016

Reclaimed wood projects...

At the beginning of every December, despite a full time job, M says to himself, 'now what can I make this year?' Previous years have seen him out in his workshop in all weathers making such things as a dolls bed, a dolls clothes wardrobe, a tanker, a crane, treasure chests. Obviously, he's had to do slightly more grown up things now that the children are 15 and 18.

Luckily Ella dropped a hint back in October that I managed to store in my usually quite useless memory bank. She said she'd like a letter rack to keep important correspondence in and maybe a bit of stationery too.

This is what M came up with using timber from an old piece of furniture. We already had the draw pull, and I had great fun making the rustic stationery with a rubber stamp set bought in Italy. It's now pride of place on her desk so I think she likes it.

The photos don't really do the finish on J's shoeshine box justice. It's waxed and buffed and very tactile to run your hand over. Although J resisted the 'how to polish your own shoes' lesson from M, he eventually came round and now has a shoe cleaning routine which he won't thank me for sharing; every Friday after school he puts an old tea towel on the kitchen island and applies the polish, then leaves it to soak in (so he says) and then he comes back later to buff them up. (The fact that he then leaves them next to his uniform from that day fully expecting to wear it all on the following Monday is just a small detail that I'm working on.) He was really pleased to have his own supplies and box for this 'operation'.

There is one more woodwork project to show you but I need a half decent photograph first. It was a joint effort, M did the woodwork and I did the distressed paint finish.

These gifts are a bit like my Pom Pom hats, not instead of a proper present, just a fun extra gift.

This year I'm going to suggest to M that he starts the woodwork in October to save the last minute panic on Christmas Eve!