Monday, 27 June 2016

Scheepjes Last Dance in the Rain CAL...

I'm experimenting with floret stitch for an alternative to the week ten Scheepjes CAL square. The instructions are in this very useful book I picked up at a local table top sale for 30p. It's called The Harmony Guide to Crochet Stitches, published in 1986. It's extremely well laid out and packed with stitches of all kinds; every crocheter should have one!

Floret stitch is a bit fiddly and not especially quick but I need to settle on a square and make four by Wednesday to get me up to date ready for week eleven. I like the way it's keeping its shape and probably won't even need blocking.

I couldn't resist getting my piles of finished squares out of their boxes for a quick recap. Oddly enough 36 squares all piled up like this doesn't seem anywhere near enough for a blanket but there are twelve more squares to make and I'm sure it will be plenty. If I need crochet inspiration in the future I only need take a look at the variety of squares in this blanket!

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Warm woollen mittens...

Following on from a frenzy of woolly hat making in June why not make woolly mittens too? I had a small quantity of Patons Crofter Aran weight that I found in a charity shop for 50p. It's 60% wool and has the feel of Rowan Big Wool, it's ideal for mittens. The pattern is from the book 'Crocheted Gifts' by Interweave which I've had for years and had the mittens bookmarked since I bought it. As with hats, once you've made them once it is easy to make adjustments for different sizes. I plan to make a pair in a slightly smaller size for E whose hands get cold so easily in the winter. Since there is plenty leftover if you start with 100gms I could easily add a few more rows of the shell cuff for extra warmth.

The pattern looks more complex than it actually is. The mitten is worked in the round until the thumb and then suggests fastening off but I slipped a few stitches to the new starting place which saved cutting and reattaching. They were done and dusted in one evening whilst watching the England vs Sri Lanka cricket.

I've started weekly swimming sessions as a gentle way to exercise my knee. It's certainly a lot less painful than trying to walk on it. I dislike the faff involved in swimming, I'd much rather be traipsing through fields in the fresh air with all the country smells and watching the dogs enjoy themselves but once I'm in the water and particularly once I'm in the jacuzzi after the swim then I have to concede it is quite an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Today, J is taking a break from his very intense cricket schedule and resting a sore muscle so he'll be joining me for a swim. Not M though. As if driving J all over the country for cricket and watching it on TV wasn't enough, he's now a fully qualified umpire. E is working at a children's farm which she alternatively loves and hates, but mostly loves. It's weekends like this that remind me how difficult it is to actually spend some quality family time together.

I've been catching up on my Scheepjes CAL squares. I've made the first of the week ten squares and decided that I can't bring myself to make four of them. Despite my best efforts the dc edges are a complete nightmare to go round without it looking raggy. It isn't just me, there have been comments from other bloggers. It's just not enjoyable to crochet four squares and settle for untidy edges so I'm going to try and work up something similar that will eliminate the edge problem. Another two weeks of square designs and I think it will be time for a photo call!

Friday, 24 June 2016

Hats as therapy...

So the mustard Knoll yarn became a hat, as planned. Not the smoothest yarn to work with but it made a comfy hat. I planned for a raw edge slouchy beanie but ended up adding a ribbed section. It's arctic quality now, deepest, darkest winter attire. Made in June, of course.

Sticking with the hat theme I somehow made four hats in four days. It was a case of; when in doubt, crochet hats. It's been a very sad week. A family thing. Heartbreaking.

I returned to a free pattern for the raised treble spiral design that I'd had trouble with previously. It went smoothly this time, working up quickly in Aran weight yarn and using up random leftovers. The pale grey yarn was leftover from the (shawl) wrap I made recently and the blue variegated left over from a cushion I made at the beginning of the year.

The fourth hat was made using a purchased pattern (from the same designer as the Sunday Shawl) via Etsy because I knew it would be well written and photographed and I love the look of raised treble basket weave! The pattern is written for several sizes so I'm hoping that I will have enough of the denim coloured Rowan Felted Tweed leftover to make one in a toddler size too. The yarn was quite fine to work with even though it's a DK yarn but the result feels beautifully luxurious. Note, all these hats look far better modelled on people but E has been ill these week with a nasty bug and we've had so much rain, so I'll try and take some photo's soon. With four hats it would be fun to find a nice back drop that wasn't our unruly garden hedges!

I'm behind on my CAL squares but it won't be difficult to catch up. I'm still frustratingly limited in how far I can walk and coupled with the fact that June has been such a wet month I can only really crochet the afternoons away can't I? In fact, as I type we are in the middle of yet another torrential downpour. Roll on summer!

Friday, 17 June 2016


Sometimes it all falls into place and sometimes it just falls into one big mess. You can see which applies at the moment. I've lost my crochet mojo!

The granny square cowl that caught Ella's eye is an absolute nightmare. I'm hating the slippery splitty merino yarn. I'm not enjoying the many ends that need to be woven in per square. It took many attempts to get the gauge anywhere near the 8cm square required and even now I need to be adding a round of dc to make it just right, which may or may not be the reason that the squares once joined are standing out slightly puffy. I could just steam press it and hope it settles down or I could make a few more squares without that round and see if that solves the problem. I haven't really got enough yardage to be experimenting which is quite annoying!

I'm behind on my CAL squares because week 8 was a tricky one. It's not so much the crochet that's tricky, just this slightly textured charcoal grey is a b****r to see in anything but fantastically bright light! Even then it's quite tiring. I'm waiting for some new reading glasses. Thankfully week 9 looks pretty straightforward and it's in a light colour.

In my restlessness I dug out the single, almost finished wristlet I'm making for Ella. The enthusiasm for this project waned due to the small hook size and the fact that I've had to go wildly off course to get anything resembling a usable mitt. It doesn't matter that I departed from the pattern, it does matter that I have no idea what I did, and no notes, so making number two will be like crocheting in the dark. Not to mention that I'm not even sure I used the hook size in the pattern, I need to start attaching info tags to wips!

Also amongst my big fat mess is some newly acquired tweedy mustard yarn. M had a cancelled job recently and with the weather looking decidedly stormy, instead of tackling workshop roof repairs we headed over to a favourite little market town. There were two new places since our last visit. A fantastic new coffee bar decorated in a cool urban rustic style, right up our street and great coffee. Also a new yarn store! The latter was on two floors with fabric downstairs and yarn upstairs, oh I how I wish it had been the other way round! I stubbornly tackled the steep stairs and of course my knee complained for the rest of the day. There were a few yarns I don't often see, so well worth the aggravation. I was restrained and only came home with these three balls with a new beanie in mind. This is exactly the yarn I wanted six months ago when I was in my hat making phase. I'll make the hat and E and I can fight over who has it. She likes this shade too.

Great coffee at: Auction House Cafe/Bar/Tapas, Corn Market, Louth
A selection of Artesano, Noro, Knoll, KnitPicks, Debbie Bliss and many more at: Owls Fabric & Wool Shop, Corn Market, Louth.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Off the big cosy wrap

This huge wrap came together in less than a week. A couple of sunny afternoons and a few evenings. Our kitchen island is two metres long and the width of the wrap exceeded that by a little bit. I've really enjoyed making it so there may be more of these in the future. E paid the highest compliment and said, 'I'd wear that' which means she'll probably 'borrow' it.

I deliberated over the picot edge but in the end I decided it looked more finished with it. It's a very straightforward pattern, in Simply Crochet (43) but also in the book Modern Crocheted Shawls and Wraps by Laura Strutt.

We've had an awful lot of rain here in Lincolnshire today. It was the perfect excuse to test out the warmth of the new wrap round my shoulders while I worked up a CAL square. It's definitely cosy and warm, both Harvey and Riley wanted in on the action, snuggling up next to me.

Before the heavens opened I took the dogs to our favourite spot and managed to walk a little further than usual. Still only a short distance and very slowly but I was so incredibly happy to manage that. Things could be on the up. I had definitely taken it for granted that I'd always have my dog walking no matter what.

On the down side Riley got up to his old tricks and found some fox poo to roll in. Despite the slightly stronger current and higher levels in the river I let him have a good swim to get most of it off. He wasn't ready for the current and seemed to glide under the bridge and down river rather speedily, he ended up clambering out a little further down than normal. It can't have bothered him much because he ran back over land to me, jumped in and did it all over again. Harvey, whose brain is wired up differently, decided just to swim against the current. Each to their own eh?

Yarn notes for anyone raiding their Aran supplies for this stash busting project: the main colour uses just under 300g, each of the four other colours uses comfortably less than 100g (from 60g to 80g). Using a 5mm hook.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

It's a wrap...

I'm whizzing through this 'Flash your Stash' shawl from Simply Crochet (issue 43). I'm calling it a wrap from now on though. It's turning out to be quite a good size, definitely something to wrap round when the sun doesn't turn up for one of the many cricket matches I watch every season. In fact J is playing his next county match next week so I'll be popping it in the car for that occasion. Not much left to do now. Since I took these photos I've managed to find time to crochet a gazillion puff stitches which has given the lower half a nice bit of weight.

I haven't used the suggested yarn for this. All the yarn pictured with the wrap in progress I had in my 'Aran weight' box. The four almost 100g balls were left overs but the pale grey 400g ball I bought simply because I liked the colour and knew it would come in handy. I suddenly develop selective hearing when M asks me what I'm buying a particular yarn for. I tend to buy 400g balls when I see them on sale. It's a useful quantity and doesn't seem as indulgent as four balls of 100g, even though it's exactly the same amount! Yarn psychology ;-)

Talking of which, I don't usually get that 'one more row' urgency with striped blankets for instance but with wraps, especially the type with all the interest in the lower half, I definitely do. So I've been making speedy progress with this. Even though this pattern is mainly three types of row it looks like more because of the colour changes.

The new yarn for E's granny square cowl arrived! These are the colours she wears and likes. I decided to order from Wool Warehouse this time because they had more colours in stock of this range and also the Drops Alpaca that I needed. The yarn came in a drawstring bag which was a nice touch and also arrived much quicker than the company I previously favoured.

I've noticed that there has been much discussion about tension amongst those making the Last Dance blanket in Scheepjes Merino. Some have used a hook sized much larger than the squares have called for. I haven't had any sizing problems with any of my squares to date with random DK. However, I've made one square of this cowl and found it to be significantly smaller so I will need to go up at least one hook size. On that one square there were far too many ends for my liking so it's going to be a bit of a faff but I could probably do the ends according to the batches that they set out in the pattern. Five at a time.

I don't tend to pull my yarn from the middle so it'll be interesting to see if it ends up in a tangled mess or not. Those easy start tags are certainly useful for something like this where I've substituted every single colour and there's a list of all the combinations that need to be made.

I must confess, although my knee is not showing any signs of improving I've reached that stage where I'm not making quite so much fuss about what I can't do. I've just busied myself with things I can. I've given up hope that anyone in this household would 'see' that a job needs doing and do it, I simply wait until it's a good moment to ask E to put some washing out, J to sweep the kitchen or M to do a small DIY task that I'd normally have done myself. Timing is everything.

In the meantime, crochet is my therapy. Deep breath and...treble away!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Simple, rustic food...

When M and I first lived together I was aghast at how many ingredients lurked in his kitchen cupboards. He was equally aghast at my lack of interest in anything remotely related to cooking. You could say we met each other half way (though I like to think he's simply come round to my way of thinking). Food can taste just as good with five or less ingredients. That's my general rule. It not only cuts down on time spent in the kitchen and expense but you taste what you're meant to taste. The exceptions are perhaps M's thai curry and his mushroom risotto. He throws in all sorts and they always taste pretty good to me.

I am still discouraging jars of this and packets of that when we go food shopping. My ideal fridge would be an incredibly paired down version of what we currently have but that's not possible with a family of four with their various quirks. J loves ketchup. E likes Mayo. M likes anything with a kick. I like things plain. J likes flavoured yoghurts, E likes entirely different choices of flavoured yoghurts. M likes yet another set of flavours (Black Cherry for instance). I like good old plain Yeo Valley or Greek. Are you getting a picture of how complicated our fridge looks? I have steered everyone towards the plain-yoghurt-goes-with-everything school of thought and even been successful for a few weeks and then somehow the flavoured stuff ends up back in the fridge.

This last week with J back at school and E busy with all sorts (except A Level revision!) I've managed to make simple, tasty lunches for myself. Plain or cheese omelettes, fruit with a dollop of yoghurt, enormous salads, soups. I've found a new way of preparing food that involves surrounding myself with everything I could possibly need and then sitting down to do the work. It makes sense to carry on with this long after my knee is back to normal.

I'm eagerly awaiting a new crochet square for the Last Dance in the Rain CAL to be released tomorrow. In the meantime Ella has spotted a granny square cowl on the cover of one of my magazines that she'd like me to make for her. One the one hand I'm over the moon that my crochet skills can be put to good use and on the other, ugh, millions of colour changes and ends to deal with. I didn't have anything remotely close in my stash so we've pondered over the colour charts and E has chosen a scheme that fits her taste. It'll be a more autumnal/winter result than the magazine version but with pale grey as a backdrop it might just work for colder summer evenings too.

Having completed the week 7 squares over the last six days and whilst waiting for a couple of balls of Drops Alpaca to arrive to finish my simple lightweight shawl I've also started another shawl! Ugh shawl is such a girly word. I prefer to call them triangular scarves. Anyway, this one is a warmer item, worked up pretty quickly in Aran weight yarn. It's one of those projects you spot and then realise you have just the yarn for it! I had a huge ball of light grey that is more than enough for the main colour. I'm just about to start introducing accent colours and then I will photograph it in progress. It's a pretty dull load of old trebles at the moment!

Thursday, 2 June 2016

On my coffee table today...

I'm definitely not the hearts and bobble type usually but this week's CAL square is quite pleasing in the context of all the other designs. I can cope with hearts and bobbles in small doses! The colour way 'Last dance in the Rain' called for another grey, perhaps a bluish grey, I opted for a blue. I think. I can't always tell the difference between blue and grey.

Knee recovery is slow and frustrating. I seem to be getting good advice from the physiotherapist. For the first time I feel like I know what's happening with this injury. Even with an interpreter (Ella) at the last consultant appointment things seemed pretty vague. Apparently it's now a 'wait and see' situation. Another six weeks or so of being extremely careful and not doing too much (impossible) and see what it's like then. The plastic 3D model of the knee joint she showed me today was interesting. I feel slightly squeamish knowing exactly which bit I've torn now but at least it explains why it hurts so much.

At least there is always crochet. It never seems to get dull. Though I really should not be starting a new project when I have a perfectly good ripple blanket on the go that needs all my spare time if it's to be put to use at cold cricket matches this year. (It's a myth that cricket is played or watched in this county during wonderful British summers!). M is keeping me supplied with extra magazines during this knee recovery phase and I loved the shawl in the latest Simply Crochet. I haven't got anything remotely like a lace weight ombré in my stash so I started it using the four ply alpaca mix I bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show. I'll need another couple of balls to get it to triangular scarf size and it's nothing like the suggested yarn but I'm looking upon it as a stash buster and trial run for when I next come across some interesting hand dyed fine weight yarn. It's a great no frills design with no unnecessary girly bits. I did most of this watching a cricket match from the car whilst Jake froze in what looked like gale force wind and spitting rain. I did offer to crochet the whole team a nice warm beanie but the offer wasn't enthusiastically met! Jake did, however, mow the lawns on bank holiday Monday whilst wearing the crochet Pom Pom hat I made him last Christmas. Result!

Having said that Harvey was a tricky subject to pin down for a photo I set myself a challenge...these were the best I could do. The standing one looking into the camera was only because I was holding his tennis ball! Ha! Gotcha!