Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Off the hook... Esme Fox

From left to right: Hank, Emma, Esme and Piotr.

I shall probably ask Ella to rename this motley crew at some stage. The names I've mentioned are all from the book 'Edward's Menagerie' but I have an Uncle Esme and I'm not too sure he'd want a fox named after him.

Esme was my first attempt at the tapestry crochet technique. I was never really patient enough to do much intarsia when I was more of a knitter so I've managed to keep tapestry crochet at arms length until now. I frogged the first attempt and then ignored the stitch counts for the second attempt. That went much better but the colour change row ends look different on his left profile than on his right. Not that I mind much. I'm casually flicking through the one book I have with tapestry crochet projects in it. Just maybe, when I'm feeling in need of a challenge.

The book shows the fox in two colours, the main colour of which isn't very foxy if truth be told. My fox yarn came from Northallerton, it's Debbie Bliss Blue Faced Leicester DK (Burnt Orange). It was a discounted ball because it's been discontinued. There was only one ball in this colour and because I didn't want to run out mid fox I decided to add dark grey socks to all four legs and an off white neck band. I'm quite pleased with this more colourful version; there's no mistaking he's a fox.

I've got the hedgehog on the go now. His body and limbs are complete. Once he's finished I really must return to the slightly less exciting garments I've started. I've been making a few small fun items in between hedgehog limbs and the odd row of pink cardigan. A small purse, two flower brooches and a t shirt yarn bowl have been completed, the latter when I disappeared into my little craft room intending to do some tidying up.

Talking of which, Jake and I have completed phase one of the long overdue transformation of his room from ten year old play den to teenage hang out. The master plan involves a massive sliding wardrobe door miracle that will hide a huge amount of sports wear, football boots, cricket boots, trainers, vans, converse, you name it. All currently size twelve, ugh. Non sports wear will take up a much smaller section and finally school books and Xbox/PlayStation games will fill up the remainder. His life is school, sport and gaming, in that order. Phase two looks set to be an even bigger challenge. The hard part is packing up favourite toys and games knowing that childhood as we knew it is definitely over.

Monday, 28 March 2016

All her eggs in one basket...

found the miniature shopping basket in a quirky gift shop in Brighton's North Laines when E and I were down there in February. I had in mind making crochet fruit and veg but then Easter rolled round! I'll probably still have a go at making the fruit and veg.

I really enjoyed crocheting these life sized eggs. I used random DK cotton from my stash and instead of the suggested polystyrene inserts I used soft toy filling. Now that E and J are 18 and 15 respectively my memory of what they played with at what ages is hazy. I figure that sometime over the age of one my little niece will want to play shops, or throwing crochet eggs at Daddy, start talking about colours and counting, or whatever floats her boat really. I think these eggs will be a versatile toy.

E says that little E's memories of me will all involve crochet. Do I care? Not one bit. Eccentric crocheting aunt? Yep that'll do for me.

(The egg pattern is a free one by Red Heart.)

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Shepherd's Hut break...

Our 'grown up' mini break was full of ups and downs and not just of the North Yorkshire Moors kind. I managed to take a horrible viral cold flu type thing with me which was worse in the mornings and evenings but wasn't going to slow me down (much) in the daytime. Plenty of stops for Yorkshire Tea kept me going, and it meant that I matched M's usual pace!

Our first stop was Seaham where we spent a glorious few hours, beachcombing, eating chips from a cone and polishing off the day with ice cream from Lickety Split. A totally British day out. The kids decided when they were small and went on plenty of days out to various beaches with Mum and Dad that you haven't had a proper day out at the seaside unless you get soaking wet and have to sit on a carrier bag in the car on the way home. I pretty much lived up to that family motto.

I should be well rehearsed when it comes to shingle beaches. I grew up with them, not only that but I know the difference between incoming and outgoing tides. On this occasion my legs weren't quite quick enough to scramble up the shingle for an incoming wave because something went 'SNAP!' very loudly and my knee gave way. The cold water up to my knees was quite pleasant I have to say. It was one of those strange sprains that, apart from the snap, doesn't hurt too much at the time, then later you wonder how the hell you walked at all. Luckily we had all of our clothes with us including towels. I did a quick change in the car and put all the wet stuff in a carrier bag, had quite a giggle about it all and wasn't sorry until I woke up the next morning. Well, I say, the 'next' morning, it was actually four o'clock in the morning when the woodburner in the hut had burnt out and I thought I'd get it going again... I think it was the, 'shit, ow, I think I've done something to my knee' whilst hopping around looking for a light switch that woke M.

I got myself sorted out in Northallerton with a neoprene knee support and was good to go. I was chuffed to bits to find the town had a wool shop! Even more impressed to find it had a resident Springer Spaniel called Forrest Gump! Sadly he couldn't live up to his slogan, 'Run Forrest, run...' after the postman ran him over as a puppy. Naturally I'd have been quite happy to have taken him home but had to settle for some wool and a special treat from M in the shape of a yarn bowl. (I've been wanting one of those for ages!).

We visited Richmond too. It was lovely but somehow I forgot to take any photo's. We went for a nice romantic stroll down by the river Swale, browsed the art at The Station, drank more Yorkshire tea and took the scenic route home to the hut. The woodburners in these huts are so small that they light incredibly quickly and warm up in no time at all. With no internet or tv and dodgy phone reception it meant we could well and truly switch off and just read (or crochet) without tempting distractions.

The hut was quite a different arrangement to the last one we stayed in. A door from the hut led into a converted part of a barn which housed the kitchen and a bathroom. On the plus side it meant that the living and sleeping area in the hut did not fill with cooking smells, on the downside it felt a little bit like cheating. It was interesting being located on a working farm. We were very close to the lambing barn, and cows next door too. The view was mesmerising. We had a bird feeder which was constantly busy with all sorts including blue tits, great tits, chaffinches and a fleeting visit from a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Owls could be heard apparently. There's something very therapeutic about getting back to basics. A log fire, a simple wooden roof, a good book and a bowl of yarn not too far away. Who needs more?

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

thrifty finds...

I've been here, there and everywhere just recently. Morpeth, Nottingham, Shrewsbury, Hull. I love the fact that M works all over the country, it means I get to explore cities that would not normally be on my wish list of places to visit. (I just need to remember that my newly acquired hand me down phone takes quite good photo's!)

I'm happy with a local wool shop and a cosy place for coffee but when I don't actually need new supplies of yarn I like to browse the charity shops. I'm chuffed to bits with my latest finds. The three large balls of multi-grey yarn are 200g each and chunky weight. I just happened to buy a pattern recently which calls for 500g of a variegated chunky yarn for the lower half and two balls of a solid complimentary colour for the top half. I have two balls of chunky black in my stash so I can make up this knitted sweater for the grand sum of £6.

The off white ball is 150g and looks and smells like nothing much was done after it came off the sheep! It should be ideal for Simon the Sheep from Edward's Menagerie. According to the book I've already made Hank the Dorset Down Sheep, Emma the Bunny and Piotr the Polar Bear.

The charcoal grey ball is only 50g but definitely 100% wool and the other variegated wool M thinks would make a nice crochet cat (he's a cat person at heart.)

Then finally I found a generous bag of wooden shapes for £1, with the majority having pre drilled holes which should set me off on a tangent to my leather jewellery making, or some other creative use.

These goodies came from a charity shop with one entire back wall devoted to all manner of crafty things. Lots of tapestry frames, embroidery hoops, knitting bags, boxes full of patterns, craft books, rubber stamps, needles and hooks, ribbon, thread, wool... I only wish there were more like it!

Btw that's Riley's (upside down) pose when I tell him he can't sit on my lap because I'm blogging again. He's such a drama queen. Actually it's a sign of a very content and secure dog. They live charmed lives indeed. The new cat, Tilly, is settling in very gradually despite being called Mollie on a regular basis. Riley is terrified of her and walks in a wide circle round her. Harvey is ever curious and playful and sometimes she will even cooperate with that. She has the sunlounge to herself in the day time when the dogs are muddy and/or wet and she makes the most of any sunshine hours by following the sunny patches round the room. Who can blame her?

M and I are not winter gardeners and we are out and about so much for cricket from April onwards that only the bare essential lawn mowing gets done in the summer. We are however, sick of looking at a rubbish garden. Plans are being sketched on graph paper with 'low maintenance' in mind. M has finally conceded that we do actually need some paid help with the clearance of two partially demolished ponds. Hooray for that. It will clear the way for extra decking which could wrap it's way in front of our current summerhouse (my workshop), which we intended to do, oh, seven years ago at least! I've tempted M with the idea of emptying that out ruthlessly and transforming the interior into something similar to what we had in mind for a shepherd's hut. The most important feature being the wood burning stove of course. He's coming round to the idea!

Whilst discussing all these plans yesterday we dragged an old farmhouse kitchen sized table on to the patio and cleared a long low bench of dead tomato plants to create a table and bench area. We must have sat out there in the sun for all of five minutes before I declared the breeze was a bit chilly! It was nice while it lasted and I can't wait for the proper summer so I can take my woolly stuff outside. That might be a while yet, today is typical British drizzle.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Off the hook...polar bear

Let's be honest here, the polar bear is clearly a runt of the litter! They've all been made on a 3mm hook but the Polar Bear has turned out a tad smaller. He's a lovely size to sit in the palm of my quite large hands though and I like the addition of a beer belly in this design.

I'm curious to know whether the Drops Design off white yarn would make a less visible decrease row than this random super wash wool I had in my stash. It really doesn't matter that much as this little guy is destined to hang around with Rabbit and Sheep. There was a pattern for a little crochet fish for the Polar Bear but Rabbit and Sheep are protesting loudly about the potential fishy smell. I may just have to convince them it's all just a load of old yarn!

I've made a start on the Hedgehog. It looks like he might turn out a similar size to Sheep because he has additional spikes on his back, made a similar way to Sheep's coat. I really thought I'd be bored by now but starting an animal with my new Drops yarn has provided new motivation.

Friday, 11 March 2016

New supplies from Morpeth...

M's week in Canterbury was cut short thanks to a 'mistrial'. A new short notice booking at a prison in Northumbland meant a two hour whistle stop tour of Morpeth for me. I went along for the scenic ride really but since I became the proud owner of a fourth time hand me down iPhone (m, e, j and then finally me!) I've been trying to remember that I have internet at my disposal 'on the go'. The novelty of this is amazing! I look up all sorts of useless information now, but most importantly I can look up wool shops! Not only that but the phone can act like a satnav and direct me there! Oh my goodness, the fun I've been missing out on all these years!

Treacle Wool Shop is a small, tucked away affair in a lovely corner of Morpeth. I was really pleased to see plenty of the Drops Design ranges there. I first came across this range at the Knitting and Stitching Show and have never seen it in a wool shop. The shopkeeper mentioned that this is probably because they aren't an easy company to deal with and stock needs to be bought up front. I'm glad she thought the trouble was worth it. I like the fact that there are hundreds of free patterns on the Internet to support their yarn ranges and they group the yarn into bands so that substitutions are easy. I even like the fact that they do everything in 50g balls which makes it flexible for small two colour projects or buying that extra ball when you only have a few rows to complete! It's very reasonably priced too. By far the biggest reason for liking the range is the natural fibres they use. The wristwarmers I made with my Knitting & Stitching Show purchases have washed and retained their shape perfectly despite being 100% wool.

I've stocked up on their DK pure wool range in natural tones for the Edward's Menagerie crochet animals I seem to be rather fond of at the moment. It might be a while before the library comes good on the book though. It's taken three weeks of waiting for the book to be returned to the library. I've just been in today because the computer was showing that it had been returned and was in transit to the next village to us. I asked how long 'in transit' might be, bearing in mind that the opening hours are only for two hours, three times a week and I've been told that it will be eight days! It's a great shame it's already in the system for being moved because the village it is coming from is about three and a half miles away! I think I will probably stick to buying crochet books and just use the library for novels.

The polar bear is a limbless tummy and head at the moment. Rabbit and Sheep can hardly contain their excitement. I've told them to pipe down so that I don't lose count while I'm working, they wouldn't want a polar bear with legs like a giraffe now would they?

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

A well earned coffee break...

Phew! Another couple of projects off the hook and it really doesn't feel like I'm doing much crochet. Life is quite busy in between with M away for a week and the children needing a full time chauffeur. Not to mention the zoo needs feeding and walking. It's only two dogs and a cat but it feels like I am constantly seeing to their needs! Not that I mind too much when I give Harvey and Riley a foot bath in the butler sink and they both lean towards me and nuzzle my ears as I'm scrubbing their pads! I'm taking the opportunity to comb the loose hair out with a special brush while I've got them confined to the sink too. They seem to love being pampered, though I have a theory that they've made the connection between clean paws and access to the sofas!

The charcoal grey hat is finished. Adorned with Mother's Day brooch (how perfect is that design for me?). Naturally I've been out and about to test it out. It's a really good fit and warm too. I'm getting quite good at hats!

Bunny is quite pleased with his new pal Sheep. They've been inseparable; sharing jokes behind my back, casually leaving magazines lying open at crochet animal patterns... I've taken the hint and although he's really not going to find it cold enough here, a polar bear is in the making. Who says sheep and rabbits can't be friends with Polar Bears?

These are all the toft alpaca crochet animals I've come across in my magazine back copies. If anyone knows of any others let me know.

Bunny: Simply Crochet Issue 2
Sheep: Simply Crochet Issue 13
Polar Bear: Mollie Makes Issue 34
Hedgehog: Inside Crochet Issue 48

I've finally got round to joining our local library and I'm looking forward to picking up my reserved copy of Edward's Menagerie. Most of the village libraries near here are now 'Community Hubs' and therefore run by volunteers. The central library is still a quiet zone but the 'hubs' are full of all ages making a terrific din over tea and cake, craft activities and general Mother's meetings; an interesting development and probably one I'd have liked when the children were small. J might even have enjoyed the whole library experience if cake had been part of a weekly visit! I seem to remember that he only enjoyed visits that involved reclining horizontally on a beanbag in the children's area and catching forty winks while E made her selection.

Woolly goings on...

This year's Mother's Day went by in a blur of cricket training. Before J left at the crack of dawn for his he stood smiling by the side of my bed while I attempted to wake up enough for card and present opening. Later it was my turn to taxi E to her training session with another card and presents beforehand. It was nice to see my Mother on Mother's Day too. E, myself and Mum managed to squeeze a coffee and chat in the kitchen while constructing a mixed media shoe box diorama of a sea scene. As you do.

At some stage during this weekend of sport and taxiing I must have managed a spot of crochet. Oh man those loopy sheep things are dull after a while! I think perhaps the friction on my natural off white yarn was such that it made it more challenging. Hence I started making a simple charcoal ribbed crochet beanie whilst having breaks from the loopy madness. Yes I know I made a billion hats at Christmas but I clearly didn't make a charcoal ribbed one for myself and that's what I wanted. It was done and dusted in two sittings. Chunky yarn, a size 6mm hook and back to back Stella (the programme not the beer!)

Off the hook pics to follow very soon.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Off the hook...brown bunny

Brown bunny is finished. His face has turned out a little bashful and shy. I meant to add black safety eyes but totally forgot. The black yarn shows up better in real life. Limitations of using an iPad instead of a proper camera I guess.

He was a fun thing to make and now needs a few other toft animals for company so watch this space! I also have the lamb/sheep pattern in a back copy of Simply Crochet and off white natural yarn in my stash. I shall try and make some progress with my current wips before I start another critter though.

Stop Press! Famous last words. The lure of the lamb was just too much. I have a woolly torso on my hook as we speak!