Sunday, December 14, 2014


The other day I was too unwell to go to morris practice - I don't dance any more but it's hard to get through a tune when you're constantly on the verge of a gigantic sneeze, or coughing fit. Poor Me (but it has gone on and on). So I had a couple of hours on my hands and, more importantly, some rather scandinavian looking jingle bells that needed a home. I thought a wreath or some kind of arrangement that didn't cost a fortune (we have a real tree, that's the major outgoing!) would be the thing, and I traditionally like to fill the house with sticks and leaves so I can hoover them up well into the summer.

I wrapped up warm and went out in the garden to gather some greenery - we're very lucky to have a fantastic garden with all your Christmas greenery needs right there at the snip of the secateurs. I fixed myself up with a pile of conifer, rosemary, bay leaves, a little bit of holly (our holly trees are still quite little) and some dried chillis for a bit of red (an idea totally stolen from those lovely Riverford people). The hoarding of the 'useful one day' items in this house is pretty full on, so I also found some galvanised steel wire and gaffer tape to fasten the whole lot together. Later on some giant nails and a bit of log also came in handy.

Artfully arranged and wired together greenery. I never plan this stuff, just hope for the best and fill in gaps when I need to:
Twigs in an unruly heap

Twigs in an orderly heap
Then I wrapped the whole bottom of it round and round with gaffer tape. I did intend to put this in a pot or vase, but it refused to remain upright due to being somewhat top-heavy. This is why it ended up being nailed to a log, which adds to the rustic charm don't you think?

Twigs finally brought under the control of wire, gaffer tape and 2 x 3.5 inch nails
Then the fun part, which is hanging stuff on it. Also, nothing is anything without fairy lights! Here is a lovely photo of my washing up and greenery:

Wok and twigs and and fairylights. I really dislike that red tray now, and there are four of them.
Chillies, lights and bells.
It didn't stay on the kitchen windowsill very long as it kept fighting with the composting pot (knowing, surely, its ultimate destiny. Nothing goes to waste) and is now on the dining room windowsill.

Other Christmas stuff I've a fancy to make are this fabric wreath by the marvellous Jack Monroe, and this knitted + pom pom wreath has been on my Ravelry list for a year, oh! TWO years.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014


And so, the Christmas countdown begins. I already feel like I usually feel with three days to go and it's only the first week in December, it may be due to the Advent Calendar madness we embarked on.

Usually we've bought The Boy an advent calendar off the shelf, last year a Star Wars Lego one to avoid the 7am chocolate tantrums, but all the bits were a very small and didn't add up to much in the end. So this year we had the brainwave of buying a full size set (same price as a calendar) and splitting it into 24 elements; this is very much the Husband's department and involved a great deal of faffing and MEASURING and making special instruction cards, which is almost his favourite thing to do, so he was happy.

This will mean nothing to most people. Others will know it's a LEGO 70503 Ninjago Golden Dragon set, with Golden Ninja; who used to be the green ninja and before that a delinquent candy stealer called Lloyd Garmadon. he has now reached his full potential, but he did have a difficult childhood.

I did the sewing, which is my third favourite thing to do but there was no way a knitted calendar was going to happen in the time available (I'll leave that to the Yarn Harlot).

I made it pretty much out of things already in my stash (for a mainly-knitter I have a pretty good stash of sew-ey stuff, it turns out) but went out and bought glitter fabric paint for the numbers because embroidering up to 24 is not so much my thing.

Biscuit tin storage. I need more tins though.
A giant rectangle of blue fleece and 24 jersey pockets later I had the basics down (or the boring bit as I christened it) so I got to do the fun bit with the felt, braid, beads and hot glue gun, because I am the sheriff of stationery village.
Oh, I do miss the Mighty Boosh

 I made snowmen, parcels and trees (with re-purposed beads for baubles):

And then stuck them all over the giant blue rectangle. Here is a photo taken of it hanging off the drinks cabinet (drinks cabinet!) at a crazy angle.I honestly hadn't been at the drinks inside the cabinet at this stage, but may have been over-caffeinated:

Ooo, gin!
Then we stuffed each pocket with 1/24 of the LEGO set and instructions,  and may possibly put some chocolate coins in the weekends but I'm not sure yet. He'll get the Golden Ninja on Christmas Eve.

"Give me all your candy canes"

Friday, November 21, 2014


Kama (not karma, though that is also important). Kama is Noro yarn of which 1/4 is silk, so it's a bit less woolly than some of their others. The colourway I had it in (05) may well not appeal to most; muddy green, deep red and a touch of pale pink anyone? (I did consider removing the pink part entirely, I must admit). This may be why it was in the bargain bin at £5 a ball, which is practically half price, I cannot walk past a bargain even a weirdly coloured one.

So, the request came in for a hat for my mother which needs to go with her navy blue coat. I ignored this instruction and decided to make her a muddy green, red and pink hat instead. Also, I needed a break from those squares. I really did.

I made Woolly Wormhead's Propello. I needed to go up a needle size, which I found out by swatching and also washing the swatch like a good knitter. It is a lovely thing to knit. In fact I may have knitted most of it twice due to going directly form brim to crown instructions and missing out the main round and round part on my first attempt...

Excuse the crap photos, it is STILL NOT DRY despite having been wrapped round this plate for 24 hours.

I used my two skeins to knit alternate rows to see what would happen, and I got a quite pleasing effect in the end, with a stripey bit round the main part of the hat and a red crown. 

The pink bit is really hardy there at all:

Look at those decreases, I love them. That Woolly is a clever designer:

And it really does look like a propellor.

And now I am really behind on the Kaffe knitalong.I might have some wine.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


I've been reading 'The Woman in White' by Wilkie Collins which, in case you don't know, is a very long Victorian sensation fiction novel about a young woman falsely incarcerated in a lunatic asylum, a very secret secret, a criminal conspiracy, unsettling and shady characters aristocratic and otherwise (some of them foreign) and a bit of romance. Also, there's a bit that'll make you jump out of your skin, or at least make it creep a bit. I can't understand why it's taken me until this great age to read it, as it's just up my street.

It was originally published in series form in Charles Dickens' magazine 'All The Year Round'. I can completely understand the anticipation of the readers as they waited for the next episode to appear - I should think on a par with the experience of waiting for the next 'The Killing' episode on BBC4 on a Saturday night.

I'd have quite liked to read it in that episodic way, but when presented with an Entire Book it proved impossible to stop, though I did once fall asleep mid-epoch with the paperback on my face (this is not uncommon, I admit, and much more comfortable than falling asleep with a first generation Kindle on your face). It's written in the from of 'reports' by major and minor characters, and you find yourself trying to put together what happened for yourself, which I think makes it all the more gripping.

If you get the Penguin edition it has a very good introduction by Matthew Sweet, in which he does helpfully tell you to read the second half of the intro after you've read the novel (does that make it an outro?) so you don't spolier* yourself at the start. Thank you, Dr Sweet.

When you do read the end of the introduction you're presented with all sorts of other unsettling questions about the motives of the narrators - and one in particular - so you have to think about scheduling in a second read of it. Anyway, if you like a fright, a mystery and a long Victorian book I can recommend it.

I'm going to read Collin's 'The Moonstone' after I've read 'We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves' - which should be read on the basis of its excellent title alone, and not simply because a friend recommended it by practically grabbing me by the throat and making me promise to read it so we can discuss.

*which makes me wonder, did Victorian people go about avoiding society or not reading their mail, in case they overheard something they had not yet read?.

In knitting news I have undertaken  the Kaffe Fasset Rowan Yarns Knitalong. I am not up to week 5 yet, but I do have some lovely squares from weeks 1 - 4:


I am doing the turqouise version, I love the yarn and am already thinking about cosy jumpers made of it (it's completely non-itchy). However I am already dreading sewing it all together. I can sew it together over Christmas though so at least will have access to daytime wine.

I don't usually do KALs, and I had kept up until very recently. If the typeface on a Penguin Classic was a bit larger I may have been able to knit and read simultaneously, but it isn't, so instead I have become horribly addicted to 'Grimm' on Netflix, which is much easier to knit to, despite the beheadings.

Grimm is basically 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' with more variety in the monster department. The 'Buffy' part is a cop called Nick, and one of his sidekicks is a vegetarian werewolf called Monroe (he's very deadpan, I like him a lot) rather than a witch. It's all very entertaining and set in Portland, Oregon - someone was ripped to pieces by a monster outside the very Rothko exhibit we visited a couple of years ago.

Portland, watch out for the Hexenbiests!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


I have been sewing - sometimes having a garment you can put on yourself in in days rather then weeks (or months, in some of my knitted project cases!)  is a nice thing.

I wear a lot of jersey, and bought two massive lengths of organic cotton jersey last summer  before I realised the lovely Alabama Chanin style clothes it was intended for really don't suit me; all those raw edges, the exposed stitching, the intricate applique, I made one top and it just looked awful on me. Which was a shame as I enjoyed the hand sewing, machine sewing is a bit daunting!

So, and in an attempt to cure me of machine sewing phobia , I went to the other extreme and chose the simple jersey dress pattern 'Coco' from Tilly and the Buttons. This has been made by SO many people, with so many modifications (you can find them on many blogs, and on its own Pinterest board),  it was easy to get an idea of who it would suit. The genius of this pattern is that it practically suits anyone!

Now, the machine sewing phobia - I have made things in the past, but I use guesswork and hope (and red wine)  to get me through. Even though I was probably the last generation of kids to do 'Home Ec' we didn't get to make clothes (in fact I made a clam shaped in cushion in pink satin and fun fur (!!)) so I have no idea what I'm doing. And here again Tilly steps in with her absolutely fantastic sew along tutorials for this pattern. Which is good when you're already feeling a bit scared of the knit fabric, and have heard tales of how hard it is to sew with.

This took me about three days of 'sewing time' i.e. not flat out, but over a morning or two and a few

First stick the pattern together (if you bought the digital version) this is strangely relaxing, and the cat helped. I measured myself and tried to work out what size I was - which is between two sizes  as it turns out, but again there's info on how to deal with that in the instructions.

Coco pattern with added Georgia
Then I cut it out. I used dressmakers carbon and the wheely thing to draw the pattern onto the fabric, very much easier than chalk!:

pieces of fabric
Started sewing. Look at this seam, it's SO NEAT. I was AMAZED:

Amazingly neat seaming
We're told when to press the seams out, when to trim them, when to use a zig zag or a straight stitch and so on. Also the great tip of rolled up towels for pressing the sleeve seams, which doubles as makeshift pin cushion:

Sheep voodoo
I finished and tried it on on Sunday night...and ..somehow I'd made a giant frumpy dress arghhhh!!! (big lesson - read the finished garment size measurements properly!) . But, I felt now I could cope with taking the whole thing apart up the sides, take in by about 2 cm each side, and shorten both length and sleeves. I decided against pockets on this occasion.

This was much better, and to celebrate here's a terrible hospital staff changing room selfie of me in my Coco:

I am going to make another one, probably in a patterned jersey this time, or with a different coloured yoke, with the pockets, maybe the top version...but first I have to look at ALL the fabric on the internet.

Thursday, May 08, 2014


My garden is growing, everything went in late (as usual, I am a fairweather gardener at heart, so most of my plants are tiny seedlings) but other things are coming up too, and the things that are coming up are Incredibly Green.

The fig tree, which sat in a pot for a few years looking sad, really appreciated its move to a dryish bed by a wall a couple of years ago. I put it here because Monty Don said it would be a good idea on Gardeners World, and if Monty says a thing will like it somewhere particular, I tend to believe him.


Strawberries from my Mum which have spent the winter in the greenhouse looking a little bit unwell, but have perked up no end since March.


There are some chives, which should have loads of  purple pom poms on the end by now but something is eating them (these have escaped, so far).


This year I'm growing some 'unusual' veg, this one is 'Minutina' or Bucks Horn Plantain, which is a salad crop, it's supposed to be very easy to grow, and it's certainly doing well so far, some of it is now in the ground, rather than this seed tray. It's so green!:

Bucks Horn Plantain. So called because it looks like antlers, but not yet

Here are  a gigantic amount of poppies, which started as two plants and have become many more. I just let them self seed and then move the new ones around the next year, basic lazy gardening, the kind I like best. I hope they'll flower, it's decided to become cold again just the past couple of days...


I also must present my First Potato of The Year. I grow them in left over compost bags, as I don't have that much vegetable plot space . I get childishly excited at the sight of the first spud plant every year, and here it is:

Hello Potato!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Et Ferdig Ting - Dårlige Jomfruer Pute

A Finished Thing - Foolish Virgins Pillow  (if that's not the correct translation to Norwegian up there then it's Google's fault).

My obsession with all things Scandinavian seems never to lessen, not only do they do a good crime drama, have peculiar cheese and lovely scenery, there's also of course a  fantastic knitting tradition.

Peculiar, yet oddly delicious
A few years ago I bought a book called 'Norweigian Handknits', which is not from Norway at all but output of  the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum  in Decorah, Iowa. I'm not at all disappointed by this, being able to imagine a museum full of  Garrison Keillor characters as well as all the lovely things (yes, I know his American Norwegians all live in Minnesota, but Iowa's the next state down. And if FARGO is anything to go by, Minnesota looks a bit dangerous).  The book is filled with knitting patterns inspired by textiles in the museum, I pretty much want to make them all !

I had my eye on the Foolish Virgins pillow for a while, in the book it's done in reds and greens, but the magic porridge pot of yarn overfloweth, so I decided to recolour  it in greens and blues (and purple):

Three hours of Excel colouring in
It was pretty tangly knitting, a number of rows had really long floats in them, and trying to twist the yarn to catch them in made it worse.

Oh what a tangled mess...
So knitting this side was a pretty slow job, but the end result well worth it, AND once it's finished you can suddenly see ALL the Virgins!

Here is is before blocking, see how wibbly wobbly it is? Colourwork looks so crap before it's blocked I often think it's gone Horribly Wrong:

Wibbly wobbly, curly wurly
 And after blocking, like a different item:

Flatter now...
Now, in the pattern it asks you  to make the back of the pillow out of fabric, so being a glutton for punishment I decided I wouldn't do that, I'd knit a back panel of my own design using some of the motifs from the front. I did some more colouring in, by hand this time:

Never too old for colouring in
And off I went. I managed somehow to knit it a repeat and a half too long (moral : you really shouldn't drink while knitting, especially while casting on). I also, despite having the same number of rows, had a piece that was about 2 centimeters narrower than the front. I know how to fix this, of course,  which is with a massive fudge of picking up and knitting a few more rows each side, while swearing and drinking Rioja:

Both these pieces were knit in the round with steeks, steeks don't really want to unravel when knit in sticky Shetland yarn, but these also included a fair bit of less sticky Rowan felted tweed and were looking a bit fragile.  I decided it was a bit risky to sew them together raw, so I did a 'steek sandwich' (Kate Davies very lovely way of neatening the ends up) on all four ends, before sewing them together:

An end, earlier.
I made a lining to hold the stuffing out of a piece of cotton, and put it in before stuffing the pillow with some raggedy fleece not really fit for spinning:

Innard, outard.

Fluffy Cloud

This way I can get it stuffed to optimum effect, and not strain the sewn up edge at all trying to get a ready stuffed pillowform inside the cover.

All sewn up, finished, very comfy too!:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Zuzu's Petals

Let me say first of all, lace and me, we don't get on *that* well. However, Zuzu's Petals looked fairly straightforward and I really need to get through some of my stash of small amounts of lovely yarn. I have a lot of yarn which falls into this category, either given as gifts (and you know, I don't mind that AT ALL, yarn gifters!) or purchased by myself thinking a little bit won't hurt, but now I find myself with piles of scarf or hat sized amounts of beautiful yarn (and it's usually discontinued, so I can't add to it to make larger garments).

I cast on and finished this in a week, and then my mother stole it from me.

This is the colour it really is, round the neck of Mum

The yarn I used was shiny and cosy Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk Aran [discontinued] in a pale cyan/aqua shade. I intended to knit the  large yarn/fewer repeats version of this cowl, but after a while I realised there was no way it would fit over my head, so I did it in the large yarn with all the repeats intended for the 'smaller' yarn (I've lost you haven't I...?). This did the trick.

Once I had got over the odd cast on (totally made sense when I just went with it) found all the stitch markers I needed (a lot)  and my inability to count properly, it flew along, .

Mum encountered this first in its unblocked state and immediately had it round her neck claimed as her own. I insisted it would be even more lovely once blocked so it went on a pillow well away from The Black Cats:

Darkish, early morning photography, it's not this colour at all.

By the magic of blocking the pattern is revealed (the Yarn Harlot has been writing about blocking this week ):

I am so pleased with this that I may need to knit another, or something similar. I have some delicious coolree yarn I picked up at Knit and Stitch the other week, just the one skein...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A new obsession or three...

Obsession 1:
 I got a loom for Christmas - I knew I was getting it because the postman delivered it when I was in, rather than hiding it round the back of the fence as he is wont to do...but that is actually better than the traipse into the parcel office with no parking for customers, even those with heavy boxes to carry.

Anyway, it's an Ashford Rigid Heddle Loom (800mm) and just completely fantastic:

I have woven A Thing:

Practice Scarflet
It's not really long enough to be anything (maybe a wraplet/scarflet/??) but was a practice run. Yesterday night I warped the loom up with an approx 2m warp by using a chair back rather than the warping peg on our not very long table. I have no idea how far I walked while doing this but it felt like MILES.

I am going to cruise through my current stash at record speed if I keep this up [husband heaves sigh of relief, and thinks he will regain the underneath of the bed 'storage area'...he is so, so, wrong]. I wait to see if using the deconstructed (shiny) Guardian Saturday Magazine for keeping the rolled on warp threads at tension will work....

Obsession 2:

 This cardigan out of S2 E1 of 'The Bridge". I must have it. Which means I must work out how to make it OR go to Sweden and buy it. The latter is on the cards so we will see. I totally love The Bridge (and all Scandi- drama) though maybe not as much as I love 'Sherlock' - which had added Scandi Baddie in the last episode of course...

Obsession 3: 

How does one get tickets to see Mr. Cumberbatch in Hamlet???????

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Twelve Owls a Hooting...

My friend the patchworker put in a request for a cardigan version of Kate Davies 'Owlet' for her daughter, who has a great dislike of having anything put over her head (not uncommon in very small children). So I went on Ravelry and found a modification involving a steek, and that's what I decided to do.
I started on Friday 13th December,  possibly not an auspicious date to start, especially after a post-midnight KFC, four hours sleep and too much science based excitement the night before with which we celebrated the husband's birthday. And indeed, things did go a teeny bit awry...

OWLETS showing no sign of PTSD* (unlike me)*post traumatic steeking disorder
I realised when I started the steeking that I have been spoilt by Too Much Shetland yarn (which is, surely, velcro in disguise) resulting in a steeking ALMOST DISASTER on the slippery-slippery Debbie Bliss Rialto Chunky I knit this in. It did not stay put with a crocheted steek, and of course, even as I crocheted the steek I knew this would be the case. I didn’t listen though, did I, yarn gods?
I used sweary words that should not be spoken over a small child's cardigan, drank some wine (a lot of wine, rather inadvertantly it turns out) and then came back to it a day later. I had to machine sew the steek, which didn't exactly look neat, but has the effect of stopping the entire garment from falling to pieces in my hands.
I hoped I could  hide the crappiness behind the zip, or in a facing of some kind. At this point it was 23rd December and I still thought (why?) that this child would have an Owlet for Christmas. She didn't though, because wrapping and last minute trips to the shops got in the way. Such is life, and I think she probably won't be any the wiser...
I didn't trust myself with Christmas Day knitting, what with the pre-9am Bellinis and then the wine and the G&Ts during Dr Who. So let's fast forward to 27th December.

I blanket stitched the steek, then I picked up and knit ribbing on the front:

I think I got away with it
I tried to put a zip in but it looked completely hideous. So replaced the zip with poppers, one at the top of the neck and one in line with the owl feet:

I sewed on 24 buttons, 6 during ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ none during ‘Bill Bailey, Qualmpeddler’ (I was laughing too much, ironically, during a sketch about rescuing a live owl  from the menu offerings of a Chinese restaurant in Gaung Dong Province) and the rest during Mark Gatiss’s BBC4 documentary about M.R. James - which may be why I imagine these owlets’ eyes follow me round the room…

'Hoot' said the owl...
She finally got her owlet on 30th December, which is really only five days later than intended. What a hoot!