Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Winter holiday

Just back from a lovely couple of days staying in North Yorkshire, in a winter wonderland that looked like this:

It was only a sprinkling of snow, really, but enough to make the landscape magical.

These photos were taken on the road between Helmsley and Stokesley. After a bracing walk in the frosty winter air, we appreciated a trip to a White Horse Inn for sustenance.

I volunteered to work tomorrow, so my holiday feeling is about to wear off. But at least I had a lovely break!

Friday, 26 December 2014

A festive feast

My festive kitchen on Monday:

The cookies on the right are angels in the realm of glory, and stacked on the cooling rack, merry deer running through the greenwood (yes! This has got to do with Christmas, as in "the rising of the sun, and the running of the deer" *sings Holly and Ivy*)

On Tuesday, I got to work with the icing. Above is my now snow-topped spice cake, but the cookie icing was typically rubbish, I MUST take a class (I say this every year! Perhaps 2015 will be The Year.

After all that work, relaxing was de rigeur. 

Compliments of the season to you, dear reader. Have a virtual bendick's bittermint!

Monday, 22 December 2014


So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!
Susan Cooper

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Stash Stocktaking

I did my annual stash stocktake this weekend. In the course of which, I identified 1830 yards of yarn to discard. However, I just added 880 yards of new yarn to my stash, so I'm about 700 yards up overall.

I did think about declaring that I would not buy any more yarn until that backlog is gone, but I can't really say that given my plan for a sweater next term. 

Back to my stocktaking. It is not so bad when you look at it in the round. I have generally used the yarn I bought during the year, with the exception of the fyberspates 4-ply I added for my ill-fated colour affection in September (now frogged as part of the stock-take), and recent purchases of sock yarn and 3 balls of beautiful bergere de France cabourg in kiwi fruit green.

I have a plan for that yarn, which also involves buttons that look like strawberries, and I really hope this means my knitting mojo will return in January. It's been hiding from me since August!

Here is my current stash all laid out for your enjoyment:

If I don't use some of the older yarn up in the next twelve months, I think it will be for the recycling centre in next year's stock-take!

Saturday, 6 December 2014


Look what I bought from a local artisan yesterday:

They are about 4 ins in diameter and too cute! Found at Claire Elizabeth's cake shop.

Also, I did some crafting in a very small way. Last weekend, I went to a flower market and bought some dried orange pieces, dried limes and cinammon sticks. Yesterday, I attached these to a plain fir wreath, which is now on our front door:

Feeling mildly festive! I'm off to write some Christmas cards.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Stashdown #11: November

Not a whole lot to report. No yarn purchases, but only one minihat finished, so only 12 yards out. This time I made a vaguely festive version.

I'm about to frog my colour affection shawl as I just haven't got on with it. I forgot to do the modification to make the edge stretchy when I started, and then when I got to the first set of stripes, I wasn't sure about the colour choices, and so I stopped work altogether. I only got to about 25%.

My poor productivity in the Fall term means that as of the end of November, I was +1665 yards up on the year.

This week, I intend to go through my stash and discard a few skeins, which I hope will bring that total down a little. I can't think I will end the year on a negative balance though, so this year might be a big fat fail on the stashdown.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Button eyes

A strange thing happened to me yesterday. I bought some fabric!

Seriously, it has been months and months since I bought any fabric. I'm hardly sewing these days. But yesterday, dh and I drove into Derbyshire. We stopped in Crich for a late breakfast, and walked past a haberdashery shop called "Love Hector". I paused to look at the vintage sewing machine in the window, at which point, dh asked if I wanted to go in.

Well. Twenty minutes later, and somewhat poorer, I left the shop again. With this package:

The shopkeeper kindly wrapped up my purchases in an old dressmaking pattern.

Unwrapped, there is this:

And this:

The panel is printed with the pieces to make a doll and a toy dog. They would be wonderful for Halloween, so it's a pity I'm a little late. But next year might be doable, considering how slow I am with actually crafting!

These fabrics remind me of something. Do they remind you??

Apologies for the poor lighting in my photos today. My camera battery was nearly flat, so I couldn't use the flash. And if I delay, I might just not write a blog post, so I thought better seize the moment!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Stashdown #10: October 2014

I bought one skein of red yarn this month, to make a pair of baby bootees. Yarn in: 137.

FOs with yardage out:

  • pair of strawberry bootees using aforementioned red yarn. 78 yards out.
  • innocent mini hat #21 - hallowe'en pumpkin. 12 yards out. 

My total yardage has gone up again for the second month in a row. I'm feeling that this year, my target of nil net increase might not be met. :(

BF from last month: +1630
In: +137
Out: -90
YTD:  +1677

Wednesday, 29 October 2014


Someone has had another birthday:

For this year's birthday outing, we went to the National Media Museum in Bradford, where there is a whole gallery dedicated to computer animation, including some vintage arcade games at only 10p.

You can also try operating film cameras, and learn about the history of the internet. We had a great day, although we were less than impressed with Bradford itself. Ended up having dinner in Leeds instead!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Strawberry Fair

I love making strawberries. Previously I made four of the strawberry innocent mini hats:

And last weekend, I made a pair of baby bootees that look like strawberries:

The seeds were done with duplicate stitch. And the pattern was in a book called Knitted Bootees for Tiny Feet by Catherine Bouquerel. Although they are sweet little designs, I can't whole-hearted recommend this book, because there are pattern errors in it. I've made two pairs of booties from it so far, and both had stitch count problems. 38 stitches will not work with 2x2 rib, nor for the strawberry leaf element on this one. Sigh.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Stashdown #9: September 2014

Oooh, what a bad blogger I am. Bad blogger, bad crafter, all round very bad. In my defence, job change in September has had a big impact. I had a lot of work to finish up in my old job and then my new job has taken up a lot of time and energy, and I'm working more hours now too so have less time for crafting.

Anyway, here's my stashdown report for September:

Yardage in:

1687 of 4 ply to make a colour affection. This is about 400 yards more than required, owing to difficulties with colour choice.

Yardage out:

27 yards on 2 mini hats. *Blushes* This is my least productive September for some years!!

YTD brought forward -30 yards
+1687 in
-27 out
New YTD +1630.

Guess I'd better get on with the knitting!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Stashdown #8: August 2014

Stashdown report for end August is extremely short. No yarn in, no yarn out, so I am still at net -30. I have however been to the yarn shop this week, so I shall have an increase to report next time, as no way will I knit all of that down inside a month:

It's all 4-ply yarn, mostly intended for a Color Affection shawl.

I didn't do any crafting in August and I haven't written here much either. There was a lot of organising needed to get ds ready to start secondary school (honestly, how did that happen?? When I first started blogging here, he was only six years old!) My grandma has not been too well in August so I had a few related family visits. I had booked a week off in mid-August and I was hoping to go away for a few days, but I was invited to a job interview in the middle of it, so we had to stay home. Luckily I actually got that job! I will be working a few more hours and it will be quite a challenge, especially at first, so I think there could be negative crafting impact. I'm due to start in a couple more weeks.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Historical fact and fiction

This August, I have not been knitting, crocheting or sewing. I haven't even been to the yarn shop. I have mostly been reading!

In a charity shop in early August, I found a copy of Midnight is a Place. Re-reading that caused me to look in my boxed children's book collection, where I found the short story book A Harp of Fishbones and Go Saddle the Sea, an adventure story set mainly in Spain in the early nineteenth century.  I had always thought Go Saddle the Sea seemed not to have a proper ending, and this time, when I finished it, I looked it up on Amazon, and discovered it was part of a trilogy. In the pre-Internet age, when I first read it, I had no idea! So guess what speedily downloaded itself onto my Kindle?!

I also finished a book I started ages ago called How to be a Victorian. Yes, a book actually for grown ups! I wanted to finish it after reading Midnight is a Place, which is a fictional account of life for child factory workers in the nineteenth century. After reading this book, I am no longer surprised at the high mortality rate amongst Victorian children. Instead, I'm rather astonished that anyone ever lived to grow up. Not only were infectious diseases and dirty water rife, the food was terrible. There was no formula milk, and many women were working, so according to this book, infants were fed mostly on bread mixed with water, with a side helping of laudanum (alcohol and opiates) to keep them quiet. Suppose they didn't die from malnutrition, infection, or the effects of the opiates, dangerous factory work could easily finish them off in a few years.

That's depressing. I was glad to get back to Joan Aiken! Another charity shop foray added A Small Pinch of Weather (short stories. I especially like the ones about the Armitage children). I'm now trying to locate a copy of All but a Few that I also had as a kid. More short stories! And I'd love to read A Necklace of Raindrops, which I haven't before, and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase again. I'll keep you posted :)

Friday, 1 August 2014

Stashdown #7 July 2014

Good news in this month's stashdown report.

I knitted up:
  • 1079 yards of aran yarn in the Wonderful Wallaby sweater
  • 457 yards of madtosh 4-ply in a ribbon lace scarf
  • 46 yards of dk making more innocent mini hats
  • 160 yards (two different yarns held double) in a marshmallow bonnet for my box of baby gifts
  • 63 yards making pigs-in-a-blanket toy from the Topsy Turvy Inside Out book. So fun! 
  • 127 yards in a pair of kite mittens: even more fun! This pattern was in Knit Now magazine and the FO has been very well received by a three year old. I hear he didn't want to take them off :)

I bought just a little yarn in July. A mere 87 yards, as I needed one last ball of Bergere de France to complete the Wallaby.

I wonder if you're ready for this?!?

Brought forward last month +1815
In +87
Out -1932
Net -1845
YTD -30

Ergo, for the first time this year, I am in net minus numbers.

Too bad I'll be buying more yarn next month! I have Knitting Plans for the Autumn.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Beautiful Soup

In my veg box this week was double quantities of beetroot. It's in season. So I made a batch of my beloved beetroot soup.

I scrubbed the beetroot and cooked it first. Then the skins slides off easily.

I diced the beetroot and added it and potatoes to a softened onion in the pan.

And then poured in two pints of stock, and simmered it for about 45 minutes. The soup needs to be whizzed in a blender. The soup is such a beautiful colour. Almost it's too pretty to eat. But not quite!

I froze quite a lot for future soup eating at cooler times of the year

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Library Trip

I'm very lucky to have an excellent library near me with a very well stocked crafts section. I called in there yesterday morning and picked up these two titles.

I had the booties book before and it is full of adorable patterns, but the Topsy-Turvy one I hadn't seen previously. But I know the work of Susan B. Anderson already, owing to Itty Bitty Hats, which book I have made about six hats from.

So, what to knit?? So much choice, and free time too, and plenty of yarn in hand (only not enough red to tackle the strawberry booties that was my first choice, I discovered last night after knitting half a bootie!)

So I'm knitting the pigs in a blanket. Spent a pleasant couple of hours out in the garden with my needles. This is the life! Shame I have to go to the office tomorrow, but I'll still have the evenings :)

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Ladybird, ladybird

A combination of work commitments and trying to avoid paying out for school holiday care has led to separate holidays for me and dh, with the result that I now have a whole week at home on my own. This is a rare treat to be enjoyed! I can leave the house in the morning and come back to it in the same state I left it. My sewing machine can stay out on the dining table all week. No-one will grumble about food, or whether I'm going to get off the Internet soon. I've got to go to work, of course, but still!

This first afternoon, I got out the trusty sewing machine and sewed this little coin purse:

Here he is with some coins for scale, although to be truthful, he's more likely to be a keeper of stitch markers and the like than actual money. I have another purse, with pockets for cards and a zip compartment, for that!

While I had the machine out, I fixed a tear in a duvet cover and sewed a load of scouts badges onto ds's camp blanket, that he'll be taking with him when he goes off for some scouting fun under canvas in a few weeks. I can't think why it didn't occur to me I could machine-sew those badges before. There were four in my box to sew - I'd been putting it off for a while, but it was unbelievably quick by machine.

What to do this evening?? I think a little knitting may be in order :)

Monday, 21 July 2014

Lace Scarf

Last November, I bought a lovely skein of madtosh fingering in Loop in Islington. And this month, I knitted it up into a lovely lace scarf:

The pattern is free on Knitty: Lace Ribbon Scarf by Veronik Avery. I really love this yarn colour. It's called vishnu. You can see it better in this photo, which also shows the lace:

I'm very pleased with it, not least because I was able to correct the odd mistake by dropping down and using a crochet hook. I've come a long way, baby! A couple of years ago, I would never have been able to do that.

I was going to give it away as a christmas present, but now I'm not sure I can bear to... I'll see what else I knit between now and the Autumn!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Wallaby sweater

At last I knitted a sweater that fits and is practical for every day wear. At least when the weather gets cooler. It was rather hot the day I took this photo, so the modelling was just for a few minutes.

I made this sweater out of 1079 yards of Bergere Magic+ yarn and from a pattern called The Wonderful Wallaby, that I bought on etsy. It was a really nice pattern to knit and comes in a range of sizes, so when ds outgrows this one, I'll knit him another. And, even better, this one also fits me, so when he outgrows it, I will get the hand me down!

I made two adjustments: one to make an overlapping placket at the neckline, with buttons, and one to make the hood a bit less pointy. It was the very first time I made a kangaroo pocket or an overlapping placket, and so I can call this one a learning experience too.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Lazy Sunday

Knitting in the garden today. I started work on a lace ribbon scarf.

It's going extremely slowly, and it must be finished by 27 July (House Cup deadlines!) I've knitted about 10% so far.

Apart from knitting, I've been watching the Tour de France this weekend as it speeds through my home county of Yorkshire. I must say, the Yorkshire Dales landscape looks utterly ravishing on TV and I long to go back for a visit.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Stashdown #6 June 2014

I have knit knit knit in June, mainly owing to the Quidditch World Cup Series that has been playing at Hogwarts (Knit and Crochet version).

Woo! Yarn out as follows:
  • 253 yards on a shrug for my two year old niece
  • 50 yards on blanket squares, crocheted
  • 29 yards on another two charity mini hats
  • 169 yards  on  a crochet scarf
  • 312 yards on a felted bag with thistle embellishment (it had to be over 300 yards for points-earning purposes, so I had to make the thistle to get it over the threshold. OMB the things I do for the House Cup!!)

  • 127 yards on a slouchy hat for ds
Altogether that is 940 yards out - only 60 yards short of a magnificent 1000 yards.

Inward was 431 yards of yarn. There were two skeins I bought specifically to complete some of the projects on the above list, and one ball of Sirdar dk for next month.

CF from last month +2324
Yarn in +431
Yarn out -940
Net for month -509
YTD +1815

Saturday, 28 June 2014

A mirror with sparkling jewels

This weekend, I tried my hand at a different type of crafting!

Some years ago, I admired a friend's jewelled mirror frame, and she gave me instructions on how to do it. It took me a long time to source the materials, but finally, I had all of them in hand: an IKEA plain wooden framed mirror, a bag of acrylic gemstones and a hot glue gun. This mini one was from Hobbycraft.

I planned first on a sheet of paper, then glued the various jewels to the mirror frame:

Ta da!

How bright and cheerful my mirror is. I don't really intend it for the bathroom, though. I think it would not be good for it to experience condensation, the jewels might fall off. 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Queen Anne's lace

I think it a good idea to alternate my knitting and crochet projects when I'm on a bit of a crafting roll, just really to rest my hands a little, as the holds are very different. So I've been interspersing ds's hat, ds's sweater and a knitted felted bag with some crocheted lace.

The crocheted lace is now finished in the form of this pretty scarf. I really like pink, it seems.

I used a free Queen Anne's lace pattern available in several places on Ravelry, a 6mm hook and about 170 yards of Noro Aya - a worsted weight cotton, silk and wool blend. Nice and light for the summer.

The felted bag is on its final stages.Still got a way to go on the knitted sweater though, and as for the hat, it had to be ripped back, owing to wrong size needle... Ah well.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Chai time

I did a little non-yarn shopping on the internet this week. Wanna see??

I had tea in a cast-iron teapot at a restaurant in Brighton back in February, and I remarked at the time how good it must be at keeping your tea hot. I guess there really isn't any need for a cosy, although I might make one in any case, given my love of crafting tea cosies.

Anyway, I saw this one on line and I really fell in love with it, so it has come into our house. And swish! into my basket also went some herbal tea bags mainly incited by the so-beautiful tin, and some loose teas to try out. The tea pot comes with a stainless steel mesh insert to hold your loose tea, so it really is very little trouble to wash up, and you don't end up with tea leaves down the sink either.

I feel another cup of chocolate chai coming on!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The kindness of knitters

I seem to have arrived at that point, described in Mason Dixon Knitting, at which I become interested in knitting for good causes. They put it like this:

"After you've been knitting for a while, another urge hits you: to knit for the Common Good."

I described previously my forays into Innocent Smoothie bottle hats, as part of the Big Knit. Since taking that up, I have also been converted to blanket squares. I made a Dr Who one a few weeks ago for a comfort blanket for a House Cupper in adverse circumstances. And now I've made another four, plain squares this time.

These ones are crochet. I used a free KAS crochet square pattern, and if you want to knit for others, you could do worse than visit the Knit-a-Square site, where the appeal is for squares to make into blankets for South African orphans.

These particular four squares are contributions to baby blankets for families who need them. They are also a response to a bereavement. Not mine, but I'm still sad :(

I see from my on-Rav participation that there is a vast number of squares being generated in this direction. And although I'm sad about the bereavement, it does comfort me a little to see the blanket squares being made, as a mark of respect and appreciation. Kay Gardiner wrote, of making things in this type of circumstance: "[it] seems to express your condolence better than mere words". Perhaps it does.

I'm a little sombre today, dear reader, so I won't write any more. Till the next time!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Knits in the Summer

It's June, and so we should be having good weather in Britain, allegedly. So far, it's been quite variable, I had to put my winter coat back on earlier this week, but the prospect of sunshine has led me towards some thematic knitting!

I made this little shrug for my niece. Little is the operative word.

I used the Quince and Co Chickadee yarn I wound previously. This is sport weight yarn and not dk, but I adjusted for gauge and used a larger needle. I made an age 3, but I used slightly less yarn than expected, so possibly it will not fit. I will send it off and see.

I also made another one of these, for the mini hat craze:

Very seasonal! They look yummy.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Stashdown #5: May 2014

I'm pleased to recount yarn movement in the right direction this month. Yes, it's finally gone down in a month!

I only bought one skein of orange yarn this month. 115 yards in. I have puffin plans for this yarn... but in the meantime, I made a mini hat that looks like an orange:

I used up yarn as follows:

308 yards on the Hydrangea socks
76 yards making mini-hats, including the orange one pictured above
96 yards on blanket squares for group projects. There were three squares, one 8 inch and two 5 inch.
156 yards making yet another tea cosy to add to my collection.

Altogether that's 636 yards out.

I did also make this cute little panda, but that was using yarn supplied as a kit free with a magazine so it doesn't have any impact on stashdown.

Here's my month end update.

Brought forward from last month +2845
Yarn in +115
Yarn out -636
Net for month -521
YTD  +2324

Still quite a way to go to zero!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Mushroom Pouch

This weekend, there was a sight in my house that you don't see every day:

Yep, my poor, neglected sewing machine, out of its case and in use.

My original plan had been to sew a lunchbag out of a magazine pattern. However, unless you're a magician, you can't get 2 pieces 37 x 20 cms, 2 pieces 19 x 40 cms, and 4 pieces 37 x 5.5 cms, out of one Fat Quarter. I hadn't enough fabric. Grr. It does annoy me that publications don't take sufficient care. I feel I really shouldn't have to do a load of maths myself to work out fabric requirements when I'm working from a published pattern.

Anyway, I didn't let it stop me. I'd happened to pick up a library book on Saturday which had a very pretty pattern in it, and when I looked, I had a 7 inch zip on hand, and fabric with my favourite fly agarics printed on it, so I set to work.

I'm really pleased with how the zip went in, and the top-stitching I did on this one. A real improvement, probably caused by extreme caution with my approach. It was so long since I'd done any sewing, I took it very slowly.

I sewed a piece of tape as a hanging / holding loop.

Green leafy fabric as lining. I'm really pleased with it, and I didn't find any pattern errors! You can find it in a book called Everyday Handmade. It's part of a set with a little felt pincushion and needlecase which I'm now eyeing up.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Fans of Dr Who

The evidence.

No. 1: Cup of tea:

The mug on the left shows my Doctor. The one on the right is ds's Doctor.

No. 2: Knitting:

Blanket square, 8 ins,  for charitable purposes.