Old Year, New Year

It’s the time of year to reflect and to plan. I know I am a bit late with this, as it’s the start of February but I have lost my blogging mojo a bit. I made a serious error at the end of last year and deleted all the photos from my blog. I’m slowly trying to add them again but it takes time and it’s thrown me a bit. If you go to older posts, all of the photos are gone. I almost decided to give up on this project but I have lots of happy memories stored here. It’ll take time but I’ll get everything sorted out eventually.

So, onto reflecting and planning. This is a relatively new experience for me. Last year was the first time I consciously made any ‘resolutions’ for the year ahead. On the whole I’m pleased about how things turned out. Some of the things I wanted to do were run, knit, sew and grow…

1. Run 

IMG_0250I started training last January and progressed really well. I wouldn’t say that I am a committed and converted runner but it was satisfying to see how quickly I could build up my distance. Ultimately I completed my goal – the 10km ‘Total Warrior’ course that my husband had done the year before. I am back in training because I want to do it again. I also want to do the Great North Run, if I can get a place.

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2. Knit

After stocking up at the inaugural Yarndale in September 2013, I had a fabulous stash of yarn. Some of it really, really needed to be worked with needles, not a hook. I started my knitting adventures this year by casting on my first pair of socks. It did NOT go well to start with. This picture is actually the second sock, which I managed without my Mum, unlike the first one.IMG_9362Once I got the hang of holding the needles I began to LOVE sock knitting. Just going round and round doing plain old knit stitch is quite mesmerising. I found that working in variegated yarn was very helpful as a beginner. It’s much easier to identify and put mistakes right when each row is a different colour. My first socks were done in a non-traditional way with an ‘afterthought’ heel which was also knitted ’round and round’ and a toe done in a similar way. I had no idea how to pick up the stitches for the heel but I found a YouTube tutorial and away I went. When it comes to learning new knitting skills, Google and YouTube are your friends. IMG_9539I was ridiculously pleased with my first pair of socks and cast on pair two, this time in rainbow colours for my daughter.

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This time I wanted to learn how to turn a heel in the traditional way. I took my socks on holiday with me and put up with much joking about how much it would cost to pay me to make socks. If I was charging by the hour, they’d be very expensive socks.

IMG_9820IMG_0007Not only did I ‘turn’ the heel, I also managed to complete the toe with grafting or ‘Kitchener stitch’, thanks to this tutorial by Sarah, over at Continuum Mama.

Sarah also helped me learn another skill this year. She kindly gave me a live tutorial via Skype in which I learned the basics of intarsia. In other words, I learned to change the colour of my yarn and knit a coloured pattern. She choose a simple heart pattern centred into a wash cloth. It was a great first project and made a cute little birthday present for my great aunt.

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Spurred on by the success of these projects my current WIP combines sock knitting and intarsia. I’m not going to share it yet though as it is going to be another gift.

One of my more expensive purchases at Yarndale was some fluffy, fine kid mohair from Northumbrian producers, Whistlebare. I really only bought the yarn because I loved the free scarf pattern that came with it. I wasn’t at all sure that I would ever be able to knit it as  another new skill was required (using a circular needle) and the pattern clearly stated that it was not for beginners. I eventually plucked up the courage to cast on the required 216 stitches, carefully marking every 20 stitches. I did NOT want to start creating the pattern and find I had cast on the wrong number.

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Creating the ‘daisy’ pattern was a challenge. I couldn’t make any sense of the pattern and neither could my local knitting friends. Of course the great thing about the internet and dealing with small producers is that a couple of emails later, all my questions were answered by the pattern designer herself.

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Job done!

3. Sew

My Mum has always sewed, on and off, and it’s something I’ve always felt I should be able to do. I got put off as a child because my Mum’s sewing machine was very temperamental. I usually ended up jamming it up in great twists of thread that had to be hacked at and fought from the teeth of the machine. Now she has a much easier to use, modern machine that helpfully beeps at you when you do something stupid, like try to sew with the presser foot up.

I’ve also realised that I am a person who likes to do things by the book. I like instructions and I like to know that I am doing things the right way. Mum, it turns out, is much more instinctive and learned a lot just by watching her Mum. I do not work that way and am probably a nightmare to teach.

Earlier in the year, inspired by the Great British Sewing Bee, I decided I would make some pyjamas for Son Number One. I trawled the internet looking for a pattern that was simple enough but still looked like a traditional pair of button up pyjamas. This is what I settled for

Next I hunted in all the local charity shops for the fabric. Call me cheap but I had this idea that an old duvet could be ideal material for pyjama making. I wanted something soft, simply patterned and mostly cotton. I’m pleased to say that I managed to buy the fabric and make the PJ’s in time for the local show in September. I entered them into the ‘up cycled garment’ class and won first prize! It only took about five months from start to finish!IMG_1955 IMG_1956Later in the year I decided to make another garment, also using recycled fabric. The day my Mum and I went to Yarndale, we had a trip around the charity shops of Skipton. Mum was very taken with the print on this curtain and promptly bought it.

IMG_2282We then spotted this tunic in Joules and thought we could make something similar.

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So here is the pattern I chose

IMG_2273It turned out well but I must admit I haven’t worn it much yet. I need something to put under it for winter and I haven’t found a top the right colour yet.

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I’m pretty pleased with how my sewing skills have come on this year. I  think the most important thing I learned was that if you don’t measure yourself carefully you will probably make the wrong size. I generally wear a UK size 12 when I buy from the shops but I think I ended up making the size 16 on this pattern.

4. Gardening

My final aim for 2014 was to get into the allotment more and grow more of out own food. I don’t think I did a spectacular job of that. My biggest failing is letting pests get out of control. I’m not keen on slug pellets so I need to find another way to get rid of these beasties.

The things that did the best were the usual suspects: onions, courgettes, pumpkins, strawberries and gooseberries. My cabbages and broccoli survived but mainly by good luck. The sweetcorn also grew well and produced cobs of corn but I couldn’t seem to harvest them at the right moment – they were either under or over ripe. I’m hoping that some of them might still be useable for popcorn.

onions hanging in shed full grown sweetcorn purple sprouting broccoli psb cabbages and grass mulch growing cabbageIMG_4991IMG_1038chardcolourful harvest leeks chard beetrootopen pea pod

This year I’m going to try and produce more flowers.

sunflowers in vase I really enjoyed having a few homegrown blooms at home last season so I have planted a few rows of alium, tulip and iris bulbs though at the moment it looks more like I am growing canes with bottles on top.

spring bulb collage

It seems unbelievable that it will soon be time to start sowing and growing again. The months and years tick around so quickly. One month of 2015 has gone already.

So, what will 2015 hold? More of the same I hope. My training runs are well under way, I’ve got a special intarsia project on my knitting needles, I’m sure more pyjamas will be required soon and I’ll have to check my seed stocks before long.

I hope your 2015 is going well so far and your New Year Resolutions have lasted into February.

 

 

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Yarn talk: Yarndale

I have bought a lot of yarn in the last few weeks, most of it at the wonderful Yarndale festival. Luckily for me, Skipton, where the festival was held, is within a couple of hours drive. Even luckier still, I was able to head there for two nights with my Mum’s caravan and a yarn-loving friend. I was very, very pleased to have her with me as navigator and for general reassurance, especially as it was my first ‘solo’ caravan trip. I had a bit of a panic when we reached a particularly interesting archway across the road. You can see a picture of it here. We breathed in, peered in the wing mirrors and drove through very slowly. We made it through without a hitch but I had the return journey in the back of my mind for most of the weekend.

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Apart from the thought of driving back through that arch we had a perfect weekend. We were able to visit another friend and her new baby who lives close to Skipton. Her husband treated us to a delicious home cooked meal (and a much needed glass of wine) and on the day of the festival, she acted as a taxi service.

IMG_3618We found our way to the auction market by following the bunting that had been strung along the path. As we approached the building we admired the other wooly decorations.

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IMG_3615But of course, there was much, much more to see inside.

IMG_3610I took very few pictures inside the exhibition. I was far too busy, viewing, stroking and buying yarn.

IMG_3607This was one of the more eye-catching pieces of crochet on display. I’m sorry I don’t know whose stall it was on.

IMG_3608I could have taken pictures of ‘The Natural Dye Studio‘s’ stall all afternoon. Their patterns and yarn were absolutely amazing, so brightly coloured and so soft to the touch. I bought a copy of their ‘Desirable Crochet Motifs’ book though goodness knows how I will make use of it. If you want to spend some serious money on some beautiful crochet, you could do a lot worse than to visit their website and buy one of their kits.

My friend and I both spent a ridiculous amount of money (I had been saving up for some time so I don’t feel too guilty).

IMG_3621This was our joint pile of purchases, mine on the right, hers on the left. Anything left of and including the cone of thick, carpet yarn in the middle is hers, including the fabric. We both had things in mind when we bought our yarn. I really shouldn’t need any more projects for at least another year. In order to use up this stash I am going to have to learn some new skills. For example, the fluffy, brown coloured yarn in the bottom right-hand corner came with the most delicate, flowery pattern for an infinity scarf knit on a circular needle. You can see how it is supposed to look here. I bought three different sock yarns, though I have absolutely no idea how to cast-on with four needles. They may become crocheted slippers. I think my favourite purchase of the weekend was the fluffy, rainbow dyed yarn. I specifically wanted something in these colours in order to make a new hat for The Middle Miss as she really has a thing for rainbows at the moment. Apart from some tiny snowflakes, made from the crochet cotton near the top right of the picture, the rainbow hat has been my first project.

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I don’t think it will be long before it is finished, though there is a bit of trial and error going on as I decide how big to make it and how to finish it off.

I think that that is about the end of my post about Yarndale. There are lots of other bloggers who have written about it much more definitively than me so if you want to see more, do a bit of googling or maybe start here.

More yarn talk coming soon….

Oh, and I made it back through that archway with centimetres to spare, under the gaze of a group of cyclists and a worried looking motorist heading in the opposite direction. Not. Fun. At. All.

The Saltburn Yarnbomber

You might have seen the ‘Saltburn Yarnbomber‘ in the news recently. I couldn’t resist taking the family to view it tonight. Son Number One has to write a ‘non-chronological report in the third person’ (I’m rolling my eyes at that) about the Olympics this week so I thought he might benefit from some knitted inspiration.

Somebody had a lot of fun making this. We had almost as much fun going to visit it. Saltburn (by-the-sea, though no one locally gives the place it’s Sunday name) is a pretty little town with a clean beach, great views of the local cliffs and the only pier for miles.

It’s popular with surfers too so it has a slightly cooler vibe than other local beaches and there’s usually something to watch in the water. The Yarnbomber, whoever he, she or they may be have done a wonderful thing for the local businesses. There have been lots of extra visitors to the town. The great weekend weather probably helped too. Here are some pictures for you to enjoy. I’m not sure that I have labelled them all correctly. You decide.

Volleyball, Cycling, Pole vault, Equestrian, 

Spectators?, Shooting, Gymnastics

Skiing, More Gymnastics?, Para-Olympian, Still More Gymnastics

Weight Lifting, Swimming, Cycling at the Velodrome, Olympic Rings

Canoeing, Sailing, Synchronised Swimming, Swimming

Weight Lifting, Synchronised Swimming, Football, Boxing

Not a bad effort all in all. There were a few more but my computer was starting to steam with all the megabytes (or whatever you call them) that I was uploading.

Now how about some family pictures? As you would expect, the children had a great time on the beach, even if it was only for an hour.

 

It didn’t take long for them to get fully into the spirit of things and go paddling. Babykins didn’t know what to do first, there were so many dogs and seagulls to spot. He had no fear of the sea either. At least he didn’t eat the sand today. He seems to have got the idea of using his little spade to dig in it. Maybe I dare book a beach holiday this year after all.

My Weekend: Part One – labels, baby clothes and sentimental thoughts

I took the plunge last week and registered to sell at the next NCT Nearly New Sale. I haven’t given myself much time to get organised as it is next weekend (details here) and I have plenty of items to price up and label. Truthfully, I don’t think I’ll get rid of half my stuff. Not because it’s difficult to sell things at these sales, but because I have SO MUCH of it! I have already taken two bin bags full of clothes to the charity shop and this is what I am left with. I’m sure there is more stuff hiding away too.

I am ready to get rid of the baby clothes. There probably won’t be another baby in this family and if there is, I figure I’ll just go back to another nearly new sale and re-stock.

Inevitably, there are lots of memories bound up in baby clothes.

There are some items that I am NOT ready to part with. Each of the children has one outfit that really reminds me of their birth or the time just after it. It isn’t necessarily the first outfit they wore; that is the case only for the Middle Miss. Son Number One was dressed by the midwives as I was in no fit state. They went to his wardrobe and picked something they thought was suitable. It was a nice outfit but it wasn’t my choice and it was a bit too big. I never really liked that outfit. The thing I really associate with his early baby days was a pale blue, velour dungaree and cardigan set. My Mum bought it and it was perfect. A good fit, a sweet colour and soft as soft.

Middle Miss had a white all in one jersey outfit with a little bit of trim in taupe and red. It was one of the few things she had without feet in it. Ideal, I think for a newborn, everyone loves to inspect their tiny fingers and toes. I can still remember going with Son Number One and my Mum to buy it. I think he may have pointed it out for his new baby, who was still mysteriously inside Mummy.

I don’t think I bought anything for my little Babykins. I didn’t know what sex he was going to be and I found it really hard to find the kind of neutral, newborn clothes that I wanted. Most of the white things were extremely basic or had Whinny the Pooh on, which I’m not keen on as a decorative feature. After he was born, my Mum brought me just what I was looking for. It was another little dungaree set, this time in a soft white velour. I probably wouldn’t have bought it because I couldn’t justify the price (it was from Mammas and Pappas) but I really loved it. He spent a lot of time in that little outfit and it’s matching snow suit.

The other things I am going to keep are a few hand made items. I have let quite a few knitted things go because they just weren’t in good enough condition. However, there is one little set that was knitted by my Mum in a mixture of green and yellow. The pattern in the yarn is not particularly fashionable but I always liked how it looked on my babies. I also remember the glove having lipstick on it for ages from where Grandma had been kissing Middle Miss. That’s a strangely odd and sweet memory.

The other two things that I kept were dresses. The first, made by my cousin. This dress was beautifully made and the colour suited Middle Miss, who was all blonde hair and blue eyes, so much. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of an item made with love and care by a family member who has been like a sister to me at times. I’d love it if I could pass it on to any children Middle Miss might have. Probably wishful thinking but I can dream.

First birthday with my late dad.

The second one was made by my Mum. I don’t think she ever liked the result but I did. I thought it was vibrant and fun (the print is of frogs and lily pads). I have a small boys shirt and waistcoat in this fabric too. They will be making an appearance again in about six months I think.

After all that sorting I had a few sentimental moments as I sat in the sun with my coffee…..

enjoying seeing the buds growing on the lilac tree

and the camellia in full bloom

*sigh*

Still lots of sorting to do though and this blogging lark isn’t helping me get it done. So if it’s all quiet for a while, don’t worry, I’m just stuck under a pile of baby clothes. I’ll fight my way out by next weekend.

I’ll leave you with a nice cheery picture of my latest tub of narcissus, picked out for me by Son Number One whilst he was on a shopping trip with Grandma. The boy is learning how to please Mummy, flowers are always good.

One More Christmassy Thing

Made by Mum comes from a long line of crafty (should that be ‘crafting’) women. Today I want to show you the handy work of my Aunt as there is a bit of a family story connected with her latest project, these cute little Christmas gloves.

When they were unwrapped on Christmas day I thought there was something familiar about the way they were made. I think it was the way the thumb and little finger had their own hole but the middle fingers were made like a mitten. There was so much going on that I didn’t give it any more thought until a few days later when one of my friends (who is also very crafty) was visiting and commented on how much she would like to make some. Fortunately, my Mum was also around so I found out about the pattern.

She told me that originally it belonged to my maternal Grandma, who made a pair of Punch and Judy puppets with it. When she said that, I could vaguely remember playing with those gloves as a child. Mr Punch had a bell on him as I recall.

Somehow, after Grandma’s house was cleared, the pattern was kept and ended up with my Aunt, in Canada. Being the clever person that she is, she adapted it to create Father Christmas mits. Grandma would have appreciated the modern technology that allowed me to instantly email a request for the pattern. Not only that, I received an electronic reply, with the pattern in no time at all. A far cry from when my Aunt first emigrated in the 60’s and a letter took weeks to arrive.

In Grandma’s day, patterns would have been shared among family and friends but I suppose they would have to either borrow the original or write a copy out. Amazing to think how far we have come. We can share so much online and yet we are still enjoying doing these simple crafts. My Mum says learning to knit and sew has been a gift from her mother that she has come to appreciate more as the years have gone on. I wonder, will my children be thinking the same thing in 50 years time?

Some things do go out of fashion though – Golliwog gloves anyone? No, I didn’t think so

MadebyMum’s Mum and I had a skype session tonight and it turns out that the pattern has been residing in Canada for the last 40 years or so, a lot longer than we realised. MadebyMum’s Mum also came across the original Punch and Judy puppet mittens today. It was lovely to see them after all this time. They were in remarkably good condition considering they are over 50 years old! Mr Punch needs a new bell on his hat and a bit of darning wouldn’t go amiss in places but it was quite a treat to see them again. Now all I need to do is take a matching photo of Middle Miss wearing them.