Sunday, 10 March 2019

Stitching Therapy

Saturday morning.......I was talking with a patient the other day whose partner has been on anti-depressants for literally decades and was sick of taking the tablets.  He said she had been advised to go to crochet therapy. Yes yes!
Quilting has been my mainstay for many years but latterly I have done a lot more crochet and now my knitting mojo has been re-ignited.  The rhythmic counting involved in knitting and crochet and the concentration involved in hand quilting is pure therapy for me. When I had a really stressful job it was my meditation. Doing patterns for crochet and knitting involves repetitive counting - a mantra.

As John says - happiness is a journey not a destination. Stitching is my happy journey. Having something at the end is pure bonus.

This week I've been working extra hours to cover Steph who is easing Ben into his new school, so not much stitching is taking place, sadly. Yesterday I managed to get the little lattice quilt finished and am just in the process of embroidering the words. It's so pretty (should I be saying that about my own work?)
It's been a long slog at work these past few weeks. The clinic is open for 10 hours a day during the week and Saturday mornings as well.  I love the work but I'm a bit of an old chook to be slogging away. John is there all the time but I have two half days off and only work every other Saturday.  I don't know how he manages, what with Max's weird sleeping patterns thrown in.  He regularly wakes up for four hours during the night. I have him to stay about once a month at the weekend to give them some respite. Not one of the other grandparents will do that. Just saying. Even when he wakes in the night he's a happy little chap, he just giggles and sings.
He's a pleasure to have around although full time would be very hard going. He's just sitting cross legged on my coffee table now. If I want to crochet I just give him an old messed up ball of acrylic and a hook and he sits with me while I crochet then he stacks up the squares I have made.

Sunday morning.....I've made a few more squares this week but my attention has been held by the shawl I'm making. I'm now on the penultimate band and will be ready for the final run at the brioche section which ends up with 373 stitches. I can't stretch it out flat now with just under three hundred stitches but I'm loving it.  I need to make a little stitch keeper to stop the stitches coming off the end of the needles when I'm not knitting. That would be a disaster as Brioche Stitch is impossible to pick up (for me anyway).
I've been watching a knitting podcast in which three friends discussed the meaning and their interpretation of International Women's Day. It was very interesting as they drew out the different aspects of that celebration and how it fitted into different cultures. It's called The Crimson Stitchery Podcast if you are interested. Three Londoners, two of them PhD students, one doing a Masters degree, one of them a born and bred Londoner of Malaysian descent, one Norwegian and one French, all united by knitting and our education system.

I've been a busy cooking bee this morning making a frittata and some cottage pie topped with root vegetable mash. Some for today and some for the freezer.

At the moment I'm sitting watching Six Nations Rugby - Ireland playing France. I've just finished the embroidery on the little lattice quilt and will post a picture in my finished articles tab when it's had a little steam. It's been a relaxing day at the end of a busy week. Just the ticket.

Hopefully I'll have a little more time and energy to stitch in the coming few days - in the meantime have a good week everyone. xx

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

A few days off to recharge

I set out last Thursday after work to stay with my best friend for a few days. Apart from getting stuck in a traffic jam in Yorkshire the journey to Farnham was uneventful although it did take six hours. I did it in one hop though which saved a half hour. I normally stop for a McWee just before the M25.

The following day we set out for Unravel which is held in the Farnham Maltings
Farnham is a lovely higgledy-piggledy town in Surrey and happily only a ten minute journey from Karin's house.  The Maltings has a Great Hall and a myriad of little rooms which were full of people selling gorgeous things.

The yarn - oh the yarn!

I did have a plan though. Yarn from Stranded Dyeworks whose Podcast I watch every week - what a character!  I also wanted a little drop spindle and some wooly stuff to spin.
Angora from some rabbits and some merino/silk blend to spin.
So I had spent most of my hard earned dosh in the first half hour, by which time it was getting very crowded (I really hate crowds).  We retired to the little cafe and had a delicious cheese scone and hot strong coffee
We rejoined the fray but it was too much so we came home with our purchases (and I still had £13 in my purse). Hand dyed wool is very expensive but utterly individual. I got a skein for Alex who is just embarking on her knitting journey (the coloured skein on the right) and have printed out a pattern for her from Ravelry - what a resource that website is. Fabulous.
Over a cup of tea I did a bit of spinning but we were laughing at my efforts so much I really only made a few lumpy yards!  I did a bit more when I got home. I have 150 grams of fluffy stuff and I will master the art. Eventually.
I also got a sock set to knit (the table cloth design has olives on it in case you were wondering)
I drove home on Sunday morning, again in one hop. It was lovely to get back to my little house with its really powerful shower!

My main focus for the rest of my time off was a shawl made with brioche stitch and shaped garter stitch panels. After eight attempts I managed the first panel of brioche. I decided to leave  a few mistakes in because I thought I would abandon it if I unpicked it one more time.

The second panel is better, especially after I realised you had to hold the yarn really tight to stop the bagginess that normal tension gives.  So this is where I am after my few days off. 
 Another shaped panel will restore the triangular shape of the shawl.
 One side of the brioche is pale blue
The other is multi blue - not a huge contrast which made it hard to do for the first time but I'm getting there.  The stitch pattern is beautifully soft and squishy but almost impossible to correct if you make a mistake and also almost impossible to frog back. The final panel has over 300 stitches on so it will not get pulled back. No sir.

I haven't done a stitch of my patchwork and nothing in my house. I'm back to work this afternoon but feel recharged which was the main reason for the break of course. 

I'd better get on with the pattern for class tomorrow night and maybe a tray of Millionaires Shortbread too. I got a text from John to say they were missing Cake Friday last week. I paraphrase, there was an alliteration -  'what, no Cake F... Friday?' I think the text said. 

Well I'm going to reload the washing machine and slip another couple of rows in...... 

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Stitching peacefully

What a lovely peaceful weekend I'm having. John and Steph are busy arranging their new house - no mean feat if I remember rightly! Not helped I have to say by the flooring downstairs which was not laid properly even though there was no furniture to move. Now it will have to be relaid and all the furniture moved. Steph, still unpacking, is wondering how they fitted so much into their smaller house!

Will and Alex are in the Lakes for the weekend.  They walked up a hill which Will says should be classified as a mountain as it is above 640m.

I've been feeding their little menagerie which includes two Silkie Hens, one grumpy rabbit, and little Zula
An impossibly sweet little long-haired tabby.

Back at home I have just finished a little zippered bag requested by one of the ladies at the class.  The pattern just needs to be finished off. I know the flower is pretty generic but I saw a similar design somewhere. This is my take rather than my design.
 A perfect size for a project bag.
 It's made from linen bought at Birmingham last year and Sandown the year before.
I wanted it to look a bit shabby chic so I used light-weight iron-on interfacing to stabilise the shapes but sewed them with a raw edge.
I very rarely machine appliqué but I'm really pleased with this, although it is a bit narrower than I intended as I didn't quite get the little motif central and had to trim a bit from the side. Oops.

Originally I had planned to use Bosal to stiffen the bag but it didn't look right so I patiently unpicked the quilting and substituted 80/20 wadding and medium weight interfacing to give it some body. Nobody likes a floppy bag!

Project bags are a recent phenomenon for me. They are much more attractive than plastic bags which I have used in the past to store little projects. The knitting community seem to revel in their beauty almost as much as the projects that go in them.  So they are double pleasure, the first in making the bag and the second in having something beautiful and practical to store knitting, crochet and other little doo-dads and gewgaws. Win win.

Now I'm marking and layering the little linen and lawn quilt (42" x 36"). I will probably take this to Karin's on Thursday although if history is anything to go by we'll be talking nineteen to the dozen. I just like to have the option.
We are going to Unravel on Thursday - squeak. This is a festival to celebrate all sorts of yarny things, particularly Indie Dyers and designers. This will be the second visit to Unravel which - happy coincidence - is ten minutes from Karin's house in the town of Farnham.

I've been to three, or is it four, Yarndale Festivals in Skipton, which is about an hour and a half's drive from my house.  I am hearing really good things about the Edinburgh Yarn Festival too but that is at the end of March - a bit too close to Unravel and probably too tempting for someone who has enough yarn to reach to Venus and back, but I may visit next year......

The Battenberg blanket squares are coming on.  I'm about half way through the colour pack which John got me for Christmas. Each little ball makes two squares (aran weight).

I'm a bit tempted to do a few plain squares which are join-as-you-go. It's a dilemma though. Do I get all the coloured squares done and set them out to make sure they are evenly distributed and risk getting bored with the neutral squares? Or do I forge ahead and join them with the risk of ending up with a pile of ugly colours in one corner because I've used all my favourites up? I can think of worse dilemmas!

So peace and harmony are restored in my life. I'm back in my own bed, the towels are all folded in the right direction and the half used packet of peas in my freezer has got a little clip on it to stop them falling out. The lids are on the jars and my creams and lotions are lined up neatly. All's well with the world.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Stretching back into my space

My house is not big (or that small I suppose) but it has been a tight fit for the past month with 3 adults and 2 children (one bathroom and loo!).  Yesterday John and Steph got their house far enough to be able to move into and slept their first night there.Well John Steph and Max did because Ben was staying with his cousin for a sleepover. Max is in hospital today to have his adenoids removed and grommets re-fitted. They had to be at hospital for 7am this morning.  It is impossible to explain to an autistic 3 year old that he is not able to eat before the operation so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they take him down early this morning.  I'm waiting patiently for updates and am going to sew to keep my mind from conjuring up horrid pictures of the operation.
I've marked out some fabric and layered on to some bosal to make a bag with good structure. I've been working on a design which was inspired by something I saw (I can't remember where) a while ago and did a quick sketch, adapting it to my taste.  It is a raw edge machined flower, which is unusual for me.
Claire is covering my shift at work today as I've done a lot of extra duties for Steph over the past couple of weeks. Bit tired to say the least but I'm enjoying and really appreciating the space and quiet in the house!

John and I (well more John) rushed round like mad things yesterday. After a morning in the main clinic at Newcastle we rushed down to the satellite clinic near Peterlee (we hire a room in a business centre) to put up a new bed and shelves in the larger room we now occupy.
John (literally out of breath as he turned the last screw in the white unit seconds before the first patient arrived)
Originally we were in a little room but we have expanded to this more pleasant area.  We have enough room to put in a scan station and admin area too.  A few more little decorative additions will make this a lovely space to treat the expanding number of patients we are getting.

John has booked a quick trip to Spain over Easter - he richly deserves the break. I'm so proud of the way he conducts himself, running his own business, caring for his little family. He works so hard at work and at home.  I am in awe of his dedication.


Max has had his operation which was a bit more complicated than they thought. I'm hoping they will still be able to get him home today.  I feel a bit overwhelmed by it all - goodness knows how John and Steph are. 

I've managed to stitch the fabric to the bosal but I don't like the way it looks so I'm going to use wadding and interfacing instead.  Hey ho back to the drawing board. Where is my stitch ripper?

Never mind I'll finish the lawn baby quilt top - so pretty but quite flimsy - about 42" x 36"- maybe it should have had an extra couple of rows?? Too late!
I'll get it layered at the weekend and maybe take it to Karin's when I visit a week today - we're going to Unravel at the Farnham Maltings.  And we may have a glass or two of wine as well.

Later still.........

Max is out of hospital - they swung by on the way home to pick up some essentials which they'd left in my lockup, i.e. the TV stand. Max was very pale and subdued but he has come through it safe and sound. Apparently his adenoids were really infected and were 'pulling' his ear drums in. Poor little chap.  I was so pleased to see him I'm afraid there were a few tears.  I hadn't realised how tense I was today and I didn't sleep much last night either.

So I'm off to bake some cookies for class tonight and I'll be back later to sleep in my own bed again, stretched out like a pussy cat.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone xxxx😘😘😘

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Organise my time - get more done!

It's the same old cry isn't it? There's just not enough time to do everything I want.  My head is reeling with ideas for things but I'll get nothing done in a timely way unless I get myself properly organised. It's a real life skill which comes back to bite me unless I'm really disciplined.

So..... I finished my little cowl, made with the First Ever Skein I dyed:
It is yet to be blocked and I'm hoping it will soften and drape better because it is a little scratchy. I absolutely loved doing this pattern (please don't look too closely for mistakes). Although I have decided I really don't like knitting nupps (pronounced noops). I will knit this pattern again because it was a pleasure and after about half way I didn't have to frog back so much. I'll put little beads where the nupps are though because they are quite messy - I haven't quite mastered the technique.  I wanted this finished before 2nd February because we were booked on another workshop.  This time at Lucy Locket in Seaburn. It was great! We used natural dyes, which looked completely different when they were dry.  The next two pictures are the same skein of yarn, wet and uncooked, then dry.

No wonder I had trouble getting reds for my crochet hexagons!

I had intended to make my first pair of socks because I expected we would be using sock yarn but we didn't.  This base was 100% Blue-Faced Leicester, so probably not hard wearing enough for socks. I should have used the first skein for socks and the ones I dyed yesterday for the cowl. Hey ho. Live a day and learn a thing.
The pink was dyed with cochineal and madder with little touches of cochineal/baking soda solution which turned it mauves-pink in the tray but disappeared when 'cooked'. The little mini-skeins above became blue (indigo) with splashes of madder which all but disappeared; the yellow one was dyed with fustic, (from tree bark I think).
The yellow was closest to the wet colour. Carol (my sister-in-law) did a mixed colour and then a fustic skein
She was using indigo blue in this shot.
She also used cochineal and the end result was a lovely pink and blue skein.

Alex wanted some gold/yellow/toffee colours for her yarn
This was how she started - the whole skein was coloured deep yellows and toffee colours before it was heated.
After heating the colours turned much lighter with some pretty salmony colours.   I love the idea of dying with natural colours but I think I need a lot more practice to get the deep colours I want. I know it is possible because I have bought them.

We had a lovely day despite the worry of not being able to make it because of a heavy snowfall over night. The only problem was the last little hill up to Alex's house so she walked down and met us at the main road.  The roads were still slushy but we made it to the workshop.

We had lunch delivered from the cafe next door - just the ticket for a cold winter's day. It's a long time since I had such good mince and dumplings.
Lucy's shop was a lovely mixture of yarns, hand-dyed yarns and other crafts.  I got some felt to make Luna Lapin (the book was a Christmas present from Will), and some cotton to make a very fine crochet cloth.   Lucy is organising a wool festival in Newcastle in August - Woolness - which celebrates the positive mental effect that crafts have.

I haven't decided what to make with my new yarn but I think it will go into my blanket stash which is mainly made up of fingering weight blue-faced leicester wool.  That project is my long term love and I don't mind if I never finish it!

Itching to do something yarny last night, but baby-sitting meant I couldn't do anything too complicated, I went to another Christmas present.  These are 15g balls of Scheepjes Stone Washed Aran. I can get two 4" squares from each little ball.  There were 50 in the box and I bought some more neutral to make alternate squares.

I'll be popping some little balls of yarn into a project bag with scissors and hook so that I can take them out when I have an odd ten minutes to spare.

Mmmm John has just brought me a peanut butter and banana smoothie as I type.
Yum.  Steph has taken the boys across to see her mother so John and I are enjoying a few minutes of quiet.

I'll be cutting out a bag this afternoon which I'm designing for the class. It will have compartments for various things and pockets too. A proper Quilter's Bag. There will be other things to go with it, including a travelling sewing kit, ruler cover and cutting/pressing mat. Everything you need to take a project to class.

First I'm going to do a little work on a pattern which was requested by one of the ladies which I'll need to test out first.
I made this design for Steph's friend's baby but didn't write it out. So that is my job before the demolition squad gets back and hopefully I'll be able to do some sewing tomorrow morning before work.

The hens are fed and the eggs collected - I've had to chip a hole in the ice of their drinking trough these past few days - but they fluff up their little feathers and get on with searching for grubs and other things that hens love. I'm going to get some fat balls for them which I only really give them in cold weather.  There's a nice little pile of fresh eggs so a cake may be in the offing later. John likes poached eggs for his breakfast too.  They'll be moving into their new house in about a week and peace will reign once more.  In the meantime I'm enjoying the company.

So - off to the cutting table (ha! my dining table) Have a good week everyone xxxxx

Monday, 28 January 2019

Making lotion bars and trying to keep warm

Gosh that wind is bracing - it strikes right through to your bones.  What is the forecast this week I ask myself? Well a bit of everything by the look of it but cold, so cold......

Well I'm grateful for lovely central heating! Will and Alex have a wood burning stove which was blasting out golden heat yesterday.  Quick pick of Will cutting kindling outside in the arctic blast.
Little Zula was stretched out in front of the fire purring gently completely oblivious to the cold outside.

The lotion bars! I've been looking forward to making them for a while now and looking forward to making them with Sal, Alex's friend  -  who was as lovely as she sounded. I've been trying to add her  blog  ( to my list but am having a few technical issues. Her lifestyle is a shining example of caring for ourselves and our world.

We gathered all the ingredients together (as it turns out not that many),

  • Equal parts of Beeswax and Shea Butter or Coconut Oil
  • a few drops of essential oils - my favourites were orange and lavender
We also tried some with a little olive oil added.  
The oils and wax were simply melted (in saucepans from the pound shop, dedicated to the purpose) and poured into little moulds, again set aside solely for lotion bars and maybe soap. But that's for another day!
They began to set almost immediately
 So we quickly added some essential oils

and left them to harden.  Then we got a bit adventurous and added some cocoa powder and orange or peppermint oil to another batch.
We were excited and impatient to see how they turned out

They actually looked like little chocolate truffles.  The tea tree oil was quite strong but I loved the orange, especially with the cocoa. The rosemary was lovely too but quite strong. I think the volatile oils will disperse quickly so it'll be a matter of experimenting to get the right balance.  You wouldn't mistake them for sweets, luckily.

The shea butter bars set a bit harder than the coconut oil bars but they are designed to melt on contact with warm hands thereby dispensing the correct amount of lotion. We'll have to find little containers to hold them in the summer otherwise we'll have little puddles rather than pretty shapes.  In this weather though, warm hands and sunny windowsills are few and far between. It's hovering around freezing point at the moment, but that wind makes it feel much colder.

We had a lovely roast lunch, chicken for Will and nut cutlets for the girls. Alex makes amazing roast potatoes and has a steamer which makes perfect vegetables. I'm spoilt.

My hens only got a quick refill of food and some mealworms and a quick hello before I retreated into the warmth of the house. It's amazing how much cold you can tolerate when there is no wind but how uncomfortable it is when the wind is howling straight off the North Sea! The hens were fluffed up in the warm corner but came down for mealworms and sunflower seeds before retreating back to the warmth. Sensible girls.

I was spoilt again at tea/supper time with steak and chips cooked by John, served with pea salad and broccoli.
I'm not a big meat eater so I was pleased I'd had nut cutlets at lunch time! After washing up (John uses every utensil available) I settled down to a lovely evening of knitting.  It was a really lovely weekend with the family.

Now I'm sitting in the quiet of a Monday morning after the mad rush to get children ready for school and peeps ready for work. (I was keeping out of it whilst Steph and John went through their frenetic morning ritual).  The sun is shining brightly from the east on a gunmetal grey sky to the west but I can see bright blue emerging too, highlighting the skeleton trees a beautiful bronze.

It has been much easier than I expected having an extra four people in the house.  Steph spent a few hours on Saturday with her mother, cleaning and washing at the new house whilst John and I were at work. We went there after work and John pulled up carpets and I took Max home for some quiet time. He gets upset when it's noisy. It is going to be another couple of weeks before it is decorated and new flooring is put down.

I finally got the Sew Demented Bag sewn together and, after spending most of the construction time cursing it, I love it and, dare I say, am going to make a couple for presents?

I'm really pleased with the colours of this - choosing them from my collection of Sandy Gervais Autumn designs which I'm gathering together for a quilt.
It's about the size of a pencil case with a zipper that extends over the sides to form handles.
Inside there are three zippered compartments which then create four other spaces

You can make the outside plain although I chose to add a strip of squares.
Once you've made one and can see how it is constructed (the pattern is not good for this but there are a few tutorials on YouTube), the next attempt should  together quickly, but you need a strong machine to do the side panels. Joanne at the class broke two needles on her Brother machine. I didn't attempt it on my Singer but went straight to the Bernina which sailed through the thick parts with ease. I did put a larger needle in to be sure though.  I think I'll make one for Karin in Japanese fabrics and a linen and lawn version to go with the other sewing things I've made over the past few months

Well I've got three hours before I need to set off for work. So I'm going to give the washing machine some wellie and take a shower with maybe knitting a couple of rows of my cowl added in for good measure. I want it finished this week as Alex, Carol and I are going on a Natural Dye Workshop on Saturday. Socks are on the agenda for this yarn. It's something I've never knitted before but Carol assures me are really good to knit and wear.  Somewhere I need to fit in some time to write a pattern for the class this week. OMG - where will that come from!