Monday, 27 May 2019

My life is a blur

And I don't need my eyes testing! Head test more like! One of the patients laughed at me when I asked him to hang on while I single tasked. There's nothing worse than having someone turn up unexpectedly because you haven't put their appointment in.

I just feel like life is a roller-coaster with little nuggets of time when I can just sit on my own and meditate over some kind of project.

So this little stash became this little neck wrap (52" unblocked as yet)

With this much yarn left
I ran out of the terracotta before the end of the cast off. I'd already pulled it back two rows so I just used some of the blue to finish the last 23 stitches. A picot cast off takes more yarn than I expected.
It was the ultimate in meditative knitting - garter stitch increased on one side and decreased on the other to make an asymmetric little shawl /neck wrap.

I'll get back to the second sock now.  I cast it on in the good light yesterday afternoon.  It's pretty dark  yarn which is difficult to see in artificial light, although once you get into the rhythm of the pattern you can work in lower light conditions.
I got so caught up in the pattern that I went past the measurement for starting the heel turn on the first one, so instead of unpicking it I just carried on and will put an 'afterthought heel' in. I'm experimenting to find the best way to knit socks. Also the best fit. These I think will be a tad on the small side. I might hit the happy medium next time. Or my butterfly brain will alight on a different craft for a while.

The Battenberg Blanket is nearly half way done now. I'm on row 6 of the 15 rows but all the coloured squares are done. So by my calculations I need another 54 cream squares. I have nearly six balls of yarn left which will do 36+ squares. I'll need extra for the borders too.....  Again this is a meditative make because the individual squares are so simple and Cherry Heart's Sandra has done a great tutorial for joining the squares together.

On the stitching front I made a little accordian pouch
 from a pattern on YouTube (Shabby Fabrics Tutorials)
She has an amazing amount of really good tutorials although I did alter the pattern and make it full size. Karin, my BFF, will be getting a pouch in japanese fabrics ( I have a few in my collection erhem).  I have got an urge to make a hybrid of this and the Sew Together Bag

They are based on similar ideas -so we shall see. I would like to make one that doesn't have an equivalent number of swear words to stitches.  I know how to make it now (the pattern is very poor). 

Both of these were made from Tilda Fabrics which are incredibly expensive in comparison with other quilting fabrics so little projects are less painful on the budget than a full quilt would be. 

My black hen has decided to go broody so I just have white eggs at the moment. 
Actually I think I'll make a frittata as there are a large number of eggs in the kitchen which need using. Maybe a Victoria Sponge too.

There is curry tonight for tea (leftovers from last night), it is made with coconut milk which I love. If I can haul my idle butt off the sofa I'll make some bolognese sauce and portion it up for the freezer so there is just the pasta to cook when I get home from work.

I've enjoyed these past two days which have come at a time when everything seems to be a blur of activity. I can't multi task like I used to and my brain aches when I don't have the choice. 

The Hand Quilting Workshop I ran on Saturday was a hive of activity and chatter until the ladies started stitching. The whole place went silent as they fell into deep concentration.  Hilary and I thought we should have done a before and after blood pressure reading as the calm descended on the stitchers.  I might bring one of the monitors from work and test that out!

Will and Alex went to Caister to visit Alex's grandparents this weekend so I was on kitten/rabbit/hen duty. All survived I'm happy to report. I can hear the key in the back door - here are Will and Alex to collect their keys so I'll sign off now.

Happy stitching everyone.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Darting from project to project

It's very rare that I don't do some sort of  handwork on a daily basis - actually I think the only days I don't pick something up is if I'm ill. I had flu for the second time in my life nearly eighteen months ago and I spent three days in bed. That must have been the last time I didn't indulge in 'making'. With lots of different things going on I never get bored but on the other hand they take a while to finish. I'm ok about that though.

Yesterday (Saturday) I worked on:

A sample for the Hand Quilting Workshop

2. Some more spinning:
My lovely generous father bought me a spinning wheel about thirty years ago, when I lived on the farm.  I'd been given a couple of lambs one easter and was keen to use their wool.  
It turned out that the wool was really scratchy and of course you only get one fleece a year so that handicraft went into mothballs after a while. Now you can get beautiful wool and all manner of other fibres to spin, courtesy of the internet and the many yarn festivals that have sprung up over the past decade. I will ask one of the boys to get the wheel down from the loft and set it up for me.

3. A few rows on my second pair of socks. This is a sock 'tube' and I will cut into it to make the heel when I've cast off. 
The television was on in the background during the morning and I watched the F1 and F2 whilst knitting. Hang the housework I say.

I have some more knitting champing at the bit including a shawl, a jumper and a cardigan as well as a second go at a hat I knit at the beginning of the year and had to give away to a friend with dreadlocks because it came out a leetle larger than intended.

This weekend has been just what I needed after a very long fortnight at work. I even managed to squeeze in a little housework, begrudgingly!

We are changing working patterns from the 1st June and I have decided to give up teaching at my local quilting shop.  In many ways it was a hard decision but in some ways it was a really easy decision too. Thinking of patterns, writing, stitching and producing something week in, week out, takes its toll. Maybe when I retire I'll go back. Maybe not.

I'll continue to design and write patterns which I may publish but I'm not putting myself under pressure. 

John bought us tickets for the Heineken Cup final which was held at St James' Park - home of Newcastle United.  We were in the Platinum Suite with a lovely bar, separate entrance and - joy of joys - padded seats. 

The only down side was the backwards and forwards of people to the bar. There seemed to be a lot of people here for the 'social event' rather than to watch the rugby. It's a lot of money to pay to buy expensive beer!  The game was good and the weather was fine too. It'd rained at lunch time but the sun shone on the match.  John and Steph went on to have a meal at Bouchon Bistro  using the vouchers I gave John for his birthday. They ate here just after John proposed to Steph on a picnic at Sycamore Gap.  so it was a bit of a romantic return. 

We are so lucky to live in this part of the world, close to beautiful countryside, amazing beaches and an area steeped in history. The clear air and wide horizons make my heart sing. 

I came back home to the recording of F1 qualifying to see my favourite driver taking poll position for the race today.  I'll be watching the recording later tonight because we're all meeting up at Will's and Alex's to have lunch today. Before that I'm going to do some more squares on my Battenberg blanket.

It's been a magical weekend and my batteries are recharging ready for the week ahead.  Sometimes I work myself so hard I sink into a fug and feel as though everything gets on top of me, but at times like this I can stand back and feel blessed with the life I have. 

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Sorry about the absence - I'm back now

It started with my laptop going for a new hard drive. It was a puny 120Gb and now it is pumped up to half a terabyte. I bought it thinking that everything would be done on the 'cloud' and I would only need a small hard drive. Wrong. The operating system for all the bits and pieces I have (and it is not that many) was taking up most of the hard drive.  It went away for a couple of days to a local Apple expert and came back ages ago.

That coincided with a very busy time at work and I sort of got out of the habit of blogging. Sorry! Not having much energy and brain space at the end of the day meant I didn't really get much stitching time in, so I didn't have much to show either.

I can't guarantee I'll get back to weekly blogging but I'll try.  I'm afraid I will have a gap in my daily gratitudes because I can't possibly store that much information in my poor wilting brain.  But it's in there today. There are also some finished articles under the 2019 completed projects tab.

In my Works is Progress at the moment are:
The Batternberg Blanket - now on to the cream squares as all the coloured ones are done
I divided them into two piles of 46 and then started the Join As you Go method from Sandra at Cherry Heart, whose design this is. Hers is done in 4ply and mine is in Scheepjes XL (Aran weight). The colours were from a Christmas present and I have been squirrelling the creams over the past couple of months. It is the first aran project I have done as I normally prefer working with finer yarns but I've enjoyed it immensely. It's going to be a throw rather than a bed size and will have a simple border around to finish it off.

I finished my first ever pair of socks which are far too big for me so I will need to find someone with big feet who doesn't mind hand washing their socks. I think they would fit an English size nine.
 I have measured my feet this time and started another pair.
The pattern is on Ravelry and is designed by HeyBrownBerry - it's called Pebbles and Pathways.

On the quilting front I have been making samples for a workshop - 'The Gentle Art of Hand Quilting'
Today I'll be continuing with some designs for the regular Thursday night class.  This was from a couple of weeks ago - a little zippered bag.
We have been doing some needlecraft accessories over the past few weeks and are now starting a Class Bag. Today - decorating the outer pocket.  But first I need to feed my little henny-pens.

We are starting with new opening hours at the clinic soon - 7.30am to 7pm - guess who's doing the early shift? Until our new physiotherapist starts John will be doing some seriously long days. It is a 45 minute commute each way for him too. We will be shutting down in the middle of the day for two hours and doing admin things as well as a bit of meditation I think! When everything is settled we should only be working normal shift times but there is some pain to come! This bank holiday weekend we are decorating the clinic - all hands on deck. Soooo let's hope we make good progress and maybe get the Monday off. Ha! But it will look good.

Good stitching everyone!

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.