Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Monthly Musing - December 2016 - Mind the gap

Here we are, in those few magical days between Christmas and New Year when the world stops, or at least slows down, and we can metaphorically get off.  At least, that’s how it used to be before technology ensured that we need never be cut off from emails, social media, news reports or online shopping.  I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – I’ve been very glad of the internet during my Christmas preparations, but I’ve also noticed that it’s been a bit of a double-edged sword.

Yes, we can get things done faster, we can email friends and family abroad to save on spiralling postage costs, buy presents in other countries so that they can be delivered locally and make all those last minute preparations to make our Christmas celebrations perfect literally at the last minute. 

But what I’ve also noticed is that whilst in the pre-technology days everyone used to work their socks off to be ready for the Christmas shut down as offices would have skeleton staff, factories would close and many businesses would let their workers take holidays until the New Year, this practise hasn’t stopped despite the fact that we take fewer holidays and seem to have less time off than ever before.  I've watched my husband and many other people work their socks off (me included – and I’ve been knitting the socks as well!) to have everything done for Christmas - but actually, would it really have mattered if we didn't?  The emails haven't stopped, the phone calls and texts are still continuing and to a large extent, life is going on as normal - except that at Christmas, normal isn't good enough and everything has to be perfect.  The technology that should be helping us is making us work harder than ever, and our desire to create a picture-book Christmas simply adds to the workload.

I’m not for one minute suggesting that we should ignore the demands of business because it’s a different world these days, but I do question whether we could let the demands of business go a little as we focus on what’s important at this time of year.  Right up to Christmas Eve, my husband was finding emails in his inbox asking if he could “just do this before Christmas” when he was going to be back in work again on a few short days later and presumably whatever it was wouldn’t spoil by waiting for what is essentially only a long weekend.  Our need to get things finished – our perfectionism, if you like – refuses to let us stop and take a breath and at the end of what has been a demanding year of highs and lows for everybody, we need that more than ever.

I think it’s time to take the steering wheel again.  Put that “out of office” notice on your emails.  Turn off your mobile phone whilst you watch that movie you’ve had lined up for weeks.  Get off the world for just a few minutes, because it doesn’t stop for long.  Mind the gap.  

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas!

It's getting late on Christmas Eve.

The fire is crackling, there's mulled wine in my mug and one very excited small daughter is in bed.  She may not be asleep yet, but she's in bed.

Everything is done, and what isn't done isn't important now.  Right at this moment, everything is all right with the world.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a New Year that is full of light, love and happiness xx

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Yarndale Sock Line thank yous

It was a few weeks ago now that I sent the parcels of Yarndale Sock Line socks off to their new homes, and I thought you might like to see the thank you notes that I have received from the places they went to.  After all, it's all down to your hard work that there are socks to send anywhere, so I want you to know just how appreciated they are.  The notes might be addressed to me, but substitute your name because they're all for you as well.

Martin House - in fact, there was an email ...

Dear Christine,
I am sending you a note in the post but I just wanted to say a huge thank you for all the incredible socks you recently sent to Martin House. They are absolutely beautifully made and we feel very privileged to have received such lovely items from all over the world. I passed them onto our care team who were very grateful and they are already being used by some of our babies, children and young people here at the hospice. Many of the conditions our children have mean that keeping their feet warm is very important and I hope everyone involved in such a lovely project knows what a special impact they are having here.

Thank you all so much again for thinking of us in this way,

Sending kindest regards

Jodie Shepherd | Director of Fundraising

Telephone 01937 845045 (ext.201) |
Martin House, Grove Road, Boston Spa, Wetherby, LS23 6TX

And a card ...

Streetlife in Blackpool ...

HI Christine

I just wanted to write to you to thank you so much for sending the beautiful knitted socks that were made at the Yarndale wool festival, I love them.   I know the young people who receive these will be so grateful for the gift but more especially the sentiment behind them.  Many of the homeless and disadvantaged young people we support are often disconnected with family or carers and so knowing that other people around the world are thinking about them, especially at this time of year is heart warming.  Please send on my thanks to all of the wonderful people who made these socks.

Thank you so much for thinking of our young people at Streetlife.

Kind regards


Day Centre Co-ordinator
The Streetlife Trust Ltd
48 Buchanan Street
Blackpool FY1 3LQ
Tel: 01253 294477

A phone call from Streetwork in Edinburgh to say that they absolutely loved the socks and they had arrived just at the right time as the temperature had plummeted and they were very busy trying to help as many people as they could.

St Joseph's Family Centre, Warrington ...

The text in this picture is quite small so I'll just type it out in case it's not easy to read ...

"Dear Christine

Thank you so much for your kind donation of knitted children's socks that you made to St Joseph's Family Centre.

We are currently putting together our Christmas hampers which will be distributed to 325 families in need in the Warrington area and we will be including your lovely handmade socks in our hampers.

We really appreciate your generosity and support."

Manorlands Hospice ...

Barnabus, Manchester ...

Dear Friends,
We have received a fantastic amount of donations, both material and financial in the run up to Christmas. From all the team, a huge thank you for continuing to make our work possible in 2016. We operate on what you donate, so whatever you choose to give us this Christmas, we are truly grateful on behalf of the people we serve.

Christmas is a joyful time of year for many of us; however for our friends Christmas highlights their loneliness, isolation and underlying problems. You won't have failed to see how sharply the numbers are increasing and Barnabus is working with 45 other organisations and charities in our city to alleviate the suffering of our friends. Please take a look at for more information.

We are grateful also to the media for choosing to highlight the problems rough sleepers face. If you didn't catch the Radio 5Live broadcast from the Beacon on Tuesday 20 December (Afternoon Edition), here's the link to BBC iplayer:

Finally, as the Christmas sales loom, don't forget you can still raise funds for Barnabus by shopping through charity portal Give As You Live. Retailers will donate a small percentage of your sale to us; simply register and choose Barnabus as your charity. This is a growing source of income for us and we are grateful to you for all the ways you choose to donate to us.

God bless you and your loved ones this Christmas time; may the peace of the Christ child be yours and all blessings for 2017.

In gratitude,

Yvonne Hope
Operations and Resources Director

Isn't it good to know your socks have gone to good homes? xx

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Busy busy

There's so much to do at this time of year, isn't there?  I'm not just talking about the Christmas preparations - and despite my best intentions every year to be ready by the 1st of December, there's still plenty of card-writing and present-wrapping to be done which I'll be tackling buoyed up by a happy festive film and a mince pie (it's a bit early in the day to start on the mulled wine, however tempting that might be - and it's never good to write Christmas cards when the mulled wine has been flowing!) once we've finished chatting here.

I'm also talking about how much there is to do outside our homes - parties, shows, Christmas events, Christmas markets ... I think we've been out more in the last few weeks than we have been all year!  It's all good fun though, and small daughter in particular has enjoyed this weekend as we've been to a couple of things as part of a big group of friends (you can't beat group ticket reductions!).

On Friday night, we went to the Lowry Theatre in Manchester to see the Horrible Histories show "Horrible Christmas".  If you don't have younger children then Horrible Histories might have passed you by - it started off as a series of books which focussed on the more gruesome (and some would say more interesting) parts of history written in a child-friendly way to encourage interest in times gone by.  It's grown in popularity to the point now that there is a TV show, stage shows and small daughter and I even watched a film about William Shakespeare from the Horrible Histories stable recently.  I must admit that I am not a huge fan of the TV series so I was not overly keen to go to this show, but small daughter was very excited about it (especially as she knew she was going with her best friend and it was going to be a Night Out).  And as so often happens when we're not looking forward to something, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was good fun, and quite cleverly done too - lots of historical facts (that small daughter is still repeating to me) woven into the story along with singing, dancing and a fair bit of zooming around on electric scooters.  It really felt quite Christmassy!  Sadly, though, the rain that we had to dash through to get to the theatre wasn't in the least bit festive although the tree looked pretty with it's reflection in a puddle.

We were out again on Saturday night - another concert!  Two concerts in the space of a couple of weeks!  My husband came with me to this one; it was a band called The Icicle Works which is another 1980s favourite of mine.  Quite different to the Deacon Blue concert I went to at the Liverpool Echo Arena, this one was in a venue popular with students and indie bands and by the time we got there it was already rather hot and sweaty and the floor was awash with spilt beer.  It was just like being 18 again!  

What did surprise me was that when I looked around the place was full of middle aged people.  "Why are all these older people here?" I wondered, "it should be full of teenagers like me!" and then I remembered .... J

There wasn't any time off from the Christmas fun even on Sunday as we were back out again with small daughter's friend and her family and on our way to Liverpool by train.  I may have taken my knitting with me for the journey - I've realised that I don't spend nearly as much time in the car waiting for small daughter as I used to so progress on the Neat Ripple sock hasn't been as quick as I expected.  A 40 minute train journey was just the thing to get a bit more done!

We were on our way to see the Dreamworks Lights Lantern Experience at St George's Hall and the Christmas market which was set out in front of the Hall.  Our ticket for the lights show was at 2.30pm so we arrived in time for some lunch.  There was no shortage of stalls to choose from - German sausages, Polish potato dishes, noodles, curries, chips, mulled wine and gin, cakes, marshmallows and other sweet treats ... we were spoilt for choice!  I loved the huge pans that were used on several of the stalls - these were full of garlic mushrooms.

The children were fascinated by ketchup apparently dispensed from an udder ...

Big daughter and I opted for garlic mushrooms and seasoned fries whilst small daughter was tempted by a huge chicken burger on a brioche bun.  Oh yes, and I did succumb to the mulled wine as it would be a few hours before we were getting back into the car.  It might not have been crisp and frosty which would have been a perfect setting for a Christmas market, but mulled wine always helps the festive feelings along J

We still had an hour or so before our allotted time so we wandered around the stalls for a bit.  Most of the stalls seemed to be selling food, but there were a few that had gifts, such as personalised Christmas decorations, wind chimes, wooden plaques and this stall, which sold these rather beautiful stars and a whole range of felted heads. 

After we'd seen all the stalls, we headed across the cobbled plaza to the Walker Art Gallery where there's a special children's hands-on room.  It's free to go in (although the gallery does ask for donations) and is worth a visit if you're in Liverpool.  We find all the museums in the city are great for children and they're all free so it makes for a good day out.

Big daughter and I decided we needed a sit down for a few minutes whilst small daughter was busy with pen, paper and friends.  We found a quiet spot in the story area which luckily wasn't being used or they might have thought us a bit big!

The gallery was hosting a special installation of the biggest Felix the Cat that I've ever seen in my life.  He looks rather smug sitting there at the top of the stairs, doesn't he?

This notice on the wall made me laugh ...

Then it was our turn to go into St George's Hall to see the lights show.  It's a series of tableaux telling the stories of Kung Fu Panda, Shrek and Madagascar with music and videos.  The sets take you from room to room inside the hall as you follow the stories.  It might have been a bit young for small daughter and her friends, to be honest, but her friend's little sister enjoyed it and we saw lots of young children having a great time.  I think small daughter enjoyed being with her friends best of all and there was certainly lots of joking and laughter going on.

St George's Hall is a grand building which overlooks the city centre.  There are often exhibitions that you can visit so that you can see inside, and it's used as a film location too (some of the new J K Rowling film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was apparently filmed here) so you might be more familiar with the interior than you think!  I admired the beautiful ceiling ...

and this carving on the door.  SPQL stands for Senatus Populusque Liverpudliensis (or Liverpoliensis) meaning "The Senate and People of Liverpool".  If you think you've seen something similar before, you'll be right as it's modelled on the letters SPQR which referred to the government system of ancient Rome.    

I was also very taken by the stone carvings.  "Muuum, not more acorns!" said small daughter on more than one occasion as I stopped to take yet another photo.  I'm fascinated by sculpture and how a block of stone can be made to look like leaves and acorns.  I'm even more fascinated by how blocks of stone are made to look as if they have limbs barely covered by clothes, but we were here to look at modern characters, not "the old stuff", so I'll just show you one picture of acorns if I may and then we'll move on J.

By the time we came out of the Hall, it was going dark.  The Christmas market looked much more Christmassy and the temperature had dropped so it felt more Christmassy as well.

Liverpool was outlined against the sunset sky and it was time to get our train home.  

It was a good weekend.  

I'd better go and finish wrapping those presents because the dog doesn't seem to be interested in doing them for me.  Time for Arthur Christmas and a mince pie, I think!  

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

British Craft Awards

It's not long now until the end of the year - we can count the weeks on one hand - and it's been a pretty amazing year for me in terms of the Winwick Mum blog and the Super Socks book being recognised in national awards.

First there was the Knit Now Online Knitter of the Year award which had a prize of a fabulous day out at the Sirdar mill and a chance to look behind the scenes both at what goes on at Sirdar and at Knit Now magazine.  

Then, later in the year, I found out that I'd been nominated for the British Knitting Awards in two categories - Favourite Book 2015 and Best Knitting Blog.  Super Socks was awarded third prize in the Favourite Book category which was hugely exciting, and I was over the moon to be able to go to the awards ceremony with Lucy of Attic24 and Emma and Kate from Yarndale and meet up with fellow award winners at Alexandra Palace in London.  

These awards were organised by Let's Knit magazine and in case you missed it in my earlier post, here's me and my cheesy grin with Sarah Neal, the editor of Let's Knit, again J

Now - and I could hardly believe this - I am unbelievably proud to be able to tell you that I've been nominated for another award, this time the British Craft Awards organised by Immediate Media who publish a whole host of crafty magazines including Simply Knitting, Simply Crochet and Simply Sewing magazines.  Oh wow!  

There are five different categories - Sewing, Quilting, Papercraft, Cross Stitch and Knitting & Crochet - so there's an opportunity to vote no matter what or how many crafty hobbies you have. You can find my nomination in the Knitting & Crochet section.  I'm in the Knitting and Crochet Blog of the Year category and I'm blown away to be listed with the other people in the category - as far as I'm concerned, I'm a winner just to be there!  

I'm absolutely delighted that my little blog is considered to be a "must-read for crafty inspiration" and my heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who has nominated me.  Blogs by nature are quite self-indulgent - I choose what to write and I write about what interests me - but I do try to write about things that I hope will interest other people too, and in doing that I am discovering more about the knitting and wool industry which is a hugely fascinating subject in itself, and about me too.  None of us exist in isolation and just as I am inspired by what I read and see every day, I always hope that what I write will add to the collective yarny inspiration.  I know there are a lot more warm feet since I wrote the Sockalong tutorials, at least!

If you've got time in around your Christmas preparations to vote in these awards (and perhaps win a prize of a £100 Amazon voucher if you're in the UK) then you can find the voting form here: so that you can have a look for yourself.  The voting closes on 20 December 2016.  I'd love it if you wanted to vote for me - thank you! xx

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