Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Monthly Musing - February 2018 - Making the best of it

Our Aga turned itself off very suddenly last week.  It has been known to do this (although thankfully not often) and usually the only indication is a bad smell in the kitchen before a flurry of activity shutting down the fuel supply and opening the windows.  Aga owners will nod their heads wisely and agree that Agas can be temperamental and this kind of thing can happen, whilst those who don’t have them will shake their heads in disbelief and wonder how I can have given my heart to a lump of blue metal that causes chaos in our kitchen when something goes wrong.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Half Term London weekend

It seems almost incredible that a whole week has gone by since it was small daughter's half term holiday and we spent the last few days of it in London.  She'd been quite poorly at the start of the week, then made a miraculous recovery and it was if the days spent in bed had never happened as we set off on the train for the capital.

It's such an easy journey to London for us here from Warrington; two hours and we're there - it takes less time than to get there than to some places that are closer in distance!  My husband is often there for work but I don't go that often (the last time was in October with Lucy) so it always feels like quite an adventure.  Another adventure was finding the apartment that we were staying in; big daughter came with us and it's not really practical to try to squish us all into the one room these days.  It's also considerably cheaper to rent one apartment for a couple of nights than two hotel rooms, and we had more space so it worked out very well.  

The girls and I had the day to ourselves on Friday as my husband was working, so I had them up and out early.  The first place on their wish list was Camden Lock.  It was funny that they wanted to go there as it was the place where Lucy and I chose to spend our few hours in London in October.  This time, instead of walking, we took the Tube and felt very cosmopolitan as we zoomed our way around London far beneath the streets, hopping from one train to the next as if we did this all the time. 

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Socks ... for a change!

It's always exciting when a new sock yarn is launched and this week saw the arrival of the new Florist collection from West Yorkshire Spinners.  It's part of their Signature 4ply range and not specifically a sock yarn at all but is perfect for all kinds of projects - it's just that I am ever-so-slightly obsessed with socks and tend to look at yarns with my sock-obsession spectacles on and never consider knitting anything else!

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of the yarn earlier in the year - but of course I left it until the last possible moment before casting on and have spent the last two days with sparks flying off my needles so that I would have something to show you today.  If nothing else, I'm impressed with how fast I can knit sometimes! :)

These are the colours that WYS sent me.  Aren't they pretty?  They're called Violet (on the left) and Foxglove (on the right) but I think you could probably have guessed that! 

Monday, 12 February 2018


February's a funny month, isn't it?  Unless you've got a birthday or you're waiting for a Valentine's card, nothing much seems to happen; the most exciting thing for us at the moment is that small daughter is on her school half-term holiday but she's poorly so we're keeping our fingers crossed that anything we had planned is still going to be able to go ahead.

Outside, there has finally been a sprinkling of snow but not enough on the grass to make a snowball, never mind build a snowman - and anyway, small daughter is wrapped up in bed and hasn't even noticed.  She's snuggled up in my bed with me and one of the cats (the magic purr is always essential when you're under the weather); I'm catching up on blog-reading and drinking tea, being grateful for school holidays which mean that you don't have to get up and rush about (even though it's miserable to be poorly in the holidays).

Wednesday, 7 February 2018


Brr, it's cold!  The temperature has suddenly dropped this week and I've been eagerly watching the weather reports in case there's any chance of the white stuff landing in Winwick.  Google is still being very polite and telling me "No, there is no chance of snow in Winwick" without adding "you stupid woman, stop asking me!" although I am sure that it's robot-y mind is thinking that.

It was a Skipton Day yesterday and I headed up the motorway to Yorkshire to see my friend Lucy, well wrapped up against the freezing weather.  Turning out of our driveway, I had to stop for a moment because there, landing very gently on the windscreen, were snowflakes.  Snow!!  I resisted the temptation to shout "You know nothing, Google, do you hear me, nothing!" and instead grinned my way all the way up through Lancashire to Yorkshire whilst around the car the snowflakes danced and swirled.  I watched the snowflakes dancing and swirling all day out of Lucy's Studio window, but they didn't stick - perhaps just as well, but you can imagine that there might have been a little secret part of me that wouldn't have minded being snowed in up there in Skipton.

If you've ever read Lucy's blog then you'll be familiar with the hill that she can see from her Attic window - this is what it looked like yesterday as I went to get back into my car ... carefully disguised as a snowy cloud!

Friday, 2 February 2018

Visit to Woolaballoo, Durham

Saturday morning, 6.49am, and I was at Newton-le-Willows station, just a few minutes' drive from Winwick.  It was raining (for a change) and you may be wondering what I was doing here at this unearthly hour.  I must confess that I did ask myself the same question when the alarm went off at 5.30am, but once I was up the excitement kicked in and I was glad to be there.

I was on my way to Langley Park, near Durham in the North East of England, to visit Woolaballoo yarn shop and - hopefully - lots of sock knitters!  Lucy, who owns the shop, had asked if I'd be able to make a trip up to the North East as she runs regular learn-to-knit-socks classes at her shop and knew there were more than a few knitters in the local area who would be glad to meet up and talk socks.  It's not always easy to fit yarn shop visits in around everything else that I do but knowing that I'm going to spend the day in good yarny company always makes them worthwhile!

It takes about 3 hours on the train to get from Newton to Durham, so there was plenty of time to knit, listen to podcasts and watch the landscape change from the industrial North West to Yorkshire towns with steep streets and mills to the flat fields of Wearside.  I don't think you can beat a train journey for the constantly changing view!

Once in Durham, Lucy picked me up from the station and we drove the short distance to Langley Park.  It's only about 4 miles from the city centre which makes it ideal for people who don't want to go into the city and also for Lucy as it means that the money she makes in the shop funds more stock rather than high city rents.  It's not easy being a shop owner these days, so anything that can help is very welcome!  I was very excited that we were going to Langley Park as it is mentioned in the album name of one of my favourite teenage bands, Prefab Sprout - I love going to places that are mentioned in songs!

Woolaballoo is situated in a small courtyard of shops named, appropriately ...

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

Once through the huge wrought iron gates, you turn the corner and there it is!

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham
Can you tell it was a windy day? :)

It truly feels as if you've discovered something secret, "a hidden gem" more than a few people called it during the day.  And it really is!  Once inside the doorway, you realise that there's more to this shop than you'd think on first impressions; it's much bigger on the inside than you'd expect.  High vaulted ceilings add to the sense of space and light ... 

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

It's not so over-crowded with stock that you can't see what you're looking for, but there's plenty of choice - and lots and lots of sock yarn!  (And Herdy things - did you notice that I'd spotted them? :) )

There's a lovely big workshop area too - this photo was taken earlier in the day when you could still see the table, but as the day went on the seats around it filled up and the table was piled high with yarns, projects bags and cake - but more about that later!

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

Here's Lucy.  She's super-friendly and chatty, just the kind of person you want to meet in a yarn shop.  She's also passionate about her yarns and selling the products that her customers want to buy, and also about providing ways for them to learn new skills or improve existing ones.  It's what you want from a yarn shop and what sets it apart from an online store - definitely something to be treasured in our current economic climate with so many yarn shops closing down.

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

The day was planned as a "sock clinic" plus book signing (I really must practice my handwriting, I'm sure it gets worse the more I do, not better!) and it fabulous to meet so many people and their socks!  I even saw some crocheted socks which were very pretty and didn't look bulky as many of them can do (the pattern was in Simply Crochet issue 67 for anyone who'd like to know) and I absolutely loved spending the day indulging my sock obsession - and possibly encouraging a few more people to start their own :)  

It's always hard to take photos when you're in the thick of a busy day, but at one point it was pretty much standing room only which just goes to show what a sociable lot we knitters are; the shop was filled with the chatting of not one but two knit n natter groups, first-time visitors, people meeting each other from the Winwick Mum Facebook groups and shop regulars.  It was fab!

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

Do you want to see something else that was fab?  As well as me taking along my Sockalong badges, Lucy had made some especially for my visit.  Well, how posh did that make me feel?!  I was very proud to wear both of my badges (and a couple more that she had made too!) and they'll be going onto my project bag so that I can remember the day.  Lucy makes her own badges and you're definitely spoilt for choice

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

There were more than a few clues that sock knitters were visiting for the day - sock yarns a-plenty, needles, and these ...

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

and if you look closely, you'll notice that there are a lot of West Yorkshire Spinners yarns included in the sock display - Janice, the regional sales rep from WYS was also there and it was great to be able to chat to her, and for shop customers to be able to ask someone really in the know about the yarns and the mill.

Oh, and you must see this!  Remember that I mentioned cake?  Look at this!  Woolly icing (cake pop) sheep and tiny icing flowers ...

and more sheep ... and socks!

Cake made for Woolaballoo by Sugar and Sponge Cake Company

Isn't that a fabulous cake?!  It was made especially for my visit by the very talented Jane of the Sponge and Sugar Cake Company and underneath all that icing was a lemon poppyseed cake - oh, I love lemon cake!  So, it appeared, did everyone else because by the time I was ready to go home, there really wasn't very much of it left at all!  

Badges, cake, lots of people to say hello too ... I was very spoilt, and my thanks go out to Lucy (and Nichola and Victoria) for looking after me and also to everyone who made the long journey worthwhile by coming to say hello.

I'm going to leave you with a video made by Mara which is a great overview of the day we had (and you can see just how much cake was left!) and which might encourage you to pop along to Woolaballoo if you're in the area!


Oh, and this picture too ...  I love this :) 

Woolaballoo, The Dartmoor Suite, The Courtyard, Front Street, Langley Park, Durham, DH7 9XE,

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