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Thursday, 31 December 2020

The end ... or the beginning?

It's 7.00pm on 31 December, New Year's Eve, here in the UK.  Elsewhere in the world, it's already the start of a whole new year and by this time tomorrow, we'll all be standing in January 2021 and I hope that it is a better year for us all!

I always think of the year as a clock and the hands are almost back at 12 o'clock.  This might not be the usual way to think of a calendar (or so my husband tells me!) but I've always seen time like that, and I love that moment in January when it's a whole new year with the hands at the top of the clock face and the new year in front of you ready for you to do something with it - a bit like snow on the ground that's waiting for you to walk on it and put your mark where nobody else has been.  

Oh yes, we've had snow - I'm surprised you couldn't hear me cheering from where you are!  Big daughter woke me up early a couple of days ago to tell me look out of the window (she'd got up in the middle of the night and didn't want it to have melted before the alarm clock went off) and I spent a long time looking out of the window into that snowy, orangey half-light, grinning from ear to ear, until I realised that I was really cold and got back into bed.

It was good news for the sprouts which had their first dusting of frost on Christmas morning (sprouts always taste better after frost!) ...


I never thought I'd be so excited about sprouts at Christmas, but home grown ones taste so much nicer than bought ones and it's a happy memory of my Dad who always used to grow his own sprouts and then bring them over to whichever house we were eating Christmas dinner in (we usually take it in turns to host between our family - although not this year!).

Monday, 28 December 2020

Monthly Musing - December 2020 - Happy birthday!

Winwick Mum was 10 years old this year.
 
It was in August, to be precise, but in the gradual way that Winwick Mum started as a column in our local church magazine and has grown to fill my every waking thought as a blog, books, yarn and sock patterns, it feels quite natural to be talking about an anniversary a few months later!  And besides, as we reach the end of this peculiar year, it’s quite nice to have something to celebrate!
 
I had absolutely no idea, all those years ago (when even the thought of writing something to be published for and read by my local community filled me with some kind of terror) that I would be feeling extraordinarily grateful that my husband said “What a great idea!” when I showed him the request in the church magazine for some extra content and said I thought I could write something, and telling you now that 10 years have passed and I am still writing my Monthly Musings.  I certainly had no idea that writing my musings each month (and not being tapped on the shoulder in the village shop by someone who though they were terrible!) would help me to feel brave enough to publish them online as a blog, which later became far more about socks that I would have ever thought, led to friendships I never dreamed of and opportunities I never imagined.
 

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Merry Christmas!

An angel decoration sits amid the pine needles of a Christmas tree, surrounded by coloured fairy lights

Our plans might have changed, but whatever goes on in the world, the days pass and Christmas Eve is here.  

The curtains are closed, shutting out the world and leaving us in our own cosy space; our family is together, we're safe and we're thankful for that.  I know it's not the same for everyone this year and I'm sending lots of love and good wishes, hoping that you will have the best Christmas you possibly can.

With much love, and thoughts of joy and peace xxx

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Christmas countdown

Hello, hello, how are you doing? 

It's Thursday today and we're rushing towards Christmas ... small daughter breaks up from school this week and my husband is taking some well-deserved time off work.  

I don't know about your working situation, but he's worked harder than ever since lockdown and needing to be based at home.  My theory is that because many people aren't commuting at the moment, they are filling their commuting time with work instead of having an extra hour to themselves to have another five minutes under the duvet, or a more leisurely breakfast, or perhaps even do something restful like read a book - I think it probably all started at the beginning of the first lockdown when people felt guilty about taking time for themselves when they felt they should be working and the commute is, after all, part of the working day - and now there's an extra two hours or more of work generated in the day and nobody can take any time off because it all needs to be done.  Everybody is exhausted from working too hard, from coronavirus restrictions that seem to change daily, and because it's that's time of year.  We all need a rest - and it's OK to have one!

And now I'm going to show you a photo of a cauliflower.

An orange cauliflower on a chopping board, surrounded by kitchen implements

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

December days

Hello!  How are you doing?

I think I'm going to stop announcing any intentions because as soon as I do (and in this case, it was "I'm going to chat to you more often"), everything seems to conspire against me and I have been busier this week with house things and my other job things than I have for the last month! 😀    

Anyway, here I am at last, and I hope this finds you very well and gearing up towards our very odd Christmas in a few weeks.  We actually had frost last week which started to make everywhere feel quite Christmassy.  

The morning sun is shining through the brick arches of a railway bridge.  The path and grass to the side of it is covered with frost

The sun is shining on the brick arches, lighting up the brickwork.  The sky is blue, with a few wispy clouds

Sunshine through frosted thistle stalks

Frost on green bramble leaves.  The veins are outline and the leaves look very pretty

The low morning sunshine and a blue sky with clouds

The dog and I were at the Nine Arches as that's a good walk for us to do in the morning.  It's a there-and-back walk rather than a circular walk (although I've discovered a new-to-us circular route around there now which I'm very pleased about as I prefer those) which is just about the right distance and length of time for us to be out.

I mentioned the other week that the reason the dog isn't often on the photos is because he's busy disappearing into the bushes, and look where he's off to ... he usually takes one look at me with camera in hand and takes it as an opportunity to go minesweeping for things that he shouldn't be eating - you'll be amazed at what people throw into the bushes!

The frosty canal side.  The water is very still, the path is empty and the dog is heading off into the bushes on the right

Whilst I'm talking about feeling Christmassy, I want to thank you for all your comments on my monthly musing - I think sometimes we think that we are alone in not being able to see our relatives - certainly when you see the news you think that you're an exception rather than the rule - but I don't think we are, are we?  I hope we can all take some comfort in knowing that what we're giving up this year will hopefully mean that next year is so much better for everybody.

Monday, 30 November 2020

Monthly Musing - November 2020 - Too late

This weekend, we made the tough decision not to meet up with our family at Christmas.  It was tough because it’s never easy to tell loved ones that you won’t be  spending time with them – but at the same time it was very easy because we want to keep them safe. 
 
Small daughter has been at school, big daughter has had uni work which has taken her out of the house, my husband and I have been out to buy food and essentials … not much of a risk, you might think, but we have been in contact with so many more people than the rest of our family have and with other people's underlying health conditions to consider, we are not prepared to take even the slightest risk that we might pass something on.
 

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Getting colder

Considering that it's nearly the end of November, it's not really been that cold here in Winwick - although I shouldn't be surprised as I'm convinced that we're over an undiscovered volcanic hotspot and that's why we never get any snow.

We did get our first frost earlier this week, though, and it was lovely to be out with the dog in the crisp morning air, our breath steaming out in front of us as we walked up to the housing estate built on the site of Winwick Hospital (it was once the largest psychiatric hospital in Europe - I wrote about it in this post).  Nobody was around and we crunched across the frosty grass at the back of the houses ...

A frosty grass field with the sunrise and houses in the distance

Friday, 20 November 2020

Friday

It's end of what has felt like a long week - endless for my husband who can't wait for it to be Saturday tomorrow so that he can ignore his emails for two whole days, but just long enough for me to feel as if I've started to catch up with myself.  Do you ever have weeks like that when you feel like you're running just to keep still?  That's been me over the last few weeks but finally I've been able to stop rushing from one job to another and just breathe.

A small coffee table in front of an open fire.  There is a cake of pink yarn, a knitted sock cuff on a circular needle and an orange mug containing tea on the table.

I've not felt guilty at all about lighting the fire in the afternoon and sitting with my knitting, knowing that I am entirely justified in doing this because these are the socks for my commission pattern and they need knitting!

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Something's happening in the garden ...

 Hello, and happy Wednesday to you!


It's a bit of a dark and gloomy morning here in Winwick - I've just had to put the light on whilst I'm sitting here writing to you! - so I hope that it's a bit brighter where you are.

Thank you very much for all your comments on my last post - I'm glad I gave you a smile with my tale of the big fish.  We haven't actually been back there since I wrote that post - I think I've managed to put myself off!  

This was today's walk - there are still so many leaves falling from the trees to carpet the path and even though there wasn't any sunshine, it's still lovely to see the colour because it won't be long before this walk is a black tarmac path through dark leafless trees.
 
A footpath with fallen golden leaves to either side

The dog isn't a fan of the leaves.  He always takes a straight line right through the place with the fewest leaves on the ground.  I think he might have stood on a prickle in the leaves once and that's put him off wanting to walk in them again.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

"It was THIS big!"

It’s early on Sunday morning and I’m sitting here in a quiet house … my husband has gone out on his bike for his daily exercise and my girls are checking the insides of their eyelids for cracks 😀
 
Phew, it’s been a funny old week, hasn’t it, and the world is quite different to how it was when I wrote my Monthly Musing last weekend.  England is back in coronavirus lockdown, Wales is just coming out of it, the US has a new president, there are a myriad of traumas reported on the news, and yet life just goes on for us all.  In an effort not to be swamped by it all, I’m trying harder than ever to look at what’s around me and what I can be grateful for, and now that the nights are drawing in here as we approach Winter, I'm embracing the Hygge moments with ALL the candles, blankets and coal fires!

Small daughter is still at school (much to her disgust) and we've settled into school runs very well since September when she first went back.  It means that I can be out with the dog first thing in the morning which gives my husband and big daughter time to get themselves organised for the day and clears my head - there's something about being out in the morning that really helps me to get myself motivated for the rest of the day - and it also means that the dog gets his big walk and then can snore to his heart's content when we get home.  

We have to go to different places pretty much every day as he tends to misbehave if we do the same route all the time.  I took these photos quite a few weeks ago and haven't had chance to share them with you until now - this was a crisp, Autumn morning at Nine Arches in Sankey Valley Park.  

A towpath next to a disused canal.  The sky is blue and the sun is coming through the trees.  The leaves are shades of gold and brown, reflecting off the water

Saturday, 31 October 2020

Monthly Musing - October 2020 - Family ties

“Mum, don’t look, you won’t like this bit!”
 
It’s a strange day when you have your daughters telling you what’s appropriate for you to watch on TV, but as someone who can't make the pictures go away and having an overactive imagination which creates scenes in my head far worse than in any movie, my family are well-used to employing the “Mum rating” to whatever we’re watching!  It's something that I've learnt to live with; it's just how it is.
 
Hallowe’en, a time that stirs up passions a-plenty for many people and one that will certainly be different this year, has arrived and with it plenty of scary movies!  Small daughter, still at an age where she will happily collect her body weight in sweeties whilst trick or treating, is disappointed that the endless conversations with friends about what outfits they may or may not wear (may not, sadly, this year, but she’s still had fun choosing!) won’t be resulting in a risk of tooth decay, but I think their plan is to watch a scary film together over the internet so I think there may still be plenty of shrieking going on!  (No Mum-rating required for her although we do insist that they consider the age-appropriate ratings for the films!)
 
When I was a child, Hallowe’en was much less of an event than it is today.  There was no trick or treating and nobody in our street ever decorated their houses.  However, my brother and I would spend hours carving scary faces out of swedes (rutabagas) – also no pumpkins around in my younger days and you never forget the smell of smouldering swede! – and ducking for apples that we would take one bite out of and then leave to go brown …
 

Thursday, 29 October 2020

WYS Christmas yarns giveaway result

Well, what can I say?!  

Thank you so much to everyone who left a comment to take part in the giveaway draw for the WYS yarn and pattern bundle, it's been amazing to read them all, and thank you for sharing your Christmas memories with me as well!  It's definitely going to be a different kind of Christmas (or holiday, if you don't celebrate Christmas) celebration this year, I think, but we will all make new memories for those "Do you remember Christmas 2020?" conversations!

I'm sorry if you weren't able to leave a comment - I don't know why Blogger is difficult with them sometimes.  They keep on updating the system so hopefully that kind of thing will become a glitch of the past with every new update.

So, on to the part that you've been waiting for!  Before I tell you the winner, though, let me remind you of the generous prize that West Yorkshire Spinners have given me to give to you.

A flatlay of five balls of yarn in the WYS Christmas 2020 colours, a pattern book in the centre and a single pattern to the right.  There is also a small coloured paper chain at the bottom of the picture

There's a ball of each of the 2020 Christmas yarns, so that's Holly Berry, Candy Cane, sparkly Fairy Lights, Robin and the brand new yarn for this year, the sparkly Silent Night.  There's also a copy of the Comet pattern designed for Silent Night, and the new pattern book with seven brand new sock patterns.  Phew, that'll keep you going for a while!  

Saturday, 24 October 2020

WYS Christmas yarns and socks 2020

Well, have I got something lovely to talk to you about today!

I haven't been able to say much about what I was knitting over the Spring and Summer this year, but now all can be revealed ... in fact, you may have seen what I was up to and started to knit it for yourself!  (It's such fun to be cryptic sometimes! 😀 )

Have you guessed?  It's the West Yorkshire Spinners Christmas 2020 yarn!


I know it's only October but we knitters have to work to a different timescale sometimes and especially if we're gift knitting.  That's why West Yorkshire Spinners released their Christmas yarns in September - I was thrilled to be asked to design their Christmas sock pattern again this year and that's why I needed to be knitting Christmas socks during these long hot weeks we had over the Spring and Summer! 

Not just one sock pattern, though ... this year is a bit different.  Read on - although do be warned, this is a long, picture-heavy post!

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

My Instagram Challenge Part 4

It's the last week of photos from the Instagram challenge that I took part in during September.  I had such a lovely time following the prompts and deciding how they could relate to socks and yes, I really could find an excuse to talk about socks for every one of them!   

Thanks for your comments about the previous weeks' photos, I'm glad you've enjoyed seeing them!  It's back to socks and dog walks next week ... 😀


Day 22 : Gifts

A stack of multi-coloured socks on a white background with a reindeer ornament and one sock in the foreground

Getting socks for Christmas is no joke ...
 
Particularly when they've been made especially for you!
 

Friday, 16 October 2020

My Instagram Challenge Part 3

It's Friday already - what a week it's been!  More lockdown restrictions for many of us, no matter where in the world we are, and it's not looking like we're going to be going back to any kind of "normal" any time soon.  I hope you're holding up, it's a worrying time and I know that everybody's anxiety levels are higher than they should normally be.

I've got two more weeks of Instagram photos to show you then we're back to dog walks and what is or isn't growing in the garden (spoiler alert - we may be eating kale for the rest of our lives!) so I'm hoping this is a welcome respite from "the usual" which has been rather more restricted lately!

Here's week 3 ...


Day 15 : Colour Inspiration

A green glass fishing float, a ball of blue Seascape yarn and two shells on a white background

Are you old enough to remember these glass fishing floats?

They were very fashionable in the 1970s and this one hung in our bathroom when I was small.  It hangs in our house now, and was part of the inspiration for my Seascape yarn, one of the four colours that I created with West Yorkshire Spinners in the Winwick Mum collection.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

My Instagram Challenge Part 2

Hello again!

It's made me smile this morning knowing that I'm going to be sitting down to write a post sharing more Instagram photos after my Monthly Musing last week - if you want to take a quick look at it, it's here; I was talking about too much social media scrolling not being a positive thing for me 😀.  I loved reading all of your comments, thank you - it seems like you recognise that it's not always a positive thing for you too, and I've been looking at Instagram in particular in a new light recently.  I've also been keeping a close eye on how long I've been looking at Instagram and stopping the endless scroll has made me feel much better this week!

So, because I am thinking in our best interests - yours and mine - here's another week's worth of the photos that I took for the September YarnFriendsRock hashtag challenge - and you only get to look at 7 days' worth of them so that you're not endlessly scrolling!

Ready?  Here we go!


Day 8 :  Pretty stacks

Yarn cakes of various colours stacked on top of each other against a white background

One potato, two potato ... would you call them yarn potato cakes? 🤣

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Monthly Musing - September 2020 - The best version of you

I was listening to Dame Sarah Storey being interviewed on the radio the other day.  She’s a Paralympian, one of the most decorated athletes in sporting history, and now works with her husband to encourage young people in sport. 
 
One of the things that she talked about was being “the best version of you”, which is where they encourage young cyclists in their racing team to always try to beat their own personal best and not worry about what others are doing.  She went on to say that you can’t control what other people are doing but you can make sure that you are always doing the best that you can and by focussing on that, your own performance will improve because that’s where all your attention is.

I may not want to be a gold medal-winning Olympic cyclist (as if that was ever an option – ha!), but Dame Sarah’s words really struck a chord with me.  One of the things that I know I am guilty of recently is too much social media scrolling, and it’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap.  “That person knits far more pairs of socks than I do; this person produces more patterns than me; I wouldn’t have thought to put those colours together; I wish I could draw like that; I wish I had their interior design style …”  What starts off as a fun way to spend half an hour can leave me putting my phone down with a sense of dejection and overwhelm.  Why can’t I paint gorgeous landscapes whilst baking fabulous cakes, decorating three bedrooms in an afternoon and whizzing out a few extra sock patterns in my spare five minutes?  I’m obviously not organised enough, or I’m not talented enough, or I’m just plain lazy …

Friday, 18 September 2020

My Instagram Challenge Part 1

Hello there, how are you doing?  I'm just popping in quickly to wish you a wonderful weekend whatever you're up to, and share some photos from something that I've been up to recently.

Well, I've been up to lots of things recently - one of them is a certain collection of Christmas socks which officially launched on Wednesday - but so many things that I do are either too boring or too secret to share so it's good to have something that I can show for a change! 

I've been taking part in a hashtag challenge over on Instagram during September.  It's been co-hosted by four crocheters (Unicorn Puffs and Rainbows, Attic24, Sewing The Seeds of Love and Hook One Purl One) and has consisted of a photo prompt for every day.  My Instagram account until now has been an extension of my blog photos - an explosion of everyday photos from blog posts, of fruit and veg, socks, dog walks and random things that have made me smile - but I've taken the opportunity to change it to something slightly different and focus it on my socks and sock knitting for beginners so that I can keep my other everyday conversations here with you.  My husband often tells me (and sometimes a bit grumpily!) that I can turn any conversation round to socks and I've had great fun turning the photo prompts round to socks over the last couple of weeks.

I know that not all of you are or want to be on Instagram so I thought I would like to share the photos with you as I have enjoyed writing the story captions to go with them and I thought you might like to see.  I don't want to bore you with 18 days' worth of photos in one go, so I'll just show you the first week of photos today, and then show you the others another time.  There's still time if you want to get involved in the hashtag challenge yourself, and I've posted the list of prompts at the end of my photos.


Day 1 : This is Me

A photo showing an orange copy of Super Socks sock knitting tutorial book next to an orange mug containing tea.  On the book is a navy blue sock cuff on a circular knitting needle.  The background is cream.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Arches of brick and balls of yarn!

Hello to you!  I can't believe that it's Tuesday already - the days have been rushing past faster and faster but now that small daughter is back at school ... yes, after all these months she has gone back to school and I don't know if you have children, but if you do then wasn't it strange and yet wonderful to see them go?! ... I am hoping to get myself into some kind of new routine and slow the time down just a little bit.

I can't pretend that we're not worried about small daughter being back in a school environment with so many other people after such a long time at home, but the school that she goes to is very organised and very thoughtful about what is best for the teachers and the students so we are happy that they will be doing their best to keep her and all the other people there safe.

I sat down with my planner the other week to try to make sense of what was going to be coming up.  I'm back on school runs again after a 3 year break - the school are discouraging bus travel for those who are able to walk, cycle or get a lift so because I work at home anyway and the school is just a bit too far to reasonably walk to, I'm picking small daughter up each day.  I've decided to use the time to get a few extra rounds of knitting in, and also re-start my Welsh language practice which I let slip at the beginning of lockdown.  I'm quite surprised that I haven't forgotten as much as I thought I would have done, but I'm still not convinced that "I met a man in the pub yesterday who works with your sister" is going to get me very far at the moment!  I'll keep going ...

I'm also scheduling in regular times to walk the dog rather than just when I feel like it, or when I have time, and that feels much better.  I need to get out and be in the fresh air and the dog appreciates it too.  We found a new walk last week at the other end of the Sankey Valley Canal route to where we usually walk, and it was really quite exciting to be able to explore!

I'll try not to bore you with too many photos, but I love an arched bridge and I love a good fact too - and there are plenty about this viaduct!

Monday, 31 August 2020

Monthly Musing - August 2020 - Happy new year!

 It’s the last day of August today.  Bank holiday Monday, here in the UK which has meant a long weekend celebrating the end of the school Summer holidays because, to me, that’s what it has always been.  I am, of course, old enough to know better now but the start of September has always felt a little colder, a little gloomier and with a sense of impending restriction and routine as the days rush towards the return to school.  

Nowadays, I have been able to shake that off and instead I look forward to the change in the smell in the air as Autumn starts to wend its way gently towards us, and this year in particular, I am welcoming the thought of a new routine after the rather haphazard way we have spent our days through lockdown.
 
September has always felt like a new start, a new chance to do something different, and this year it truly is as we are going to return to school runs (small daughter’s school is discouraging public bus travel) and small daughter’s timetable and her daily life at school will be something completely new as the school works to accommodate the safety of the students in the current situation.  We are already starting to look at how we organise our days to fit that in, and make sure that small daughter is not left standing on the school step (we will ignore the times that I have been to collect her previously, only to get an apologetic phone call from the bus when she has completely forgotten and I am left sitting in the car park!).

Friday, 28 August 2020

Basic 4ply Shortie Socks - free pattern

Are you someone who likes your socks to be just a little bit shorter?  There are all kinds of reasons why you might like the cuffs of your socks to be at your ankles rather than higher up your leg, and I've been asked many times over the years about whether it's possible to shorten the Basic 4ply Sockalong sock pattern to make shortie socks.


The answer is, of course, yes - all you have to do is start the heel straight after the cuff, but I thought it was about time that I wrote this up as a proper pattern so that you can print it off and keep it with your others!

It was whilst I was writing it up that I started to think about the cuff, as there are as many choices for that as there are days in the week - and more! - so I decided to include a few options that you can use or customise for your own short socks.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

A Winwick Wildflower Wander!

Hello, hello, how are you doing?  I've had a bit of a break from my blog over the last few weeks but it's lovely to be back. 

It's strange how we seem to need some time off even when we've been at home for so long, isn't it?  How does that work?!  Anyway, here I am and I'm going to take you on a walk across the fields so that you can tell me what all of these flowers are that I don't have names for 😀

A farmer's field with a line of trees in the background and cut grass ready for baling in the foreground and reaching all the way to the trees

You wouldn't know from this photo, but this was taken on a lovely, warm day.  There was a breeze blowing that was just right and it was cool enough for the dog not to be huffing and puffing like a steam train.  We've been having to time his walks to either really early in the morning or late at night just recently as the weather has been very warm again - although now as I write this we're back to rain.  Ah, the British Summer time!

Monday, 27 July 2020

Monthly Musing - July 2020 - Better with a friend!

It’s 6am on Monday morning (I know, far too early!) and I am wrapped up in my meditation blanket, listening to the rain outside the window whilst I focus on my breathing. Across the room, my husband is also meditating – we are together, but not together as we each take a few quiet moments before the day starts.

I know this might sound a bit “out there” for some – even the idea of meditation can cause very different reactions! – but we both get something immensely positive from our morning stillness and, best of all, doing it together makes it much more likely that we will do it at all.

I’ve never really got the whole “gym buddy” thing; the idea of a partner who shouts encouragement (or orders, depending on your preference) whilst you sweat away on a piece of equipment. I think that’s probably because I’ve never been a big fan of the gym – I’d much rather be walking outside or, even better, sitting at home knitting and preferably with a cup of tea and a shortbread biscuit. It all felt a bit too regimental for me, I didn’t like the idea of the pressure (I’ve never been very good at being told what to do) and if I am honest, I’m probably a bit lazy when it comes to that kind of exercise!

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Sunday again

Is it Sunday again?! 😀

I'm sitting at the kitchen table with big daughter; she's working away on her computer and I'm looking at the photos on my phone, getting ready to add them to my blog post.  "I can't believe we've got to the do the weekly food shopping list again already," she says to me, out of the blue, and she's right.  It's food shopping list day again!

So what have you been up to this week?  Anything exciting?  It's been a bit same old, same old here, much as it has been for the last few months, with the addition of endless rain and some gusty winds.  Even the dog hasn't looked too excited at the thought of going out of the door, but we have managed some walks between the rain showers and he's enjoyed himself once we've got outside.

It was lovely to get back to Bewsey Meadows near Callands in Warrington - this is one of the places that inspired my Wildflower yarn and I had forgotten how many of the flowers would be out at this time of year.  It was all looking a bit gloomy when we set off, but it was warm enough, and the colours of our surroundings seemed even more vibrant against the dull sky.

A photo showing a terracotta coloured gravel path through a meadow.  The sky is grey and the path is bordered by grass and trees

Sunday, 12 July 2020

July already!

And here we are, past mid-summer and rushing our way to the school summer holidays ... even though if you have school-aged children like me, they might have thought they've been on holiday since March! 

How are you doing?  Are you still OK, safe at home and perhaps venturing a little further these days?  We've been out and about a little bit, but not much; it still feels strange after all this time that it's becoming acceptable to do that and of course, we are still very wary as this virus hasn't just gone away.  I think it will take us a while to feel that it's OK to be outside again.

We've mostly been carrying on as before - work from home for my husband and me, studying from home for small daughter and big daughter has spent most of the last week on Cloud 9 ... 
we've been celebrating as she has graduated from university with First Class Honours!  We are absolutely delighted for her as she has put so much work into her studies and really deserves the grade.  She was hoping to go travelling in September but that's been put on hold now so she's going to start the Master's degree that she was intending to defer ... so many plans have changed for so many people ... and she'll see how the world is faring after that.  

It seems very boring after that to tell you that I've been knitting a sock!  It's the second sock in the Novita Aran yarn that I started a while ago and then put down as I had other things to get on with.  I've still got other things to get on with but I picked this sock up again last night whilst my husband and I sat and watched an episode of Jack Taylor on TV. 

A half-knitted sock in shades of turquoise, black and purple yarn.  The ball of yarn is to the left of the sock, and a completed sock is to the right.  They are all resting on a stone paving flag.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Let's talk about ... short circular needles

It seems like a very long time ago now that I picked up my first set of short circular needles, the promise of my sock knitting being "revolution-ised" ringing in my ears and proving to be absolutely true - for me, at least!  

When I bought my 30cm (12'") short circular needle, that was pretty much the sum total of what was on offer.  I wasn't presented with a range of other choices as easily as you might be today, and when my needle first arrived through the post, it looked so unbelievably tiny that I had no idea how it was going to replace my DPNs.  I just knew, though, that this was the needle for me and I was determined to get to grips with it.  There was a slight flaw in this plan as I couldn't work out how to cast on and make it join (this might sound familiar to you!) until I realised that casting on with straight needles not only solved that problem but also stopped the stitches twisting.  I put my DPNs to one side and the short circular became my needle of choice.

I used this short circular needle as one of the three methods shown in my Sockalong tutorials.  The plan with the tutorials was always just to get people started knitting socks and I showed the needles that I used and how I knit my socks, always intending that the tutorials would be a springboard to discovering more.  It has both surprised and delighted me that for many people, the basic 4ply Sockalong sock pattern along with the tutorials has been enough.  There are so many fabulous self-striping yarns around these days that you often don't need any more, and instead of delving further into more complicated patterns, people have stuck with what works for them, and that's just lovely!

What I have noticed, though, is that people are investigating their needle choices more.  That will be because, since I wrote the Sockalong tutorials, there really is more choice, and also because the way we get our information through the internet has improved too.  It's second nature to many of us now to simply put our questions into a search bar and hey presto, we have a hundred answers to scroll through!  It's enlightening - and sometimes overwhelming - so I thought that this morning, I'd add my own thoughts to one of the questions that I see most often: what's the best size of short circular to buy?

Close up of three short circular knitting needles.  They are arranged in side, largest to the outside and smallest on the inside.  They have different tips (outside and inside are metal whilst the one between is coloured wood) and different coloured cables; gold on the outside, purple in the middle and green in the very centre).
Needle brands: Outside - Addi, Centre - KnitPro Symphonie, Inside - HiyaHiya

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Monthly Musing - June 2020 - Upside down

I’m sitting here looking at a blank page, wondering what on earth to write my Monthly Musing about.  The theme of my blog is “looking for the extraordinary in the everyday”; the idea is that it makes me look past what I’m doing all the time to see what’s special, what’s different, what I might miss if I don’t take the time to see it – but after weeks and weeks of the same four walls, the “extraordinary” of being in lockdown has become “ordinary” and things that really are out of the ordinary now but would have been ordinary before are sometimes a cause for concern.

 

Just this afternoon, I was standing outside the vet’s practice waiting for the veterinary nurse to bring some medication for one of our cats, chatting to a lady whose pet was inside with the vet and another man, whose enormous St Bernard dog was sitting companionably on his feet whilst they waited their turn.  It’s not ordinary to have to stand outside, no longer allowed in to see the vet or even into the waiting room.  Our pets go in without us (“I really don’t like that”, says the man, and I have to agree with him) and we are given advice from a half-open door.  We might not like it, but it is how it is.  Extraordinary becomes ordinary.

 

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Hot, hot, hot!

Phew, it's going to be a hot one again today!  The rain has moved on and we're now into a mini heatwave which is set to bake us for the rest of the week.

The dog and I were out early as he doesn't cope very well with the heat and even before 9am when we were on our way home, he was flagging.  Mind you, he had been running around like he was in the final furlongs of the Grand National and skidding in the wet grass like a small boy on a shiny wooden floor, so I'm not surprised he was tired.  He's in his favourite place under the stairs at the moment, absorbing the breeze from the open front door - although one of our cats has started to bring small furry friends into the house, releasing them to a new life under the book case, so the door isn't open as often as the dog would like it to be!

We walked through the woods this morning as I thought it would be cooler for him.  

A woodland path with sunlight coming through the trees

The leaf canopy is much thicker at this time of year so you don't get the same dappled shadows from the sunlight filtering through.  We did see that there are some new residents living amongst the trees, though ...

Friday, 19 June 2020

After the rain

I started writing this post after a couple of days of whopping thunderstorms - but despite the post title, it doesn't seem to have stopped raining since!  

The dog and I had a very wet walk this morning (it was lovely - no one around, birds singing, dog paddling in the streams, rain bouncing on my jacket, just like old times!) and calling into the Post Office afterwards, the lady who worked there said as I dripped up to the counter, "Ugh, it looks awful out there".  Normally, I think it would have been, but the novelty of it all meant that I wouldn't have swapped it for anything.

Rain drop ripples on a canal.  There are patches of green lily pads and the water is very dark.

Small daughter and I spent our time the other evening playing "Name That Tune" whilst the thunder rolled about the house, making even the dog jump and he's not bothered by fireworks so it must have been loud!  "Name That Tune" is an old TV show that I remember from being younger - basically, you have to guess the name of the song within the first few notes.  The contestants on the show used to say, "I'll name that tune in ... " and then would choose however many notes they thought they could guess it in.  This was a bit of a cheat game for me as it turns out that all the time in my teenage years that I spent in my bedroom listening to cassette recordings of the Top 40 (come on now, I'm not the only one who sat poised over the tape recorder waiting for Number 1! 😀) was not actually wasted time at all and has now come into its own as I can name a surprising number of songs as long as they're all from the UK charts in the 1980s and early 90s.  My street cred with small daughter went up no end!

Monday, 8 June 2020

Helical Knitting ebook giveaway results

Hello again - and thank you so much to everyone who took part in this weekend's Helical Knitting ebook giveaway!  It was lovely to read all your comments and see that some of you have tried helical knitting already - I am clearly in good company!

The giveaway came about after I mentioned the helical knitting technique that I had used for my latest pair of socks - you can read more about that here - and the giveaway prize is a copy of the Something New to Learn about Helical Knitting ebook by Jen Arnall-Culliford.  She is very kindly giving two copies of the ebook to the winners and you can find out who they are below.

Ebook cover for Something New To Learn about Helical Knitting ebook
Source: www.acknitwear.co.uk    Photo credit: Jesse Wild

The ebook accompanies the helical knitting tutorials of the same name and not only contains various helical knitting techniques, but also seven different projects in it.  This number was the answer to the giveaway question, so congratulations to you if you got it right!

Friday, 5 June 2020

Helical Knitting ebook giveaway

The giveaway is now closed. Thank you to everyone who has entered, I'll let you know who's won as soon as I can! 

Hello, hello, it's Friday already!  I hope you've had a lovely week.

Thank you so much for all your comments on my last couple of posts and, of course, the Amory Socks which went live on Monday to help with the fundraising contribution for the Flower Power Fund.   It still feels very strange to me to put a pattern out for sale so I have appreciated your support!

In a change from the post that I had planned (I am sure you can wait for more photos of my tomato plants 😀), I'm going to write instead about helical knitting.  When I first showed you the socks that I was making using the helical knitting technique that I found on the AC Knitwear website, I had no idea that they would cause so much interest!

I finished my socks the other day and I am so very pleased with them!  The two colours blend together as if they were made for each other, and there is no way at all that you can spot where one colour round starts and the other ends - it's as if you have one ball of striped yarn!

A pair of feet wearing purple striped hand knitted socks.  The background is stone flags.

Here's where I started back in the middle of May.  The two yarns that I'm using are a purple hand-dyed sock yarn from The Knitting Goddess which I bought at Yarndale way back in 2014, and a ball of Regia Mosaik Color 4ply in shade 05560.  I hadn't quite found the pattern I wanted to use for either of them, so I decided that I would make the most of the enforced time at home to learn something new and blend them together in helical stripes.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Amory Socks

We knit socks for many reasons.

It might be simply to keep our hands busy or because we want the best-looking sock drawers.  We knit them to bring us joy or to distract us from thinking about things we would rather not allow our minds to dwell on.  They help to pass the time whilst we are waiting - and we spend a lot of our time waiting.  Waiting for news, both happy and sad; waiting to be reunited with someone; loved ones who have been on journeys, children who have been at activity events, long-awaited babies being born ... there are so many reasons why we do so.  And sometimes, we wait to say goodbye.

I first met Dr Sarah Holmes, a palliative care doctor at the Marie Curie Hospice in Bradford, at a Knit Now Awards day a couple of years ago.  A strange place to meet a doctor, perhaps, but she was being recognised for the incredible work she has been doing through our yarn community to raise funds for Marie Curie.  It all started off as a desire to knit socks for each of the patients in the Marie Curie Hospices around the country (so naturally, that was something that would attract my attention!) and I was so pleased to be able to send her socks from the Yarndale Sock Line to help make up the numbers, knowing that they had been knitted with love for someone who needed an extra woolly hug.

Last year, Sarah's Flower Power Fund raised money through limited edition hand-dyed yarns, and it was so successful that she is doing it all over again this year - but this time, there are patterns for each month too!  When she asked me if I would like to be involved, I didn't even have to think about it.  Whether we have used Marie Curie's services directly or not, there are not many of us who have not been touched by cancer in some way during our lives and I was glad to have the opportunity to do something to contribute.

Here is my contribution.  These socks are called Amory, which is an old German name meaning "brave".  

Photo shows a pair of blue patterned socks next to a bunch of yellow daffodils

I thought long and hard about what a sock design for such a purpose should look like.  I didn't want anything too complicated (and trust me, these might look complicated but really they're not!) as often our minds need to be occupied but not to the exclusion of all else.  I wanted a stitch pattern that was easy to keep track of, because sometimes we need to put our knitting down before we are ready to.  I wanted something that would suit both men and women, because there is no restriction on who we love enough to knit our socks for.  

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Monthly Musing - May 2020 - Opening doors

How are you feeling?  It’s been weeks and weeks since we all started to stay at home; I don’t think any of us ever imagined this!

 

At first, people spoke of grief and bereavement for a way of life that we had lost.  There were thoughts of hope for our planet, and for a new way of living that would reconnect us to our world in ways that we had forgotten.  The streets were silent and people seemed afraid to even make eye contact.  It was all strange and new but for most of us, the unusual has become usual; we’re getting used to being at home, chatting to people from a distance and, believe it or not, queuing in a way that is extreme even to us British super-queuers!

 

What has struck me most is how resilient we are, how adaptable to our new situation when many of us might have thought ourselves too stuck in our ways to change.  There’s no question that this happening in our advanced digital age has helped us; businesses that might otherwise have gone out of business have been able to stay open online, for example.  In our house, we’ve loved watching Andrew Cotter’s dog commentaries when, as a sports commentator, his work would have been on hold but he has continued to keep us entertained.  People who thought themselves “too old” or “not tech savvy” enough have been able to get to grips with technology in a way that has opened up a whole new world for them.  Last night, we took part in a family quiz with people from all over the country – and even abroad – that we would never normally see except at occasional family events, but here we were on a Friday evening, glass of wine in hand*, comfortably ensconced on our sofa discussing quiz answers with literally distant relatives.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Another week

Our family is ever-so-slightly addicted to the TV programme Gogglebox and as we watched the latest episode on Friday evening, we were reliably informed that we had spent over 60 days in lockdown.  60 days!  That's a long time, isn't it, and some people have been indoors for even longer ... I hope that you are still keeping well and sane!

In Winwick ... (if you also watch the programme, you'll see what I did there 😀) we've had a changeable week weatherwise.  It started off as one of the hottest days of the year and then a wild wind swept in, ripping leaves and small branches off the trees, battering my poor old buddleja down to the ground and spooking one of our cats (who, to be fair, doesn't need much encouragement to be spooked) to the point that he had to be put into his bed and encouraged to stay there.

Whilst the weather was still good, though, I managed to get out into the garden for a while.  I've been intending to reclaim the borders from the Crocosmia which has been stealthily expanding into all the available space over the last couple of years for quite some time...

Garden border which is overgrown with grass-like Crocosmia plants

The friend's Mum that I acquired the Crocosmia from did warn me that this was a pretty invasive variety but at the time, I wanted the ground cover so wasn't too concerned.  Now, however, this thug has taken over my borders so the extent that drastic action was required!  I set to work ripping it out and then digging out the corms that were left in the ground.  I don't mind keeping some of it as the orange flowers are very pretty, but I don't need quite as much of it as I have!

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Sunday

How is this happening?!  I blink and a whole week has gone past!  I don't know about you, but I thought I would have so much time once we were all at home, but that doesn't seem to be the case.  And no, I am not losing half of my day watching Netflix!  (Although small daughter and I are working our way through a series of Marvel films together and they go on and on and on ...)  Anyway, enough of me being bewitched by the speed of the passing days! 

Thank you SO MUCH to you all for your kind comments and your purchases of the LikeMinded Socks pattern.  I really was very nervous about putting a pattern out for sale rather than my usual free download, but you have all made it a very easy process and I am very grateful.  I've promised to donate money from the sales for the rest of this month, but already I can tell you that thanks to you, I'm going to be able to donate a very generous amount!


If you've not seen the post on these socks, you can read all about them and the story behind them here.

Thank you also to everyone who got involved in the Sockalong 5th Birthday - Ann and Pam have been in touch and their prizes from the giveaway are on their way to them.

What else?  Oh, earlier this week (last week? It depends if your week starts on Sunday or Monday!), I released a new video on YouTube.  This is the first of what's going to be a series of them to go along with the Sockalong tutorials; lots of people tell me that they would appreciate video as well as the photos in the tutorials so I am veeerrry slowly getting my act together and creating those.  They're designed to work in conjunction with the online tutorials, not instead of them, so hopefully you'll get a better picture of how it all works when you put the two together if you have questions as you go along.

The first video is here:


I chose this one to start with as the question that is asked most often in the Facebook group is "How many stitches should I cast on for a size [whatever] sock?"  The answer of course, is that it depends on the width of the foot, not the length, but for someone who is new to knitting socks, this is a big concept to get your head around!  Once you've worked out your own gauge, however, then that's you done for pretty much every sock you'll knit in that particular weight so the 10 or 20 minutes it might take you is, in the scheme of things, no time at all.  Yes, yes, I'm as impatient as the next person and want to just get stuck in without messing about with tension swatches, but I can tell you that I've knitted hundreds of pairs of socks now, and they all fit.  And it takes 20 minutes to work that out?  It's really worth the effort!

Monday, 11 May 2020

Winwick Mum Sockalong 5th birthday giveaway results

Hello to you, I hope you had a lovely weekend!

I'm here at last with the Sockalong 5th birthday giveaway results - wow, it was so lovely to hear from so many of you!  I'm sorry to those of you who weren't able to leave a comment - the comments are moderated anyway because of spam, but apparently my blog platform has eaten a few of them before I could even get to read them.    

What I love most about reading your comments every is that they give me an insight into how knitting socks is as much as part of your lives as it is mine.  It's that thing that I talked about in the Winter Haven KAL about us being connected by yarn and intention - our socks keep our feet warm, give us joy to knit, give us pleasure to give away, give us pride to wear ourselves, keep us calm, keep yarn shops in business ... and reading all your comments about how you have done all of that, and how your socks have created special memories, means more to me than any download figures or statistics that we bloggers are supposed to be interested in.  Knowing that you are knitting socks for whatever reason, and that I might have been able to help you do that, fills my heart to bursting, and I hope that I will be able to continue to help people to knit socks for many years to come!

Please do me a favour, though - I read so many comments that said "I've only ..." and there should never be an "I've only ..." about anything!  It's like those people who tell me "I've knitted this pair but they're not perfect".  It's absolutely OK to be proud of whatever you have done and we are all far too good at putting our achievements down (and I can say this to you because I do exactly the same thing until I realise what I'm doing and pull myself out of it!).  So this next year, whatever you are making, embrace your knitting imperfections as "design features" that make your knitting unique, and if you have to say "if only", then it should be "I've only gone and knitted [whatever it is]!"  We should all be more Mike from Monsters Inc! 😀

Anyway, you don't want to read me rambling on, you want to know if you've won!

Friday, 8 May 2020

LikeMinded Socks

Design inspiration comes in all sorts of different forms for me.  

Sometimes, the idea pops into my head like a lightbulb going on and it's so bright that I have to do something about it straight away.  At other times, I might see or hear something and think, "Ooh, that would be a good idea for ... whatever" and I will turn it over and over in mind until it forms into the shape that I want.

At other times, the idea is like a ghost at the back of my mind, slipping in and out of my thoughts, always just out of reach until the moment when it is ready to step forward into my consciousness and say "Now ... now I am ready".  And that is what happened with this pattern.  

It's inspired by social media, which might on the face of it seem to be an odd thing to base a sock design on.  It's not based on the technical wizardry and computer coding that makes it all possible, however, and it's definitely not based on the downsides of scrolling and trolling and media overwhelm - but on the good, positive, human side of it.  The side that outweighs all the nonsense, that connects us, uplifts us, teaches and inspires us.  That side of social media.


I spend a lot of time on social media; in fact, my whole Winwick Mum existence is based on it.  My blog, my Facebook page and groups, my Instagram account, my YouTube channel - it's how I connect with the world and it's how you connect with me.  It never ceases to amaze me that somebody, somewhere, is awake at any given moment.  Or that they are looking at weather that is completely different to mine - heck, they might even be in a different season.  There are birds in the trees and animals that I have never heard of but I can see pictures of them, and not just pictures from nature programmes but pictures from somebody's back garden.  It makes the world smaller, it brings us closer, and we are truly never alone.

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