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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


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.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Winwick Mum Sockalong 5th birthday

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear Sockalong
Happy birthday to you!

Wow wow WOW!  It's five years since the Winwick Mum Sockalong started and I couldn't be happier to know that the tutorials and the pattern are still so useful to people who are just starting out on their sock knitting adventures.

When you create something like the Sockalong, then of course you hope that it will be more than a short firework fizzle in the endless sky of the internet universe, but I can honestly tell you that apart from wanting to make sure that I tried to make it as easy as possible for someone to knit a pair of socks, there was never any grand plan - certainly never any 5 year plan! - and it has been wonderful to see how everything has evolved.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Another Sunday

Well hello, I hope this finds you well on a Sunday evening!  I do know that it's Sunday because the calendar tells me so, but other than that it's all a bit vague 😀  

There's talk of change to the current lockdown situation but it's still going to be a long road ahead to our new way of living.  I don't know that I'm all that keen to go back to our world how it was - traffic congestion, understaffed hospitals with overworked NHS staff, climate chaos, homelessness, poverty ... it would be wonderful if this experience really did give us a new way to live, but let's get through this bit first.  

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Monthly Musing - April 2020 - Superheroes

My husband spotted this picture shared on Twitter the other day ...

I don’t know the source to credit the words, or even if all teachers agree with it, but they made me feel better.  This superpower that will make sure that small daughter (currently attempting to use her own superpowers to fight off the evil scourge of online schoolwork) will be just fine, has worked its magic on her Mum too, and pulled me back from the brink of becoming  supremely irritating constant “why aren’t you studying?” white noise.

There’s a lot of talk about (super) heroes at the moment as well there should be, because people are putting our lives before theirs to make sure that we can stay safe and well, and I am beyond grateful for that.  But even from the earliest Superman films that I watched, I never wanted to be one of the bystanders waiting to be crushed by falling buildings or rescued by a caped crusader swooping in at the last minute.  That’s all far too passive for me (I’ve always been a rather stroppy, independent individual!) and I suspect for many other people too.  We want to create our own heroic storylines and we want to be in charge of our own destinies, defeating the baddies and saving the world before the end credits. 

Monday, 27 April 2020

Still staying home!

Good afternoon to you!  We're entering another week of lockdown (seriously, I've lost count of the weeks, I don't even know what day it is half the time!) and it's getting hard to remember what life was like before this surreal time when it feels like you're on holiday but you know that you're not.

If we were in a science fiction story, we would be questioning whether we ever really went outside before at all or whether it was all an illusion, and some days it really does feel as if going to work, going on holiday or even talking to people face to face was something that I imagined.  Anyway, we can only keep on keeping on, can't we, and remembering that all of this is about more than ourselves.  It still seem strange to see Winwick so quiet.  I've been indulging my rebellious side in all of this by walking down the middle of the road with the dog in places, rather than on the pavement.  Not often, though - there are still cars around and I have no desire to get squashed!

Whilst I'm thinking about being home, it's a good opportunity for me to say thank you to all of you.  To those of you looking after the sick people, or the old people, or those who need extra help; to those of you who are growing our food, making deliveries, working in those stores that are still open and being able to work from home so that my life isn't inconvenienced any more than it has to be.  To those of you who are still dealing with the day-to-day stuff like house fires, or dustbins, or traffic accidents.  Life hasn't stopped, it has merely slowed and the "inconvenience" of having to stay home and sit about in my pyjamas all day if I want to, in order to help keep others safe, is made possible by people like you.  And of course, thank you to everybody that I haven't mentioned but who is still out there doing what you need to do - and those like me who are staying at home making their jobs easier.  Thank you all! 

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Sunset walk

Small daughter and I went for a walk the other evening.

It wasn't planned; it was her turn to take the dog for a walk and she was grumpy because she didn't want to so she'd left it all day until it was nearly dark.  I was cross because she'd left it until it was nearly dark so I didn't want her to go alone - but I had other things that I needed to do.

She was rude, I was shouty.  It wasn't the best atmosphere.  

And then suddenly, we were friends again.  Small daughter is missing her friends - this surprised me as they seem to be on the phone to each other all the time, but she said that's just the normal after-school communication (as you will probably know if you have a teenager) and it's the face-to-face connection that she's missing.  This was another surprise as whenever I see them all together, they're all still on their phones but I would probably have been the same at their age if I'd had that hand-held portal to the world and - let's be honest, however much we love our families, our friends bring an extra dimension to our lives that I am sure we are all missing.  

I felt like I understood my girl so much more then.  I understood how her experience of all of this is so different to mine, and I wished that I could wave a magic wand to fix it for everybody.  Ah, if only we all had a magic wand sometimes!

Instead, we watched Nature perform some magic of her very own.  We watched the sky blaze like fire behind the trees.  We watched it warm the ancient stones of the church, turning them pink, and we watched as bats dipped and swooped as the sun finally disappeared below the horizon.  The credit for these photos is all small daughter's, and I am glad that we saw the magic together.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Still here!

Hello!  And how is the view from your window today? 😀

Another week passes by and we're all still here, aren't we, safe at home and hopefully keeping well.

I must start this post by giving you my heartfelt thanks for all the love that's been shown for my Thoughtful Cowl - WOW!  

Image shows a coral-coloured Thoughtful Cowl lying on a stone paving flag next to a spiky-leaved plant in a blue plant pot.

I'm thrilled that so many of you have been going through your stash to find yarn to cast on, and I really hope that the pattern is a good distraction from what's going on in the rest of the world right now.  

I have to tell you - in fact, I'll probably burst if I don't - that my proudest moment when the pattern was published was seeing it appear on the Ravely "Hot Right Now" page which shows the patterns that have had the most views in 24 hours.  That's pretty blooming exciting - and thank you very much!  

Image shows a screenshot of a Ravelry page showing the Thoughtful Cowl on the "Hot Right Now" list

Anyway, coming back down to Earth, if you don't have a copy of the pattern and you would like one, you can find it here 😀.

Back in the real world, I've not been out except to the supermarket or seen anyone except my family, the postman, the window cleaner and the Amazon delivery man (from a safe distance, of course) so I'll do my best not to bore the pants off you with what I've been doing at home.

Friday, 10 April 2020

Thoughtful Cowl - free pattern

April can be a funny time of year, I think - sometimes warm (and it looks like we're in for a glorious Easter weekend this year) and sometimes cold - and it's always very handy to have something in your drawers that can help to add an extra layer of warmth, or be quickly removed, when you need to.

Enter the Thoughtful Cowl!

Image shows the folded coral-coloured cowl resting on a stone paving flag.  To the left is an orange mug of tea.

Easy to pull over your head for instant warmth to snuggle into, and yet small enough to be folded up in your bag if you're out and about and feeling a tad warm.

The yarn for this cowl was gifted to me by my talented friend, Tracy, who dyes her own yarns with eco-friendly dyes.  It's 100% Wensleydale and is dyed with logwood, cochineal, lac chlorophyllin, cutch, onion skin, madder, iron and pomegranate.  The yarn and colours are exactly what I would have chosen for myself, and I was touched by the thoughtfulness of the gift. 

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Passing days

It's Week 3 of the national lockdown - although let's be honest, there's no sign of this virus going anywhere very soon, is there, so I expect that we'll all be here for a while longer yet.  And if that's what it takes to keep people safe, then that's OK.  I can live with that!

It's been a funny week - quite up and down emotionally for us as we've run the full gamut of emotions from joy at being at home with each other to getting annoyed with the slightest thing, and more than a few in between - much like the rest of the country, I expect!

There's nothing like taking myself off outside to get my priorities straight (picture-heavy post warning!) and remind myself how lucky I am just to be able to get outside at all, so leaving the house in a mood as gloomy as this sky ...

Image shows the silhouette of a church against a gloomy grey sky

I'd already started to cheer up by the time I spotted the horse chestnut leaves unfurling as the dog and I made our way through the woods.  He's very good at social distancing - he'd much rather be 5 metres ahead of me sniffing in the bushes, never mind the prescribed 2 metres!  

Image shows bright green horse chestnut leaves unfurling.  In the background is a woodland path.

By the time I got home, I'd decided that I was going to spend as much of the rest of the day in the garden as I could.  The rest of the family, it turned out, were having a day similar to mine so we didn't see much of each other as we all kept out of each other's way.  And that's something else to be grateful for, isn't it, to be able to do that?  We're all having dinner together (that's a proper treat for me, I've spent years having to cook dinner in shifts as one or other of the family are out or working late!) and usually by that time of the day, we're all ready to spend time together again.  The gratitude journal that I started during the Winter Haven KAL is getting plenty of use at the moment!

Out in the garden, I spotted this beauty looking a bit worse for wear ...

Image shows a peacock butterfly resting on some wooden logs.  One of the wings is torn and it's not looking in the peak of health.

It had hidden itself (or got stuck, perhaps) in amongst a pile of garden debris that I was moving and I don't think it could have got out on it's own.  It's a Peacock butterfly, we get lots of them in the garden over the summer, and I didn't want it to end it's days without seeing the sunshine again.  I managed to very carefully move it to a log and left it alone, not expecting that it would do anything, but after twenty minutes or so, I looked over and saw that it had gone.  It hadn't fallen off the log, nothing had been around to eat it and so I assume that it must have felt well enough to fly away.  That made me feel better.  

Image shows the same peacock butterfly on another log.  It has opened it's wings to the sunshine and you can see the markings on them.

It wasn't long afterwards that I spotted my garden helper.  I don't know why seeing a robin always makes me so terribly happy, but it does, and now you're going to get robin spam photos!

Image shows a red-breasted robin sitting on a wood pile.

Image shows the same robin on a different piece of wood.  It is getting closer to the photographer

Interspersed with a photo of Pulmonaria officinalis (Common lungwort) flowers - they come in pink and blue but these are the only ones out at the moment ...

Image shows pale pink Pulmonaria flowers against the green spotted leaves of the plant

and then we're back to the robin spam! 😀

Image shows the same robin on a wood pile but much closer

What is it about the fresh air?  It's a bit like a cat's purr (and even more mysteriously, where a cat keeps it's purr); it's something that's magic that we can never quite identify but which makes us feel better without fail every time.  I think that chopping things with the axe helped too.  

Image shows split logs, an axe and a red metal wedge lying on the ground.  There are other logs in the picture, and leaf debris

And having chopped, I then cleared the rest of the flags in the little overgrown seating area - yes, that is cleared, thank you, that soil you can see is meant to be there 😀 - and decided that the rest of the afternoon could be dedicated to knitting my sock in front of a fire.

Image shows a person sitting in front of a burning chiminea.  On the left knee is a striped sock, and on the right knee is a mug of tea

I'm very good at knitting a sock in front of a fire.  It's something that I've spent years perfecting and now I've got it down to a fine art.  And as you can see, it doesn't matter whether the fire is inside or outside the house - although it does need to be safely contained!

Oh and look!  I've got company!

Image shows the same person sitting in front of the chiminea.  The robin is at her feet

Image shows the same person sitting in front of the chiminea.  The robin is closer.

I can't tell you how much better I felt for spending so much time outdoors!

Back indoors, I've been mending things.  Well, one thing so far.  

I happened to mention on a trip to Black Sheep Wools that I needed to replace my walking boots as they've split down the side, and Lucy who works in the office said, "Oh what you need is Sugru, it's amazing stuff and will mend your boots without you having to buy a new pair."

Well, I needed to find out more about this miraculous stuff that would not only save me a trip to the shops, some considerable time as I would need to try boots on, my feet (it took me a good few weeks to break my last pair in and they were not happy weeks for my feet) but, of course, a lot of money!

And here it is ...

Image shows a hand holding a packet containing Sugru mouldable glue

According to the website, this stuff mends just about everything, including walking boots, and you can use it build or create things as well.  As well as needing to repair my boots, we've been using a pan lid without a handle for months and there are various other things around the house that could do with fixing so I chose the pack with these lovely bright colours in them (and the brown for my boots - although I am VERY tempted to repair them with blue, or possibly even pink Sugru!) and thought I'd try it out on the pan lid first.

Image shows the contents of the packet.  There are 8 coloured packets of Sugru glue inside the box.
No idea why the colours are looking so dark in this photo!

It's a bit like Plasticine.  You've got 30 minutes to mould it and adjust it, and then in 24 hours it sets solid - and ta dah!  We've got a pan lid that we can actually get hold of again!  I'm very pleased - and now I just need to get on and fix my boots!

Image shows a stainless steel pan lid with a red handle, repaired with Sugru glue

I've been heel flappin' (that sounds like it should be a song!) this week and found that I was up to the same point on both socks, so I put them both on the same needle to knit them together.  I probably wouldn't have bothered to show you, but it occurred to me that I've actually made these two flaps in a slightly different way and it's something that I'm often asked about.

The question I get is whether it matters if you slip your heel stitches knitwise or purlwise.  Now, the convention for slipping stitches is to slip purlwise then your stitch stays mounted the right way around on your needle for when you work the purl row.  If you slip your stitch knitwise, the stitch twists on the needle and you'll end up working a twisted stitch on the purl row.

I actually don't think that it matters that much for a sock heel, and I would say go for the method that's either easiest or you like the effect of best.  I like the twisted stitches of the knitwise slip so I often use that one, but I also slip purlwise on other pairs and it just so happens that I've done both on these socks.

The sock on the left has the stitches slipped purlwise, and the sock on the right has the stitches slipped knitwise.

Image shows two socks side by side on a knitting needle.  They are both at the stage of having the heel flap knitted

There doesn't really look that much difference, does there?  And you'd be right - it really is something that a blind man on a galloping horse wouldn't notice (another of my Nan's phrases, they're all coming out of the woodwork lately!) and unless you pointed out what you'd done, I don't think that anybody else except another knitter would spot.

Here's a closer picture of the purlwise slips - you can see if you look closely that the raised V stitches match the Vs in the stocking stitch lower down, and the stitches sit proud of the heel flap ...

Image shows close up of slipped stitches on the left hand heel flap

whereas the twisted stitches sit a little flatter and if you look closely, you can see that the V stitches are twisted ... you do have to look quite closely, though!

Image shows close up of slipped stitches on the right hand heel flap

I just thought that I'd show you in case it was something that you'd been wondering (or worrying) about.  You can see why you wouldn't want the twisted stitches on a jumper, say, but for a sock, I think it's entirely personal preference.

Here are my twisted-heel-stitch-heel-flap socks; they're finished and they're on my feet!  I am very happy to be wearing these!

Image shows a pair of feet wearing socks knitted in The Yarn Badger yarn.  The soles of the feet are touching so that the stripes match up

Image shows a vertical picture of the pair of feet in the striped socks

The yarn is Allotment Harvest in The Yarn Badger's merino/bamboo Eco yarn which means, of course, that they're a no-nylon pair of socks.  I'll be writing up a review in about six months and hopefully they'll still look as lovely as they do now!

And finally (don't cheer, that's rude! 😀) some more no-nylon yarn - this yarn is 100% Wensleydale DK dyed by Tracy from Hand Made Over Yonder and gifted to me quite some time ago.  I decided it was too lovely to split into socks so I designed this cowl pattern, which I've called the Thoughtful Cowl, and I'd like to share it with you.  

Image shows a knitted cowl with a lace pattern in shades of pink lying on a stone flag next to an orange mug of tea

Does Friday sound OK to you?  Will that be enough time to have a rootle through your stash and find some DK or 4ply - yes, this pattern will work with both! - that you might like to use up?  Lots of people are having trouble settling to one thing, or have startitis, or have ambitions of using up ALL the stash whilst we're safe at home, and maybe a new pattern is just the thing to help with that.

Fabulous!  I'll see you on Friday, then!  In the meantime, have a lovely week and I hope you continue to keep safe and well xx

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Staying home

Hi!  How are you doing?  I hope you're coping with being safe at home.  Thank you very much for all of your comments on my last couple of posts - it's been lovely to hear from you!

We're into our 2nd week of national isolation here in the UK - some people have been at home for longer thanks to their age (has there ever been a less welcome time to hear the words "at your age"?!) or health issues - and I think it's starting to hit home now that this is how life is going to be for the foreseeable future.  Both the girls are missing their friends - we all are, in fact, but I think that it's hitting small daughter harder than any of us as she is usually surrounded by them at school.  We're keeping an eye on her.

So what's new?  Well, on Sunday I sat and knitted all day.  That's pretty much unheard of as there are usually too many other things that I need to do, but we've set ourselves up with a rota for cooking and cleaning (oh yes!) which means that I am not expected to be staff and everybody else gets a turn to see that there really are no housework and cooking fairies 😀.  Anyway, I had such a lovely time faffing about with leftover yarn instead of feeling that I should be doing something else.  I started making a sock yarn blanket with my leftovers using the Tin Can Knits Vivid pattern about a hundred years ago and I have got a fair few squares done, but as pretty as they are, as a lace pattern they're a bit holey-er (no, I don't think that's a real word but I am sure you understand what I mean!) than I would like a blanket to be.  I don't think it's just the current circumstances that make me want to wrap myself up in warm, cosy, hole-free knitting, so I set about thinking about another way to use up the scraps.

Image shows two coloured knitted blanket squares.  The one on the left is pink and the one of the right is blue.  They are both made from leftover sock yarn

I've never been the biggest fan of mitred squares - I really really don't like garter stitch and so many of the patterns are knitted like that -  so I've been playing about on and off for quite some time with ways of making mitred squares that I do like.  Having said that I don't like them, I think it's the garter stitch that's always put me off; I do like see the stripes and how they turn a corner to merge together, and I like the way stocking stitch keeps the yarn looking pretty much how it did when it was knitted into socks.  That's what I wanted - a blanket that looks like the socks that the yarns were knitted into.  I like remembering who I made the socks for and which pairs they were.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Monthly Musing - March 2020 - Balancing act

Trying to keep a sense of normality ... here's this month's Monthly Musing.  If you're new to my blog and you've not seen these before, it's a one-off post every month about something that has caught my attention and fits with the Winwick Mum theme of "looking for the extraordinary in the everyday".   

It's Monday morning, and we're about to get up. 

"Do you hear that?" my husband asks. 

"No ..."  I'm listening hard but I can only hear the birds. 

"Exactly," he says.

We live quite close to a main road, close enough to hear the traffic faintly (and not so faintly sometimes), but there is no sound.  That's usually a sign that the traffic is backed up for miles, held up by strategically placed traffic lights and a difficult right hand turn, so I look out of the window to check.  There is no traffic.  Looking up into the bright blue sky, there are no aeroplane vapour trails either. 

It's a bit like Christmas, but the sun is shining and small daughter isn't blasting "Last Christmas" around the house - and even at Christmas there is plenty of traffic and aeroplane trails in the sky.  It really is as if the world has stopped for everyone to get off for a while. 

Friday, 27 March 2020

Keeping on

"It's Day 4 in the Lockdown House.  Christine is at the computer."

At the moment, it's still quite amusing that we can walk around the house giving a running commentary in the style of the Big Brother TV programme (although my Geordie accent does leave quite a lot to be desired!) but I am under no illusions that the novelty will wear off before too long.

"It's Day 20 in the Lockdown House.  Christine has been shut outside in the garden because everyone is sick of her terrible Geordie accent ..."

Anyway, we're not at that point yet so whilst I've got happy things to talk about, I'm going to do that instead 😀  

I'll start by getting the obligatory baking photo out of the way ...

Image shows chocolate brownies which have just been cut into squares

Everyone, or so it seems, has been baking and posting their photos on social media, apparently much to the annoyance of some people who are clearly already feeling the strain of being kept inside.  We do a reasonable amount of baking just as part of our usual weeks, and yes, we do make sourdough bread, so I am not going to apologise for small daughter wanting to bake brownies.  These were really good, by the way - the recipe came from the Jane's Patisserie website and they're actually vegan brownies which means that big daughter (who is lactose intolerant) can eat them too.  You would never know if nobody told you.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Reasons to be cheerful

So here we are, home for the next 3 weeks.  It's certainly a strange time, isn't it?  I don't think that anyone has lived quite like this before - even during the World Wars people were still allowed out of their houses freely during the daytime  - and in a funny kind of way, it's exciting to be part of history.  Ask me again in 3 weeks' time whether I still think it's a good to be part of this particular historical event, but for now, it is what it is and we need to make the best of it.

Thank you for all your lovely comments on my last post, I really appreciate all of them.  It's always sad when things change, but hopefully something new and exciting will fill the void.  That's pretty much how I was brought up to try to look at things ... we have the choice of "going down like a cow's tail", as my Nan would say, or just getting on with it.  I don't subscribe to the "stiff upper lip" mentality that encourages us to swallow our feelings and our problems rather than speak about how we're feeling, but I do think that dwelling on what we don't have rather than what we do have is a sure-fire way to go down like a cow's tail faster than you can say "Jack Robinson".  Ha!  I've got all the old family sayings in there! 😀  And on that happy note, I can assure you that I am going to do my best to just get on with it, appreciate how lucky I am to live in a house with a garden and in a time when I can still communicate through the internet and be thankful for all this gifted time that's come my way!

You (you lucky things!) get to suffer enjoy more blog posts as I am planning to write as often as I can whilst I am just getting on with it - for my own sanity as much as anything - and it will be lovely to have you around if you feel like it.

Image shows a scattered pile of seed packets

Monday, 23 March 2020

Yarndale Sock Line - the end of the Line

By now, you may well have read Lucy of Attic24's blog post about how she has chosen to step down from her position on the Yarndale team, and you might be wondering what that means for the Yarndale Sock Line this year.

For the last 5 years, I have been in the fabulous position of being able to take up residence for the Yarndale weekend in the Knit n Natter lounge with my good friend Lucy, surrounded by hundreds of pairs of socks which have been sent from all over the world to be passed on to people who need them.  

I have had a wonderful time chatting with people about socks, whether they are already on their feet or they are just about to start their sock knitting adventures, and it's been fantastic to meet so many of you whom I might only speak to online through the blog, Instagram or Facebook.  I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of the whole Yarndale weekend, from setting up to clearing away before the auctions start again the morning after Yarndale finishes.  

Friday, 20 March 2020

Striding out

Hey there, how are you doing?  It's a lovely sunny day here, and with the schools closing in the UK from today (Friday) until further notice (I'm trying not to be nervous about quite how long that might be!) and goodness knows what else might happen over the coming weeks, big daughter and I are taking the dog for a walk whilst we can.  Come with us!  You'll need your jacket - it's warm in the sunshine but there's still an early Spring nip in the air.  We're going to up Culcheth Linear Park so you'll need your wellies too as it's been very wet there recently.

Image shows the shadows of two people against a very muddy path!

Look at that path!  I told you that you'd need your wellies!

Image shows footprints in mud

You've been to the Linear Park on the blog with me before but that was quite a while ago so I'll just remind you of what it is.  Many years ago, it used to be a railway line but the platforms and buildings were cleared in the 1960s and since then, it's been managed by Warrington Borough Council and is now a long straight footpath (hence "linear") that runs up to the edge of the new railway line.  There are a few other paths that intersect it and take you off to different parts of Culcheth, but we tend to stay on this path. It's about 2.5 miles from the car park to the top and back, which is a good run for the dog and a nice walk for us.  The train tracks have long since gone and over the years, nature has reclaimed the area between farmers' fields and a golf course and there's now an abundance of wildlife, birds and flowers here that mean there's something to see whatever time of year it is.

Friday, 13 March 2020

Keeping well

Many years ago, when big daughter was not much more than a toddler and small daughter hadn't even been thought of, we were in Canada on holiday with my brother.  We were staying with relatives at either end of a three week holiday and travelling around in between - or at least, that was the plan until the Twin Towers in New York crashed to the ground.

Planes were grounded, people were frightened, nobody knew what was going on.  The whole world ground to a halt.  We headed straight back to my aunt and uncle's house - we couldn't have got home to England even if we had wanted to - and stayed there for the next week.  During that time, we read all the newspapers and watched TV reports on endless loops.  We cried as we read about families torn apart, or still searching for loved ones, never knowing what had happened to them.  We hoped desperately for an answer to it all and for life to go back to normal, but in that week there was no answer, just speculation.

It wasn't until we spotted big daughter, who really was very small back then, using sponges and shampoo bottles in her evening bath to re-enact aeroplanes flying into skyscrapers that we realised that it had to stop.  No child needs to be playing those games.  And co-incidentally, there was an article in that day's paper from a psychologist imploring people to stop reading all the papers and watching all the TV reports.  They were just emotion, and not facts - because nobody had any - and very addictive because people felt they should be keeping up with what was going on.  Real stories, indeed, but not ones that were helping anybody to understand what was happening - and actually making things worse in some cases as people thought of and read nothing else.  There was, the psychologist claimed, a real risk of PTSD being caused by absorbing too much traumatic information.

I've been thinking about that experience a lot over the last few weeks as the Coronavirus pandemic has unfolded across the world.  Not for one minute am I suggesting that it's not real, not scary or that it doesn't have the potential to involve far more people than those poor souls caught up in the terrorist attack, but I am worried about how it is affecting us.  It's the not knowing, the waiting, the worrying about what might happen.  As much as we need to look after our physical health, we need to look after our mental health.  

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Another day

And just like that, it's March!

Meteorologically, Spring has sprung (on 1 March), but the equinox isn't until the 19th and, to be honest, it doesn't look all that much different out of the window than it did on 29 February when it was still Winter.  Same grey skies, same threat of rain, same old, same old.

It does makes us very grateful for the brief sight of the sun, doesn't it?  And also those early signs of Spring around the garden.

There's a path down the side of our house with a border that has taken a long time to become established, but finally is a Spring border with splashes of colour amongst the greenery.  Hellebores,  snowdrops, ivy, ferns ... the ivy can be a bit of a nuisance and needs firm attention to stop it taking over, but I love it all.

Image shows hellebore flowers to the left and purple crocus to the right amongst green leaves

Oh, those crocuses!  We didn't have crocuses for such a long time because the bulbs are a tasty dish to field mice but at last we've got them appearing in all their vibrant purpleness.  Is that a word?  It really should be! 

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Monthly Musing - February 2020 - Breathe

I’m at my yoga class, twisting myself into whatever position it is and trying to stay upright (which takes more effort for some poses than others!), and I can hear my teacher saying something about breathing. 

“Remember to breathe,” she says, which sounds obvious but quite often I find myself forgetting as I’m so busy concentrating, “Breath equals energy, breath is life!” 

When I first started going to yoga classes and it all seemed too hard, telling me that “breath equals energy” was not really very helpful and I can remember thinking rather crossly, “Of course breath is life, we’ll die if we don’t breathe!”.  Now, though, when I don’t have to concentrate quite so hard on what my arms and legs are doing, I can focus my attention on whether I am breathing or not and what my teacher says makes far more sense. 

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

CHSI Stitches 2020

Hi!  How are you doing?

It's a blustery Wednesday here in Winwick - not so different, really, from two weekends ago when I drove down to Birmingham to meet up with the West Yorkshire Spinners team for the CHSI Stitches trade show.  I can't believe that it's been a year since I was last there - that was the official launch of the Winwick Mum Collection of Signature 4ply yarn which means that it's been nearly a year since it's been out in the world!  Wow, that year has gone quickly - and it's been an amazing one too as I've seen my yarn knitted up into so many projects.

Image shows the CHSI Stitches logo on a large banner saying "Welcome to ..."

This year's trade show was a good opportunity for me to see what's coming up from West Yorkshire Spinners (oh, I'm so nosey!) and now you can have a sneak peek too!  Do you want to come and have a look around?  

Friday, 21 February 2020

Finding your way around

I've been doing some updating on the blog recently and today seems like as good a time as any to tell you about what I've been doing - and hopefully it will help you to find things a bit more easily.

Here's the blog as you'll see it when you first visit the page (although because it's a blog, that central section with the blog post will look different depending on when you visit) ...

All of the main reference pages in the blog are quickly accessible from the pictures down the right hand side.

If you are here to knit socks, you'll need to click on this picture here which you'll see at the top on the right hand side of the page ...

This takes you to all the Sockalong tutorials and the download page for the basic 4ply Sockalong sock pattern.  If you want to learn to knit socks, this is the main page that you're going to need!