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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 – 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:    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


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

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