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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.

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